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Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Uggy Duckling And Kids Talking Smack

A while back the Unknown Wife came back from volunteering in our Daughter's kindergarten class. They were working on their letter sounds, and they try to come up with animals that represent various sounds. the sound of the day was "U", so they had the "Uggy" Duckling.

The teacher said that the story was based on the Ugly Duckling, but that "she didn't like the idea of calling someone 'Ugly' " (after all, we should NEVER call something ugly), so she changed it to "Uggy".

U.W. knew I'd get a kick out of it -- she smiled and said "That's why it's probably better that you don't volunteer, dear."

But living with me for the last 16 years or so has had an effect. When we first got married, she wouldn't have even noticed the PC-ness of the idea. Now she makes fun of it. We try not to make too big a deal of PC nonsense with our kids, but Unknown Daughter caught it right away. She said, "Doesn't Miss Cindy know it's supposed to be the UGLY Duckling?".

And on another note, the Unknown Son seems to have learned the fine art of talking smack (or at least how to respond to it). I've told my kids that the best way to get under someone's skin when they rag on you is to smile, laugh at them a bit, and keep their cool. One of his friends called him an idiot at the bus stop this morning (Unknown Wife was in earshot). U.S. just laughed at him and said, "Man, you must have hit your head and rattled your brains if you think I'm and idiot. Or Maybe you need more sleep." Hey - it's not Bugs Bunny Level, but he's got the attitude, and for a second grader, that's what's important. We can work on specifics for his smack talking later.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Few Memorial Day Links

There's nothing like a holiday. The Unknown Family took in a great Memorial Day parade this morning (classic small-town Americana, complete with VFW, marching bands and firetrucks), and Unknown Son and Unknown Daughter are follwing that up with a play date at one of U.D.'s classmates. This means that Unknown Wife and I get to have a few hours off - time for a quiet lunch.

But before I go, here are a few Memorial Day links:
  • Chris Day has postd a Memorial Day cartoon at Day By Day. If you're not checking in at his site every day, you're missing a lot of funny stuff.
  • I posted this last Memorial Day, but it bears repeating - here's an audio file (and the text) of Ronald Reagan's "The Boys of Pointe du Hoc" speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day (compliments of American Rhetoric).
  • Regardless what you think of the war in Iraq, if you're looking for a good way to support the troops, check out Valour IT. The providevoice-controlled software and laptop computers to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand and arm injuries or amputations. With these voice operated laptops, they can send and receive messages from friends and loved ones, surf the 'Net, and communicate with buddies still in the field without having to press a key or move a mouse.
Have a great Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's Almost Like Being Single (redux)

Like I mentioned earlier, I just got another rejection. But now there's potential good news -- the recent conference I went to had a special issue. And the article is being considered for it. So, it looks like the rejection wasn't the end of the story.

It still might end up being rejected, but you never know.

And to complete the analogy to my single days, when my wife went out with me the first time, she was dating another guy at the time. After our 2nd date, she told me that she preferred him to me (at least she didn't say "Go away or I will taunt you again" in a French Accent).

To make a long story short, four months later, they broke up and we started dating again. We coming up on our 17th anniversary in about 3 months.

So, it ain't over till it's over.

Confessions of A Scam Artist

Here's a pretty interesting interview of convicted investment con man Eric Stein. It makes for a pretty good story, and also contains a lot of helpful tips on how to avoid being taken advantage of by these crooks.

HT: Michael Covel

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's Almost Like Being Single Again

I just got another article rejected from a journal editor. That makes two in the last month. I haven't had this much rejection in a short time since I was single (and let's NOT go there...)

This last semester I've been pretty productive in terms of finishing research and submitting it to academic journals. Unfortunately, more submissions means more rejections. I realize that it'll eventually mean more acceptances too, and that it's all part of the game. But it still stinks.

Time to patch the piece up and send it off to another journal. But that's for tomorrow. For tonightI guess I'll have to console myself with a Strongbow's and the season finale of Heroes.

update: Strongbow's good. Heroes better.

