Posts

Showing posts from April, 2015

Saving Nine - Risk Management Part 2

Image
So, if you went through the exercise in Part 1, you have a mad, bad, and dangerous to know list of terrible things, in rough order of importance. Now you have to figure out what to do about them.



The Mitigation Mindset
There's a certain mindset you need to get into to plan risk mitigation effectively. When faced with scary possibilities, most people retreat into one of several unhelpful mindsets:
Avoidance: "this will never actually happen to me." Hopefully you've gotten past this just through the process of listing and prioritizing your risks. If at this point, you find yourself thinking it can't happen, you need to remind yourself that you listed this risk for a reason.Pessimism -- "there's nothing I can do about this." There are risks you can't really do much about, but a lot of things you can do. Worried about an earthquake? Well, you're not going to stop one, but you can prepare for disruptions to basic services (or move or get a ham radi…

You are the traffic...

Image
So, this topic has been on my radar to write for some time. However Gordon's excellent recent post gave me a kick in the ass. I highly recommend that everyone go read it right now. His post is all about how our system is broken. My post is about how we misrepresent groups of people in this country in a way that blinds us and the impact of the broken system on our every day lives.


I want to start with a huge cognitive problem that I see with analysis of data and trends. I'm sure this already has some nifty psychological term, but I can't find a reference to it. I'm going to call it cohort blindness. Basically, we are very good at labeling groups of people, but not very good at acknowledging that the composition of those groups change over time.

For example, there's a long-standing idea that people become more conservative as they age. According to the Roper center, Obama received a higher proportion of younger voters than older voters in both his elections. Long ter…

A Stitch in Time -- Risk Management Part 1

Image
In the corporate world, there are projects and there's ops. A project, as you'll recall from my intro, is "a temporary activity designed to product a unique product, service, or result." It's specifically distinct from the routine processes that go into the day to day running of things -- operations.

Practical Magic Project Management is concerned with specific magical workings with a deadline and a goal. However, you have to run your life too, and it's smart to run it in a magical way. It's the difference between doing magic and living as a magician.


The Black Swan theory is really an operational concern. If something unpredictable and major comes your way it's going to impact your whole life, not just whatever magic you are in the midst of. This becomes a question of sustainability. Is your life set up to weather and even benefit from the bumps, shocks, and Black Swans that will inevitably get thrown at it? And if not, what can you do in advance to …

Plans for this Blog

So, it's been a calendar month since I started this blog. I can see from the stats that people are reading, though of course you always have more readers than comments. It makes me glad that there is some interest in this bizarre collection of ideas of mine. If you want to support this blog, please let others know about it.

I'm currently working on an extremely long post on risk mitigation. It will probably be broken into parts and won't be ready until Monday. So in the mean time I thought I'd do this mini status and recap post -- in true agile spirit.

So far, the most popular post on this site by a large margin has been the Divination post. If the Black Swandivination posts prove as popular, I may shift more in that direction. In the mean time though, I'm working on posts that apply to Practical Magic Project Management. In fact, this summer, I'm planning to launch a whole series of PMPM posts meant to guide someone on a year long major magical working. See, t…

Black Swan Divination Part 2

Image
Part 1 is here. This won't make much sense unless you read that one.

So, you've done your Black Swan divination and you now know something major is coming. You've got some idea of where to look for more information and you have a outcome based on the current path you're on. But what do you do if the outcome is bad?

First, to repeat my caveat from last time. I have done these readings for myself, but they haven't been stress tested. I haven't gotten and mitigated a Tower card or predicted any wide-scale event at this point. I'd like to have more opportunities to road test this, so I'm extending a limited time offer. If you're interested in having me do a free Black Swan divination (all three parts) for you, email me.

First of all, let's review the three possible outcomes to the reading:

Negative Black Swan and positive Result -- something bad is coming but you will manage to weather it. You want to build on the positive results to strengthen your…

Agile Magic -- Tinker, Course Correct, Pivot

Image
So, after that last PMPM post, which was pretty heavy, I thought it was time to change gears a bit. In The Black Swan, our hero Taleb talks about the value of constant tinkering, failing fast, and shifting gears quickly. Our world moves very quickly, things change rapidly, and the best way to figure out what works is to fling a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.


Turns out that software development already figured this out and created a methodology to support it. It's called Agile Development and it's based on constant iterating, frequent feedback, and incremental change. It even has it's own manifesto that starts:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.* Through this work we have come to value: Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools Working software over Comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation Responding to change over Following a plan * This line always reminds me…

The Turkey and the Farmer -- Black Swan Divination

Image
4/8/15 Edited to fix the embedded video.

Taleb uses the following example to describe a Black Swan's unpredictability. I understand that it originally came from Bertrand Russell’s Problems of Philosophy

There's a turkey living on the farm. He's fat and happy. Life is good. Every day the farmer feeds him and he has to do nothing but grow large and fat and idle about on the farm. In his experience, this is the entirety of existence and will go on forever. But when Thanksgiving comes, the turkey will experience a Black Swan of terminal impact. The unpredictable -- the unthinkable -- will happen.

The farmer, on the other hand, has no such illusions. He knows what happens when autumn comes. It's no Black Swan for him as he feeds the bird and it's no Black Swan when he swings the ax. This is a nice overview if you want more detail.


Early 2006. A family is living in a large house in a small city. They have a young child and are considering moving. The house is too big, th…

Why Recycling is Bullshit -- and Why I Do it Anyway

Image
It might come as a surprise that I watch network news in the morning. After all, network news is a empty shit heap of mindless info- and edu-tainment, bathed in corporate spin, a fawning paean to all that's conformist in the world... which is actually what makes it so much fun to watch.

Every morning the spouse and I grab coffee and loll around in bed watching CBS this Morning -- not because it's better (it might be a hair less fluffy, but the bar's pretty low here), but because it has such fun personal dynamics. It's like watching two shows: the blind smiling coverage on the surface and a seething underbelly of micro-expressions and aggression. My only limit is that I will not watch presidential election coverage, which means that I'll be consuming less and less media of any kind in self defense over the coming 20 months. I just can't stomach it.

The other reason we watch the show is to play a game called: "what's not in the news." Because it'…