The Role of Change Management in Successful Information Management Solutions

August 14, 2016

IntroductionImplementation of Information Management solutions necessarily brings change to any organization. Business practices, role and relationships all affect the way in which people work and interact on a day-to-day basis. Whether the driver for implementation is for productivity, compliance or risk reduction there is always the need to consider what impact there will be on user communities.Document and records management practices in organizations are not often front-of-mind for most managers and employees and asking them to think about information in a different way or even at all, as a corporate asset requires a fundamental mindset change. This will take many employees out of their comfort zone, impact on their confidence and competence to perform the work and creates a situation where individuals can sense a loss of control in their work context.It is natural that most people initially react with caution with concerns about their future, security and where they will fit in to a new order of things. In any group there will be 10% who are excited by the prospect of change and at the other end 10% who will resist change regardless. This means that there are 80% who can be influenced one way or the other.The successful implementation of an information management system extends far beyond the design and implementation. It extends beyond the support and operation. Effective information management requires a fundamental mind-shift by stakeholders and everyone in the organization that relies on information in their work activities. This shift needs to be carefully executed to create a requisite culture in which information is appropriately and thoroughly managed as a key organizational asset.What is Change Management?Change management is the art of influencing the majority to positively accept and commit emotionally to the change. Many of the issues arising as a response to change can be real or perceived and are closely related in a cause and effect network. Either way, they need to be addressed to avoid resistance or rejection of the change. This requires a combination of communication, understanding, mentoring, coaching and general support with the aim of building trust. It is from this position of trust that the task of building the work culture required for successful information management begins. The ’4 Cs’ of change management help us think about the change from an effected user point of view.Comfort People are creatures of habit and develop patterns of working within a comfort zone of daily activities.Control Changed practices may cause a loss of control over daily routines and activities. This may come through changed reporting lines or responsibilities which can evoke a level of discomfort.Confidence The introduction of new practices may undermine employee confidence in their ability to perform. Some may see this as challenge, for others it can be stressful. Often the introduction of computer equipment is something that can be discomforting. Some people, particularly older workers may have no experience with computers and can cause self doubt over their abilities to learn the new skills required.Competence To be able to operate in a changed work environment there is always an element of re-skilling required. This necessarily means that current skills, often developed over an extended period of time will need updating or may become redundant. This uncertainty can impact on an employee’s competence and ability to perform.The management of the complex web of responses, issues and perceptions requires focused attention. The skills of a change manager are built on an understanding of human behavior and the change manager’s role is to assist people to understand the change and what it means in personal terms and has been proven to be a significant success factor in building Information Management capability.Why is Change Management important?As volumes of information inevitably grow and our regulatory obligations increase amid the ongoing business pursuit of productivity, we cannot afford to waste the opportunity to exploit the benefits of information management solutions.Studies repeatedly show that a key risk in the success or failure of information management solutions is stakeholder resistance to change. Through an investment of time and effort in preparing the user community for the coming change the chances of resistance are lowered. In short without a disciplined approach to managing stakeholders through the change then realization of anticipated benefits is put at risk. This has impact on business productivity, staff moral and the bottom-line. So it would seem logical for us to deploy our information management solutions in the most effective manner.Some common Change Management pitfalls of an IM solution implementation

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We are seeing an ongoing consolidation of the information management vendor community and a subsequent convergence of the underlying technology. There is a growing recognition by organizations that an information management capability is needed. Further, audit activity frequently highlights any shortfalls in performance and organizations react accordingly.The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment and common pitfalls addressed by change management include:Focus on TechnologyIgnoring the emotional needs of users in the rush to get the technology in place can create a real project risk. Many organizations with an information management solution already in place experience a negativity of opinion towards the system. Often the cause of this perception can be traced to an initial technical implementation focus that neglected the needs of those who consequently struggled to apply new functionality in their work activities. An effective change management approach including awareness building and communication can turn this perception around.Recognition of the Business importance of InformationThe low profile that information management has in most employees’ minds can be an issue. We are all busy and in the scheme of things ‘filing’ is not front-of-mind for the majority of employee’s striving to keep pace with everyday work pressures. Document management and filing, can fall down the priority list partly because of work pressures and partly because of limited awareness and can be seen one of the things that ‘should’ be done’ rather than something that ‘must’ be done.Organizations recognising the business value of information as an asset can then raise awareness of its importance and manage it accordingly. An increased awareness of this importance should also influence the planning of information management system deployments.Business Case and BudgetThe business case for information management is focused on risk, mitigation, and productivity. However; many benefits are intangible and have an indirect impact on the bottom line. Unfortunately associated costs are very tangible and visible.Consequently, there are challenges in the development of the business case as it can fail to excite the financial fundamentalists who view the whole undertaking in terms of an unavoidable cost that must be minimized. For the uninformed, change management activities can be seen as non-essential and result in budgets being set to minimise cost adding to the risk of failure.Although not unique to Information management implementations these above factors can create significant project risk. Change Management techniques are designed to address the human behavioral issues that can adversely impact on project success and as such, are a necessary inclusion in any deployment activity.What are some Change Management best practices for an IM solution implementation?When it is apparent users are not participating in Information Management practices an objective assessment can identify a way forward that is usually cost effective and will meet organizational needs within a much shorter timeframe. This assessment must take an independent and holistic view of the situation from multiple perspectives.This assessment must identify the root causes of any associated issues and develop a clear strategy to build the information management capability required. There are a number of common elements that have emerged as issues with information management implementations that have nothing to do with the incumbent technological tool and the strategy developed must consider how these are to be addressed.The capability assessment framework enables organizations to holistically assess information management practices and to identify improvement opportunities that will build capability. This is achieved by benchmarking current organizational practice against best practice in each of the dimensions of the framework. The best practice benchmark criteria in the framework have been identified through experience with multiple organizations across industry sectors and geographies, and are augmented through industry collaboration and global academic research outcomes.The dimensions of information management identified in the framework are defined as follows.StrategyBest practice organization’s should have a clear strategy relating to its management and use of information The strategy clearly defines the content and structure of the information, how it is to be governed and applied to support the primary business strategy.ContentWe can assume that most organizations have the information content that is required to manage their business. If this is not the case then it is difficult to envisage the organization operating successfully or at all. However, most organizations suffer from an ad-hoc approach to the management of this important asset. Best practices relating to managing this content start by having an inventory of the content, a consistent architecture governing naming conventions, taxonomy, where content is held, how content is held, i.e. hard copy soft copy formats and who can access what categories of information.ProcessDue process governing how information is created, stored, accessed and communicated is fundamental to the governance of enterprise information.Governance is the combination of processes and structures implemented at management level to inform, direct, manage, and monitor the information management activities of the organization. This consists of clear policy, procedure and business rules guiding information management practices. These must be developed in context of the organization’s business activity and be clearly communicated to stakeholders.Information management governance also includes the development of business classification schemes, taxonomy, naming conventions and rules governing the creation, storage, protection, communication, sensitivities, use and appropriate destruction of information.CultureThe manner in which information is treated and perceived in an organization is reflective of organizational culture. Best practice organizations have clear understandings and norms recognising the importance of information as an asset. This mindset needs to be pervasive across the organizational culture and is fundamental to induction and staff development initiatives.Change management during information systems implementations is a clear best practice aimed at creating the cultural awareness and mindset required.RelationshipsOrganizations operate within a network of relationships with stakeholders. These stakeholders include customers, suppliers, regulators and industry bodies. Best practice organizations have clear understanding and service level agreements with other stakeholders in order that corporate record keeping obligations are met and to ensure information is shared appropriately and to the level required to maximize efficiency.ServicesThe application of Information as an asset is fundamental to the services or products offered to the market place. Best practice organizations embed value-adding knowledge and information into services to maximize attractiveness and utility. Corporate discipline ensuring the validity of information shared is necessary to mitigate risk of non-compliance and avoid potential litigation.TechnologyInformation technology is fundamental to the management of the information asset. Clear and consistent architectures, data and information structures, security and operational tools indicate a mature approach to information management. Best practice organizations have clearly defined architectures.Change Management Best PracticeThe capability assessment framework facilitates benchmarking against specific best practice indicators. The absence of any of these indicators provides an opportunity for the organization to improve. Over and above these specific indicators the following themes have emerged as overarching best practice in change management as information management capability is developed.GovernanceAs discussed above governance is the combination of processes and structures to inform, direct, manage, and monitor information management activities. This includes effective record keeping practices. It is important that organizations develop governance practices as early as possible in implementation projects. This often means putting governance in place prior to specification, selection and deployment of a technology solution. This has a double benefit. Firstly: stakeholder’s become familiar with information management expectations and the requisite culture begins to develop; and secondly; the organization gains the opportunity to refine its governance structures prior to full deployment.Information Management SystemThe selection of an enabling information management technology to meet performance and functional requirements should follow a diligent approach. It is best practice for selection criteria to consider wider information management architectural needs. The functional richness of available solutions can allow the retirement of duplicative products providing islands of functionality. Workflow or WebPages are common examples of these islands where products have been acquired for a single one-off purpose and are unable to integrate with core applications. Once configured and deployed the new infrastructure can provide the opportunity to create an integrated technology architecture thereby reducing support cost.PilotsThere are many examples of high cost, high-profile failures in the information technology industry. Often this can be traced to over-ambition and a big-bang approach to deployment.Implementation of Information Management capability within well defined scope delivered in incremental steps provides many benefits. Primarily incremental implementation through a series of pilot deployments allows adaptation of the solution based on real experience before attempting to conquer the world. Many organizations are benefiting from the adoption of this approach.