A Day With The Unknown Kids

Unknown Wife had her birthday yesterday (and no, I won't tell which one - I'm not stupid). So, her sister came down Friday, stayed overnight, spent the day helping Unknown Wife do some decorating and organizing on Saturday (she's a whiz at both), and then whisked her away to a bed and breakfast in a nearby town for the night, followed by a day of sightseeing.

My job was to take the kids off her hands while she played with her sister and to buy the usual birthday tribute/swag. I gave the kids the challenge of figuring out something for each sense, and here's what they came up with:
  • Flowers (sight)
  • Perfume (smell)
  • A card (hearing - they read it)
  • Chocolate (nuff said)
  • A hug (touch).
All in all, not bad.

As for me, when it's my turn I'm hoping for a new flat panel monitor and some slack...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

More Resources For Those Considering a Ph.D. in Business or Economics

A lot of visitors find this site when they're searching for information on Ph.D. programs in business (there doesn't seem to be all that much easily findable and usable information out here on the topic). So, I try to post resources on the topic whenever I find them.

While web-surfing the other day, I came across another one - Testmagic.com. While their bread and butter seems to be test preparation for standardized tests like the SAT, GMAT, and GRE, they also have a couple of forums that might be of interest if you're considering a Ph.D. in business or econ.

Here's a link to the forum for those considering a Ph.D in Business and here's one for those looking at a Ph.D. in Economics.

A lot of the posters on the Business forum have GMAT scores north of 740 or so, so the discussions seem to be geared towards candidates trying for admission to "top-tier" programs. But even if your aspirations are more modest, there's still a lot of information that's useful.

update: Welcome to all the folks who stopped over from TestMagic - I'm glad you stopped by, and I hope you find it useful. You can find the Financial Rounds FAQ here, and a couple pieces I've written about the teaching and research sides of a finance professor's life here and here.

Saturday Link Dump

Now that the summer's in full swing, it's time to empty out the old Bloglines account and do a link dump. I've been letting things build up, so this is a good opportunity to clean it out while SAS chews through the overly-large data set I'm torturing. So, without further ado, here are some links for your avoidance-behavior use:
Investing and Markets
CXO Advisory Group has posted some interesting pieces lately. In one, they report on a study by David Blitz and Pim van Vliet titled The Volatility Effect: Lower Risk without Lower Return. The study finds evidence that investors overpay for the most volatile stocks (i.e. they underperform on a risk-adjusted basis).

In another piece, they highlight work by Alex Edmans titled "Does the Stock Market Fully Value Intangibles? Employee Satisfaction and Equity Prices". Edmans finds that companies on Fortune magazine's annual list of the "100 Best Companies to Work for in America" outperform the market.

And finally, they discuss work by Ben Marshall, Rochester Cahan and Jared Cahan titled Does Intraday Technical Analysis in the U.S. Equity Market Have Value?. Their answer seems to be a pretty resounding "no" - they use some pretty rigorous statistically analysis (bootstrapping tests) to examine some 7,846 trading rules from five rule families (Filter, Moving Average, Support and Resistance, Channel Breakouts, and On-Balance Volume). They find that (after adjusting for what's called "data snooping bias") that none of the rules are profitable.

Hal Varian discusses how "A company's stock often does better than the investor who buys the stock".

Dealbreaker
discusses issues surrounding insider trading in the credit default swap market.

Private Equity
Bargeron, Schlingemann, Stulz, and Zutter (a group of college professors, not a law firm) recently conducted a study on the differences in gains to target shareholders for takeovers by private vs. publicly owned firms. They find that private acquirers leave less on the table (i.e. the targets get a lower announcement return when the acquirer is a private company). The answer seems to be that private firms' ownership structures lead to better decisions.

Academia
Craig Newmark links to a great paper on student evaluations
. It's specifically geared towards law school, but it's pretty generalizable, and has a lot of citations to prior work on factors that seem to drive evaluations.

Humor

How not to defend your dissertation (HT: Greg Mankiw)

We hold this to be self evident - the Trunk Monkey is hilarious.

