Game practice

We think that games have an important place in cultivating good strategists, and that now more than ever games can give executives an edge over their competition.
Reeves and Wittenburg, Harvard Business Review


In addition to my online (and offline) course on Game Theory, I also offer students the opportunity to enjoy some “Game Practice”. Get in touch if you would like me to organise sessions of any of the following:

  • Carcassonne
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Dominion
  • Hive
  • Biblios
  • Risk

I also recommend Eleusis, which is a great game to understand inductive reasoning. And Tic-Tac-Toe is just fun!

Missing Puddy

IMG_0019_4On Saturday 7th February, 2015, we noticed that Puddy hadn’t appeared for his breakfast. It was common for him to be out overnight, but come 7am he’d almost always be waiting in the lounge. And he never missed his breakfast. We soon began to fear the worst, and considered him missing. As the days passed our concerns grew and we made concerted efforts to find him. This was the first time we’d had a missing pet, and we learnt a lot about what to do. This is my attempt to summarise what we should have done.

Prevention

– Get a collar with a contact tag. Our cats are constantly losing their collars, and so we gave up trying to keep them with a contact tag. But I do wonder if someone who suspects he might be lost would be more likely to phone the owner, than take him to a vet to be scanned for a chip.

– Get him microchipped. This makes it highly likely that if someone finds him, and knows that he’s missing, you’ll find out. We use PetLog.

– It is really tempting to use GPS as this would solve the mystery element of working out where he is. Ethically, I’m not sure it’s a good idea. But I’d be very tempted to hook up some surveillance just to get an idea of how far your cats roam and where they like to go.

Rescue plan

Once you’re confident that something is amiss, it is worth considering if there’s been any changes that might explain the absence. On Friday 6th February we’d been out to a few pubs in the local village and walked past the house. We did wonder whether Puddy had found our scent, and tried to follow us. But otherwise we couldn’t think of any reason that would cause him to leave, or to not want to return. We tried to consider the various scenarios, and what our response should be:

  • Trapped in a garage, shed, wheelie bin or car – likely to be local, possibly within a few doors either side of our house
  • Lost and unable to find home – could be quite far from home, and people may have noticed him
  • Injured – likely to be by the side of a main road, taken to a vets, or possibly discarded into a wheelie bin
  • Stolen – if thieves are intending to sell him on then at least they have an incentive to feed him, and a potential new owner is likely to take him to a vet

Rather than consider which of the above was most likely, we wanted to cover them all. But some of the possible situations were less urgent than others. This would be my advice:

  1. Notify the microchipping company. They can send out an alert to their database and will notify you if anyone finds him. Make sure your contact numbers are all up to date. This covers the possibility that he’s taken to a vet, or dumped in a wheelie bin. It could be bad news, but that would end the uncertainty.
  2. Hit neighbours early. Don’t let them say “we’ve not had the shed open so he can’t be in there” – ask them to look anywhere they can think of. Remind them that if he’s scared he won’t bolt out, and could be trying to hide.
  3. Create posters. These should contain several recent photos (including a side on shot which is how people are likely to observe him), and a contact number. It is a good idea to use a number that people could call anonymously. The Cats Protection League may help. Don’t offer a reward. Put posters up around the local area and be especially conscious of places with high foot traffic such as newsagents, supermarkets, pubs, community noticeboards, school gates.
  4. Call for him. He may be close to home but discoordinated. Make sure you call every morning and evening, and leave items with his scent on in the garden (such as cushions, clothing or the contents of the vacuum cleaner).
  5. Look for him. Go out for a walk and shout for him. Take a leaflet and show it to people that may have seen something – especially dog walkers and people on building sites. Take a torch to be able to see in alleyways and woodland. Make sure you wear high visibility clothing and be considerate to people who may think you’re acting suspiciously.
  6. Use social media and local newspapers. Friends may offer to help, and if so get them to. Ask them to take a leaflet and show it to their social groups (e.g. schools, church, community classes). Ask them to share your social media appeals.

