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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Back In Dayton Again

I'm out at the R.I.S.E. forum in Dayton with a couple of Unknown University students. I've seen about a half dozen of these, so I thought I'd take a few minutes off from the speakers and knock out a quick post.

We have our new (used) car, and settled with the insurance company on the old one (they came up about $300 from their initial offer on our old car, so the arguing paid off. And, for a net cost of $1400 (the amount of the new (used) car we bought less the insurance settlement, we went from a $2000 Camry with 125,000 miles on it (and some minor body damage) to a 2001 Camry with only 85,000 miles (and a body in pretty much pristine shape. So, all in all, it worked out.

Time to go back for a few more speakers and catch up with some old friends. Then it's back to the hotel room to put up a video for my students.

Last semester, I put together a fairly nice video on Modern Portfolio Theory (the math of variance/covariance, portfolio risk and return, efficient frontier, etc...). I'm rounding it out with another one on some historical returns (basically chapter 5 from Bodie, Kane, and Marcus' investments text). This means that I don;t have to lose class time just because I'm away.
(we cancelled class Friday, since I'm out of town).

So even while I'm away, my students don't have to feel deprived (yeah, right).

Back to the speakers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Murphy is Alive and Well (And So Are We)

I was looking forward to our spring break - an entire uninterrupted week to work on research.

Hah! Enter Murphy, stage left.

A week before the break, the Unknown Wife got rear ended less than a mile from our house. As a result, our second car got totalled (mine - a ten year old Camry in fine running order) and she ended up going to the ER to get checked out for whiplash (she's o.k., but it blew almost 7 hours of our night). Luckily, she didn't have the kinds in the car.

Since then, she's been on muscle relaxants and going to physical therapy, and I've been either arguing with the insurance company about how much our car is worth or looking for a new (used) car - we're cheap so we don't buy new cars. Unfortunately, this requires time and search costs (and dealing with used car dealers, which is a whole lot of fun). All in all, I've had a brief early glimpse of a hell Dante never imagined - talking with insurance companies and used car dealers for all eternity.

Net result - a whole week basically down the toilet (which I woke up today to find is clogged, by the way - insert metaphor here).

It seems to be resolving - today we hear from the insurance company one last time, so we should be getting a check. Also, we're finally going to pick up a new used car (a Camry with less than 85,000 miles, which means it's barely broken in).

We still have to settle with the insurance company at some point about UW's injuries, but that comes after treatment is finished. It'll probably mean some $$ for the pain and suffering (not a lot, but some), but it still won't give us back our lost week.

The important thing is that everyone is o.k.

But I'd sure like to have that week back.

On an unrelated joke, this Dilbert cartoon tickled my funny bone. There seem to be many people on the green technologies bandwagon. I also think technology will end up solving our current environmental issues in ways we currently can;t even imagine. However, at present, most current green tech is more vaporware than real.

To me, green tech believers ofttimes come across as being in some strange religious sect (and I know about religious sects - I'm a proud member of one that believes some pretty outrageous things (like the God who made everything knows and cares about me personally, and sent his own son to die for me, etc...). And, like some members of my sect, they can often be pretty obnoxious (re: Jerry Falwell, Jim Baker, or the televangelist of your choice).

Anyway, here's the cartoon. Dogbert has the proper attitude: when someone gets on your nerves, find a way to make money off them.

As Glenn Reynolds says, "heh".
Dilbert.com

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Car Scams

Since I'm reasonably sure that our car will be totaled (not totally, but I'd put 10/1 odds on it being the case, after looking at the car), it looks like I'll be buying a new one. So, I started looking around on the various sites. On CraigsList, they warned about "Ebay scams".

There was a 2009 Nissan Altima with 29,000 miles listed for $2900. Too good to be true, so I figured it was phony. Just in case, I figured I'd send an email. Here's my response (highlighting is mine, to point out the "fishy" parts.