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User FocusThe inclusion of change management activities focused on preparing stakeholders to take on the reformed work practices mitigate against risk of stakeholder resistance. This involves considering the emotional needs of all stakeholders to ensure that they feel in control, are comfortable and have the confidence and competence to execute new work practices. For many stakeholders the learning of new skills and changed role and responsibility provides enhanced career opportunity.ArchitectureMost of the solutions available in the marketplace offer rich functionality to manage documents and content in a web-based environment. Full use of the functionality on offer can simplify the technical architecture and realize savings in licence and administrative cost further justifying investment.Change Management Roles and ResponsibilitiesThe change manager works very closely with stakeholders and it is important that relationships based on trust are established. The personal attributes of a successful change manager are empathy and patience. The role and responsibility of the change manager is focused on understanding stakeholder needs, building an awareness of the need for change and supporting these stakeholders as they transition to new work practices.Some key responsibilities for the change manager include communications, setting up reporting and communication channels, participating in business process reform, workshop facilitation, staff training, mentoring and awareness building. In short, any activity that interacts and prepares the user community to participate in reformed work practices.Regardless of the scale of undertaking information management projects require a change management capability. In large scale projects there may be dedicated change management resources. For smaller scale projects this role may be a part-time or shared responsibility. The change management role can in many instances be a shared role across the development. Sometimes this can be provided through a corporate change management function. Regardless of how the role is resourced it is essential that it is included.Many routinely conducted project activities such as workshops, interviews, training and presentations are in fact change management opportunities as these events they are interactions with stakeholders. They therefore present the ideal opportunity to develop the relationship of trust between the project team members and stakeholders.It is important to avoid the situation where contributing stakeholders feel as though they have been sucked dry for information by technical people. This can be avoided through the development of awareness of the importance of the project team/stakeholder relationship thereby maximizing the value of this contact time.Further, ‘champions’ can be identified from within the stakeholder community. This provides a critical change management input. As these champions are representatives drawn from the stakeholder community their roles can be a very influential and positive contributor to project success.SummaryResearch shows proves that higher levels of user acceptance and greater use of installed solutions are achieved when deliberate change management activities are included in the implementation work plan and life cycle. Best practice in change management is focused on the early involvement of stakeholders and on building a trusting relationship. Accordingly, leading organizations have recognized its importance and routinely allocate resources as projects are plannedFor most organizations there is the opportunity improve information management performance. A place to start is through a benchmarking assessment of information management capability against best practice to identify how to realize available benefits by learning from the success of others.This paper has emphasized change management and the resultant outcomes and opportunities as best practice. The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment. For those organizations considering implementation and for those that have current infrastructure in place, there is the real opportunity to maximize return on investment and to create a work culture that displays the requisite information management behaviours.

Opting Efficient Computer Repair Services

August 17, 2016

With the development of internet, world has become a compact place to live in. Computer has become so indispensable for us that the concept of life is now incomplete without it. It is the most sophisticated machine with least reliability as you might never know when it could incur a problem. It has now become necessity almost in fields of life. No matter, you are a teacher, student, business person or an employee, you need to use computer in some respect. Where internet has transformed the world into a global village, on the other hand it has also affected the security of computer systems. The risk of technical faults has drastically increased with the threats of Trojans, worms and spywares. You never know when, with a downloaded file, the Trojan may enter in your computer and destroy the whole system. To cope up with these threats, you need a computer repair service provider that can help you in the hour of need.

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Being the third richest state of America, New Jersey has to invest more on computer repair services. Just the diagnostic charges are from minimum $35 to maximum $140. Apart from prices, the computer repair services offer high technology diagnostic and repairing facilities. New Jersey computer repair services offer solutions for the removal of viruses, server repairing, inhibiting file sharing, windows troubleshooting and data recovery. It also offers installing facilities like software installation, DSL modem and router installation, laptop and server installations etc. Moreover, virus prevention, workstation data transfer, network configuration and desktop installations are also offered.New Jersey computer repair services provide facility of both on-site and off-site repairing. In on-site repairing, the service provider sends its workers on site and repairs the computer at your place. This facility is mostly required for wired PCs and workstations. In off-site repairing, they take your PC with them and after repairing bring it back and affix it at its place. Now, the decision depends upon your trust on the service provider. If the repairing requires 5 to 6 hours and the faulty computer belongs to your office then it would be better to send the computer to company but if it isn’t the case then you should prefer on-site repairing.If you know how to maintain your computer, you may not need any repair soon. Firstly, you need to follow some tips in order to save your computer from damage. You should have registered antivirus, must take frequent backups of your data and if you have accidentally lost your data, consult with some professional so that the data can be restored.

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Now, the question arises how to find a deft technician in New Jersey who would also charge reasonably. For it, you should consult with your friends and family first. You should also consult Better Business Bureau, read online reviews of people about New Jersey computer repair service providers, call them to ask about their fees and then compare overall costs. Select the best option with fine services in fewer expenses.Some companies in New Jersey also offer additional free services along with the required one such as virus and spyware scan and removal, removal of unnecessary files and folders that slow down your system, and back-up of all data.. Keep these details in mind while looking for a computer repair service in New Jersey in order to get the best service at exorbitant rates.

The Gift of Giving Is a Gift in Itself

August 28, 2016

The act of giving a gift can elicit a multitude of positive emotions to the giver, that indeed it is quite possible that they experience more pleasure than the recipient of the gift. It has been found that giving gifts is an important interaction that strengthens bonds between family and friends. Giving to others strengthens one’s feelings for these people, and also makes one feel more loving and caring.Pursuing the ideal gift can be a taxing experience. Once upon a time, one would have to literally travel from store to store searching for the perfect gift. Apart from the time and effort consumed by the travelling, it was never quite easy to compare and contrast the possibilities in one’s mind, as one was relying on memory of the entire details of each potential gift. Now, with the advent and advantage of online shopping, this one daunting part of gift giving is no longer necessary. The requirement of physical travelling has been eliminated as one merely sits in front of a computer or other Internet browsing device and searches for the perfect gift. Alas, the choices are endless, and not always as organized as one would wish. However, once one has narrowed down the choices, one can actually revisit each choice and compare the images of the potential gifts, and eventually make a selection.