If you are reading this having lost your own pet, feel free to use our poster as a template: MISSING Puddy.pdf

Anecdotally it appears that these situations often end with the cat returning of their own accord, possibly several weeks later, and you never find out what had happened. Making overly concerted efforts to find a cat can alienate people close to you and drive you up the wall with anguish. We received several possible sightings and spent a lot of time surveying those areas. I’m not sure how likely it is that you will ever “find” a cat that gets lost. They are robust creatures that can survive by themselves for a long time. I also believe that strangers will treat animals with kindness. However I do think the six points above can increase the chances of being reunited, and it is important to feel that you are doing something. But try not to conflate activity with accomplishment. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do.

Update (Saturday Feb 14): It’s now been a week. The lowest point was on Sunday night, walking around the village. It was very cold, dark, and I had visions of him trapped somewhere, very hungry, and scared. Now, I feel that if he’s alive then he’s worked out how to stay alive. And hopefully someone will see our posters, social media will come to the fore, and we’ll see him again soon.
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Update (Sunday Feb 15): We made a map of potential sightings, and tried to focus our efforts on those areas (our house is at the bottom of the map in the middle). However these seemed contradictory. Someone thought they’d seen him in Combe St within a few hours of a sighting in St Nicholas Mt. I raced over to Combe St, which is near the Watergardens, and spent an hour or so walking around, calling. I noticed some geese and ducks by the river bank and wondered if he might have been tempted to try to catch one. I used my torch to look under the bridges but couldn’t see him. It was right next to a curry house called “Bengal Spice”. Later that evening Faith went for another look and found a duck with an open wound. Given that I hadn’t noticed it the injury seemed fresh. She shouted for Puddy, and we speculated that he was in the area. However she followed a trail of blood back to the main road, and surmised that it’d been hit by a car. When she got home I wondered if it was my car.

We did notice that two sightings had occurred near Shrub Hill Common. However not since the previous Tuesday. Then, on Saturday evening, I received a message from someone at Valleyside. We both felt that he was there. The previous evenings of aimless wandering now felt as though they were useful. I had a much better understanding of our local areas, and when people mentioned roads I knew where they were, and why it was plausible that Puddy might find himself there. Then, on Sunday morning we got a voicemail from someone at Ridge Lea. He’d seen Puddy at 9am. Now it seemed like too many independent sightings to be a coincidence. And given that he’s a such a distinctive cat, and that they’d all reported a red collar, we went to the Common. I took the kids on the swings whilst Faith searched the woodland. We then drove around the estates backing onto it, and went door to door along Ridge Lea. We met the gentleman who’d phoned us earlier, and thanked him. Faith put up a “Missing Puddy” poster on a lamppost.

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We returned home, and I switched off the engine. I immediately heard that my phone was ringing. It was the same man. He had *just* seen Puddy. We raced off and drove up Northridge Way. I turned left towards Ridge Lea and we were trying to see if the poster was still up: “There he is!” said Faith. Not the poster! Actually him!

He looked skinny and scared, and was walking along the main road. Faith jumped out, picked him up, and we had him in the car. He was meowing louder than we’d ever heard him, and was clearly disoriented. But we brought him home. He’d lost 10% of his body weight but seemed unscathed. It was a mighty big adventure. We are so grateful to the people who phoned us with sightings. Leaflets and social media built up a map, and we managed to locate him. Who needs GPS!

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WW1 Battlefields

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We have been to my parents’ house in Picardy several times and in 2014 made our first foray to see some of the WW1 Battlefields. This page is to share some of our advice on what to do.

Getting there

I enjoy getting the ferry because it feels more like a holiday, and there are plenty of cheap and regular crossings from Dover to Calais. I like using P&O because they’ve been good at getting us across if we’ve been late, and have good customer service.

