Ongoing issues, discussions, and brick-a-brak:

Some facts: Earth’s radius = 3,950 miles. One mile = 63,360 inches. Surface area of a sphere = 4*pi*radius^2. Atmospheric pressure at ground level = ~14.5 pounds per square inch.

Estimates (from various Googled sources): Human oil consumption per year = 30,660,000,000 barrels. One barrel = 252 pints. A pint’s a pound the world around. Human coal combustion per year: 6,500,000,000 tons. Oil and coal = mostly carbon. Carbon’s atomic weight = 12. Carbon dioxide’s atomic weight = 44. Atmospheric CO2 concentration = 380 parts per million.

With these facts, any middle school student should be able to compute the weight of the atmosphere and how much CO2 humans add to it annually (38 billion tons = 6.66 parts per million = 1.8%).

The connection to everyday business situations: As with global warming, every business decision (whether to replace an aging system, for example) depends in part on who has the burden of proof. Usually, those who recommend action bear it, as “do nothing” is the default decision, but that’s just habit. For global warming, I’d say the arithmetic places it squarely on the other side.

Choose carefully in your business decisions.

Holiday card follow-up: To disapprove or not to disapprove, that was the question I asked. Several readers suggested that disapproval is quite appropriate. Using my Tiger Woods/Britney Spears example to illustrate, they contended it makes sense to choose carefully who you emulate.

Personally, I don’t think you should ever choose who to emulate. Few people are entirely admirable in every aspect of their character and behavior, so we’re all better off figuring out what we admire about someone and emulating that. Figuring out who we admire and emulating everything about them is worse than a bad idea. It’s creepy.

Something not to emulate: my spelling. The correct version is “Britney.” Sorry, ma’am.

A really bad trend: Using compliance as an excuse. “The auditors require it.” “We might get sued.” “Sarbanes/Oxley won’t allow it.”

First of all, if it’s a good idea, Sarbanes/Oxley almost certainly does allow it. It simply requires that you document it to death. Likewise your auditors. As for getting sued, yes, you might. While you’re more likely to get sued if you do something you shouldn’t, American jurisprudence allows anyone to sue anyone else, for almost no reason at all.

If you allow the risk of being prosecuted for breaking the law to stop you, you might ask why you think breaking the law is a good idea in the first place. But if someone allows the risk of some bottom-feeder suing them to stop them from making prudent business decisions, shame on them. Businesses shouldn’t put anyone this timid in charge of anything important.

Our ongoing obsession with metrics: When setting goals, many consultants advocate the SMART formulation from Paul J. Meyer’s “Attitude Is Everything.” SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Tangible.”

So here’s a question: If you choose to be SMART, will you ever decide that customer satisfaction matters? After all, it isn’t specific, is exceptionally difficult to measure, and is largely intangible.

For most businesses, it’s also the single most important determinant of success.

From the Department of Contractual Stupidity and Sleaziness: Here’s some standard boilerplate you’ll find in huge numbers of privacy policies:

“[Company name] may modify this Agreement’s terms and conditions at any time without notice. Continued use of the Services and the Site after a change in this Agreement, a change in the Privacy Policy, or after implementation of any other new policy constitutes acceptance of such change or policy.”

Don’t they know how slimy this makes them look? Especially since many of these websites provide no way to contact a human being.

In the same category, my new digital camera, an otherwise fine piece of equipment, allows me to install the accompanying software on only a single computer. The question: Why on earth do they care? The software is only useful with the camera.

A final PowerPoint question: We’re all agreed the world has seen lots of bad PowerPoint. Three questions remain. The first is whether this is just another example of Sturgeon’s Law (90 percent of everything is crud). The second is whether the bad presentations that made use of PowerPoint would have been even worse without it.

I suspect the answers are yes and yes. Many who aren’t professional presenters still have to present from time to time. What matters isn’t whether PowerPoint makes their presentations good. It’s whether it makes them better than they’d have been otherwise. So the third question is what we should consider to be the default assumption.