Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do." -- Oscar Wilde

It feels like Friday, but it's only Wednesday.  That's because I have been working to perform 2013 tax reporting at city and state levels, filed the corporate 1099s with subcontractors and the federal government; and just now completed updating my entity registration in the federal government database called SAM -- of all this work, which is fitted in and among other meetings, the SAM website gave me the most trouble.  After calling the telephone support desk, I had to change my browser to Internet Explorer in order to finally take care of the update.

You have to take these tasks like the tax filings and the  SAM re-certification as small victories over bureaucracy whenever you can get them.

For those who have lists longer than mine, here's a good article on the most effective ways for small businesses to manage their time, written in a brief and straightforward manner.  Unfortunately, teaching doesn't exactly fit into the same time management system as operating a business.

I'm working on an updated course description and website for my spring course in the UW Information School.  It's an advanced risk management course that looks at how differently such management is performed in the public and private sectors.  I designed the three hour course and  taught it for the first time last spring, inviting eight guest speakers over the course of the quarter.  Will I change textbooks?  Which speakers will I invite back?  What did I learn the last time I taught this course?  Not all the questions or the answers fit into predictable amounts of time, so I've been in swiss cheese mode more often than not.

And now it's time to stop working on the new course and think about what I'll be covering on Friday in the Law, Policy & Ethics in Information Management Course I'm teaching this quarter.  We have a "real world" discussion each week that I pick either on Thursday or Friday of each week.  It's not part of the regular reading for the course.  Instead I send the students one article to read and then have a list of questions to provoke discussion.  Looking at the topic from the multiple perspectives of Law, Policy and Ethics, the first week we talked about Edward Snowden and his actions; and the second week we talked about the president's signals intelligence address. Last week, we talked about the decision of the JPMorgan Chase board of directors to give CEO Jamie Dimon a large raise.  What will up this week?  It's not clear yet, though I'm monitoring the risk landscape in Sochi; asking myself how a soldier could be deployed 10 times and then be found nearly dead, rehabilitated and applauded for 3 minutes during last night's State of the Union address; and, as you might be able to tell, still looking for the perfect story to discuss from all three areas of information management.

Like I said at the top of this post, it feels like Friday but it's only Wednesday.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Discussion & Debate in Amsterdam

No, this is not the conference location.  It is the oldest portion of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

This time next month, I'll just be finishing the final day of the OpRiskWorld conference in Amsterdam -- a conference that offers fresh approaches to familiar issues for those of us who specialize in operational risk.

Here's a partial list of speakers:  "Nick Leeson, who will seek to draw parallels in ethics, corporate culture and management today with the world of Barings in the mid-1990’s; Dr. Simon Ashby who recently issued a paper on governance; Professor Dirk Geldenhuys, a leading industrial psychologist and specialist on people behaviour; Rudi Kleijwegt, Head of Group Compliance at Rabobank,; Larry Wagenaar, Senior Examiner at APRA; Jason Perry, formerly of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and more recently at Black Rock; Evangelos Sekeris, Director of Operational Risk at AON; Carmen Koberstein-Windpassinger, Head of Cross-Sectoral Risk Modelling at Bafin; Michael Sicsic, Head of OpRisk at AVIVA; Anne Snel-Simmons, Head of OpRisk at Rabobank; Hans Grisel, Head of OpRisk at ING; Peter Power, Advisor to HM Government on crisis management; Annie Searle of the University of Washington and Philippa Girling, Head of Business Risk at CapitalOne."

I'm invited because of the writing I do four times a year for The Risk Universe,  a London-based magazine that is now both digital and hard copy.  I expect little of the droning speaker style presentation, and a great deal of lively interchange among conference attendees.  I'll be posting on Twitter and Facebook, especially views of Amsterdam, and then report back in more detail in my March column for ASA News & Notes.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Storm Tips

Motorist on Interstate-94 in Detroit, Michigan
Detroit, Early January 2014

Another big storm is bearing down on the East Coast  --  so I thought I would post a link to FEMA's winter weather tips.

The building blocks of the tips for winter weather apply to those of us in other parts of the country as well.