However the Eurotunnel is a far better option. It’s usually around £80 per trip (although there’s a £15 per trip pet surcharge) and the road links are superb. There’s several trains each hour and it’s essentially first come first served. When you check in you are assigned a letter, which supersedes your allotted departure time. So if you proceed to the boarding slip lanes as soon as your letter is called, there’s a good chance you’ll squeeze onto an earlier train. If you spend too much time in the terminal and wait until the second call, you may well get pushed back onto a later one. The crossing takes just 35 minutes and you can get out of the car as soon as you’re on board. It really is an engineering marvel and wonderfully convenient.

Base

We stay in Mons Boubert which is a friendly village near Arrest. However we’ve also stayed at the Domaine de Drancourt campsite and highly recommend it. We like to book through Eurocamp which have plenty of affordable options. It is toddler friendly and conveniently located. Some of our favourite day trips include:

  • Saint Valery sur Somme – we visit the town centre regularly. It is the port that William the Conqueror departed from in 1066, and was a resting place for Joan of Arc on her way to Rouen in 1430 (I think). There is a monument for the former outside the Office de Tourisme and a plaque for the latter in the medieval part. The Sunday market is worth visiting (but best to park outside of town and walk in) and the quayside is flat and leads to a nice cafe (and playground) on the beach. We’ve enjoyed Creperie Sel et Sucre and Spa Samaris.
  • The Somme Bay steam train – St Valery to Noyelles is 15 minutes, and St Valery to Le Crotoy is 30 minutes. There’s a nice Salon de The/Art gallery right next to the station at Noyelles called Relais de las Baie but make sure you check times for the return journey (often it’s either a choice of coming straight back or having to kill a few hours).
  • Abbeville – the town centre is convenient to park in, find a brasserie, and visit the cathedral. There’s also a soft play called Accro Kids which has coffee and wifi. On a rainy day it is a necessity if you have young children. The opening hours are irregular, so check ahead.
  • Amiens – under an hour from St Valery and an easy day trip. We parked by the Hotel de Ville, visited the cathedral, and ate on the banks of the river. The old town is worth exploring.
  • Quend plage – Fort Mahon plage is bigger but Quend plage is a little closer (it’s a 40 minute drive), more down to earth (they don’t sneer if you want a coffee before lunch) and has everything you need. There is plenty of parking within a short walk of the beach and several brasseries on the front. The beach is sandy and goes for miles. It can be windy and the weather is unlikely to be much better than the UK, but if you bring games, shelter, and a picnic it’s a great day out.
  • Crecy – the battle of Crecy took place in 1346, and was an important part of the 100 years war. It is just over 30 minutes away. There is a small turret that can be climbed to give an overview of the site and visualise the importance of the new technology being employed by the English longbowmen.

The battlefields

The itinerary below is based on what we’ve done, and what we’d do if we did it again. It is based on an overnight stay but could be squeezed into a daytrip. I’m not including any photos and don’t advise you to do any more research than what you’re reading now. If, like me, you don’t have much familiarity with these sites it’s best to see them for the first time in person. Once there, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to absorb information. You can find the exact locations easily but we just put the town centre into the sat nav and then looked for the road signs to each place. This seemed like a good way to do it – everything is very well signposted, but it adds an element of immersion and serendipity. Once you are in Albert (and especially Beaumont-Hamel) you could just randomly drive around, and stumble upon cemeteries at random. It’s a bit like a morbid, poignant wine trip.

