Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why didn't anyone tell me this?

Mighty Reason Man has started blogging again at Very Very Happy.

I was trying to find an old post of his, and saw that he has been blogging for the last few months.

Welcome back Mighty Reason Man - you have been missed.

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Sentenced to winter in Copenhagen

I came across this piece of graffiti a few months ago, and took a picture of it straight away.

Looking out at the gray, boring weather, with it's drizzle of rain, I can't agree more with the general stance of the graffiti.

Lazy linking

A few links which might interest my readers

The 102nd Skeptics' Circle is up at Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes, it's the [Bleeping] Edition. As usual, it brings the best posts of the skeptic blogsphere, and well worth the read.

Voodoo on the Vine

The origins of the increasingly popular Biodynamic wine are steeped in the occult and bad science.

I've been thinking of writing something about Biodynamic production at some stage, but the article explains how it works, demonstrating how silly it is. Via The Bird's Brain

Al Franken is projected to win, but only with 78 votes, so it's still too early to celebrate (if you're so inclined).

BMJ debunks Festive medical myths

Jill writes about the Soaring rates of rape and domestic violence in the United States

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Can't we just all get along?

Linked to by several of my facebook contacts.

Mice suspected in deadly cat fire

Mice may be responsible for a blaze that killed nearly 100 cats at an animal shelter near the Canadian city of Toronto, officials say.

It doesn't appear to be some strike in an inter-special warfare though.

An initial report from the fire marshal says mice or rats chewing through electrical wires in the ceiling are likely to have sparked the blaze.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

This is unacceptable

It's no secret that I am a fairly vocal atheist, and that I not only supported Obama in the latest US election, but also opposed McCain especially because of his appointment of Palin as VP.

Still, I find this sort of things completely unacceptable.

Palin’s Church Is Badly Damaged by Fire

Gov. Sarah Palin's home church was badly damaged by arson, leading the governor to apologize if the fire was connected to ''undeserved negative attention'' from her failed campaign as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

No matter how much you oppose someone politically, there is no excuse for this sort of things. Especially not when doing so put other people at risk:

Damage to the Wasilla Bible Church was estimated at $1 million, authorities said Saturday. No one was injured in the fire, which was set Friday night while a handful of people, including two children, were inside, according to Central Mat-Su Fire Chief James Steele.

I hope they catch the people responsible for this.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Murders in Papua New Guniea

War is a terrible thing, and people will go at great length to end it. Having said that, I haven't before heard about such desperate measures as those reported from Papua New Guniea.

Papua New Guinea women kill males babies to end tribal war

WOMEN in Papua New Guinea's Highland region are killing their male babies to end a tribal war that has gone on for more than 20 years.

Two women from the Eastern Highlands spoke of the slaughter to PNG's National newspaper during a three-day peace and reconciliation course in the region's capital of Goroka.

Rona Luke and Kipiyona Belas, from two warring tribes, said male infanticide reduced the cyclical payback violence infamous in Highlands tribal fights.

When I first read about this, in a Danish newspaper, I was skeptical. It sounds too grim to be true. Searching on more information on the internet, I came across more reports on the story, and I began to fear that it might be true.

Fortunately, it appears that the story is based upon a misunderstanding.

Salvos deny PNG 'baby killing' reports

Salvation Army workers in Papua New Guinea have dismissed reports that women in the remote Highlands region are killing male babies to end a tribal war that has spanned more than 20 years.

Newspapers have reported that women in the Eastern Highlands are murdering their own baby boys to avoid the pain of losing them as men in a long running tribal fight.

The Salvation Army is working in the region to bring peace to warring tribes and said the women were speaking hypothetically at a peace and reconciliation workshop.

A spokeswoman said the Highlands women are making the point that there are so many murders they might as well kill their newborn boys themselves, rather than go through the pain of losing them in tribal fights.

This sounds much more realistic.

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Six Arbitrary Things About Me Meme

It appears to be the season of memes, and I've been tagged again, this time by Mike Haubrich

Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random arbitrary things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Arbitrary factoid #1: I hold a dual Danish-Australian citizenship. This is an artifact of having parents from two different countries.

Arbitrary factoid #2: I grew up with two parents who smoked. This might explain why I have never felt attracted to smoking myself.

Arbitrary factoid #3: While this might surprise people who work with me, I consider myself rather shy. Not in the quiet way that some people are shy, but rather in the way that I don't feel comfortable in social situations where I don't know anyone. If I am at a party where I know few or no people, odds are that I'll leave early - unless of course, I get drunk, in which case I am less bothered by such things.

Arbitrary factoid #4: I hate calling people on the phone if I haven't called them before. For some reason I find the whole concept of perhaps calling the wrong person very embarrassing. Funny enough, I don't have any problems calling someone I have called before.

