Gin and the Cognitive Surplus

Clay Shirky’s recently published book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations still sits barely started on my nightstand. This video clip eloquently presents one of his key themes.


Sailing School


Last week I took three days off and went sailing with my son, Zoey. We sailed out of Chelsea Piers which is a subsidiary location for Off-Shore Sailing School that has its main center locally at Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City. We had another student with us, Alex, a 28-year-old fellow who was on vacation for a month while changing jobs from lawyering to investment banking. It was his first time on a sailboat. Zoey has sailed a bit over the years, with my Dad in bygone days on the Sailstar Conquest in Barnegat Bay and more recently he’s raced with my sister on her Tartan 37. I’ve been sailing since I was a kid and enjoyed being on the water and seeing the new technology–well, new to me anyway–on the Colgate 26 we sailed. Our instructor, Barbara, was a gem. At least she let me tell my sailing stories while making sure I paid enough attention to stay out of the way of the many barges and ferries and oh, by the way, Dennis Conner, skipper of the Stars & Stripes.

We also saw Ellen MacArthur’s trimaran at Liberty Landing as she was prepping for her Atlantic crossing.

I’ve posted the photos.

The course comes with two fine texts, but for me, H.A. Callahan’s classic, Learning to Sail, from the 1930’s (“The Jazz Age” as one Amazon reviewer described it), will always be the best introduction to sailing. Spare, literate prose and the personal sentimentality of now having my Dad’s copy in my nightstand makes it the must have standard text, my sister has the companion, Learning to Race, both now available in paperback.

Finally read a novel

My brother sent me two books for my birthday. It’s six weeks later and I just got around to reading one, Give Us a Kiss by Daniel Woodrell. Too funny and real for a certain time I suppose. Just below the title, almost a sub-title “A Country Noir” appears as if that describes it all. It did take me back to a certain moment I’ll long remember with a certain 19-year-old girl.

Driving home from work one day last week I heard a discussion of “chick lit” and a brief comment about sub-genres. I used to read science fiction and mysteries more than I do now and those genres weren’t well regarded by the establishment in my younger days..

Now every genre has its champions. Good for the writers, but I’ve got to start reading novels again.

Heard Bruce Schneier

imgp0153_cropped2Heard Bruce Schneier speak in the Kohn Lecture last evening at the 92nd Street Y.

Schneier’s five steps to security analysis make sense to me and I enjoyed his examples. The five steps:
1. What assets are you trying to protect?
2. What are the risks to those assets?
3. How well does the secuirty solution mitigate the risks?
4. What other risks does the security solution cause?
5. What costs and trade-offs does the security solution impose?



He was wonderfully clear about the trade-offs in security, but a bit blurry on threat and risk at times despite his efforts to avoid conflating the two. Nonetheless, I was a bit disappointed by the rigor in the discussion. I suppose I’m lamenting the substitution of the political for the technical in the lecture though Schneier was quite clear that he’s not running for office. I’ve not yet had the chance to read the entirety of the book, Beyond Fear, in which from what I’ve already read he’s clearly more technical.

Still, Schneier is not addressing risk as conceptually nor as thoroughly as Peter L. Bernstein does in Against the Gods, The Remarkable Story of Risk which takes a historic, mathematical and conceptual view of risk, ultimately discussing risk in modern financial market terms. While not directly on point to Schneier’s discussion in terms of security, nor operational risk as I conceive of it from my time in the field in EMS, Bernstein’s historical, mathematical and conceptual discussion would enrich strategic planning in the entire emergency management field.