Monday, December 31, 2012

The Risk of Not Planning

 Here's an adaption of a post I wrote on year end goal-setting for my personal blog exactly a year ago.

“I was lucky enough to take part in the very first "Reboot Your Life" weekend retreat offered by The Sabbatical Sisters.  I was on the second leg of a train trip around the country, arriving in Santa Fe from Los Angeles.  Eight of us converged on Cathy Allen's beautiful home for a wide variety of discussions and exercises designed to make us rethink the use of our time.  The best of the exercises is one on setting and tracking achievable annual goals.

(You can read exactly how to undertake the "goals circle exercise" in the book written by the four Sabbatical Sisters -- Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, and Jaye Smith -- titled Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career & Life by Taking a Break available on amazon. com.)

Since 2009, I've taken time to look at the prior year's circle and then to make adjustments when I make a new one, often because I've learned something about myself from the review.  Here's how you would proceed:

Make a circle and divide it into six to eight pie slices, which you then label with aspects of your life.  I use six slices, and they are labeled “health,” “creativity,” “ books,” “ financial,” “ career,” and “personal.”

The next step is to identify five goals for the new year in each category.  This can take longer than one sitting; and indeed you'll find that some of the pie slices change from year to year because of projects you might undertake. 

Once you've completed this portion of the exercise, then pick out the goal in each category that is most important to you.  Make a new circle with only a single goal in each slice, and keep it with you to remind yourself and review progress during the year.

All of the slices are designed to have equal weight so that you have begun to balance your time more evenly across these aspects of life."

I'm still experimenting with multiple roles in my work -- consultant, speaker, teacher, and author.  Even as we solved problems for clients, we managed a major update of the website this past fall, and there's more still to come.  ASA published a second book in February.  Having taught one course last spring and preparing to teach two courses in winter quarter, I can honestly say that I thrive on teaching graduate students at the University of Washington.  And I'm still determined to enhance the amount of physical exercise and training I accomplish.

 “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” -- Francis Bacon, The Essays

Thursday, December 27, 2012

End of year travel

I'll be flying next week, hoping to avoid both the bad weather currently blanketing the East Coast and the hordes of travelers as well.  I've mapped the trip out as best I can to avoid problems, but was nonetheless interested to find this Wall Street Journal article, which imagines some of the improvements we might see in 2013airline travel.  For me, the highest risk is always of getting sick -- I've stocked up on Quantum's SuperLysine+ and will take my nasal irrigation stuff as well as antibacterial hand wipes to get rid of germs attached to airplane surfaces. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The arc of grief

Of all the painful images we have absorbed since Friday morning, this one, from children in Karachi, Pakistan, brings me close to mental paralysis.  We are not, in this country, subject to daily drone attacks that unfortunately kill good people along with the targets.  That these children are shaken by the events in Sandy Hook reminds us that all children feel and think and, as my friend Tracy said this morning, have voices that must also be heard.

Of all the risks we face in life, grief is perhaps the most debilitating.  It paralyzes us.  It disrupts our lives and routines.  It's hard to sleep.  It reminds us to care more obviously for those we love.

Moving forward, we can stay stuck in our grief or we can decide exactly what we are going to do to make it harder for something like this to happen again.  Even if we have never written a letter to a member of Congress, the Internet makes it easy to figure out how to do it.  We can check in with our local schools to understand what safety precautions are already in place, and perhaps volunteer our time to help shape new processes and procedures.  We can speak out in favorite of better identification and mental health support for those on the edges of society.  We might also want to understand what safety protocols are in place in large gathering spaces other than schools -- churches, meeting halls, shopping malls, theaters, for instance.

The fact of the matter is that this is our country and our voices can make a difference. Let's not let this discussion fade from memory in another month.  Let's move toward the light.  Let's make our grief count for something this time.  Even if the best we can do is put better definition and process around background checks and require that all sales have background checks, we will have mitigated some of the risk around gun ownership and moved a range of discussions down the road.

In the meantime, the world watches as we bury these small children. A friend asked why I bothered to watch TV and I answered, "to bear witness."  From the tangible grief we all feel, we can shape a trajectory -- what Dr. King called "the arc of the universe"* -- that is not made by bullets, but from an understanding, finally, that there are some things up with which we will not put, and that it's better late than never.

*I believe Dr. King was actually paraphrasing another minister, Theodore Parker, when he said "The Arc of the Universe Is Long But It Bends Towards Justice."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

After yesterday's violence...

In the wee, small hours of the morning just before it's light, knowing others will have more well thought out conclusions, here's advice from a risk detective:

-Love your children completely. Be generous with your time and your own thoughts. Be fully present and prepared to explain yourself. You are their first teacher.

