The Cruellest Month

In Sweden we talk about "April weather", indicating the kind of swift changes from almost summer temperatures to bitter winter snow that can take place during this month. In that sense, April is cruel, one moment hinting the blissful days to come and in the next taking it all away with a cold wind.

I'm not sure that this is what T.S. Eliot meant with his famouse first verse of "The Waste Land", although there might be a hint of it.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

It's not an easy poem to read nor understand, and probably never was intended to be so. David Peck even calls it elitist in his summary (how great it is with all this stuff on the webb to guide you as both teacher and student) since it's filled with metaphors and references to classical works.

"Describing a series of failed encounters between various men and women, Eliot creates composites of fertility archetypes who ironically are incapable of offering spiritual nourishment to a dying world. The characters drift in and out of meaningless relationships; the men and women are impotent, shallow, vain, excruciatingly ordinary. Culture is reduced to common clichés; the well of redemption becomes a “dull canal.” The world is filled with “a heap of broken images” where “the dead tree gives no shelter.” The only salvation appears to be in personal responsibility, self-control, and a faith in cultural continuity based on common Western European values."

However, there might be other reasons for April to be perceived as a bad month. One suggestion is because the annual deadline for Americans to mail their tax returns, and checks, to the Internal Revenue Service is April 15. Also Swedish citizens spend a good deal of April thinking about how to fill in their Income Tax Return that is due May 4 (not me though, I've already sent my text message). Easter is also often celebrated in April, and it didn't go so well for Jesus, unless you think he is better off in heaven of course. April Fools' Day may also end in tears if you're not careful. Earth Month celebrates its 45th Anniversary this April and the theme for the year is "Our Planet In Peril".

Many draw parallels between "The Waste Land" poem and F. Scott Fitzgerald's book "The Great Gatsby". It didn't end so well for the main characters. Not even its author, although apparently Eliot was a great fan, according to his letter to Fitzgerald. However, the latest film did make a $58.6 million profit. Maybe luck will change for April too.

From Säveån April 2015


Less is Moore

When I did my .com journey in the late 1990s, the whole management team I belonged to was required to read two books full of mixed metaphors: "Crossing the Chasmand "Inside the Tornado". 

The first book points out that as a product goes through the technology adoption life cycle there is a credibility gap (the chasm) in moving from the visionary market with the innovators and early adopters to the more lucrative majority markets and perhaps even catch the laggards. The solution is to adopt a bowling alley strategy, where you try to address several markets at the same time and use a successful leap in one to give you cred in the next.

So after making the jump and trying to survive in a Tornado, you also have to start thinking about who you want to become in the jungle, i.e. how you position yourself in relation to the competition. The gorilla is the market-share leader whose position is sustained by proprietary technology. The chimp's market share position is subordinate to the gorilla in a market where both vendors have proprietary technology that is incompatible with the other's. A monkey company focus on to reproduce the gorilla's in-market offering as best it can and sell it at a substantial discount.

From Marsvinsholm 2011

When the financial bubble burst around 2001, I believe we were inside the tornado with balls and pins flying. Although it might have looked like monkey business to outsiders, especially in retrospect, it was hard work indeed no matter what kind of primate you considered yourself to be. Although we walked away with less money than we had hoped, we got a really good crash course in what it's like to work in a high-growth company and how to manage really difficult set-backs.

A company that have been successful in crossing the chasm is Intel. They seem to have balanced the two laws of Moore in a good way. It must be fascinating for Gordon Moore to see his prediction that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit will double approximately every two years continue to be fulfilled. However, apparently he thinks that the rate of progress will slow down in the next decade or so. 

His second law concerns the capital cost of a semiconductor fab, where he has predicted that this will also increase exponentially although the unit cost drops. Of course, the urge among marketing people and product developer to fulfill the first law surely has driven the costs, and the success in the tornado alley has made it possible.

Intel's language is not very rich with metaphors, although you get kind of hungry reading about all these chips and wafers...

From Höstmarknad sep 2014


Women as Remedy

In a recent article in the Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation, David Ndii compares corruption to cancer. Having been intrigued by the book title "The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" (by Siddhartha Mukherjee) he draws the parallel to corruption:

"The cancer metaphor is often applied to corruption. It is surely the emperor of all our national maladies. The metaphorical parallel goes beyond that. Cancer treatment is as traumatic as the disease itself. And so it is with corruption. Cancer fights back. And so does corruption."