If you keep a stash of extra batteries on hand, you're also likely to have created a family emergency plan and even perhaps to have 5-7 days of emergency food, medicine and other supplies on hand.    If you haven't found the time to take care of those items yet, pick a day this next week and get after it!  Once you've established the basics, it's a simple matter to check out the supplies once a year, replace anything that might have expired, and perhaps add a few more items to your stash labeled for emergencies.

Meanwhile, our thoughts go out to those on the East Coast, who've already gone through this once this month.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Sometimes it is not possible to make progress without taking very large risks.  Tomorrow we honor a man and a movement that took big risks.  The photo is from the 1963 March on Washington.  Here's a link to Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech, which took place against a backdrop that is almost unimaginable to young people today.  And I don't mean the backdrop of hundreds of thousands of people shown in the photo.

As a sidebar to a spirited  discussion of moral reasoning last week, I described to the graduate students I am teaching this quarter how very shocking it was for a small town college freshman who had been raised a Catholic ("love thy neighbor" and "put yourself in the other person's shoes") and a Constitutionalist ("all men are created equal") to learn that there were places in this country where it was not safe for black persons to go. 

Black people could not stay in the same hotels or eat in the same restaurants as whites, or even use the same drinking fountains.  (Even the military was segregated until 1948, when General Eisenhower recommended it and  President Truman gave the order.)

It was called segregation.

Here are a couple of  1963 Birmingham photos to indicate what was done to blacks (and whites) who tried to integrate those facilities.

Dogs, fire hoses and cattle prods were the favorite weapons of intimidation practiced on those who took big risks to bring about change.

We've seen over the past five or so years how social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have the power to show the world desperate conditions.  Back in the early 1960's it was up to network television and our country's major newspapers to write articles and to broadcast pictures  that led eventually to change.  If you ever doubt the need for a free and open press in this country, think about the critical role the press has played in historic events like this, but earlier, for instance, with the internment of  Americans who happened to be Japanese during World War II.

I am proud to say I played a part in this movement, though the risks I took were far less than so many others.  I wanted to do the right thing, which meant speaking up and out, marching, raising money, delivering food and clothing and helping to register voters.   That meant getting spit on, called any number of offensive names, and physically intimidated, not just in the South but also in Iowa.

Along with many of you tomorrow, I'll listen to NPR rebroadcast many of Dr. King's speeches and be transported back to those moments, those days.   It's not long ago that we were listening to some of JFK's speeches from that same time, when we were exhorted to full citizenship.  When I hear Dr. King in particular, I recognize the power of great speech and  powerful songs that bound us in common purpose.  It was not until after President Kennedy had been assassinated that the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.  Four years later, Dr. King himself was assassinated.

Speaking out today is so much easier than it was then, with far less risk.  It's harder for villains to hide and for injustice to go unreported.  The Internet has brought us all into a virtual world where we no longer have to remain marginalized or even silent. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mother Nature reminds us who is in charge

Our son was home from The University at Albany for two weeks in December to celebrate the holidays with us.

 Now he's back in school experiencing this kind of weather.

Albany, N.Y. snow shoveler

And it's bitterly cold, with the wind expected to come up as well.  For him and for others on the East Coast, I thought I would repeat some old advice on how to handle cold weather.

1.  Stay indoors if possible.

2.  If you do go out, expect delays with all forms of transportation -- assuming there is transportation available.

3.  Dress with extra layers if you are outdoors -- here's where a winter hat and gloves, along with your boots come in quite handy.

4.  Double check your emergency kit to be sure it has everything you need if the power goes out. 

5.  Keep all your electronic devices charged.

6. Set alerts to local emergency management officials so you have the most up to date information on conditions and when the weather will change. You'll also be able to find locations of warming centers or emergency shelters if you need them.

7.  Especially if kids are out of school, ensure that you've a supply of board games and books, for children as well as adults.

8.  Finally, "the best way out is always through."  I believe it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that many years ago, probably in the midst of a howling snowstorm, so cheer up.  The end will soon be in sight, and you'll be even more determined to be prepared the next time Mother Nature has her way with you.