Day 1

  1. Drive to the Thiepval memorial (1hr 30 mins) – this is a great place to start because the visitor centre has a thorough account of WW1 and a separate history of the Somme battlefields. My prior knowledge was limited to what I remembered from school and Blackadder. The visitor centre doesn’t go in much detail, but it fills in a few holes and lays down a nice primer. They also tend to have excellent photographs. The memorial itself is stunning.
  2. Drive to the German cemetery at Fricourt (20 mins) – head north out of Thiepval towards Pozieres. Over 17,000 German soldiers are buried here, making it one of the largest German sites in the area. It provides a haunting contrast to the Allied cemeteries which are individual white stone graves. The German ones are often buried 4 per marker. (The markers are usually black crosses, but not all of them are crosses).
  3. Drive into Albert and park by the basilica (10mins) – this is a good stop for lunch, and to stretch legs. Then, underneath the basilica, find the Somme 1916 WW1 museum. It is housed underground, in a WW2 air raid shelter, but contains an evocative collection of WW1 memorabilia. There are numerous wax models displaying scenes from trench life. These are uncomfortable and you leave via a dark tunnel with scary sound effects.
  4. Drive to the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial (10 mins) – this takes you into actual trenches at the front line. The visitor centre explains the history of Newfoundland (which at the time was a British Dominion) and there are free tours.
  5. Drive to Arras city center (35 mins) – we used the Holiday Inn Express and recommend it. There’s convenient parking and it’s right in the city centre. We walked to the Grand Place via the Place de Heros, and there’s plenty of restaurants in amongst the Flemmish style arches. We ate at Assiette ou Bouef and enjoyed it.

Day 2

  1. Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez (15mins) – one of the biggest British cemeteries and immaculately kept. It also has the advantage of having a Polish and Czechoslovakian cemetery nearby, and a stunning but fleeting view of the Vimy memorial on the road in.
  2. Drive to the Canadian National Memorial at Vimy (11 mins) – a real highlight of the trip. Head to the memorial first and walk around. You need to get back into the car to go on to the visitor centre. You can get a pass to allow you to explore the preserved trenches, and look at the bomb craters. There are also guided tours each hour, on the hour, and these provide access to an underground tunnel system.
  3. Drive back to base (1 hr 40mins) – there are several routes to take, we went via Hesdin. You could make it back for lunch, but we stopped on the way at Chez Nathalie in Labroye. There wasn’t really a menu, just a few specials. They were all authentic and hearty.

Coach

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I am a UEFA qualified soccer coach and a non league scout.

If you would like a copy of my coaching notes, email me.

If you would like a copy of my scouting framework, email me.

  • A good resource for compiling scout reports for individual players are the 16 key questions mentioned in Michael Calvin’s The Nowhere Men (pp. 121-124).

If you would like a copy of my notes on the evolution of tactics and formations, email me.


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Positions

  • 2013-present, Freelance Scout
  • 2005, Head Coach: The Royal Pigeons, Vienna Youth, u10s
  • 2003-2004, Team Manager: Ashville Colts, u10s
  • 2001-2004, Head Coach: Hills Soccer, Wirral

Qualifications

  • UEFA B Coaching Certificate
  • First4Sport Level ‘2’ Certificate in Coaching Football
  • FA First Aid Certificate

Fulbright


I spent September 2011 – December 2011 as Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at San Jose State University. This page provides a list of some of the public activities I took part in. Personal photos of the trip are at Flickr.

9/12 Meeting at Independent Institute, Oakland

9/21 “The problem with shock therapy is not enough volts: Why Russia needs more powerful oligarchs” David S. Saurman Provocative Lecture Series, San Jose State University

9/26 “Why Market Monopolies are OK”, Civil Society Institute, Santa Clara University

9/30 “Whistleblowing and the knowledge problem”, College of Business, San Jose State University

10/3 Attendee of the “Monetary Policy Workshop”, San Francisco Federal Reserve

10/7 “The Financial Crisis in the U.K.:  Uncertainty, Calculation, and Error”, Department of Economics Friday Workshop, San Jose State University

10/11 Fulbright Visiting Scholars Luncheon, Stanford University Faculty Club

10/11 Hoover Institution archives, Stanford University

11/10 “Why whistleblowing protection fails and what to do about it” Lucas Graduate School of Business, San Jose State University

11/16 “The role of ignorance in economic crises: The UK experience during the great recession” Cal State East Bay

The Shin film list


Last updated: June 2020

Films are a great way to extent intellectual curiosity beyond the classroom. I’ve listed the following movies because they satisfy two criteria. Firstly, I think that they are excellent ways to reflect upon key issues in the art of business management – I have utilised these films to probe my thinking about areas of my research and teaching, and to that end I feel screenings can be incorporated into either a discussion group or classroom environment. Secondly, they all pass a basic hurdle in terms of entertainment and quality. However you utilise these recommendations I hope you enjoy them!