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Giving comes from within, and no matter who the recipient of the gift is, the actual selection of the gift should be a heartwarming process. Knowing the person’s likes and dislikes, wants and needs, circumstances, and events in their life deepens the emotion behind the gift selection process. Giving a gift however, should not be a process that comes with a hardship to the giver. An aura of competitiveness and the need to impress has overshadowed the gentle and caring act of gift giving. For instance, if one is searching for a gift for their brother in law who is an avid golf player, the normal search would begin in the world of golf in the universe of the Internet. However, remembering that your brother in law was recently promoted, and his peers all carry classic name brand fountain pens encased in handsome leather cases, would certainly have some influence on your gift selection thought process. Between the golf equipment and the fountain pen and it’s accessories, an instant “astronomical price” headache begins to form.A mistake often made by many is that they set a price tag on the gift they are going to purchase before they actually make the purchase. In the name of budgeting that is actually a great idea, but unfortunately, we are in the times of “competitive” gift giving, and some people feel the need to outdo others in the extravagance of the gift purchased. It is absurd that many people actually spend money they cannot afford to spend on gifts simply because they are trying to create an impression. The heartwarming experience of the giving of the gift has not been experienced, and instead has been replaced by a aggressive and competitive approach. After the gift has been given, there will certainly be an uncomfortable feeling for as long as that charge remains on the credit card.Very few people remain unscathed by these recent changes in the economical status worldwide. To increase one’s debt in order to compete with others, or create an extravagant impression is not only ridiculous, but also makes the giving of the gift actually an unpleasant experience from start to finish and beyond. Returning to the example of one’s brother-in law, let it be assumed that a new set of golf clubs and an expensive fountain pen with a leather case is entirely out of one’s budget. A less expensive and more personal gift would surely make the selection process a much more personal and enjoyable one. There is no rule that dictates we must cater to the indulgent tastes or more affluent means of others. The art of gift giving must come with the desire to please the recipient with the gift, to take pleasure in the selection of the gift, to keep the cost within one’s budget and means, and to select a gift that will be admired and used.

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Unique gifts for the home or for personal wear are always a warm and sincere gift. Many handmade gifts are available for purchase at reasonable prices via the Internet. They range from hand crocheted tablecloths, to custom made jewelry, to silk floral arrangements, and many home décor items. All of these items are ones that will actually be used instead of being a “showpiece” such as a fountain pen that never actually makes it out of the beautiful leather case. As much pleasure as the gift recipient will receive from their gift, the giver will also be pleased whenever they see the gift being worn or used. A set of throw cushions that was given as a gift will always please the giver every time he or she visits the home of the recipient and sees the throw cushions in use. Truly, these types of gifts are those that are described as “The Gift That Keeps On Giving”.

Could Now Be the Time to Start Up a Domestic Services Franchise

August 22, 2016

Domestic Services franchise businesses make excellent recession tough businesses in the UK. Owing to the reality that numerous domestic services are necessities its possible that any franchise opportunity in this industry will flourish since there is continuous need due to services breaking down or requiring service.Domestic Services franchises cover a variety of services for example:-

Domestic Cleaning Franchise opportunities
Domestic premises always require cleaning whether it be general house cleaning, carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning and other such services.

Handyman Franchise opportunities
Theres always odd jobs that need doing in the house and finding a handyman is not as easy these days as it was. Specialist handyman franchise opportunities have been formed which provide for this marketplace.

Kitchen Service Franchise businesses
Kitchen services such as oven cleaning cover the sort of jobs people put off forever and having another person do it for them is an desirable offer. Kitchen door replacement franchise opportunities can give a facelift to a kitchen which is in need of a sprucing up.

Utility Franchise opportunities
Gas and Electrical services are more and more regulated and there is a perpetual requirement for people with the training to perform home electrical and gas servicing and maintenance.

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As with any business investment, when looking into taking on a Domestic Services Franchise business its prudent to carry out your research properly:-
What is it you enjoy doing? Study the selections and see what works best for you. You can see our %LINK3% section for a helpful variety of franchise businesses.
Take time to assess your funds and savings… what are the franchise costs and setup charges involved in the franchises for sale that are of interest to you
Make contact with the franchisors which attract you and discover everything you can in relation to their systems.
Organise to go to the franchisors head offices and get some insight into their operation and backup facilities.

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Pick up a list of franchisees that you can chat to regarding each franchise. This will usually provide you a reasonable, on-the-ground view from those people who are operating the franchise system as a lifestyle.
Ensure you are up to date on the legal side of investing in a franchise by talking to a professional franchise lawyer.
A good number of the major banks have franchise departments… get in touch with them to discover what funding and facilities are offered.
In conclusion, make your choice and commit yourself to the necessary training and working the established system.

Energy Explained Simply

October 7, 2016

Energy, it is fair to say, is a very vague concept. So where does one go to learn more? Does one have to take a physics course? I don’t think so, and to test my theory, I have tried to explain energy as briefly as I can, right here.Energy 101Energy is what makes the world go round. Literally. Every neuron that sparks in your brain, every electron that fires down a wire, every molecule burning in a fire, carries with it a sort of momentum that it passes on like a baton in a complex relay race. The batons are flooding in all directions all around us and across the universe – they are energy and we have learned how to harness them.The actual word “Energy” is a much abused term nowadays – because energy is used to represent such a disparate range of phenomena from heat to light to speed to weight, and because it seems to be able to change forms so readily, it is cannon fodder for pseudo-scientific and spiritual interpretation. However, you will be pleased to hear that it actually has a very clear (and consistent) nature.I like to think of energy being a bit like money – it is a sort of currency that can be traded. It takes on various forms (dollars/pounds/Swiss francs) and can be eventually cashed in to achieve something. However, just like money, once spent, it does not vanish. It simply moves on a new chapter in its life and may be reused indefinitely.To illustrate the point, let’s follow a ‘unit of energy’ through a visit to planet Earth to see what I mean. The [number] shows every time it changes currency (see the key below).The energy in our story starts off tied up in hydrogen atoms in the sun [1]. Suddenly, due to the immense pressure and heat, the nuclei of several atoms react to form a brand new helium atom, and a burst of radiation[2] is released. The radiation smashes into other nearby atoms heating them up so hot [4] that they glow, sending light [2] off into space. Several minutes pass in silence before the light bursts through the atmosphere and plunges down to the rainforest hitting a leaf. In the leaf the burst of power smashes a molecule of carbon dioxide and helps free the carbon to make food for the plant [3]. The plant may be eaten (giving food ‘Calories’), or may fall to the ground and settle and age for millions of years turning perhaps to coal. That coal may be dug up and burned to give heat [4] in a power station, boiling water to supply compressed steam [5] that may drive a turbine [6] which may be used to generate electricity [7] which we may then use in our homes to heat/light/move/cook or perhaps to recharge our mobile phone [3]. That energy will then be used to transmit microwaves when you make a call [2] which will mostly dissipate into the environment heating it (very) slightly [4]. Eventually the warmed earth radiates [2] this excess of heat off into the void where perhaps it will have another life…Energy currencies:[1] Matter is energy, according the Einstein, and the quantity relates to mass according to E=mc^2 (c is a constant equal to the speed of light).[2] Radiation (like sunlight) is a flow of energy, and energy content relates the frequency according to E=hf (h is the Planck constant).[3] Chemical energy – the most complex energy, a mixture of different tensions in nuclear and electromagnetic force fields.[4] Thermal (heat) energy- this is really just a sneaky form of kinetic energy [6 below] – small particles moving and vibrating fast are sensed by us as heat.[5] Compression (or tension) energy – while compressed air is again a sneaky form of kinetic energy[6], a compressed spring is different – it’s energy is more like chemical energy and is stored by creating tension in the force fields present in nature (gravity, electromagnetism and nuclear forces).

