November 13, 2014

Why, when I clearly give my name in talking situations as “Rob”, my email signature is “Rob” … some people refer to me in talking or in email as “Roy”?

A mystery …

“I’m an Expert”

July 25, 2014

Joanne Nova pointed me to this YouTube video, and she heard about it from Eric Worrall. It’s only about 7-1/2 minutes. Go for it.


This really rings true to me.

“Climate Engineer” – New Term

July 14, 2014

Scottish Sceptic at has conceived a new term (at least to me)–Climate Engineer. He is distinguishing the term “Climate Engineering” with the term “Climate Scientist”–which has been in long-term use, particularly by people who don’t really know what it means. He asks the question

Why is it that people from a general engineering/science background like us skeptics could have known that the academics would get it wrong?

He boils it down to:

Engineers cannot draw an abstract line around what someone deems to be the “science”, and pretend the rest doesn’t matter.

I particularly like his table of comparison, which is worthy of consideration. What does this all mean? To me, it summaries how society has ended up down this blind alley. We’ve mis-placed our trust.


Microsoft Project as a Planning Tool: Getting to “Done”

July 1, 2014

The purpose of this posting is to point the way forward for those who are interested in having a simple-as-possible methodology, based on using Microsoft Project or equivalent, for handling the numbers and computations related to planning the cost and schedule for a project.

The goal is to get quickly and easily to:

  • Identify what “done” means.
  • Identify when “done” might get done.
  • Identify how much “done” might cost (to request funding).
  • Identify who needs to be involved in getting to “done” (and automatically create an integrated “CTR”).

Here I will tease the reader with the general outline of how to do it and expose the possiblities. In later postings we may more fully flesh out how this works with examples.

This outline assumes you have some familiarity with using Microsoft Project. If not, take the time to read a good book about Microsoft Project. You can use Primavera P6 if you must.


  • Assemble a list of the deliverables. A list of deliverables is preferable to a list of the tasks, e.g. the things you have to do to deliver a deliverable. Let tasks be the domain on the people who do the tasks. Focus instead on named deliverables. Remember to include the deliverables you plan for risk mitigation.
  • Look at the calendars in Microsoft Project. They probably are ok, but if not then change them.
  • Import that list of deliverables (copy/paste works well) into the field in Microsoft Project (or equivalent tool) called “Task Name”. Yes, that may appear to violate the advice in the previous point, but we can’t change Microsoft’s nomenclature.
  • Add one project “start” milestone (linked to successors) and one project “complete” milestone (linked to predecessors).
  • Use Microsoft Project’s automatic scheduling, and except for the start milestone task, do not enter any start or finish dates. You want Microsoft Project to do the “heavy-lifting” and compute the dates for you.
  • Avoid creating more than one or at most two levels of summary task hierarchy, and do not enter blank lines. Keep it simple.
  • Fill in the following fields for each “task”:
    • Task Type: fixed duration. Let Project compute units based on your input of duration and work.
    • Duration, in days, hours/minutes, or whatever. Use elapsed days (“edays”) if the task timeline should ignore non-working days in the calendar.
    • ID of successor and/or predecessor. To create the project execution logic.
    • Create a Custom Text Field: Gate. Tag each deliverable for the planned project Gate at which the deliverable will be reviewed. Gated project systems are in common use in many industries.
    • Create a Custom Text Field: CTR. This is the number or other identifier of CTR (Cost, Time, and Resource) document that will be given to the project’s finance team. CTR’s are commonly used in many industries and show a scheduled estimate of the time estimate of people and other resources. You want CTRs that are integrated with the project plan and not something completely separate–which is what some project teams do–an unnecessary use of their time and could add significant risk to the project. With this approach, generating the CTR is automatic, not added work, and useful.
    • Create a Custom Text Field: AFE (Approval for Expenditure) number into which this deliverable will be packaged into the AFE document to seek customer/partner approval for expenditure. AFE’s are commonly used in many industries.
    • Assign the list of resources planned for each deliverable. Normally this will be in terms of “work”, e.g. days of chargeable time.
  • In the Resource list, provide a billing rate for each resource (per use or per unit of time, e.g. per day).
  • Add in key milestones as “tasks”. Link all predecessors and successors for these milestones, e.g. those deliverables which encompass successful completion of the milestone. Fill in the deadline date in the Deadline field if these milestones have real deadlines (as opposed to wished-for dates).

View and Work With Results

  • Show the Project Summary task on the view.
  • Add the standard field “Cost” to the view to show the cost (which is computed automatically by Project multiplying the resource work times billing rate. Total project cost will be in the top row (Project Summary Task).
  • View the Critical Path. This will tell you when the project, as described will be done and what the critical path activities are. If you dislike the computed cost/schedule for your project, then re-plan. Remember, of course, that the Critical Path is not the boss’s favourite tasks, necessarily.
  • View the schedule by CTR using the Group feature to group by the CTR custom field.
  • View the schedule by AFE using the Group feature to group by AFE custom field to show you when and what to ask your partner(s) and/or customer(s) for funding.
  • View the schedule by Gate using the Group feature to group by the Gate custom field. This will give you an indication when to schedule Gate Review meetings with gatekeepers.
  • With the Resource Usage view, show the CTR summary. This will be automatically aligned with your current schedule. Adjust the timescale to something useful, e.g. by month, quarter, etc. Daily and weekly CTRs are unrealistically precise. If you must track/plan high-frequency time, use the project schedule, not CTRs, for daily/weekly project control.