Mixed bag
Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith talks about Asperger's Syndrome (HT: Craig Newmark).

Friday, May 18, 2007

Too Many Email Accounts

This cartoon from Ph.D. Comics hit a bit too close to home - I have two hotmail accounts (my blog one and my real one), a school email account, and a gmail account (and the Unknown Wife has a Yahoo account and a school one).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Good News On The Cancer Front

Well, Unknown Son had his quarterly checkup, and it was good news. As I mentioned in the last blog post, he has one spot that continues to show up on his scans. But, since it's the same as lthe last few times, his oncologist is even more convinced that it's not active Neuroblastoma cells, but merely a ganglioneuroma, which is basically the "ghost" of active cells. So, we continue on as before and come back in a while for another checkup. the good news its that we now go to an every 6 months schedule (up from every three months). so, we don't have to go back to CHOP until November.

The kids (and their folks) had a great time in Philly. We went to the "hands-on Franklin Institute on Tuesday after Unknown Son's injection (they injected the radioactive dye on Tuesday and took the scans on Wednesday). The Franklin Institute is always good for kids (of all ages, like 42 and 48). This time around they had a "human body" exhibit. U.S. got the biggest kick out of the 2 1/2 story high human heart (he ran up and down through all the chambers about a dozen times), while Unknown Daughter got the biggest charge out of the exercise bikes that were accompanied by a Bug Bunny-esque opera.

So, it's back to regular life. Since the semester is done, there are no students around, and I get to catch up on all the things that slipped through the cracks. For today, I'm mostly doing some setup work on a large options data set that I've been working with lately. The entire data set has over 300 million observations which is way too big to work with in its entirely. So today I'm mostly figuring out which data items (and observations ) I need to cut into a smaller data set so that it'll be more manageable.

As my friends say, it's time to put on my Alpha Nerd hat.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Another Neuroblastoma Checkup For the Unknown Son

As many of you regular readers know, the Unknown Son is a cancer survivor - he was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma on his 4th birthday, and went into remission about 2 years ago or so (he's now 8 3/4 years old). The nature of his particular cancer is such that we *think* he's in remission, but there's always the possibility that he's not. This is because he still has one spot on his leg that shows up very, very faintly on the scans (almost a "ghost" of a spot, actually). Most likely it's what's called a ganglioneuroma, which is a non-malignant, (non-harmful) cell mass that the neuroblastoma tumor often changes into on its way out. But it could also possibly be an active neuroblastoma site. Either way, it has no effect on his life as it now is.

Unfortunately, the only definitive way to tell what the spot is is to cut a piece of the bugger out and look at it under a scope. Since it's extremely small, this isn't feasible (biopsies aren't as simple and easy as they seem on ER). So, we go back for checkups at Children's of Philadelphia (probably the best place for Neuroblastoma research and treatment in the world) every three months or so. If the spot gets bigger, it's probably active Neuroblastoma and we go into full blown treatment mode. If not, it's a ganglioneuroma, and life goes on.

Well, it's that time once again. So, we schlep the family down to Philadelphia, stay at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House (kind of like kid heaven), go to CHOP for tests, and do the usual stuff. After Unknown Son's injection today (they give the radioactive market 24 hours before the scan), we're going to the Science Museum, and then I'll sneak away to the Penn Bookstore for a couple of hours(yes, I'm a nerd - but you knew that).

And then tomorrow U.S. gets his scan, we talk with his oncologist (who is one of the top two or three Neuroblastoma specialists in the world), and then head home.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Summer is Nigh