Hello,

This 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5 S, automatic with 26,000 miles, runs and drives excellent(VIN: 1N4AL21E49N522850). This car has been extremely well maintained and it is fully paid. No accident, clear title, free of liens.
I have dropped my price to $2900 since this is an urgent sale and I need to sell it before 22 March, when I will be deployed in Afghanistan replacing the troops scheduled to come home.
(Note: appeal to sympathy - it's the military. Also, the chance to get something at a bargain))

I have decided to use ebay for this sale (the car isn't listed on ebay, only the payment process will be done through them). The car is already at our Military Logistic Department form Fort Bliss, TX, packed for shipping to a new owner. The Logistic Department will deliver the car to your home address in 3 days and the shipping is free for you. Since the car is in a military base, with no access you can't go there and take it, only the Logistic Department can deliver it. I will offer a 10 days period to inspect the car from the moment you receive it, before I will have your money.
(in other words, you can't see the car - just trust me).

If you agree with my price $2900, I need your FULL NAME AND COMPLETE ADDRESS, so I can inform ebay motors that I have a buyer! I will forward your details to them and then you will receive an invoice(with no further obligations or fees). Like this you'll be able to talk with them directly and ask all you want to know.
(eventually, he'll ask me to send it through Western Union, and poof goes my cash).

Hope to hear from you soon,
Sgt. XXX

Here's the info on the scam from eBay motors. I may play this jerk around for a while just on general principles. I know enough military folks that I could probably tie him in knots.

UPDATED 3/18 - so far, I've come across this scam three times in the last week. I haven't bought a car yet, but I have had some fun with the turkeys at the other end. Once said he was in Great Falls, and he ran for the hills when I told him I had a cousing stationed at Malmstrom AFB.

Good times, good times.

Friday, March 11, 2011

More Fun In The Unknown Household

We had a speaker (excellent one, at that)today at the Unknown University. Just as I got out, my cell rang - the Unknown Daughter on the phone tearfully says "Mom got into an accident and she's in the hospital". No other information.

So, I rush home (I live about 2 miles from the university) and try to get some info. UW was heading to the neighboring state (about 2 hours away) for a "retreat" at our old church (actually, a sleepover with a bunch of her old girlfriends). Less than a mile from our house, she stops, since the car in front of her was turning. She promptly gets rear-ended by some moron in a Ford Explorer (she was driving our Camry, so it's likely totalled).

She was able to get out of the car, but just in case (she got whipped around pretty hard), she went to the Emergency Room on a board, and called our house (we had arranged a babysitter so someone could watch the Unknown Baby Boy until I got home from the speaker).

She managed to call us from the ER (at this point it's 4 p.m.

Six hours later, after x-rays and an MRI,she gets checked out. No major problems, but she'll be sore tomorrow once the muscles start spasming (been there, done that, bought the shirt).

However, the MRI showed a possible bulging disk in her neck, but it could it's not clear whether it's from the accident, or just "Chronic". So (since I'm seeing a back specialist in a could of weeks), maybe they're running a "have one back checkup at the regular price, get the second for $99 (after all, it works for suits, so why not?).

Granted, it's a friday night, there are whackos out there, and it's a college town (and it's a friday night).

But. Six. Hours.

Damn.

Time to start looking for another car.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Some Reasources For Teachers

I'm not (by any account) always the best teacher. I do all right - ry (and sometimes even succeed), but I have a few personal characteristics that sometimes work against me. First, I have a certain, shall we say, lack of interpersonal skills and an occasional inability to pick up on cues (insert joke about faculty member with mild Asberger's here). In addition, I have a tendency to become a bit sarcastic under stress, and that never plays well in the classroom.

But, much like the palace eunuch, even if I can't replicate it while it's happening all around me, I know it when I see it.

I saw it today when I came across Joe Ben Hoyle's website. He's an accounting professor at the University of Richmond, and I've mentioned him previously here, where he was profiled in UR's alumni magazine.

It turns out he has a website with some good teaching material. One of the links is to a set of short (1-2 pages each) essays on teaching and another is to his blog. Both are well worth reading. Go over the blog when you have time, but do yourself a favor, and download the essays (they're in one document) now. I almost guarantee you'll get something out of it.