  • Revise the schedule to better match resource availability
  • Revise the schedule to get the dates you seek
  • Revise the schedule to get the governance needed (Gate reviews)
  • Use probabilistic methods to get the most probable schedule and take care, knowing the uncertainties, when promising project dates. In general, consider promising 70-80% probable dates with customers, and target 30-40% probable dates with suppliers. Align everyone’s incentive bonus schedule (if applicable) to these probabilistic cost/schedule estimates.
  • When the schedule is sufficient “complete”, set a “baseline” and track progress to that baseline.
  • At intervals (normally for Gate Reviews), update progress and refine with greater precision the remaining schedule.


  • Some people prefer (and sometimes brag about) using Microsoft Excel (or equivalent) to do the above project planning to “keep it simple”. This is usually naive. If you are prepared to program into Excel all the algorithms–correctly, of course–this would be ok. Frankly, it is unlikely that the algorithms can be done very easily, nor would most mortals know how to do it. Doing all this work yourself increases the risk you will develop an erroneous cost/schedule estimate for your project. Avoid Excel or other manual methods for this sort of thing unless you are prepared for doing a lot of work–work that Microsoft Project could do for you.

Nigel Calder, RIP

June 29, 2014

Nigel Calder has died. He led a full life. He touched me only with his writing in books and then his blog

No Telling What One Can Learn about Scottish Independance

June 25, 2014

I attended a sold-out debate event sponsored by the Spectator Magazine hosted by Andrew Neil with Ian Murray MP, Annabel Goldie MSP, George Galloway MP, Andrew Wilson, Jeane Freeman OBE, and Blair Jenkins. The proposition for debate was “Independence is the greatest threat to Edinburgh”. Twitter hash tag is #specscot.

George Galloway was the hit of the night who has a mission to rally people against independence. Andrew Neil very impressive with probing and insightful questions and adroit leadership of the debate. Hear George Galloway at

I learned some things.

  • From Andrew Wilson that “everyone accepts that it’s only a formality that an independent Scotland will be accepted into the EU”. [After he said that, the audience erupted in giggles.]
  • From Andrew Wilson I learned that East Germany was granted the “automatic” entry to EU–as he expects Scotland to be granted–after their “struggle for independence”. [Not my recollection of history.]
  • From Andrew Wilson, Jeane Freeman, and Blair Jenkins who made this point over and over, I learned that the primary purpose of independence is to give power to Scotland’s people to enable social equality, cure poverty, etc.
  • From Blair Jenkins, I learned that there have been 151 new countries formed since WWII, and the citizens of these new countries are all happier and richer as a result of their independence. Just like Scotland will be after independence, he said. [I'm going to do more reading about this assertion.]

Another scare? Giant Kelp Sea Forests “Gone by 2100″ Declare Experts. Oh No.

June 22, 2014

In today’s Sunday Times (UK), page 3, front main section (“News”):

Britain’s giant kelp forests–the sea weed that cover vast stretches of its surrounding seabeds–are being wiped out by human activities and will disappear within a few decades, marine biologists have warned.

Screen Shot 2014 06 22 at 10 24 15

They go on to explain how they create a rich environment “for thousands of other marine creatures, including many commercially valuable species”.

They say that the kelp forests are likely to disappear by 2100, “destroyed by a combination of climate change and ocean acidification, both caused by CO2 generated by humans burning fossil fuels”. The leader of the study, Juliet Brodie, professor of Botany at the Natural History Museum in London also said that more storms caused by climate change would add to the destruction. Professor Jason Hall-Spencer from Plymouth University, a co-author of the paper, was also quoted “What is staggering is how fast warming and the spread of corrosive waters are changing marine life around our coasts.”

The author of the piece was by Jonathan Leaker, Science Editor of the Times.

The report was also discussed in NERC’s publication “The Planet Earth Online” at where they conclude with a paragraph saying something different (my bold):

The results of these changes will be complex, though, and not all organisms will lose out. Seagrasses and kelp forests may thrive at high latitudes due to increases in CO2. These are productive ecosystems that raise seawater pH as they grow. If we look after these habitats properly they should continue to store carbon and provide bio-diverse habitats for commercially important fish and shellfish.

Humm. It must feel good to be so certain about all this. Any uncertainty is not mentioned.

I’m going to have to do some more reading as I don’t recall reading very many definitive papers on how the oceans are warming, how pH of oceans will actually become acidic (the sea is already corrosive and the pH is well north of acidic), or how more storms will be caused by climate change, nor how storms in deep water affect the bottom. Lots of things to learn, I guess. A lot of this doesn’t make sense to me and it’s not because I don’t already have a lot of knowledge of these issues.

How did this article make it to page 3 of the Sunday Times? This is just sensationalism. Oh … Now I understand how it got on page 3.


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