Year: 2019

Managing Risk by Screening Out Trouble

My work as a researcher in forestry sometimes highlights ideas relevant to developing plans or managing risk in other industries. For example, it helps to have a simple screening and ranking process. Without a structured approach to ordering the world, the world will impose its views on us. 

The fact is some things are more important than others, some things are easily verifiable, and some things depend on others. We have “nice to have” and “need to have.” There are “necessary” conditions and “sufficient” conditions. Simple processes help us sort the mess and prioritize.

At Forisk, my research team applies simple screens each quarter to the wood bioenergy sector to sift out speculative projects. Typically, our analysis suggests one-third of these projects will fail. We’ve fielded disgruntled calls over the years on this, but back-testing has found that our screening, applied consistently and systematically for over a decade now, has been helpful. 

Our screen poses two answerable and generalizable questions. First, does the project rely on a proven technology? In other words, does this thing work? Second, has this project secured at least two of the necessary resources or agreements such as financing; air quality permits; engineering contracts; or supply agreements? In other words, is this thing moving forward and on schedule?

While we can always ask other questions, this approach has proved useful in systematically distinguishing probable from speculative projects, investments, and technologies. Simple screens don’t tell us everything, but they do tell us something that focuses the mind and reorders follow-up questions.

We all apply screens in our lives. Does he tell the truth? Does this house have three bathrooms? Does this car have a big enough trunk for my flux capacitor? The key is to apply these screens consistently, systematically and then revise based on back-testing performance over time. That’s how we learn and improve.

For those interested in a further discussion of screening risk or the wood bioenergy sector, click here to read a seven-page white paper.

Stories 2018: How Did It Go?

In 2017, I began submitting and tracking my fiction writing in earnest. So, how did it go this past year?

  • In 2018, I submitted versions of 33 stories 76 times to 33 different outlets. This included 12 contests.
  • By December 31, 2018, I received 64 rejections and three acceptances (4.5%).
  • Two of the rejected stories did receive “Honorable Mentions” in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine flash fiction contests.
  • Several rejections came with brief notes from editors. A few of my favorites:
    • “…almost there with this piece…”
    • “…the exposition at the beginning stalled the story before it got started…narrator was over the top simple [and] stupid…”
    • “…the narrator has a rich voice, and the story is well told but constricted…this should be a longer story…”
    • “It wasn’t a bad story…I could see it in an episode of Tales from the Crypt.”

The three acceptances included my first professional (sold) stories, both to Jonathan and Michele at Daily Science Fiction. Thank you!

2018 Stories

Two of the accepted stories were published in 2018. 

On October 24thDaily Science Fiction published “Water Carrier” (591 words; 3 minute read). The idea for this story arrived during an NPR Driveway Moment. I remembered seeing The Gods Must Be Crazy, an indie film about a remote tribe disrupted by the arrival of a single Coke bottle, which proves useful and incites conflict. Then I imagined visiting a peaceful village lacking the ability to carry water.

On October 28th, 365tomorrows published “Day at the Office, Night on the Job” (353 words; 2 minute read). I remember hearing Bubbee, my wonderful grandmother, use the line “but the money was clean” once in a story involving (literally) dirty work. That line stuck with me and led to this story.

Enjoy the stories and thank you for reading!