 

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Is this story an allegory for monetary systems? Some claim that Dorothy represents the everyman America, the Scarecrow represents farmers, the Tin Woodman industrialists, and the Lion is William Jennings Bryan (Democratic Presidential candidate). At a time when America feared deflation, the yellow brick road to Oz is a reference to the gold standard and Washington DC. Rather than reinstate the silver standard (proposed by Bryan at the time) we see the Emerald City of greenbacks and the Wizard of Oz himself (the President) exposed as fraud. Regardless, the shift from black and white to colour must have been one of the most magical cinematic moments of all time.

 

12 Angry Men (1957)

Highly decorated and intense portrayal of the decision-making process in the jury room of a murder trial. A simplistic view is that it exposes blatant and latent prejudice, but can also be viewed as a warning against groupthink and a desire to build consensus. Ultimately it’s the vindication of the role of a Devil’s Advocate in a group setting. According to Krastev & Holmes (2019, p.116) it “is a classic expression of American liberalism. It is a symphony of praise for the power of free individuals to fight for truth and against class and ethnic prejudice. It is a cinematic tribute to rational argument, attention to evidence and disinterested justice… it remains a powerful if highly stylised defence of American liberal values”

 

All the President’s Men (1976)

This is the most famous whistleblowing case writ large in a Hollywood blockbuster. Interesting to compare with Woodford’s book and the information that has come to light since Deepthroat was revealed. It demonstrates that whistleblowers aren’t disloyal and aren’t opportunistic.

 

Name of the Rose (1986)

A great account of the diffusion of ideas and the treatment of knowledge as a resource. Based on Umberto Eco’s book, I see it as a version of the Fatal Conceit, where those in positions of authority pervert Truth and Reason. It also shows the dangers of historical revisionism and thus the importance of reading the classics.

 

Wall Street (1987)

Some see this as the embodiment of capitalism, but to me it revealed how some groups view capitalism – by comparing the likeliness of the events depicted in the film to actual business practice, some nuances emerge. Greed doesn’t need to be good for capitalism to work.

 

Antz (1998)

An animated film featuring the voices of Woody Allen, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman and Jennifer Lopez. The protagonist, “Z-4195” is an individualist who challenges the hierarchical structure of the colony, demonstrating a modern parable of rights, responsibilities and ultimately of freedom. ‘A Bug’s Life’ came out at the same time and captured more attention, but I found Antz more charming.

 

Office Space (1999)

The best film I’ve seen that demonstrates the monotony and fatalism of typical office life. All managers should watch this, and realise that Bill Lumbergh isn’t a fiction. The film bombed at the box office, was slated by the New York Times, but has become a cult classic.

 

Good Bye Lenin! (2003)

Set in East Berlin, a woman falls into a coma and misses the fall of the Berlin Wall. When she awakens her children don’t want to shock her, and attempt to screen the economic changes occurring outside the bedroom window. This is an entertaining but poignant demonstration of the transition process and alternative economic systems.

 

There Will be Blood (2007)

The film is less moralising than the book, but there’s an undercurrent that demonises the protagonist for his profit seeking. Aside from the majestic performance by Daniel Day-Lewis this raises questions about risk-taking, speculation, eminent domain and the relationship between business and family management.