-By personal example and in discussion, make clear that life is a seri
es of choices between right and wrong, and that it is the grey areas we should be talking about most.

-Show them the world. My father had my sister and I reading at least the "People in the News" section of the Des Moines Register from the time we started school. Our reading expanded as we got older, and every night at the dinner table we discussed both the news and what we had done in school.

-Teach them how to make their own decisions. In those dinnertime discussions, my father also taught us how there were at least two sides to every question or issue, and that it was important to identify the "pros" and "cons" of every position. You could say that he grew his own conversationalists.

-To these pieces of advice, I think my husband would add "tell them many stories." You want them to know where they come from and have a rich range of references that include how and why decisions were made.

All this is to say that your job is not really to wield power, but rather to help a young child grow into themselves without making them afraid of the world outside their home. This is particularly difficult right now, when the natural tendency will be to pull back, to hold them close, to know that the world is often a scary place. But here is a place where the advice holds up -- listen to them and talk with them. Help them try to put this horrible event into context even as you are, yourself, trying to do so.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Using location services on a smartphone

Here's a great article covering the risks and benefits of using location services on a smartphone, produced by Microsoft Security.   Take a look and perhaps look also at other holiday tips from this group about how to manage other online risks.

I'll be posting more frequently in the next week or so, as I begin to revisit the first edition of Advice From A Risk Detective.  We're working on a second edition, which will refresh certain pieces of advice or information.   And we're adding at least one chapter -- "At School."  If you have other items you'd like us to cover in the book, please drop me a note at

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Procrastinating? Time for that flu shot!

The Center for Disease Control is tracking outbreaks of the flu and finding that more folks are sick earlier in the season than usual.  Here is a story on what can be known at this time.

From my own research on types of pandemics, I know that those who have regular flu shots are in a much better position when a truly awful strain comes along and sweeps across the globe.

The shots are prevalent.  No need to go to your doctor's office -- a pharmacist and often even grocers can administer the shot without fuss and reduce your risk of illness at the same time.

Do it as soon as you can. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Teaching is a risk worth taking

Some of you know that I taught my first operational risk course at the University of Washington last spring.  Though I've taught informally by virtue of internship programs I set up over the years, I was not prepared for how very satisfying teaching a graduate level course would be. I am grateful to the Information School for the opportunity -- that's the home of the iSchool, Mary Gates Hall, in the photo montage above.  I learned a lot from that first class, and have been working these past weeks to put those lessons into practice for the upcoming winter quarter.

I'll be teaching two courses in winter quarter:  the "Information and Operational Risk" course that I taught last spring; and a required course for second year graduate students in the UW Information School, titled "Policy, Law and Ethics in Information Management."  I've been knee deep in creating the course websites for students, which is also the mechanism by which they turn in their work.  It's a new tool designed to make things easier, but it's not intuitive.  The risk mitigation on this effort is being performed by an Information School graduate assistant, who helped migrate the content from old sites, and provide backup support.

Each course will meet once a week for three hours at a time, late in the day.  Students may be coming from work or from other classes, perhaps tired and certainly hungry by the time class is over.  Needless to say, it's quite different from making a 45 minute public presentation and answering questions for 15 minutes.  I'm determined to make the courses a mix of lecture and group discussion, with portions of each class discussion facilitated by a member of the class.    The op risk class will include a star-spangled lineup of guest speakers on aspects of operational risk.

I'll still be publishing articles, but I'll not be traveling much from January through mid-March.  Public speaking engagements will be easy hops from Seattle, not across the country or the globe.

When you teach, you introduce ideas for analysis and discussion -- and, if you are lucky,  what you might get back is something you did not already know.   So I like how research and teaching feeds the consulting practice and vice versa.   Most of all, teaching keeps me on my toes, testing just what I know and what I think from multiple perspectives.

Teaching is a risk well worth taking.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Take Winter by Storm

An NPR story this morning looked at how emergency planning in California has expanded since the state sent teams to the East Coast to work on response and recovery from Hurricane Sandy.  One of the officials interviewed mentioned that the amount of time it took to restore power (1-3 weeks, depending upon where you lived) after Sandy has changed their notion of what families should set aside as emergency supplies.  It's also caused California to think now about how they might house emergency responders pulled in after a disaster from other parts of the country.

In Seattle, we have a longstanding program called Take Winter by Storm.  The link I've offered here is for putting together an emergency kit that would last a family about 3 days, so you may wish to modify your stockpile accordingly.  The other thing to keep in mind is that, without power, it is hard for a pharmacy to look up your prescriptions, so it's best to see if your doctor will allow you to keep an extra order on hand at home.