Although I still have a couple of hours of grading of projects to do (one class has a deadline of tomorrow for their equity analyses), it feels like my summer is beginning.
  • I put in about 6 hours yesterday working on the "big-dataset" options project. Unfortunately, many of my files were corrupted, so I had to reestablish them. This is mostly low-level scut work - copying files over from multiple sources, doing some aggregating, indexing the data sets, and so on. As one of my friends puts is, it's all foreplay before the "real" data work starts (but I've been told foreplay is important).
  • I got my bike back from the shop Monday, and have been out riding the last two days. Just damn - my legs and cardiovascular system are out of shape. I put in about 7-8 miles each day, and there weren't any major hills. Even so, I'm sore. Pain is nature's way of telling you you're fat, lazy, and out of shape. I figure it'll take about 2-3 weeks of almost daily riding to get my legs back, and twice that to get my lungs back.
  • I've actually gone most of the way through my syllabi for the fall already. Since there were a couple of days last week that I didn't feel like doing any hard core work, I went over my notes for this semester (I teach the same classes next time) and made a few changes and a lot more notes. For once, I made the notes and changes while the semester was fresh in my mind.
  • Finally, in honor of the end of the semester, Unknown Wife and I are taking in a matinee showing of Spider Man 3. Not too exciting a date, I know, but it's cheaper, we don't need a babysitter, and there are fewer kids around.
Finally, Unknown Son has really taken to his new bike. He's still on the training wheels, but he rides it after school, after dinner, and even before school. I told him once he gets comfortable with it the three of us (me, Unknown Son, and Unknown Daughter) can go on a stretch of the bike path (Unknown Wife doesn't have a bike, so she drives the pickup vehicle). There's a half-mile stretch and a 2 mile stretch. They can handle the half-mile, but we'll do the 2 mile one in about a month.

Enough Blogging -- Back to research!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Yes, I'm Still Alive

It's been a while since the last time I posted anything to the Blog. Don't worry - I'm still alive and kicking. I've just been a bit snowed under with end-of-semester madness. Just to give you a sense, here are a few things that have happened since the last post:
  • A big chunk of the last couple of weeks went into getting our presentation together for the end-of semester presentation in the Student Managed Investment Fund. Every semester, they present their results to the Advisory Board. They had a lot to talk about this time around, since the fund has gone through a lot of changes since last semester. Over the last few years, the fund had drifted towards a "stock picker" style without firm standards for investment (one of the students had a good description for it - "momentum chasing"). This semester, we made a concerted effort to bring the fund's practices in line with traditional top-down fundamental analysis. So, they had a lot to talk about. They absolutely nailed the presentation - the Board said it was the best job they'd seen in many semesters' time. They made me proud - it's always fund to see your students shine in front of outsiders.
  • My exams have been administered, but I still need to grade them. I have about an afternoon of work left on the stack of exams, and then another 5 hours or so to grade a couple dozen stock analysis reports (either for my investments class or for my student managed investment fund class - I assign them in both classes).
  • I went to the Eastern Finance Association Meeting in New Orleans. Although it comes at an inconvenient time, it was still worth it. This is probably my 9th or 10th EFA since 1992, so I'm at the point where I know many, if not most, of the regulars (being a flaming extrovert certainly helps). In addition to eating a lot of good food (it was NOLA, after all), I saw a couple of good papers, presented one of my own, discussed another, and spent a couple of hours working with colleagues on a paper we started the year before. On that note...
  • For the previously mentioned paper, I've recently been diving into a new data set with gigabytes and gigabytes of data (gee, I had a Carl Sagan moment there...). It's by far the larges data set I've ever worked with, and the data has a lot of quirks that I'll have to deal with before I can start with the hard-core torturing. But luckily, I like wrestling with messy data issues.
  • On the home front, I just shelled out about a grand to get my lawn fixed - our house was brand new when we bought it last summer, and the lawn never really took hold (we moved in late July). So this spring I faced up to my limitations and decided to pay someone else to do it, at least to get it started.
  • I also received rejections from two different journals in the last week. Getting rejections is nothing new, but it still stinks. After patching up the papers a bit from the bite marks left by the reviewers and editors we'll try to send out pretty quickly to other journals. Hopefully I'll have a productive summer so I can send out a couple more pieces for further rejections.
And finally, all is pretty good in the Unknown Household (except for the lawn, which is the embarrassment of the neighborhood). Unknown Son missed a couple of important years of learning how to be a lunatic boy due to his bout with cancer, so he's just getting around to learning how to ride a bike. Today he just got his first one.

Let the Kodak Moments begin.