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[6] Kinetic energy – is energy by virtue of movement (like a speeding bullet or unstoppable train)[7] Electrical energy – this energy, like a compressed spring, is stored as stress in force fields, in this case electromagnetic force-fields.This short story is testament to an enormous quantity of learning by our species, but there are some clear exclusions to be read into the story: Energy fields (auras) or the energy lines in the body that conduct the “chi” (or life force) of Asian medical tradition
Energy lines on the Earth (aka Ley lines)
Negative or positive energy (as in positive or negative “vibes”)These energy currencies relate to theories and beliefs that science has been unable to verify and thus they have no known “exchange rate”. Asking how many light bulbs can you power with your Chi is thus a nonsensical question, whereas it would not be for any scientifically supported form of energy. And since energy flows account for all actions in the universe, not being exchangeable would be rather limiting.Where exactly is Energy kept?This may sound like s strange question, we know Energy is kept in batteries, petrol tanks and chocolate chip cookies. But the question is, where exactly is it stored in those things?Energy is stored in several ways:as movement – any mass moving has energy by virtue of the movement, which is called Kinetic Energy
as matter – Einstein figured out that matter is just a form of energy, and the exchange rate is amazing – 1g = 90,000,000,000,000,000 joules (from E=mc^2)
as tension in force fieldsThat last one sounds a bit cryptic, but actually most of the energy we use is in this form – petrol, food, batteries and even a raised hammer all store energy in what are essentially compressed (or stretched springs).What is a force field? Why on earth did I have to bring that up?All of space (even the interstellar vacuum) is permeated by force fields. The one we all know best is gravity – we know that if we lift a weight, we have to exert effort and that effort is then stored in that weight and can be recovered later by dropping it on your foot.Gravity is only one of several force fields known to science. Magnetic fields are very similar – it takes energy to pull a magnet off the fridge, and so it is actually an energy store when kept away from the fridge.The next force field is that created by electric charge (the electric field). For many years this was though to be a field all on its own but a chap called James Clerk Maxwell realised that electric fields and magnetic fields are in some senses two sides of the same coin, so physicists now talk of ‘electromagnetic’ fields. It turns out that electric energy (such as that stored in a capacitor) consists of tensions in this field, much like a raised weight is a tension in a gravity field. Perhaps surprisingly, light (as well as radio waves, microwaves and x-rays) are also energy stored in fluctuations of an energy field.Much chemical energy is also stored in electric fields – for example, most atoms consist of positively charged nuclei and negatively charged electrons, and the further apart they are kept, the more energy they hold, just liked raised weights. As an electron is allowed to get closer to the nucleus, energy is released (generally as radiation, such as light – thus hot things glow).The least well known force field is the strong ‘nuclear’ force. This is the forces that holds the subatomic particles (protons) together in the nucleus of atoms. Since the protons are all positively charged, they should want to repel each other, but something is keeping them at bay, and so physicists have inferred this force field must exist. It turns out their theory holds water, because if you can drag these protons a little bit apart, they will suddenly fly off with gusto. The strong nuclear force turns out to be bloody strong, but only works over a tiny distance. It rarely affects us as we rarely store energy with this energy field.Now we understand force fields we can look at how molecules (petrol, oxygen, chocolate) store energy. All molecules are made of atoms connected to one other via various ‘bonds’ and these bonds are like springs. Different types of molecules have different amount of tension in these bonds – it turns out coal molecules, created millions of years ago with energy from the sun, are crammed full of tense bonds that are dying to re-arrange to more relaxed configurations, which is exactly what happens when we apply oxygen and the little heat to start the reaction.The complexity of the tensions in molecules are perhaps the most amazing in nature, as it is their re-arrangements that fuel life as we know it.What exactly is Heat then?You may have noticed that I did not include heat as a form of energy store above. But surely hot things are an energy store?Yes, they are, but heat is actually just a sort of illusion. We use heat as a catch all term to describe the kinetic energy of the molecules and atoms. If you have a bottle of air, the temperature of the air is a direct consequence of the average speed of the molecules of gas jetting around bashing into one another.As you heat the air, you are actually just increasing the speed of particles. If you compress the air, you may not increase their speed, but you will have more particles in the same volume, which also ‘feels’ hotter.Solids are a little different – the atoms and molecules in solids do not have the freedom to fly around, so instead, they vibrate. It is like each molecule is constrained by elastic bands pulling in all directions. If the molecule is still, it is cold, but if it is bouncing around like a pinball, then it has kinetic energy, and feels hotter.You can see from this viewpoint, that to talk of the temperature of an atom, or of a vacuum, is meaningless, because temperature is a macroscopic property of matter. On the other hand, you could technically argue that a flying bullet is red hot because it has so much kinetic energy…Is Energy Reusable?We as a species, have learned how to tap into flows of energy to get them to do our bidding. So big question: Will we use it all up?Scientists have found that energy is pretty much indestructible – it is never “used-up”, it merely flows from one form into another. The problem is thus not that we will run out, but that we might foolishly convert it all into some unusable form.Electricity is an example of really useful energy – we have machines that convert electricity into almost anything, whereas heat is only useful if you are cold, and light is only useful if you are in the dark.Engineers also talk about the quality (or grade) of energy. An engineer would always prefer 1 litre of water 70 degrees warmer than room temperature, than 70 litres of water 1 degree warmer, even though these contain roughly the same embodied energy. You can use the hot water to boil an egg, or make tea, or you could mix it with 69 litres of room temperature water to heat it all by 1 degree. It is more flexible.Unfortunately, most of the machines we use, turn good energy (electricity, petrol, light) into bad energy (usually “low grade heat”).Why is low grade heat so bad? It turns out we have no decent machine to convert low grade heat into other forms of energy. In fact we cannot technically convert any forms of heat into energy unless we have something cold to hand which we are also willing to warm up; our machines can thus only extract energy by using hot an cold things together. A steam engine relies just as much on the environment that cools and condenses water vapour as it does on the coal its belly. Power stations rely on their cooling towers as much as their furnaces. It turns out that all our heat machines are stuck in this trap.

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So, in summary, heat itself is not useful – it is temperature differences that we know how to harness, and the bigger the better.This picture of energy lets us think differently about how we interact with energy. We have learned a few key facts:Energy is not destroyed, and cannot be totally used up – this should give us hope
Energy is harnessed to do our dirty work, but tends to end up stuck in some ‘hard to use’ formSo all we need to do to save ourselves is:Re-use the same energy over and over
by finding some way to extract energy from low grade heatAlas, this is a harder nut to crack than fission power, so I am not holding my breath. It turns out that there is another annoying universal law (the Second Law of Thermodynamics) that says that every time energy flows, it will somehow become less useful, like water running downhill. This is because energy can only flow one way: from something hot to something cold – thus once something hot and something cold meet and the temperature evens out, you have forever lost the useful energy you had.It is as if we had a mountain range and were using avalanches to drive our engines. Not only will our mountains get shorter over time but our valleys will fill up too, and soon we will live on a flat plane and our engines will be silent.The Big PictureSo the useful energy in the universe is being used up. Should we worry?Yes and no.Yes, you should worry because locally we are running out of easy sources of energy and will now have to start using sustainable ones. If we do not ramp up fast enough we will have catastrophic shortages.No, should should no worry that we will run out, because there are sustainable sources – the sun pumps out so much more than we use, it is virtually limitless.Oh, and yes again – because burning everything is messing up the chemistry of the atmosphere, which is also likely to cause catastrophe. Good news is that the solution to this is the same – most renewable energy sources do not have this unhappy side effect.Oh, and in the really long term, yes we should worry again. All the energy in the universe will eventually convert to heat, and the heat will probably spread evenly throughout the universe, and even though all the energy will still be present and accounted for, it would be impossible to use and the universe would basically stop. Pretty dismal, but this is what many physicists believe: we all exist in the eddy currents of heat flows as the universe gradually heads for a luke-warm, and dead, equilibrium.=============If you liked this article, you might like my series on efficient motoring.

Financial Planning – A Road Map to a Secure Financial Future

August 31, 2016

Would you leave on a trip to a new destination without a map? What if your destination is a successful financial future? Without a map, would you know how to get there?Financial planning provides a road map for your financial life. It can make the journey less stressful, more fun, and more successful. And, you can start right now – even if only a few steps at a time.In today’s uncertain economy, financial planning has become increasingly important. With an overwhelming number of options for saving and investing, managing your finances can be difficult. Creating a financial plan helps you see the big picture and set long and short-term life goals, a crucial step in mapping out your financial future. When you have a strategy and a financial plan, it’s easier to make financial decisions and stay on track to meet your goals. Working with a CFP CM professional can secure your financial wellbeing and give you peace of mind and help you reach financial planning success.Some people decide to do their own financial planning, but you may want to seek help from a Certified Financial Planner CM professional if you:Want to better manage your finances, but aren’t sure where to start.
Don’t have time to do your own financial planning.
Want a professional opinion about the plan you’ve developed.
Don’t have sufficient expertise in certain areas such as investments, insurance, taxes or retirement planning.
Have an immediate need or unexpected life event.