Arbitrary factoid #5: Factoid #4 leads quite naturally to the fact that I embarrass easily, and hate embarrassing situations, or even movies. You won't catch me watching American comedies, since these are usually based upon the funniness of embarrassing situations.

Arbitrary factoid #6: It appears that I am good at networking. Even among consultants, who are in general good at this, I am considered good at it. This is a useful skill in work-related situations, but my friends also benefits from this skill once in a while.

As is my habit, I won't tag anyone, but if any of my readers wants to do the meme, feel free.

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The strange case of IT Factory

The Danish IT sector, and indeed the entire Danish business world, has been shaken in the recent week, by the story of how one of the most successful growth stories in recent years have turned out to be pure fiction, based on massive fraud.

For my Danish readers, there won't be any news in this post, as the Danish press has been covering the story extensively. I haven't, however, found any international coverage, except some coverage of the fact that the Bjarne Riis' cycling team has lost one of its major sponsors.

The company in question, IT Factory, and was a mixture of a software house, a consulting company, and some sort of license dealership for, among others, IBM.

In 2003 the company went bankrupt, and some investment partners bought it up, and inserted a new daily leader, Stein Bagger. Under his leadership, the company turned around pretty fast, and started to show impressive growth, becoming one of the market leaders, according to its yearly financial reports.

In the last couple of years, the company has won a number of awards by among other Børsen (a daily business newspaper), Computerworld, and Ernest & Young, because of its impressive numbers.

A lot of us in the business were somewhat puzzled by this, since no one appeared to neither actually know quite exactly what the company was doing, nor know anyone who had worked there, or worked together with anyone from there. That might not sound so weird, but the IT consulting business is not that big in Copenhagen, so odds are that you've worked together with someone from any of the major players in the market.

Of course, such things matter little, compared to the results, and we were all impressed by the financial reports from them.

Then, last week, the truth began to appear.

The head of the board of directors of the company, Asger Jensby, went public with the news that Stein Bagger had disappeared a couple of days before, while at a business conference in Dubai with his family (leaving his wife and his daughter behind).

The same day Bagger disappeared, Asger Jensby had found out that Bagger had told someone else, a business partner Alan Vestergaard, that they (Bagger and Vestergaard) would take over the company from Asger Jensby. Vestergaard was under the impression that everyone was in agreement about this, but Jensby had never heard about this before.

This, combined with Bagger's disappearance, led Jensby to start an investigation. The first couple of days, the investigation lead nowhere - everything appeared in order - but then they found a secret office that Bagger had leased close by, in which they found some incriminating documents.

This lead to Jensby going public with the news of Bagger's disappearance, and the news that it appeared that there had fraud in the region of $100 million. At the same time, the company filed for bankruptcy.

Following these news, there have been more investigations into the matter, and the fraud appears to be closer to $200 million.

Naturally, the question arise: How could this go on, without anyone knowing?

It seems that Bagger used a number of fake companies all over the world, selling and buying stuff to and from IT Factory, thus inflating its income, while enabling him to get money out of the company.

More precisely, what appears to have happened, is that Bagger would make a fake company that would sell some computers to IT Factory. Bagger would then go to a leasing company, making a deal with them, getting them to pay for the computers in exchange for a leasing deal on those very computers.
Of course, no actual computers existed, but only Bagger knew that.

Then, when time came to pay the leasing rate, Bagger would use another fake company to buy a bunch of licenses - enough to pay the bill for the leasing.

Any given rate of the leasing is of course much smaller than the entire sum, so even if it was 10% of the cost, there would still be 90% of the money left. And there would still be no computers.

Stein Bagger appears to be a very charismatic person, who were able to convince people that whatever doubt they might have, were unfounded. This explains why none of the members of the board of directors started to ask questions, or rather, why he was able to convince them that they didn't need to see some information on the customers, when they asked about them.

Another factor was of course greed. The company appeared to be going really well, and the customers always paid on time.

Still, some people were asking questions. A freelance journalist, and blogger, Dorte Toft (link in Danish) had raised some very serious questions when the Danish Computerworld gave IT Factory the prize for IT company of the year a few months back.

Her digging showed that there were serious questions that one could raise about IT Factory, and even more so about their customers. As a matter of fact, the two customer cases that Computerworld got for their article about IT Factory when they received the prize, were run by two Swedish men who had been found guilty of fraud in the past.

The Danish tax department were also investigating the company for fraud with sales taxes. Something any member of the board of directors should have seen as a serious warning sign.

In other words, the warning signs were there, one just had to look for them. Maybe it would not lead one to realize how badly the situation was, but it would lead one to understand that there was something very wrong.

My prediction is that there will be some legal procedures happening against the board of directors, and I'll also predict that at least Jensby will found guilty according to the rules of the liability for the board of directors. I also think that the accounting company responsible for signing off the company's financial records, KPMG, will get fined.

Update: It appears that Stein Bagger has turned himself in at a police station in Los Angeles. I'll write more about this case, as the story develops.

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