In Seattle, we are right now being hit by up to 5" of rain -- so it's important to keep storm drains on the streets outside our homes clear of the leaves that tend to pile up this time of year so that flooding does not occur.

And if you are cursing the rain, please remember that in some other part of the country, others are suffering more than you are.  Compared to storm surge that destroys homes, rain here and snow in the mountains can be considered part of the seasonal cycle we agree to when we chose to live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Stay safe, everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Holiday Risk

December 2011

We are heading into the holiday season at a rackety pace.  Having celebrated Halloween and had a day off earlier this week to remember veterans, next week we celebrate Thanksgiving, my favorite occasion for reflecting on family, friends and home and for being grateful for what we have. 

Taking the time to reflect on holidays is the best way I know to reduce risk that arises in stressful situations.  I try to be deliberative in planning or accepting invitations to holiday events that seem to start in early December and run through the end of the year.  I try to avoid "Black Friday," allegedly the biggest shopping day of the year, both online and with local merchants, spending the day instead making some of the homemade gifts that we intend to give this year.  And I'll complete arrangements for travel  early in the new year.

In early December, I will re-discuss with myself the merits and tradeoffs in a fresh vs an artificial tree. And I will bring out holiday decorations for the house, trying to weed out and donate those I don't use anymore.    At the same time, I'll go back through our winter clothing for the same reason:  to donate clothing, especially warm coats, we don't really use anymore, to neighborhood youth shelters.   And I'll take pleasure in a longstanding holiday tradition, to write our annual holiday letter and put together a holiday photo card, and update mailing addresses for friends and family.

All of these actions are meant to 1) encourage thoughtful deliberation about what the holidays mean; 2) reduce the commercial aspects of the holidays; and 3) reduce risk from stress associated with the holidays.

There's a message in each holiday for each of us if we can but find the time to re-discover it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Have a safe Halloween!

As the East Coast struggles with power and infrastructure issues, and its people struggle with the loss in some cases of their homes, we celebrate Halloween tonight.  In most neighborhoods, children will go door to door to say "Trick or treat" -- code for "please pass over some candy."

At our house each year, my husband carves a range of pumpkins.  He does the small ones with a scalpel.  And we watch carefully to be sure that a fire does not inadvertently start from a pumpkin that has started to smoulder.

In our neighborhood, parents accompany small children to trick or treat. This is more parents out on one evening than any other night of the year, minimizing the risk to all children. I hope that your Halloween will be bright with children...and that, sometime during the day today, you might stop to make a donation to the American Red Cross on behalf of all those still struggling on the East Coast.
Happy Halloween, from our home to yours!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hurricane Sandy is moving up the East Coast

This NOAA GOES satellite image shows Hurricane Sandy.
If you live on the East Coast, at least on the northern end of the coast, earthquakes make rare appearances.  It's worth it to check out the emergency preparedness site that FEMA maintains to be sure you have what you need to operate on your own as long as 3-5 days if power goes out and businesses are affected.  This storm is already being characterized as a "Frankenstorm."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Home energy checklist

It's a good time to combine several seasonal preparation tasks -- while you're checking your emergency supplies kit and replenishing anything you might have used or which has passed the expiration date, you can also double check your gas and water lines into your home.  And you can run through this energy checklist to be sure you're doing everything you can to reduce the amount of energy you use in your home.

Preparing for winter weather almost always has side benefits.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall home checklist.

As St. Phil Esterbrook used to say on "Hill Street Blues," be careful out there, folks!

Here's a fall checklist on a new website called  that I ran across, which should be of use to most of us this time of year.  Access to the website is free, and you may want to determine whether or not it makes sense to aggregate all your home information in one place.

Either way, getting ready for winter is always easier with a list.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Online banking risks

Iranian cyber-terrorists have increased their attacks on American banks as a way to continuously object to the you-tube video excerpt from a film made in this country that dis-respected the prophet Mohammed.  Yesterday Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called more openly for effective legislation that would cause critical infrastructure business sectors to heighten their security around such areas as water, electricity and transportation. (Banking and finance is considered to be the most sophisticated of all critical infrastructure sectors, and already shares information via its information sharing and analysis center (ISAC).

Despite testimony from military officials and former secretaries of defense, Congress has been unable to agree upon legislation in either the House or the Senate.

How does this affect you?  If you do online banking, then keep a close eye over the next several weeks on your account, and be mindful that online service may be disrupted for some period of time.  And remember that financial institutions have other ways for you to transfer funds and make payments through call centers and/or mobile payments programs...or a walk-in visit to a branch.