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Destination: Setting Goals
Financial planning starts with setting goals. After all, you need to know where you want to go before you can decide how to get there. Your goals can be short-term – for example, paying a credit card debt in six months; medium-term – such as saving for a down payment on a house in two years; or long-term – such as sending your kids to college in 15 years or your retirement. Write your goals on paper, including rupee terms and dates. Keep the list in sight so you can refer to it for motivation as you keep working toward your goals.Starting Point: Where Are You Now?
Next, get a realistic picture of where you are financially. List everything you owe (liabilities) and the value of everything you own (assets). Also, track your monthly income and expenses in a notebook or on a budget form. Even if it’s not a pretty picture now, that’s OK. You’ve faced your financial situation, and financial planning will help you improve the picture.Avoiding Potholes: Insurance, Debt, Job Loss, Taxes and Estate Planning
Financial potholes will inevitably come your way – stock market downturns, recessions, losing a job, wrecking the car, paying for an illness. You may not be able to avoid these potholes, but you can minimize their financial impact. Here are a few suggestions:• Have adequate insurance. Insurance prevents financial catastrophes, so don’t put off getting it. Insure what you cannot comfortably afford to replace. For most people, that means having the following insurance: auto, renters or homeowners, liability, health, disability and life insurance (if someone depends on you financially). Take advantage of insurance offered to you at your job and supplements it with insurance you buy on your own. Shop for the best price, but make sure you buy from a reputable, financially sound insurance company.• Control debt. Having a lot of debt puts you at financial risk. If you’re spending more than you earn, start using a budget to plug spending leaks, and make paying off your credit cards a top priority.

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• Job loss. You can’t control the economy or a company layoff, but you can control how much time you invest in keeping your skills sharp and in meeting people who may help you find a job in the future.• Taxes. Computer software can help you find deductions on your tax return. However, if your financial situation is complex, you may benefit from working with a tax or financial professional who can suggest tax strategies and make sure you are getting all of the credits and deductions due to you.• Estate planning. Every adult should have these four basic documents: will, general durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney and a living will (also called a medical directive). A financial planner can guide you and refer you to an estate planning attorney to draft these documents.There are many benefits of financial planning. If any of the above questions apply to you, it may be time to call a Certified Financial Planner CM professional to help you reach your financial goals and achieve financial success.

Systems Thinking in ‘ORGAN’-Izations

October 1, 2016

What is systems thinking? Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. That definition and many like it are found all around the internet, but do we know what it looks like in action? I found it confusing in many cases due to these same resources stating that a systems thinking approach is the opposite of breaking a larger system down into its parts to be analyzed and/or improved. It is my opinion that using a systems thinking approach in an organization is a balance of both.I’ve read a lot about tearing down these functional areas as if they are some kind of barrier standing in the way of a systems approach. I am going to disagree with this and state that we simply need to work with them differently. I strongly agree with the need for these teams, but the information within should be openly available to all other teams and the communication paths should be directly available.In every business we have a product, service, solution, etc… to provide to someone and in many it is important to have expertise organized into functional teams within the organization. These functional teams need to be in place for organizations to provide important pieces such as expertise, accountability and responsibility. Building a culture of relating these functional teams to systems that are part of a larger system and promoting collaboration between these systems is how I would describe getting your organization to a systems thinking approach.A systems approach provides many things from efficiencies and cost savings to feedback loops and product improvements. It can even have a positive influence over morale.After recent discussions on systems thinking I was looking for an example of an organization that utilizes a systems approach effectively. What I realized is that not only is the human body a great example of many things working together for a common goal, but that we study and teach on this subject recognizing each of these parts as systems working together.If you were to look up the Human Organism and write down the highlights, you are probably going to write something like skeletal system, muscular system, nervous system, etc… See the common factor?

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Now hold that thought and let’s look at the human body as we look at our own organizations. Imagine a standard org chart with organ systems breaking down into each system (nervous, muscular, digestive, etc… ), then to the organs themselves (heart, lung, liver, etc… )From atoms to molecules to organelles that form cells which form tissue which leads to organs that make up an organ system and results in an organism.If the body worked vertically it probably wouldn’t function let alone be what it is today. The body maintains our functional groups that allows for expertise, responsibility and accountability; but still has many interworking systems.Notice that when we speak of the functional teams that make up the body, we refer to them as systems. The body has 11 major organ systems, but what you cannot display in such a standard org chart representing the body is the overlapping of these systems. Nearly all of the major organs of the major systems have other organs from other systems connected to them. Notice that I said there are 11 ‘major’ systems. Choose your belief here, but whether fantastic evolution or a genius creator, the need for interworking systems was obviously not overlooked. I listed some organs that fall under their organ system, but what happens when I ask you where the hypothalamus resides? It is a gland so let’s say its functional area is the endocrine system, but it’s function is being responsible for the activities of the autonomic nervous system. This happens to us everyday right? Your software developers are not writing software to develop software.We’ve decided that with the org chart of the human body if you will, it needs a system to link the system, hence we have what is known as the neuroendocrine system. This is found again and again throughout the human body where functional areas overlap. The muscular and skeletal systems work so closely and are dependent on each other for optimization of movement and support that we have a musculoskeletal system. Genius right?The musculoskeletal system is not a whole new functional area of the business with new management, etc… Consider instead that it is a space where representatives from both systems come to collaborate on their ideas of how to reach the common goal and then returns to their own system.Aside from not addressing dependencies from multiple functional areas to optimize the outcome, silos cause other issues in the organization. Regardless what your functional area is, it is better than the others right? If you are an installation tech, you could meet your goals if development had it together and if you are in development your product is fine if only your installation guys were smart enough to implement it.We’ve got to tear down these silos and interact. Every decision made in a functional system is going to change the overall system. If your change is not matched and/or countered by other changes the result has changed. What a standard org chart (silos) doesn’t do is help us identify where a problem is or visually instill the idea that what one does has a greater consequence to the common goal. As an example, let’s assume you have hypoglycemia.Well, hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) is too low. Now you have double vision, fast heart, nervous, shaking, sweating, etc… Each system is reacting. If you take medicine to rectify the symptoms without understanding the true cause you could damage your pancreas or cause other systems to work harder to counter the new effects while not actually curing the problem.Hypoglycemia can be caused by medications or alcohol so it could be the fault of the mouth. If not the mouth maybe the overall digestive system for not breaking down the carbohydrates or back down in that functional system to the pancreas for not producing insulin. Maybe it’s the blood stream and maybe it’s that the liver and/or muscles aren’t storing glucose properly. It very well might be a digestive system problem, but unless we understand how systems overlap you might of just replaced your director of digestion when in fact the problem could of been any one of circulatory, muscular, or endocrine systems.Similarly, defects in the muscles and bones can be the result of neurological problems, metabolic or vascular disorders, nutritional imbalances, etc… If any one of the systems that make up the human body were to over/under produce or change what it does all together, it can drastically change every other system and the overall result of what they were previously working together to do.

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The body has 5 vital organs being the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Scroll up if you need to, but I’ll just tell you that the blocks are red and each resides inside of a functional system. What?! The brain isn’t higher than bones? All of these systems work together and due to this the information uses the nervous, muscular, circulatory, and other systems to share information where they overlap and transport it to another system it interacts with. If you were to put your hand on a hot surface the body reacts by sending signals to other parts of the body. Your muscles contract to pull away, it notifies your brain of the incident, your blood pressure increases while you breath heavier, your pupils dilate, and you start releasing hormones like adrenaline.Many systems in the body just worked together to notify, react and rectify and it did so by communicating within interworking systems rather than all information leaving the critical areas and coming back via the same point it went it out. Good thing or you might just still have your hand on a hot surface waiting for that single point of communication to be available.Any living organism is amazing, but remove any one system or even tamper with it without proper communication to the others and if you are still alive, you’ve just caused cancer.To do this an organization needs to instill a culture of collaboration and team building so that the vital organs can work together while the functional manager acts as a servant leader to keep his experts focused, trained, and with the tools they need to do what they do.With all of the communication that the body has going on, you can provide it with the right nutrients and not only is it healthy, it becomes self healing when the unknown arises. Shouldn’t your organization be self healing?