 

12 (2007)

A Chechen “remake” of 12 Angry Men, where the accused’s fate is determined not by the abstract concept of justice, but by the actions of a concerted protector. Compassion and concern for the orphaned child wouldn’t be delivered by “justice being done” but by helping him survive. The dilemma facing the jury is whether they’d take responsibility for the consequences of granting his freedom.

 

The Lives of Others (2007)

An enthralling depiction of the East German Stasi, with the main character questioning the implementation of his ideals whilst spying on a playwright. There’s no neat ideological conclusion, but a challenging portrayal of espionage.

 

Mad Money (2008)

A pretty pointless crime movie but it raises some interesting discussion points about the mechanisms of monetary policy and the ethical implications of macroeconomic policy.

 

Two Days One Night (2014)

Not seen it yet, but Tyler Cowen has.

 

Leviathan (2014)

A wonderfully presented tale of eminent domain and the bureaucracy and corruption that come with it. I was expecting a battle between man and the state, but it was more of a Vodka-fuelled truel than a duel. (Also contains a fascinating side plot with regard to how it was funded.)

 

Joy (2015)

Attractive women who unfathomably puts up with all kinds of family drama uses nepotism and duplicity to recklessly embark on a scheme to sell some mops.

As we root for her to succeed we see that a myopic addiction to commercial success is a much more socially beneficial vice than alcoholism, drug use or destructive violence.

A powerful example of the struggles faced by an entrepreneur, and the problems caused by excessive IP protection.

 

Eye in the Sky (2015)

A nicely tense example of a moral dilemma, which also serves as a brilliant case study in decision-making under pressure and chains of command. I would be intrigued to see how the viewer’s own judgment changes throughout the course of the film, and the verdict on the organisational structure on display.

 

The Founder (2016)

Michael Keaton stars in the true story of how salesman Ray Kroc notices the burger ordering system created by Mac and Dick McDonald (standardized production in advance! no cutlery!) and turns it into a global franchising behemoth. Provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on whether Kroc is a hero (for creating wealth, for getting things done) or a villain (for using the ideas of others and impinging their interests and rights).

 

Graduation (2016)

A tale of corruption from Cluj, Romania. Should a loving father make an ethically compromised decision that allows his daughter to receive a scholarship that she totally deserves, but is in danger of losing through no fault of her own? As we see, “If she wants to live her life in a normal country, she first has to lower herself to the humiliatingly unethical normality that reigns in the country of her birth” (Krastev & Holmes, 2019, p.50).

 

Sing (2017)

A tale of the individual vs. the collective – should the choir member with the terrible voice stay quiet for the good of the team? Is it better to be carried by others than to not be allowed to play? How should people find their voice in a collectivist setting?

 

The Death of Stalin (2017)

A chillingly funny case study of collective decision making within a leadership vacuum. Molotov’s speech, and the manner in which consensus is formed is a wonderfully applicable example of herding effects and deference.

 

Others

In addition to the above I’ll indulge myself by listing some films that aren’t necessarily MBA curricula, but I’ve deeply enjoyed nevertheless. This is my own algorithm, whereby if you like several of the films within a cluster, you’re likely to enjoy the ones that you haven’t seen.

  • An Affair to Remember, Roman Holiday, Lost in Translation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, In the Mood for Love, Lantana, Before Sunrise, Gatsby
  • Everyday, Boyhood
  • The Lady Vanishes, North by Northwest, Village of the Damned, Charade
  • Nuts in May, Cannibal the Musical, Napoleon Dynamite
  • Lost Boys, Mission: Impossible 2, Fargo, The Bourne Identity, The Hunger Games, The Village, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Trainspotting, The Croupier, Children of Men, How I Ended This Summer
  • Memento, Fight Club, The Machinist, Inception, The Prestige, Shutter Island
  • 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days, Beyond the Hills

I’m also a fan of Emir Kusterica and my ranking of his 4 best films is:

  1. Black Cat White Cat (1998)
  2. Underground (1995)
  3. Life is a Miracle (2004)
  4. When Father was Away on Business (1985)