Be mindful also of emails you may receive purporting to be from your bank, asking you to validate or provide additional account information.  No legitimate bank will ever ask you for this sort of information via an email.  Don't click on links of any sort involving your banking account, or you may find later that someone has been siphoning off funds.

Most of all, if you are concerned, then let Congress know that it's time to get off the proverbial dime where cyber-security is concerned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Online safety

It's cyber-awareness month, and there are a number of public awareness campaigns designed to help you and your family or business review concrete steps you take to ensure a higher level of security when you are online.  One of my favorites is the Stay Safe Online website, where you can check what you've already done against what else you might wish to consider doing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Social media posts by teens

If ever you were in any doubt that what you post on the Internet can have severe, far-reaching consequences, here's a Wall Street Journal story that discusses how such posts on Facebook and Google+ can affect admissions into a college of choice.

The article contains pithy descriptions of what college admissions personnel often find when they run an internet search.

As Immanuel Kant would say (in a paraphrase updated for today's world), don't say anything on the internet that you wouldn't be comfortable with anyone hearing or seeing or reading.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


A fundamental tool used by both businesses and individuals to manage certain types of risks and contingencies is an insurance policy.  There are many types of policies -- home, life, renters, travel, to name a few -- and a number of issues to clarify before you make investments in such policies.  Here's a good article on that discusses how to examine options for various types of  life insurance policies.

I carry homeowners and life insurance, happily.  We were saved from financial oblivion by the insurance policy that we had in our home in upstate New York when the top story of the house burned off -- you can find the whole story in the first chapter of Advice From A Risk Detective.  I calculated the amount of life insurance I carry by including the remaining balance on our home mortgage as well as few other charitable gifts I wish to make when I die.  And when I travel, I almost always purchase travel insurance -- a small price to pay against the chance I will be unable to fly when you calculate today's costs of cancelling a ticket.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just like that, it's flu season!


We've now formally turned to autumn, and pow!  It's time once again to get your annual flu shot.

Here's a link to the website so you can get more information on other ways than the vaccine itself for you to minimize your risk of catching the flu from others.

Research has shown now that those who get the shot every year build up greater immunity to more severe forms of the flu like swine flu (H1N1) or even bird flue (H5N1).

Better yet, you don't have to schedule an appointment in your doctor's office.  Most pharmacies now offer the vaccine in either shot or nasal spray form.

Off you go!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Next generation website is up

We launched the corporate website at in July of 2009.   We did reorganize the content somewhat in 2010, but have in general stuck to simply adding new content to the existing structure since then.  With the publication of Advice From A Risk Detective in 2011, we launched this blog rather than focus on the website.

So it's no surprise that when ASA research associate Lauren Du Graf came back this summer for a few weeks before she took up summer work in Berlin, we recruited her to take a hard look at the site and recommend improvements.  She researched other sites, listened carefully to the types of work we were now doing, and then recommended an overhaul that is now mostly complete. 

Taking a next generation website live is always a nail-biter, especially when you already have a live site that gets a good website rating from Google, and when you are deleting or moving around a great deal of existing content.   We really could not cut over to the new site until we had fixed all links so that they pointed to the new locations on the website.

If you take a look now, you'll see a navigation bar across the top of the page that better reflects how the company has evolved, including  a section on books we've published, and information on the types of public speaking that we do.   You'll also find a search function on the site, as well as a "subscribe for free" button that allows you to see at a glance the types of content we generate, including this blog.

There are a few other changes still coming, with more photographs and video that Lauren is in the process of editing.  And we're still rewriting some of the content on the site.  Because the navigation is so revised, I am comfortable calling this our next generation website.  Please let us know what you think.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Minimizing travel risk in cars

I have been meaning to post this link to Martha Stewart's website, that outlines what items you should carry in your trunk that increase your safety and decrease your risk.  There's also a helpful video.

And, from the first chapter of my own book, here's a photo of the trunk of my own car in terms of the emergency pack of supplies I carry.  In addition to the "Evac Pack" that I carry, extras include water and water bottle, zippered tool kit, hiking boots and extra wipes.  I've also got an athletic bag in the back that includes an extra clothing and a fanny pack first aid kit.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Street risks

Several recent alerts from authorities have reminded me to discuss appropriate street behavior, whether traveling in another country or just standing at a bus stop in your home town.

Don't make yourself a target!

Expensive jewelry, open purses and reading maps are all signals to thieves that you're an easy target.  So is relying upon your electronic device.  Don't make it easy for thieves.  Leave reading email or listening to music to less public environments.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

When you remember, say thank you.

I posted yesterday to my personal blog, mostly pictures, not many words. 