Video Game Tester Jobs Can Jump Start You on Almost Any Game Development Path

September 23, 2016

Video game QA testing may be low on the game development totem pole, just above “personal projects” you’d never think about including in your resume. But used correctly, both can carry you a long way towards becoming a game programmer, story line creator, or graphics designer.It’s all about broader experience inventory and growth through progress.It would seem fairly obvious. Look at anyone in college working towards a career in a high paying field like medicine, and what do you see them doing? That’s right, working at any job in a hospital, clinic, or private practice environment (a relevant environment) which they can find. They know even a role only loosely related to the one they aspire towards in their chosen field serves as a stepping stone towards more relevant positions once the opportunity becomes available.As is the case in medicine, software development is a industry made up of many narrow roles. If you’re only focused on “qualifying for your desired role”, you may end up short changing yourself in two ways. First, by not recognizing applicable experience you’ve already obtained through non-professional work and personal hobbies. Second, by overlooking potential resume building opportunities while limiting yourself only to the ones not available to you.Let’s look at the first problem: “not recognizing applicable experience you’ve already obtained”.I don’t see this problem a lot in sales and marketing, regardless if it’s computer entertainment sales, advertisement sales, or used car sales. In fact, newer “greener” aspiring sales reps often need to learn a page from aspiring software developers about “Never put anything in your portfolio that someone wouldn’t pay you for”. Where the aspiring gaming professional falls short is recognizing what actually counts as valuable to those they present their resumes and portfolios to. They’ll often include what they consider “real job experience”, such as “Manager at Macy’s”, or “Audits and Accounting at Wells Fargo” (neither of which has anything to do with game or software development); but avoid including things like “my dorm mate and I wrote “Squares vs Circles” (an iPhone app) for fun while we were in college, it got 500,000 downloads within a month of release” (so what you are saying is, you wrote, developed, tested, and published popular and successful software on your own for fun?)It’s as if those aspiring to game development roles almost seem to have an “inferiority complex” when it comes to the kinds of experiences relevant to the gaming field. While considering any work they think of as “from a real company” with “a real paycheck attached” automatically more important. The thing is: the person looking over your resume doesn’t care about any of that. They’re not your dad who thinks you should get a “real job”, or your mom who worries about you’re “spending too much time on the internet”, they are people looking for someone with experience that has to do with games. Don’t discount experience because it was “just a personal project”. If you want to be hired in the area of game development you need to show how you have already performed successfully in game development. Whether or not you got paid, and regardless whether or not it resembles what you or your peers think of as “a real company”, “real work”, or “real professional”. What matters is that it was developing a game, and you completed the project as defined – or better. That’s what people want to hear about.

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Now take a look at the second problem: “overlooking potential resume building opportunities while limiting yourself only to the ones not available to you”.This one is a little trickier, because it requires a balancing act. You see, another important thing to remember is “Build your portfolio around a single focus”. I’m not going into detail about that here, as it mostly goes beyond the scope of this article. But, it needs to be mentioned as it’s the other end of the spectrum in so far as: on one level, you don’t want to overlook potential resume building opportunities, but at the same time, you don’t want to build a portfolio of non-relevant experience and garbage either.The best way to look at it is, if you have an opportunity to work in a position which is highly relevant to your desired role in gaming – say for example story line creator – by all means favor that work over work that’s less closely related. But when such positions are scarce or highly competitive, don’t overlook opportunity to work in any game development role – even if it falls outside the scope of the game development area you ultimately aspire towards.The reality is, jobs in game development are places where many come – but few may enter. There simply aren’t enough positions to fill in any one role for everyone who applies at the door. And even experience outside the role you aspire towards can help you as it gives you familiarity, exposure to a variety of technology, and broader experience with the roles of others you might have to later work with.The lowly and relatively low paying Video Game Tester Jobs.Compared to other gaming industry roles, video game QA tester is the lowest paying. According to The Game Developers 12th Annual Salary Survey (conducted in 2013), freelance and temporary assignment video game QA testers, with less than 3 years’ experience, earn an average of $22,000/yr., roughly equivalent to $10/hr. – assuming a 40 hour work week. This is because of the much lower amount of education needed to enter video game QA testing.However, consider those “working towards a career in a high paying field like medicine”, who I described at the beginning of this article; the ones taking “any job in a hospital, clinic, or private practice environment (a relevant environment)”. They’re doing this for a few good reasons. It helps to offset college costs, gives them a chance to gain experience and familiarization within a related work environment, and the jobs they take are often the “lower paying roles” due to lower entry-level education requirements – which equates to ease of entry. High turn-over rates as people in these positions attain the qualifications to move on to their desired careers, make these jobs readily available. And those who later move on to higher positions will have previous industry relevant experience to add to their resumes if needed. If needed being the key. If they don’t need it, or feel it would distract from experience more relevant to a particular job, they can always make less mention of it or leave it out entirely.Which bring us to the real question – why are those seeking software development careers so averse to including video game tester jobs along the way? Think back about the “inferiority complex” among “those aspiring to game development roles” which I spoke of earlier. And the corresponding “superiority complex” among those becoming “material” for higher paying, more respected roles such as graphics designer or programmer. When people think of, for example, becoming an environmental art designer, they often think of highly sophisticated technical skills, and expensive but well-worth-it college degrees – leading to well-earned and well-respected salaries. When people think of a QA tester job, they often think of someone who was lucky enough to get paid to play games.Video game quality assurance testing is seen by many as almost a kind of “red-headed-step-child”. Some treat it the same way one might treat a cheap book promising the secret to unbelievable income sold on a poorly done website alongside thin porn, payday loans, and mesothelioma related attorney services.The reality is – a video game tester job can provide the same things to the soon to be 3D character model designer that a clerical position with a small clinic provides to the soon to be medical technician, nurse, or doctor. Video game tester jobs are readily available, industry related, work with which you can offset other costs while in school or training for your desired role, gain experience and familiarity with the software development process, and which comes with relatively low entry requirements.Video game QA positions require only that you have a high aptitude for basic skills applicable to any job, such as attention to detail, ability to follow instructions, diligence, and being able to write reports. Yet they provide game industry experience, familiarity, and exposure to a wider variety of related technologies. Also, while QA testing may be “low paying” compared to other development roles, it’s actually on par with many part-time jobs that aren’t even career connected which people typically take while working towards their desired career path.

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The key is, don’t look at QA tester work as a job you “don’t take seriously”, consider it instead as a useful tool in a strategic plan. Consider those too good to be true offers you see promising “$4,000 a month playing games” for some small monthly fee. These offers are usually made by assignment aggregators. Assignment aggregators are companies in the business of offering a central location for freelance video game QA testers to find temporary video game QA assignments. Whether the promises of easy money come true or not, you could use those to get work (resume experience) handed to you even though you have not yet attained any work history or qualifications, in addition to some extra income. What you really want is for the assignments to serve as documented work history in QA Testing to support obtaining a regular entry-level position with a gaming company. You want to be able to say “I’ve completed projects in the gaming field”… as opposed to the other applicant who hasn’t.From here it depends on the options available to you, and your desired career path. If you’ve already chosen a career path in another game development role, then I’d recommend NOT moving all the way from freelance to full-time QA testing – as you want to focus your efforts on obtaining a job closer to your desired role. Until you do, you may wish to simply remain a freelance tester. Despite the lower hourly pay, this will give you the greatest flexibility and control over your time. Should you decide to become a regular part-time tester with a gaming company, the pay could actually outstrip many other non-career connected part-time jobs.If you’re still deciding when it comes to what role you want to have in game development, you may want to consider that QA testing does become more lucrative with experience – all-be-it not as quickly as in other development roles. It rises to just under $40,000/year as a full-time job with 3 years’ experience, and “maxes out” around $70,000/yr. Not as much as the $85,000/yr. you could be making as a programmer, but still fairly decent compared to other professional roles.Video game QA testing may be the lowest paid type of work in game development. However, those aspiring for such roles as game programmer, story line creator, or graphics designer would be wise to look beyond just work related to their desired role in game development.

