Tag: risk

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Suppose we were a primitive culture dependent on one giant corn crop, and we all ceased protecting that crop because the loss of life increased due to a new breed of killer crows making the guarding of the essence of life more risky, say to the point of 2% of us dying (those who cannot […]

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Autumn Colors: The Color of Law, an in-depth review


When people are free to associate as they please, we can’t be surprised if they sometimes self-segregate. People self-sort along many affinities, including ethnic affinities. This is what lawyers call de facto segregation, and it’s none of the law’s business. De jure segregation — segregation imposed by law, including segregation promoted by public policy — is, on the other hand, very much the law’s business.

In 1866, Congress passed a Civil Rights Act (the 1866 CRA) asserting the equal rights of blacks before the law, including property rights, and real-estate rights in particular. The 1866 CRA warned

Maybe, Baby


If you knew you only had a 1% chance of surviving tomorrow, would you consider that a death sentence? What about 2%, 5%, 10%… at what point would your odds of survival be good enough you wouldn’t feel doomed? And what if you had to purchase your fairly slim chance at survival by risking the life of another? When would you do it? What balance of risk would just barely escape counting as doom?

What if you were the other whose life was risked on the slim hope of avoiding someone else’s death sentence? When would that hope be worth it, and when would it be a forlorn one? How effective must our efforts to lift another’s doom be in order to merit the price?

Cloudburst — only a paper cloud?


“Tell me, burnt earth: Is there no water? Is there only dust? Is there only the blood of bare-footed footsteps on the thorns?” “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”

Eric Whitacre is a conductor and composer with matinee-idol good looks, personal magnetism, a slick marketing strategy, and arguably common sense, too: he recommends young composers not waste time acquiring training in academic theory beyond what they need to write music that sounds good. Whitacre is beloved in the choral world, but also, sometimes, disdained — for being overrated (he is, although overrated can still be good), for being gimmicky (also true, though his gimmicks often land), and for writing music “suffused with a sense of easy spiritual uplift… Everything [is] maximally radiant and beautiful, and beautifully sung. And that [is] the problem.”

If that’s the problem, it’s a problem many composers would like to have. Or at least it’s a problem many performing musicians wish the composers whose music they have to perform had. Our disdainer continues, “Whitacre is so sincere I suspect he would glow in the dark.”

Quote of the Day: Risks and Results


“You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.” – Chuck Yeager

Today we focus almost exclusively on the risk of any new endeavor, not the results. Yet Chuck Yeager is right – if the potential results justify it, the risks are worth taking. But nothing ever gets done if you consider the risks as more important than the results and concentrate on the risks instead of the results.

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I’ve walked in the fields, and I’ve trod light for daysSeems I’ll do that old rag, takes me all kinds of waysExcept the way I’d be headed if I knew where I was goingBut I’m from the country, and it’s better not knowing.  I do not pretend to know much about life. I have read […]

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My company used to contract with Sungard in Philadelphia for backup data-center services. Every year we would head to Philly laden with data backup tapes for our annual disaster recovery tests. The question arose, however, about Sungard’s capacity in the face of a black swan event in which hundreds of companies needed their facilities at […]

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Quote of the Day – Safety


A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are built for – John Augustus Shedd

Today society puts emphasis on safety, in my opinion undue emphasis. We all have a finite span on Earth, regardless of how safe we are. Ultimately we will be judged by what we accomplish in that span. Risk is part of life. We can use our talents, taking risks or we can bury them in the garden, where they will be safe. All total safely can assure is sterility.

In a world complicated by terrorism, cyber threats and political instability, the private sector has to prepare for the unexpected. Amy Zegart, the Hoover Institution’s Davies Family Senior Fellow and co-author (along with Condoleezza Rice) of Political Risk: How Businesses And Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity, explains lessons learned in keeping cargo planes moving, hotel guests protected – and possibly coffee customers better served.

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“Man is not a rational animal. Man is a rationalizing animal.” Heinlein We like to justify our actions as if our choices are somehow inevitable, a logical output from a predetermined set of inputs. We rationalize without even realizing that we are making a choice – and in many cases we are not aware even […]

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Lifelines and Deadlines


“Are you sure you should go?” my mother asked. Yes, I was. Positive. A family friend had just lost her newborn. How could I not go, unless my presence at the funeral would disturb her too greatly? But I had been assured this was not so: the grieving mother would not be undone by the sight of the visibly pregnant, and would rather have more people, not fewer, with her to remember her own child’s brief life. So I went.

The child had died of SIDS. The coroner said there was nothing that could have prevented it. It was just one of those things. The grieving mother, though, believed the truth might be otherwise. Hers had not been an ideal pregnancy from the start. She had made choices that she now wished she could unmake. No one could wish to add to her grief by agreeing with her, at least not during a time when the grief was so fresh. But her regrets were understandable ones.

Valuing College on a Risk-Reward Basis


college_risk_reward_shutterstock_032315Another study, “US university degrees: High cost, high reward,” shows that completing college is a good financial deal. But this one is a bit different in that it looks at the return of investment on a risk-reward basis. As researchers Jeffrey Brown, Chichun Fang, and Francisco Gomes explain, “College-educated workers are less likely to experience unemployment than workers without a high school diploma, but they also face much higher uncertainty in their career paths and lifetime earnings.”

And remember, this all assumes humans are risk averse. Investors, for instance, would rather have a low-risk portfolio than an high one if investment returns are equal otherwise.

From the study:

Florence Foster Jenkins, Patron Saint of Persistence


There are two opposing strains in American conservatism. The scolding, risk-averse strain likes nothing more than to remind people – especially young people – that no one is a special snowflake. In fact, you’re probably a bigger failure than you think you are. And no, you most likely shouldn’t follow your dreams.

The other strain recognizes the importance of risk taking and admires risk-takers (or at least admires them when they succeed). This is the strain that delights in pointing out that big government crushes big dreams. The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen, the less scope there is for the big dreamers of the world.