When you see a police officer, a firefighter, a member of the military, a medic or an ambulance worker, please thank them for their service to your community.  They may not have been in New York City on 9/11, but their service creates a safety net, wherever you live.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mental health and the workplace

Here's an excellent article on talking about mental health issues from the Wall Street Journal, that has a link inside to the main piece written today about managing risk in the workplace from mental illness.  Both these articles discuss mental illness, primarily depression, from the perspective of the employee who may uneasy about using any free services offered for fear that it will affect his/her career path.

The second chapter of Advice From A Risk Detective currently includes a discussion of violence in the workplace and a checklist of symptoms for others to be alert to, along with steps to take if employees feel at risk from a colleague.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to school

Seasons change, and bursts of energy come and go.  Parents are busy getting their kids ready to go back to school, and we've already posted a couple of links that have to do with online safety for young people.

Here's an article written by Larry Magid, a highly respecter writer/thinker, whose site you might wish to bookmark if you have kids and want to be sure they are safe on the web:

As we experience the last days of summer, sitting down with your kids and talking to them about cell phone and online safety may mean the difference between high and low risk as your kids navigate the world.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Advice From A Risk Detective: Emergency supplies

Advice From A Risk Detective: Emergency supplies: We've published a list in first chapter of Advice From A Risk Detective of emergency supplies you should have on hand, but this new post on ...

Emergency supplies

We've published a list in first chapter of Advice From A Risk Detective of emergency supplies you should have on hand, but this new post on the  Allstate blog lays out the most critical three supplies to be sure to have on hand.  Take a look and see what you think.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Back to school for us and our kids

I ran across this article about kids and technology on on Trend Micro's website, and think it's worth reposting as school starts next week here in Seattle.

There's one sort of cleanup you'll want to do if there's a chance your kids have been using your computer over the summer months.  And there's a great deal to be discussed with your kids in terms of online safety as they either work on their own computers or on computers at school in the coming year.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Be all that you can be...

Thanks to my friend Brian Tishuk for posting this advice on how to reduce the risk of illness and disease through better life style choices.  This is my favorite type of list, since so many of the items on the list are easy choices.  And most of the items on the list have estimates of the benefits provided.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The first hour of your day

I very much like this article from Fast Company magazine.  It suggests new forms of personal risk management.  Most of those interviewed try to leave their email alone, and either work on a combination of physical and motivational exercise, or on a large project that requires heavy lifting.

There's nothing lost by giving this approach a try.  As one of the interviewees points out, if there is something urgent in email that first hour or so, you will undoubtedly get a text or phone call.

It's certainly difficult not to want to clean that mailbox down first thing.   But I'm going to see what I can do to shift more completely to this model.   Not turning on my computer or looking at email on my iPhone before I start to exercise might be harder than I think, but I'll give it a shot.

Monday, August 20, 2012

You and an active shooter

None of us ever wants to think we'll be caught in a situation where mass shootings can take place.  Yet such events are becoming more common, taking place in places we have thought to be safe, such as shopping malls, schools and movie theatres.

Here's a fairly graphic video shot by the Department of Homeland Security to provide information on what to do if you are caught in an active shooter situation. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Managing risks around extreme heat

We are beginning to look more like the rest of the United States.  Washington State has raging wildfires on the east side of the state, while Seattle has finally achieved weather that sits at the lower end of what the rest of the country has felt.

Here's the message from the King County Department of Public Health that will apply if you live in extremely hot areas of the country.

"The National Weather Service has announced an excessive heat watch for this Thursday and Friday, with temperatures that will rise into the low to mid 90s. When outside temperatures are very high, the danger for heat-related illnesses rises. Older adults, young children, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at particularly high risk. 

 Please share the following tips with your communities so they can stay cool and safe:
Stay cool:
  • Spend more time in air conditioned places. If you don't have air conditioning, consider visiting a mall, movie theater or other cool public places.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun.
  • Dress in lightweight clothing.
  • Check up on your elderly neighbors and relatives and encourage them to take these precautions, too.
Drink liquids:
  • Drink plenty of water. Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol and large amounts of sugar because they can actually de-hydrate your body.
  • Have a beverage with you as much as possible, and sip or drink frequently. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.
If you go outside:
  • Limit the time you're in direct sunlight.
  • Do not leave infants, children, people with mobility challenges and pets in a parked car, even with the window rolled down.
  • Avoid or reduce doing activities that are tiring, or take a lot of energy.
  • Do outdoor activities in the cooler morning and evening hours.
  • Avoid sunburn. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating.
More tips in English, Spanish, Chinese Vietnamese, Russian and Korean are available on our Beat the Heat webpage at

Water safety
Some people turn to local rivers to cool off, but drowning is a real concern. Please use caution and wear a personal flotation device (PFD) on the water. Find deals on affordable lifejackets at  And if you want to swim, choose a safer location – visit a local pool or lifeguarded beach instead."