Still More Anomalies: Another Top Baker’s Dozen

August 27, 2016

You may not be happy with the world as it is, but at least it’s orderly and makes logical sense. Walk, don’t walk, green yellow red; money trickles in, money flows out; friends and politicians come and go, enemies and stuff accumulate; the sun rises and sets, the moon waxes and wanes; people are born, people die; the days, weeks, months, seasons. and years come and go with regularity. But dig a bit deeper beneath the surface and the world and the cosmos it inhabits, is one anomalous place.THE BIG BANG EVENT: This is no doubt a concept that nearly everyone has heard about, and swallowed hook, line and cosmological sinker because scientists present this creation of the Universe scenario as fact. It’s not fact; just the most viable theory of many theories and it has serious flaws. The accepted theoretical account of the creation or event that kick-started our Universe off not only has that event a something that created all of matter and energy, but all of time and space as well, and this creation event, to boot, all took place in a volume less than that of a pinhead (something in the realm of the quantum) and for no apparent reason at all. First there was nothing; then there was something. Wow!At best observations that support this are indirect being made some 13.7 billion years after-the-fact. Those indirect observations that provide evidence for the Big Bang event are the fact that the Universe is expanding; the Universe has a temperature – the remnants from the hot Big Bang called the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) and the amounts and ratio of hydrogen to helium. In reality there are no direct observations as nobody was present at Ground Zero all those billions of years ago.There are really a couple of anomalies present in the standard Big Bang account. 1) You have a violation of causality – something (space, time, matter and energy) created from nothing which is a violation of several conservation laws or relationships. 2) You have a violation of pure common sense that tells you that you can not stuff the contents of the entire Universe into the realm of the quantum, something actually way less in volume in fact than a pinhead. If that’s not anomalous, I don’t know what is!SPEED OF LIGHT: The anomaly here is that in any other scenario, velocities can be added and subtracted, except the velocity that’s known as the speed of light. Within Relativity Theory, if there is anything unintuitive it is the fact that in the entire Universe, it is the speed of light alone that is absolute or fixed, not something like space or time. It’s unintuitive in that all other bits and pieces that are in motion can be added or subtracted. So, if you are in a train that is moving at say 100 km/hour and you throw a ball at 10 km/hour in the direction at which the train is moving, to an observer outside the train, your ball is traveling at 110 km/hour. If you throw the ball towards the rear of the train, an outside observer will measure the ball as moving at 90 km/hour. If on the other hand, you shine a flashlight in the train, an outside observer will see the velocity of the resulting light beam moving at the speed of light – not the speed of light PLUS the velocity of the train, or the speed of light MINUS the velocity of the train, but at the speed of light! That’s nuts, but it’s scientifically nuts and been proven again and again in any experiment you care to devise.QUANTUM GRAVITY AND THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING: We have the Theory of General Relativity (gravity) and Quantum Physics. Both are bedrocks of modern physics. Both are accurate to a high degree of experimental precision. Both aren’t compatible – with each other. Apparently, one (or both) of these theories must be wrong, or at best incomplete. That’s why the unification of the two (a theory of quantum gravity) is physics’ Holy Grail. However, that Holy Grail is proving as difficult to find as the Biblical Grail itself! But for the moment, it’s like the universe has two independent sets of laws – one governing the very large (gravity); one the very small (the quantum). This makes no natural or scientific sense.We have observations of four physical forces yet no theory which unites the three quantum forces (electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force) with the one classical force – gravity. Theory needs to be satisfied. All of the four fundamental forces should be interconnected; some sort of unification principle must be in operation that relates all four, one to the other. However, these four fundamental forces that govern the Universe show no signs of any obvious unification – well actually the three quantum ones do (known as the GUT – Grand Unified Theory), but that’s where the unification ends. Gravity remains the wallflower. If the Big Bang theory is to be proven correct as stated, scientists must of necessity come up with a viable theory of quantum gravity that is an acceptable unification of the trio of quantum forces with gravity. There is, to date, no viable theory of quantum gravity despite thousands of physicists searching for one over many generations now. Mother Nature is an anomalous bitch!

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QUASARS: Quasars are ‘quasi-stellar objects’. They are ‘stellar’ because they aren’t all that large (like a galaxy). They are ‘quasi’ because they give off energy way, way, way more times greater than any star known in any astronomical catalogue. They seem to be primordial objects – they formed long ago and are now far away. Quasars, like stars or galaxies, are their own entities and if two or more show a very close and special causality relationships then they should show identical recessional velocities (since the Universe is expanding and they are part of the Universe and that expansion). Recessional velocities are measured by an object’s red-shift. Theory identifies red-shift with velocity. However, you apparently have some observations of causality connected quasar pairs with vastly differing red-shifts (measurements of their recessional velocities). The anomaly, in an analogy, is that you can not have a runner running at 15 miles per hour holding hands with another runner running at 3 miles per hour!MASS: There are three fundamental properties of particles (like the electron, neutrinos, the numerous quarks, etc.) and their anti-particles (like the positron). They are charge, spin and mass. As the song goes, two out of three ain’t bad, but that still leaves one out of three out of joint. In this case, it’s mass. Nobody can predict from first principles what the masses of the fundamental particles should be. That’s fairly disturbing for something as fundamental as mass. Despite the relatively large number of particles (including their equal and opposite anti-particles), there are only a few allowed values for charge and spin, values pretty much confined to the physics infield. But, for some reason, the mass (usually expressed in equivalent energy units – Einstein’s famous equation) of the various particles are not only scattered throughout the physics ballpark but are all over the city map and beyond. They take on values (albeit one value per type of particle) over many orders of magnitude without any apparent pattern or regularity or relationship between them – and nobody has the foggiest idea why, not a validly theoretical idea, or even a ‘far out’ idea. Why should mass differ so greatly from the other fundamental properties part and parcel of those elementary particles? It’s like someone just drew a few dozens of numbers out of a hat containing multi hundreds of thousands of values and assigned them to the few dozens of particles willy-nilly. Something is screwy somewhere because something so fundamental shouldn’t be so anomalous.PHYSICAL CONSTANTS: There are constant reports of physical constants that aren’t – constant that is. Physical constants are just that – a constant. They have just one value, everywhere, every-when, and no exceptions. But apparently some ‘constants’ have more than one value depending of where and/or when. Theory and observations (if correct) are yet again not in harmony and that’s totally nuts!TIME TRAVEL: Time travel to the past is a staple of science fiction, but surprisingly has actual viability in modern general relativity physics. In general relativity physics, time travel to the past is theoretically possible – though damned difficult in practice. However, that means that those time travel paradoxes are possible, even likely.The anomaly are those lovable paradoxes like going back in time, say ten years, and killing yourself (which is a novel way of committing suicide), which means you couldn’t have existed to go back in time in the first place in order to kill yourself, which means you’re not dead so you can go back in time and murder yourself, etc. What kind of physics is that?The second anomaly however is that no time travelers have been observed from our future. You would think various significant historical events would be swarming with historians and tourists from the future where time travel is possible. Nobody from our present or past has time traveled back in time and left a proof-positive calling card that we’ve ever found in the fossil record or recorded in the history books.If something is possible, especially something as interesting as time travel, we would expect to see either people from our future in the here and now, or evidence that we’ve traveled to the past, like finding a human skeleton buried inside a T-Rex skeleton, as in inside the area where the T-Rex’s abdominal cavity would be! We don’t.CATTLE MUTILATIONS: There’s no disputing the bona-fides of this gruesome reality. It has been observed – after-the-fact – photographed, documented, and investigated by all manner of officialdom, as well as unofficial private investigators. And though oft referred to as ‘cattle’ mutilations, all manner of wildlife and other domestic livestock have been targeted too, the first reported case being a horse. Like the crop circle phenomena, there are three possible explanations: natural, human or alien.If natural, why has this phenomenon only become an issue since the 1960′s? Predator-prey relationships, scavengers, etc. have existed and been observed ever since humans have inhabited the continents. There should be no anomaly here if animal mutilations are just the normal continuation of Mother Nature in tooth and claw. But there is an anomaly. If predators or scavengers, why are there no footprints, and especially if predators, why no signs of a struggle? How can predators account for precision removal of just certain body parts with razor sharp incisions? Since there’s no blood associated with the mutilated carcasses, did predators drink up their entire victim’s blood like an animal version of Dracula?If humans or cultists are responsible, why hasn’t anyone claimed responsibility? Why hasn’t anyone been caught, tried, convicted, fined and/or imprisoned for trespass, animal cruelty, destruction of private property, etc.? Why no signs of human activity like tire tracks and footprints and litter (say a cigarette butt or beer can or two). Again, why no signs of a struggle?Some have suggested this is the work of government, or government departments, taking samples to monitor for various bovine nasties, like diseases, or other types of contamination that could endanger human health if these livestock were consumed. Really! There are vastly easier ways of legally gathering up tissue samples than sneaking around in the dead of night and killing/mutilating animals for a few body parts.So of course it has to be extraterrestrials! How can aliens mutilate cattle (and other livestock and wildlife), decade after decade, without ever being seen? Why would aliens be interested in wildlife and livestock in the first damned place, or at least some of their highly selected body parts?HUMAN CULTURE & CIVILIZATION: There are two relatively unexplained turning points in the evolution of modern man when contrasted with our more primate-like ancestors. One is the acquisition of what we call culture. Culture (like art appreciation and abstract ideas like an afterlife) happened within a fairly narrow timeframe, roughly 50,000 years ago, wherever nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers gathered. Why the sudden transition? The second great leap forward, again, within a narrow timeframe, some 9000 years ago, was the transition from nomadic lifestyles to settlements – farming crops and herding now domesticated wildlife. Settlements rapidly became villages became towns became cities. While some nomadic hunter-gatherers still roamed the plains, like the Australian aboriginal, what was once that nomadic rule now became that exception to that rule. In both cases, culture and civilization, the observational evidence is rock-solid; theory can’t really explain the transition, or at least the relatively rapid transition, around the world, from the tried-and-true before-the-fact pre-cultural nomadic lifestyle to the unknown leap of an untested experiment with culture and settlements.ANCIENT EGYPT: LIGHTING THE PYRAMIDS, etc. We all are aware that many of the ancient Egyptian structures, like pyramids and the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, contain vast numbers of deep and twisting passageways inside. Many of those interiors have been elaborately decorated with all manner of paintings and carvings of hieroglyphs, etc. Whether or not the interiors were decorated, there must have been a requirement for lighting. There were no glass windows. There were no battery-operated torches or flashlights. There was no electric lighting back then, though of course that’s how these structures are illuminated today for tourists and/or archaeologists. Neither source of available luminescent technology back then really holds a candle as it were to how they could have been actually employed. The obvious sources were burning torches, oil lamps, candles, etc. Now you don’t really want to undertake construction, detailed painting or carving stone by candlelight. In any event there are no traces of soot residue on the walls and ceilings. The alternative method was to position bronze or copper mirrors that reflect sunlight onto another mirror which in turn reflected that light onto another mirror further inside the structure which in turn reflected the light it received onto the next mirror down the line, etc. The physics problem is that the original sunlight gets so diluted so quickly after just a couple of mirrors in, that it becomes an impractical ways and means. If you have to penetrate very far inside the structure, and some passageways are indeed, very, very far inside, lighting with mirrors fail. The anomaly is you need adequate lighting yet there’s no really adequate source.