According to Ndii, distributed corruption is better than when it's concentrated at the top. He also thinks that, similar to cancer, corruption will always be part of the human society.

"Fifth, we cannot eradicate corruption — it is human nature — but we can clean up Augean stables."
"Love it or hate it, the bribery epidemic is evidence that the Kenyan Parliament has come of age. There are two good things about this. First, the nature of political competition makes corruption in Parliament more difficult to cover up than corruption in the Executive. And second, we can vote out corrupt MPs if we chose to. We can’t fire bureaucrats."

Ndii means that the current president is at a crossroads. Although not tainted himself (yet) by corruption, he still hasn't put that much effort into "cleaning up the swamp".

"We have chosen to reserve our highest honours to plunderers. We invite them to launder their reputations in our churches, mosques and temples. In Karen and Muthaiga, they welcome their sudden arrival and grotesque nouveau riche mansions because they bring with them government security, and of course the proximity improves the chance of cornering some more government business."

Kenya is considered a democracy where in the latest presidential election in 2013Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the president, although his major opponent Raila Odinga contested this, but lost. President Kenyatta very recently suspended four ministers and twelve other high-ranking officers, based on suspicion of corruption.

According to Wikipedia, the average urban Kenyan pays 16 bribes per month. A Google search on "Kenya corruption" provides you with about 34,500,000 hits. That's a lot of swamp. However, put in "Sweden corruption" and you'll get about 28,600,000 hits. This could, of course, be the effect of Sweden being considered as one of the least corrupt countries, but you never know... However, according to the Transparency International corruption perceptions index in 2014,  Sweden holds the fourth position whereas Kenya ranks as number 145 out of 175 countries.

So what's the cure for corruption? How can a country become healthy? A central motive behind the creation of The Quality of Government Institute at the University of Gothenburg was a suspicion (or hypothesis) that in all societies, the quality of government institutions is of the outmost importance for the well-being of its citizens. It brings together expertise from many fields, including political philosophy, media and opinion studies, public policy, political economy, public administration and public law. So far, they have published several reports and also made a large dataset available to the public.

According to the researchers at the institute, democracy is not enough to make sure the people living in the country are healthy. Four factors seem to be utterly important: that the tax system really funds the public good in a transparent way, that employment is based on meritocracy, that the educational system is fair and for free, and finally, gender equality in the political system.

"Although Kenya is considered a democracy with a vibrant civil society, which holds periodic and predictable, at times, controversial elections, Kenya’s performance on women’s representation has been dismal, compared with her East African neighbors. Women make only 10 percent of Kenya’s parliament, compared with Rwanda’s 56 %, Tanzania’s 36%, Uganda’s 35%, and Burundi’s 30%. Indeed, Kenya’s record falls 10 percentile points below the EAC’s regional average of 20% women representation in parliament." Akoko Akech, The Society for International Development

You obviously need to do more than just surgically remove the cancer tumors, you need to change your lifestyle. Or perhaps have a sex-change operation?

From Nairobi March 2015


God's Most Daring Angel

Edith Södergran was born in April 4 1892 in Sankt Petersburg. Her parents were from Finland and Edith their only child. At this time, Finland was an autonomous part of Russia. Her upbringing and schooling made here speak various languages such as German, French, English and Russian. However, she was never really educated in her native language Swedish.

Despite this, Swedish was her choice when writing poems. It seems that writing in a foreign language gave it another dimension, something I can truly sympathize with. According to Ursula Lindqvist, she  also "sought to liberate the Swedish soul from the decadence of previous generations and infuse it with a new revolutionary spirit". I must admit that my writing ambitions are not at all that great.

In her article "The Paradoxical Poetics of Edith Södergran", Lindqvist presents a translation of one of Södergran's most famous poems "Dagen svalnar" (The Day is Cooling Down):

"You sought a flower
and found a fruit.
You sought a well
and found a sea.
You sought a woman
and found a soul—
you are disappointed."

I can't but wonder, if Södergran though that history repeated itself after her fellow poet Elmer Diktonius left her after a short visit in 1922, illustrated by Magnus Nilsson's play "Guds djärvaste ängel" (God's Most Daring Angel).

From Midsummer Målen 2011