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What you see should be what you get

We're in the process of overhauling our website navigation and content, and adding some new features as well.  The assignment I've had for the last couple of years -- to be sure to get photos of me speaking at conferences -- has not been a complete success.  It's hard in such an environment to get high resolution photos.  See for yourself.

Shared Assessments Summit, Boston, 2011
2007 Critical Infrastructure World Congress Keynote Panel
University of Washington Institute for Innovation in Information Management (I3M)
2007 Seattle Leaders Meeting with DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff
July 2012 Executive Women's Forum

July 2012 NORCOMM-FEMA National Resiliency Conference
November 2011 Hall of Fame induction, with Jacqueline MacBride
Now you can see why we're going to take a shot at recording video this afternoon!  Like everyone else, I like to manage my personal risks.  Lauren Du Graf is in charge of today's project, which is part of the next iteration of our website.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Annie's review of the Washington Mutual book, "The Lost Bank"

Evidently I forgot to post my Risk Universe magazine review of "The Lost Bank" book by Kirsten Grind!  So, for several of you who have been asking, here it is.  I welcome feedback from you about the book or my review.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Managing travel risk -- new approaches

Here's a wonderful article from the New York Times that points at a couple of airports and hotels that now offer extra opportunities to exercise while on the road -- both in the airport and in the hotel room.

On my last trip I was able to take advantage of an earlier article on Silicon Valley travelers' suggestions, and took Super Lysine+ before, during and after the trip.  I was also extra careful with wiping down surfaces that carry germs -- tray table, arms of my airplane seat, magazines, etc.

Only thing I forgot was the personal sleep kit -- earplugs, eye mask and sinus irrigation bottle.  You can be sure that they'll be going with me to Palm Beach later this month!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Heat and hydration

For us in the Northwest, who have not been suffering like other parts of the country, higher temperatures and sunshine are a special present.

But over half of this country is still blanketed in unusually high heat and, in some places, drought conditions.  Risks from heat are high for both people and animals.  Do make sure that you are drinking water all day long, and that you keep moving around.

Do also pay careful attention to leaving ground floor windows or doors unlocked or open.  Open doors and windows present burglars with irresistible opportunities.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Orders of importance where your data is concerned

Yesterday I posted an article by Walt Mossberg that described four different ways to store your important documents, photos and data so that it is always available, even if your computer fails, or is lost or stolen.

In the first chapter of the book, I talk about how having a fire in our home many years ago has caused me to document the contents of our home photographically and to store that file in the cloud.  I will always be able to retrieve that information from any other computer, so I have also included other files I might need in case something happened to our home -- a file with a list of life insurance policies, and copies of other legal documents that are important.

Please consider taking a day or two to ensure that your data will always be available to you.  Programs like Drop Box make it very easy to ensure you can always find what you need in time of crisis.

And I have one other form of protection:  I use Carbonite continuous online backup to ensure that all of the files on my computer -- not just the ones I have also copied up to Drop Box -- will always be retrievable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In the cloud

One of the hundreds of photos of shelves of books that I store in the cloud in case we ever need to claim assets for insurance purposes.

Here's a Walt Mossberg column from today's Wall Street Journal that lays out various options for storing your photos or other important options in the cloud.  He looks at four different programs that will do the trick in terms of offsite storage options.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Public-Private Resiliency Conference

I spent half of this week in Colorado Springs for a two day resiliency conference sponsored by FEMA and the Northern Command.  The pictures are from the panel discussion I was part of on the final day of the conference, discussing small business preparedness programs sponsored by the American Red Cross (Russ Paulsen is sitting next to me); AT&T (Matt Beattie is third from left); and a new mentorship program created without overhead or fuss by University of Louisiana professor Ramesh Kolluru.  At the podium is Steve Smith, retired admiral who runs the Office of Disaster Preparedness for the Small Business Administration, and who was our moderator.

My job was to say as clearly as I could exactly why small businesses -- most of whom have 100 employees or less and who constitute 99% of all business in this country -- do not feel they have time to become prepared for disasters...even though they, too, can see the numbers.  Somewhere between 25% and 40% of small businesses never come back after a natural disaster.  Why?  Because they are not prepared.

Garry Briese and I are planning to co-author an article that would discuss this conference, what it accomplished, and what we feel the state of resiliency is in this country.  When it's published, we
will be sure to set a link here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gearing up to fly

I'm flying on Sunday to Colorado Springs to speak at a conference, and was glad to come across three travel articles I thought I would pass along.  The first is from the Wall Street Journal about where the germs hide on airplanes. The second is more in the way of an indicator of things to come, when I pass through the Dallas airport in August -- yoga! The third is from Sunday's New York Times, a general piece that packs in tips from some of our most experienced Silicon Valley travelers. 

