Understanding and Assessing Risk

America is a country built on risk. When settlers from England came to Jamestown in 1607 no one knew how it would turn out. In fact only 61 out of 500 colonists survived during the “great starvation” from 1609-1610. The risks were well known as several British colonies were failures and abandoned, yet people still continued to come to the New World in hopes of a better life.


One of the primary goals of being an engineer is that you have to find ways to minimize risk, at the same you’re expected to innovative and solve challenging problems. At times these can be two conflicting goals. Can you be innovative and solve problems without taking major risks? Let’s look at IBM, a company inherently built on risks T.J. Watson, Sr., bet the entire company on building tabulating equipment when their was no market for tabulating equipment. But he saw a future need, and that need came when the Social Security Act of 1935 was passed, and IBM was the only company that had the necessary equipment. T.J. Watson, Jr also saw the future and bet the future of the company on computing and spent five billion dollars on building the revolutionary System/360 mainframe. If IBM stayed in a cautious mode and never branched in new emerging areas  IBM would not be the admired company it is today.

The way individuals approach risk can be divided into three categories risk averse, risk inclined and risk neutral. Risk averse individuals have a tendency to shy away from risk, risk inclined individuals are predisposed to taking risks, and risk neutral individuals lay somewhere between the two former categories.

We should ask ourselves larger questions about risks, how many risks should we take and why? A paper that was presented at the International Conference on System Science, titled, “Understand the Effect of Risk Aversion on Risk”, discusses the perils of being risk illiterate.  The paper makes a few key points, first if people are too risk averse then small incidents that have occurred will be overblown leading to hysteria and inflated importance. This occurs because some individuals don’t have the ability to perceive between small and large incidents. Consider the potential failure modes of a server, if one chip in an 8 core processor fails on a single node this does not take down the server, and it is unlikely to cause interruption and can be repaired. If the server were to lose power and take down the entire mainframe then it would be a major failure event. We must not be too careful by over-planning and over-training for specific events, instead we should be focused on determine what are acceptable level of risks for failure of systems at a variety of levels. Should we spend more time focusing on major events that could lead to system failure or should we spend time worrying about a cosmetic defect?

When I think about my own career I’m risk inclined as a young engineer, I think there’s no reason for me not to try to introduce innovative processes if it’s going to lead to improved quality and more efficient manufacturing. In my opinion settling for mediocrity is worse than failing and this sentiment that defines first-rate engineers, scientists, businessman, and investors.



Happy 2010 from Miami, a stormy 73 degrees F. Things to do in 2010? Work harder, play more, travel more. Minus the time I spent New Years in Taiwan, I tend to keep things low key and just stay home and watch ABC and CNN coverage of celebrations from time square. It is fun to watch all the people gathered to watch the ball drop, and kissing and hugging their significant others.

I have a record player, I was trying to see if I could get a copy of Auld Lang Syne, but I could not so I settled for the Mp3 version.

Time for vacation in less than 24 hrs. I’ll be blogging intermittently as I sail across the Caribbean Sea.


Recently Transportation for America released a list of the worst cities for walking. Not to my surprise the Miami-Fort-Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metro area, ranked 3rd on the list.


When I lived in Chicago I enjoyed taking the Red-line and the Yellow-line, the system is by no means perfect, but it is better than nothing.

One thing I noticed for the GRE, it is expect that you score a perfect score on the math section, as an engineer, bummer. Other than that things are ok, it would be nice if I could tidy up my apartment. I have one exam this week, 442 hw, and my lab report due. I have one DI story to get out the door. Lately, I’ve been happy with the good weather. I wish I had the national geographic channel (Yes L I do), I was watching some clips last night about black holes. If I only understood string theory….

The List

Last night I had a long-winded conversation, with a close friend of mine.

We came to a few conclusions.

1)People spend so much time, scrutinizing other people’s looks and style. I instead spend time scrutinizing people’s ideas, world-view, and thoughts. The things that count.

2)Friends are sorta….dispensable.No one can tell me that they haven’t lost a close relationship with someone. Sure, I’ve done things that have destroyed my relationship with a few people. We all have friends for various reasons. Some people we have common interests with, and common world views. Sometime people just use you.

3)If you were a manager would you liked to be fear or liked. Well if you are feared, people sometime will do everything to satisfied you because they are worried. People are sorta programmed to believe everything is cut-throat. But people sorta miss the fact that behind the scenes, people really have the best interest of others in mind.

4)I use to think more people held the same values, I did, that’s not true.

5)Why don’t people adapt to change easily or learn easily?Because we are all stubborn, it takes getting hurt, and falling in the mud to learn a lesson. However for some people it takes multiple falls.

6)Every decision I make is not the best one, no one can possibly tell me that every decision they made was the best one. But you learn from outcomes. Yes?

7)Deferred gratification is not such a bad thing. See the outcome of the Marshmallow experiment at Stanford University.

