Free of distractions and wet…

On Tuesday I decided I would work out at the University of Queensland library so that I could avoid all the distractions at home (World of Warcraft, food-from-the-fridge).  It had the delightful advantage of air-conditioning, which, when I woke up and discovered we had 93% humidity, became a real drawcard.

A fairly pleasant and productive day, but we have been having the most rain we have had for a very long time – several weeks worth of rain, which is not how we usually get it here in south-east Queensland.  Last time we were out there, in about August, it was a complete dustbowl, with trees dying left right and centre.

Happy to report that 3 weeks of rain makes it Really Quite Pleasant:

University of Queensland Great Court 15th January 2008

Online fraud and banking risk

Today a news item that caught my eye was particularly relevant – we organised our finances online on Saturday and heartily congratulated ourselves for the extra time this will save us.

I can manage shareholdings, home mortgage, personal credit cards, bank accounts, and superannuation accounts online now.  This is to save us time since we can’t make it to branches during the 9-4 bank hours most banks and branches are open.

And of course the banks would appear to have been refusing to put in higher levels of security to get that last 10% or so of fraud that is occurring, and have been merely investigating and covering client’s losses when it occurs.  According to this news item, though,  you’ll find yourself having to cover your own losses when they occur if the banks and ASIC have their way.

NowI hope it is a ‘reasonable precautions’ approach – I can theoretically understand why the person who has the most control should be responsible for any losses arising from a weakness in that control, but if I have antivirus and spamguard-type solutions in place, and I still get caught, I could get taken for quite a bit even if I am careful.  And the level of sophistication of many home users (still) is such that they can’t possibly put in place antivirus, and make sure that it is working.  I have seen a number of antivirus solutions that are confusing to the novice user, where the system for updating and maintaining the software is just not clear.  And let’s be clear:  these are smart intelligent people – people who know how to do things that I don’t, such as paving, chocking a mitre joint, and welding – who just aren’t across the 101 things you need to have right.  Things such as firewalls (router or software-based?), antivirus (how do I keep it up to date?  Or even realising it needs to be kept up to date), spamguard (that email’s not from my bank?), Windows patches (you need to keep installing, every month, to keep it up to date?), spyware (I’ve got nothing to hide, have I?).
And unfortunately,  I think people do tend to overestimate their sophistication with computers – computers seem to fall in the same category as sex, driving, and being ‘a good judge of character’.  80% of people think they have above-average computer skills, which is patently not the case (I am reminded of my wife, with two degrees and an eminently sensible person, who struggled over the weeekend to copy files from one directory to another without losing track of what had been copied; she also once put a floppy disk in upside down and back to front in a computer of mine – very helpful for a floppy drive I don’t think).

So in sum – I’m agin it.

More CPA Congress – in Brisbane

Today I am fortunate enough to be giving a presentation for CPA Congress in Queensland on ‘Implementing Systems for Improved Reporting Efficiency’.  As usual with these things I am a bit late in preparing my presentation and associated workbook.  My excuse for tardiness and pracastination, such as it is, is that we have had sick children at home over the past six weeks.  Including me for a week (my wife includes me in the ‘child’ category – even when I’m not sick). 

Anyway, I am presenting at 1.55pm this afternoon on this topic in Le Grande Ballroom 2 of the Sofitel in Brisbane.  Apparently it will have 142 participants, which makes me wonder perhaps what they think they are going to get.  I may have to break out the spangles and leotards yet*. 

It promises to be interesting – at least I think so but I may be biased.  I am using a holistic model to diagnose whole-of-business issues with effective business systems, strategising things to do, and then implementing the initiatives.  So that consulting secret again:  diagnose, strategise, implement.  It’s hard to keep straight in your head, but if you try really hard it will stick there. 

I will post presentation and workbook here later today. 

* Note to the gentle reader planning an Alan Jones-like unauthorised biography:  the last time the spangles and leotards were broken out would have about 1985 – when I played Romeo in our high school play.  And as I recall the spangles weren’t all that spangly (for 1985) although the leotard was something to behold…

Knowledge is power

I suffer from an incurable disease, apparently, and have done so for over 10 years.  I recall I went to the doctor 10 years ago about it, who took a biopsy, expressed a great deal of curiosity (‘oh my goodness I’ve never seen that before’ – which didn’t help my state of mind) and then read the pathology report a few days later and said ‘don’t worry about it’.

It took me another 10 years to get worried about it again, went into the doctor’s (this condition has a habit of morphing about a bit) to clear these concerns, and the doctor managed to dig out the report from 10 years ago (an information management strategy that I’m impressed with, anyway!) and apparently this thing is called Schamberg Disease.

No, I hadn’t heard of it either, and neither had the doctor.

But, knowledge is of two kinds – you either know it or you know where to find it.  Being a doctor, I had assumed he had access to all sorts of information resources I don’t.

But he didn’t.

He googled it.

And now I know why it’s benign.  Unsightly, but benign – think knobbly knees with zinc cream on pasty-white consultant legs.  Just as well that I managed to get married early on.