In fact, I'm on my way to find those Quantam Super Lysine + tablets right now.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

ASA's Third Anniversary

Leroy Searle and Lauren Du Graf, both at rest before the launch party begins
This has been a wonderful month, so far.  The sunshine coincides with the re-entry of one of my favorite people in the world.  Lauren Du Graf has been back since late June, and has been working with me to re-imagine how we present my risk consulting firm, ASA.  Since she helped to imagine the firm and write the original content for the ASA website in June/July of 2009, she's ideally qualified to review the past three years of evolution.
The First and Union team built the website:  Sherry Stripling, Rick New, and Molly Martin
It's interesting to see how much has matured, and how much has changed since then.  Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn postings from ASA are now at least a daily occurrence, whereas I don't think we had even set up links in 2009. Last summer when Lauren was back,  she did a first edit and helped find a name for my first book, Advice From A Risk Detective and insisted that I set up a  website from which to offer that and subsequent books for sale.

ASA logo designer Jesse Brown checks out the site.  Jesse also designs ASA's book covers.
Some of the copy we wrote in 2009 was hypothetical, based upon what services we thought the firm would offer.  Now we have a keener sense of how far we've come and what we actually do, and so we are reworking both navigation and content.

From left: Mike Crandall (UW Information School), Annie, Shelby Edwards (now Nike)
One thing that won't change:  our commitment to providing open access to research notes, articles by others, and commentary on articles by others through both "Annie's Take" and through our monthly newsletter, that we are re-naming ASA News and Notes. 

From left:  Molly Martin, Eric Holdeman (Port of Seattle), Al Wilson (Microsoft), Annie
 Once we get all the cleanup done on web content, we'll be cleaning up some of the visual elements as well and implementing new navigation.  I can see another month's work or so in front of me.  I had forgotten just how much I enjoy this part of the work.

Getting after this work now is a great way to slide into what will be our third anniversary on July 20, the date the site went live and 35-40 colleagues came to celebrate with us.

Technology tips

Years ago I owned a computer hardware company and advised businesses and individuals on computers.  I ran across this article this morning in the New York Times, and thought it worth passing along for those who need new computers but have no idea how to go about selecting one.

Technology continues to be one of the most challenging areas for personal and business risk management.  To prevent loss and frustration once you do purchase a new computer, do be sure to check for and install all the operating system security patches; and do turn on the firewall that protects your computer from a great deal of harmful network traffic; and finally, consider purchasing a more advanced form of internet and computer security protection from a software manufacturer like Trend Micro or Symantec, especially if you are planning to do online banking or online purchases.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer travel tips

Here's a great article that reviews a series of travel tips you may find helpful.

Most of them are also in Advice From A Risk Detective, except for one I found especially interesting for foreign travel:  to take a photo of the front of your hotel with your smartphone, in case you get lost.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Combustible risks

Ivar's fireworks over Seattle's Elliott Bay
Wildfires have been ravaging Colorado and several other western states.  Power is still out for over a million people in 100 degree temperatures on the East Coast after a wind and rainstorm knocked down trees that, in turn, knocked down power lines.   It feels like Seattle is definitely the place to live these past few weeks as the rest of the country suffers.

Wherever you live, fire safety should be front and center in your celebrations today -- particularly since most calls for fire fighters today will not be from wildfires but rather from fireworks accidents, illegal fireworks, barbeques gone wrong or banked coals left in unsafe locations.  These are all preventable accidents that can be eliminated from your risk list with a few simple steps.  Here's a link to FEMA's page on summer fire safety for more suggestions about how to minimize your risk on this Independence Day.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

" deal with nuance and complexity and to comment on things others are ignoring."

When I let former Citigroup risk executive Howard Stein, a colleague in the risk thought leadership arena, know that I was also going to be writing for The Risk Universe, a new British digital magazine, he noted that he too "now want(s) to offer opinions and to deal with nuance and complexity and to comment on things others are ignoring."

I could not have said it better myself.

So I've negotiated my first piece, due late next week, will be a combination book review/essay about Kirsten Grind's The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual--The Biggest Bank Failure in American History.

It's been three years, and that's probably enough time and perspective for me to re-frame Grind's excellent narrative -- as well as Kerry Killinger's letter about the book to friends and family -- into the four operational risk failure areas that I write and teach about -- people, process, systems and/or external events.  All are at play in the Washington Mutual story.  All will be discussed in terms of my own understanding and Grind's book.