8)At times we are all self-absorbed, and forget to thank people who’ve helped us out, or given us a break.

9)Time waits for no one.

10)Do what’s right.Give other people a break.


The fact that we pay so much for health care as Americans, astonishes me. Recently the Obama Administration cut a deal with the hospital and pharmaceutical lobbies to cut the prices they charge. The hospital lobby, has agreed to cut the rates they charge by a combined amount of $150 billion over 10 years. Just this fact tells you how over-priced our health care system is. My mother wanted me to become a doctor, I’m not sure why I didn’t.

On the Town

Last weekend I got a chance to explore downtown Chicago. Being a big fan of sophisticated and cosmopolitan cities, Chicago does not disappoint me. I was fortunate to be downtown during one of the many celebrations recognizing the Burnham plan centennial, at Millennium Park. The Burnham plan is also know as the plan of Chicago, essentially the starting point for the metropolis it now is.

As I was listening to the Grant Park Orchestra, I gazed around, while sitting on the stairs at the open-air pavilion at Millennium Park. I looked up at some of the buildings. I turned around and looked at the crowd. It was a remarkable scene. Because of the efforts of people, who cared about enriching society and making Chicago a better place for people to live. We ended up with a M. Park. What was just a former railroad yard. A large percentage of M. Park was funded by private donors. I’m glad to know there are people out there who can look beyond their own self-interests, and think about how they can better society. I spoke with a colleague about this recently, and we came to the conclusion that most people aren’t able to look beyond their own self-interests, which is quite a pity. There’s much more to life than just becoming rich. Your actions define you.

On the Web: http://picasaweb.google.com/alvin.adderly/ChicagoMohamedVisit

Why we go to the movies?

Simply put because of escapism.

I recently watched Quantum of Solace, yea I know it has been a while since it came out. But life gets busy and movies don’t exactly take precedent. Movies, and TV however influence a variety of things, such as our hopes and dreams. In some cases they explore problems in society such as racism, poverty, and greed. The point is, movies and TV get you thinking sometime. You ask yourself, Oh what if my life was like that?

Some people might disagree with me, and tell me oh TV is a waste of time. Well, from time to time I need to waste time, I still won’t turn to MTV willingly. Tying in Roger Ebert’s review on the new Star Trek film. I love Star Trek. I always loved the original series, I enjoyed the next generation, I never liked Deep Space Nine. And the reason is, simply I didn’t like the non-Utopian universe they presented. Which is unusual for me, since I don’t really believe it is possible to have a perfect society, but in time we can get pretty close.

Anyway Ebert only gave the film 2.5/4 because he felt that historically Star Trek dealt with questions of science, ideals and philosophy. But now we are too caught up in wanting to watch movies as he describes “reduced to loud and colorful action.” And I agree, no one wants to engage themselves anymore. Kudos to LOST.

I’ll keep it pretty general tonight. The weather hasn’t been too cold lately. Although tonight it feels a bit chilly. I discovered Jenny’s house is not far from here, although I managed to run over something in her yard…Life goes on in Chicagoland, school does too. Lets see how many states I can visit this summer. Lets see how much I can do. As for comments, nah I have nothing negative to say I’ve gone down that route enough.


I was watching youtube today. I wonder much time is lost watching youtube.But I came across these videos.



I encourage you to read the DI’s 4 part series on learning disabilities. I think it is well written and well researched. I did not write it. I will not get to write my own four part series until next semester. I am not happy that my active directory password was comprised.

If you have read the BBC news lately you would probably know that, they have their own train is moving across India with a broadcast station covering the election. I think it is pretty cool.

In other news, I think some people still miss the point. I guess that is what separates the people that are creative from the people that are trying just to get by. Consequently it is what separates the person that becomes the manager of the company, and the person that remains a employee. I am still a bit disappointed that I think a few people I know would have been able to do some pretty interesting things with their careers, had they not limited themselves arbitrarily. People are really not as open-minded as you think, that might be a property of the mid-west. We all like to cling to things, but change is ok. I remember Bill Clinton talking about people wanting to switch sides and become Democrats, they know they want to change, but their just scared to.

I think taking risks, and failing is more important instead of taking the easy route. Failure teaches you some really good lessons. In the future I may elaborate on why failure taught me some great lessons. I guess I am still pretty naive that I believe most people should look at the world the way I try to.

Assorted Cookies

At the moment I am eating some cookies from a box titled: Assorted Cookies. The price was not too bad $1.79, and the cookies taste good. Well, I finally have a little down time, basically now until 10 am. I was forced to clean my room, my mess was getting larger. The weather has been great lately.

I can’t believe I’m a junior in college, time does move remarkably fast. It is amazing how many people come and go through the years. I decided that life is too short to worry about small things. I guess you try your best, and hope for the best. I was watching some episodes of top gear today and they were driving around a Ferrari through Switzerland, and Italy. I kept thinking about how bad I really want a fast fast car.