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EXODUS, BOOK OF: There are multi-dozens of anomalies, things that just can’t be, reported in the Bible. Of all of these, the most anomalous is the Book of Exodus, because some of the events recorded there can be checked against another independent historical source. If the history in the Book of Exodus is found wanting, and it is, then if one holy book goes down the gurgler, then all the rest of the books are suspect too.The anomaly here is that the Book of Exodus features the land and peoples of ancient Egypt fairly prominently. A couple of key Biblical characters play leading roles there – Moses and Joseph – not to mention thousands of alleged Hebrew slaves. Nasty things happen to that land and those peoples like the ten plagues and the drowning of pharaoh’s army. The anomaly here is that you’d expect ancient Egyptian records to verify and collaborate and substantiate the Book of Exodus, but you don’t find anything of the sort. It’s as if the Biblical version took place in a parallel universe – or in the imagination of the all too human author.BIBLICAL MIRACLES: Then there’s this Biblical bit about Joshua commanding the sun to stand still (at least that’s the way I recall it). That’s a tall tale or myth but whatever, it can’t be a physical reality. But wait, there’s more! There’s Jonah and the whale; Eve’s creation from a rib; walking on the waters; the walls of Jericho tumbling down at the sound of no doubt out of tune trumpets or rams horns. In the Bible we have this tale of the multiplying of loaves and fishes out of virtually nothing.Miracles are part and parcel of any and all supernaturally based religions. Miracles of the supernatural kind (and that’s the only kind of miracle that counts here) violate one or more laws, principles or relationships established by science. There can be no such thing as a supernatural miracle in theory. However, there have been numerous reports of supernatural miracles.Reported events cannot violate the natural state of things. If they do violate that natural state of things, then they must be supernatural. There’s no known theory that can accommodate supernatural events. That’s part of the conflict between science and religion. The conflict is an anomaly.THE AFTERLIFE: A concept that closest to the hearts and minds of nearly all humans and human cultures past and present is what happens to us after we kick the bucket. The answer is we transcend into another life – an afterlife. Every culture, past and present, has an afterlife concept, a life after death concept, or some sort of an eternity or immortality worldview. Not all of the versions of the theoretical afterlife can be correct however. Idealistic theoretical expectations that when you die you won’t stay dead, versus practical reality that observations show that dead things stay dead, are indeed conflicting, therefore anomalous. However, nobody has ever come back from the dead to prove the reality of an afterlife to the satisfaction of any unbiased referee.From the examples above, I conclude that it almost seems as if someone (something) is ultimately responsible for our Universe, but he / she/ it / they didn’t quite think things through sufficiently. Methinks an all knowing, all powerful supernatural God type being wouldn’t have stuffed things up. So either the Universe is naturally stuffed up, or it was created stuffed up!

Direct Marketing – Brand Identity Guru Tips

September 28, 2016

If your company doesn’t have a direct marketing program in place, a direct marketing agency can create one for you. A direct marketing company provides small to very large customizable ranges of business-to-business and business-to-consumer direct marketing options sure to fit your needs. From database creation and maintenance to data analysis and creative program execution, a direct marketing company can take any existing direct marketing program, or a lack of one, and develop a highly efficient direct sales machine for your company.A good direct marketing company employs experts in each aspect of direct marketing who have proven time and time again they have what it takes to create a successful direct mail campaign and turn your existing unorganized data into a powerful computer-readable customer database.The goal of any successful direct marketing program is ultimately a positive effect on your bottom line. Good direct marketing programs are proven performers that will give you an edge over your competition. The direct marketing expertise and capabilities that a good direct marketing company offers will turn your direct marketing expenditures into successful investments.

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Look for a company that has years of target market research experience ready to work for you. They will uncover who your best customers are and develop a direct marketing campaign that will get them to respond.They should know how to impact behavior, get results and form the basis for long-term relationships with your customers and prospects.Direct marketing abilities should include:- Direct response advertising- Customer relation’s management- Data management services and data analysis- Media planning, media buying and complete direct marketing campaign managementSeven HUGE Tips to Direct Marketing that gets resultsSuccessful direct marketing takes planning and strategic thought…1. Know your goal: What do you want your direct marketing to accomplish? What kind of impression do you wish to leave? Do you wish to inform your prospects about your product or just make them aware? Recently, Brand Identity Guru was asked by a client to expand its direct marketing efforts, so we created a direct marketing piece to showcase our client’s most attractive points. That direct marketing piece now accounts for 30 percent of the client’s new business.2. Research: Don’t just have a list. Learn something about your customers so you can speak to them better. Discover their hot buttons, so you can push them.3. Plan properly: The best direct marketing campaigns work along with PR, traditional advertising, brand strategy and efforts by your sales force. Ultimately, each piece is part of a larger total company campaign and should work together.4. Be relevant: Direct marketing efforts should offer something your clients might want to buy.

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5. Be conscious of details: Find the name of your primary contacts, and make sure you spell them right in the items you send to them. Even the best direct marketing piece is useless in the trash.6. Be consistent: Use a series of pieces that speak to your customer’s needs. Don’t know what they are? Ask. Usually, December is not a good time because mailboxes are already overcrowded. Brand Identity Guru suggests waiting until February or another month.7. Follow up: If you don’t follow up, the results of your direct marketing efforts could crash to a halt. Initiate a conversation with people on your list. A phone call a week or two after your mailing is a great idea.Direct marketing is a powerful tool to capture your prospects’ attention and orders. If your direct marketing includes an attractive offer, imagine what the results will be. Throw in a brand-centric foundation and you have a direct marketing effort even more powerful than the sum of its parts.