I think about how long I have been writing on risk issues, and realize this could be one of my most personal and consequential pieces.  And the platform in the seventh issue of The Risk Universe seems just right.  For those who keep asking and don't follow me on Facebook, I have a lot of other reading to do in order to clear my head.  In addition to Grind's book, I'm reading The End of Wall Street by Roger Lowenstein (recommended by Bill Longbrake), as well as Last Man Standing by Duff McDonald, Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin, and House of Cards by William D. Cohan.  And I'm thumbing back through Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and Shakespeare's major tragedies.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, June 25, 2012


We've had a rash of media stories on computer passwords recently.  I wrote a bit about the issue when it was discovered that a large number of LinkedIn passwords (lightly encrypted) had been posted on the web.  Like many of you, I realized that I had used my LinkedIn password for other secure websites as well.  The result was that I went through and changed all my passwords that morning.

I do not use an electronic password manager -- though I plan to do some research on how safe such solutions are -- nor do I have sticky notes sitting on my computer to remind me of an assortment of passwords.  I try to pick passwords that I can easily remember.  I've heard the suggestion that one can take a phrase or even the name of a song and use the first letter of each word and then add some numbers -- an example would be "the will is greater than the skill 12"  which would be "twigtts12."  (Thanks to Muhammad Ali for the quote.)

The challenge, of course, is that you need to have a password for any number of websites.  Perhaps it's worth it to classify the sites in terms of risk of exposure and assign passwords accordingly.  Having your Facebook or Twitter site hacked is hardly the same as having a transactional (as in money) website's password stolen.

Whatever you do, do not use the same password for all your sites.  Just think what a hacker could get if your LinkedIn password were the same, for instance, as your online banking password.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Managing your time

Juggling multiple priorities at work and home can lead to burnout.  Here's an article that discusses managing the risks of being overly busy.

It's the first day of summer.  Maybe the article can offer you some tips on how to avoid burnout by finding a better balance work and home life.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Traveling light

For those of us who like to do the research before we go, there's an innovation worth noting.

Let's hear it for truly mobile devices with screens large enough to read maps and references without  carrying travel books and maps when we are on the road.  That's my own iPad2 set to Lonely Planet, only one of many useful sites you can refer to in the midst of your journey to plan day trips or get more information on sites you are visiting -- whether it's a lively urban city like New York, or China's Silk Road.  Other online favorites include anything at all from Rick Steves.  (I must confess that, in line with advice that came from a respected professional, I used to remove relevant sections of Rick's thick books so that I did not have to carry the whole book with me when in other countries.)

If you're traveling in another country, it's also worth it always to mark the U.S. State Department sites designed to assist travelers, in order to understand if there are risks you need to take into account.

Wherever you are going, travel light.  And travel safe.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hotel room hackers

Every time you turn around there's another risk that perhaps you had not thought of.  In reading Microsoft's summer security newsletter, I came across this advice for those who use computers while on the road, specifically in hotel rooms.

Who would have thought that hackers would have looked at hotel networks as a way to steal information?  Nevertheless, it's a reminder to follow advice in my book -- be sure to install all security patches sent out by manufacturers like Microsoft, as well as update other security software you might run from companies like Trend Micro or Symantec.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

From A Walker's Journal -- Five and a half hours.

For about five and a half hours yesterday, our neighborhood was on lockdown, while police searched for an armed shooter who had killed three people at an expresso bar just blocks from where I live. There are many iterations to the story.  The same shooter actually killed a total of four people and then took his own life.  Accounts indicate that the event cannot be characterized as gang-related violence, but rather as the mental instability of a single individual, of whom a member of his family said, "We could see this coming."

For those five and a half hours, as I sent out communications to our neighborhood disaster preparedness coordinators, I was in the same position as other members of our community who live in constant fear of a stray bullet or an unintended consequence affecting their life.  That two very well off neighborhoods -- Ravenna and West Seattle -- had armed police officers going door to door is a phenomena that others who live in different parts of the city are very familiar with.  They have been asking for action to quell the violence for many years.

For most in Ravenna, life is back to normal this morning and life is good.  For others in parts of the city where random violence occurs on a daily basis, life is as usual too -- but the reality is much more painful.  Perhaps while horrific events are still in our minds, we can figure out a way to reduce the risk of this type of violence -- that includes enforcing current laws on the books, re-examining gun control registration issues, and re-staffing the gang units to prior levels at the Seattle Police Department.

My heart goes out to all the families who have lost loved ones or friends from such senseless violence.  Colin Powell says that optimism is a force multiplier.  I am optimistic that, without guns and using our best minds, we can make some progress on this issue.  It's larger than Seattle, but I would be satisfied to start right here.