Well, hello there, stranger!

February 6th, 2015 / No Comments » / by Victoria E. Pitt

On the downside:

Wow, is this site dated!  Hello website design 2010!  We’re not “responsive”.  We don’t have interactive video backgrounds… We’re just … dated!  Well, it has been awhile…

On the upside:

This is an actual post from yours truly in the year of 2015.  Can you believe it?!  And yes, this is a sign of things to come.  So many things have changed since last I spoke from a technology perspective as well as personal perspective.  I want to share some of my insights, lessons, and mistakes with you.

More importantly, you’re going to find a theme repeating here.  That theme is “Better living through technology…”  I’m sure you’ve heard this turn of phrase before in a book or in a movie or in passing.  Well let me tell you now, I’m about to own that phase so that the only thing you think about when you hear it is… me.

Just a brief post for now.  Need to get some cycles to update this old site, get a slap of paint on her, and do a little bit of dusting- but change is a-foot and I, for one, am excited about what I’m about to bring to the table.

-V-

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

November 18th, 2013 / No Comments » / by Victoria E. Pitt

Severe Tornado Outbreak Hits Illinois

Disasters are things you can plan for, but not predict. The truth is that a disaster WILL happen, but very rarely do we get to know when and how extensive. A tornado outbreak in late November in the US Midwest? Who would have thought it or predicted it? This is a natural event in the US that we typically worry about during the spring and summer. Still, its mid November and it happened and whole communities have been devastated, if not wiped off the map.

I am not a part of the clean up and recovery efforts currently going on in the Philippines or in the US Midwest- wish that I were. Still, I think this is a good time to mention how much disaster planning and testing really is one of those things that most organizations and people treat as “out of sight, out of mind”.

One of the interesting things that I learned during my tenure of working in New Orleans the year after Katrina was how much attention, and how it became critical to address the issues of health, safety, and communications right after a disaster, but take some time after the occurrence, when the media leaves, only to come back to do a “six months after” story, once the stench and debris of the event are placed somewhere that isn’t immediately seen or accessible, though the suffering might go on, though the ill planning and cracks in the system which caused the mismanagement to occur in the first place continue, things go back to “business as usual”. The funding might be there to improve systems and procedures for first responders (or at least it was after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina- the recent government funding woes may have deeply cut into grants for emergency management projects) but because it isn’t an immediate concern, the day to day running of business/government/systems takes precedence to what to do when all hell breaks loose. Though we were only months away from an event that would end up in the history books as a prime example of what not to do, trying to fix the situation holistically faded more each day- until there was a tropical storm in the gulf that may have caused the Emergency Operations Center in New Orleans to have to “stand up” again- without the promised technology and improved processes that was already funded due to Katrina, but not followed through due to bureaucracy and the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Still, any time the media was making a visit, or there was the threat of a storm repeat, it became topic number one and then the questions were always asked “where are we with the new citywide evacuation system?”

To this day, I am not sure where New Orleans stands- our contract with the city was pulled before we could finish our work there, and we left, leaving the equipment, the technology, and the plans behind. I’d love to know what the city’s new plan ended up looking like. I’d like to think that a good chunk of the pieces that I put in it still exist. That being said, I also know that unless there was a “clear and present” danger, planning for the next disaster was less and less important the further and further away from August 29th, 2005 we were. Since then, there has been regime change in New Orleans and I’d like to think that the process we started there was completed, but we’ll never know until it happens again and this “once in a lifetime storm” happens, once in a lifetime, again. More recently, the Atlantic has been relatively mild these past few years and what storms that have hit are taking aim at the upper East Coast. There will be another “once in a lifetime” storm somewhere else, in our lifetime- several of them actually, just not likely in the same place. Still, disasters come in all forms, not just hurricanes (always remember 9/11), and planning responses for them is something that must be done from federal, municipal and corporate levels.

My point with all of this is though it is great if occurrences such as these make people take a moment to think about their disaster and crisis planning, it is more important to revisit these plans and make changes to them periodically. Technology changes. Best practices change. Taking advantage of new innovations in technology and planning can save not only dollars but lives while adding increased efficiency and getting the business of getting back to “business as usual” that much faster.

The human factor will always matter

August 29th, 2013 / No Comments » / by Victoria E. Pitt

I admit that I have some vices… one of them being watching Airline Disaster shows. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with them, especially as much as I fly for work and pleasure but I admit I can spend a good few hours on YouTube watching them. I always wanted to work for the NTSB- I think I enjoy the mystery aspect of it- along with my love of all things flight related. One of the things I have noticed in the more recent accident the airlines have had is that sometimes the computer or the auto pilot can confuse or even hamper a flight crew’s understanding and control of a situation, presenting data that is both confusing and wrong.

Which is why this article on Quartz stuck out to me. The paragraph that catches my eye below:

Europe’s painful and possibly needless austerity

Excel errors helped to push serious budget cuts that have roiled Europe and devastated social services there. As IEEE.org explains:

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Back in 2009, Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff published a book with the provocative title, “This Time It’s Different.” The professors asserted in their book that, among other things, their empirical research demonstrated that when advanced economies’ public liabilities reach or exceed “the important marker of 90 percent of GDP,” long-term economic growth and stability are placed at peril.
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Governments, and particularly European governments, went on to use Reinhart and Rogoff’s book to justify their embrace of austerity. But a University of Mass review of their book and the research it was based on found “coding errors, selective exclusion of available data, and unconventional weighting of summary statistics,” linked in part to Excel errors.
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As BreakingViews pointed out earlier this year, Microsoft Office, and particularly Excel, might be the “quiet villain of global finance,” given its programs implicated in some of the worst financial problems the world has experienced in recent years, including errors at Moody’s Investors Services that gave complicated debt instruments AAA ratings and the “elegant graphics of Power Point” which have validated some of the “wackiest results from spreadsheets and the kookiest strategies” by chief executives and investment bankers.

That’s rather frightening. But I also think its a good case that even as much as you may automate, its still good to have a few pairs of “human eyes” with training in their craft able to verify and look over how information is presented. It goes back to the adage “measure twice, cut once”. When one is dealing with lives and or things on a global level, best to let a human make the ultimate decision… with help from a machine.

You just can’t take the human element out of daily interactions and expect to be successful in the long term.