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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fly Away, Little One. Be Free!

It's been a good couple of days:
  • Yesterday, we just got a very good sized check from the IRS (we'd let some things slide when the Unknown Son was sick, and finally got things straightened out a few months ago.
  • about a half-hour ago, I submitted a paper to a journal (not a top-tier one, but a decent one). It's been about 4 years since we started it. So now, it's off my desk.
  • I just got an email that my new 43-inch flat-panel TV is available for pickup from Best Buy.
All in all, a nice way to close out the year. Now I just have to get the TV set up in time to watch the Lesnar/Overeem MMA fight on Friday.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Semester Goes Out Not With a Bang, But With a Whimper

I was just commenting to the Unknown Wife how this semester was ending going so well compared to previous ones - my student managed investment fund presentation was done a day earlier than usual, my principles class was ahead of schedule, and my exams were at the beginning of exam period rather than near the end.

I should have known - never say things like that. Even in jest.

It angers Academia - the patron goddess of all professors (also known as "she who makes professors' work go pear-shaped at the worst possible time")

So, what happens? I was cutting and pasting items from the grades spreadsheet for my principles class (it has four components, all on separate tabs of the worksheet). Somehow, I not only deleted the grades for all three exams, I copied the sheet to a file name that overwrote the backup (I always save the spreadsheet to a new file name after each update). After searching for over an hour, I finally found an email backup copy I'd made that had everything but the final exam grades.

The morals of the story:
  1. Make multiple backups of your grading spreadsheet (and anything else of critical importance) every time you change it.
  2. Never, ever say "things are going well this semester". It angers Academia (and she is a vindictive "rhymes with witch").
On a more pleasant note, a couple of bright spots this week:
  1. looks like I'll have a paper submitted within a couple of days. It won't get looked at by the journal editor for a couple of weeks due to the holiday, but it'll be off my desk. Since (as my coauthor says) "if we don't submit this one soon, we'd better start saving for its college education", that's a good feeling.
  2. A coauthor informed me that she had a revise and resubmit that requires her to do some tests that she could do herself, but would rather outsource. Since I can easily do it with a week's work or so, she asked me to be a coauthor. So, for a bit of work, it looks like I will likely have another hit.
  3. We've been making do at the Unknown Household with a seven-year old TV (an old cathode-ray model). We just got our new TV stand (a very nice corner model) and will shortly be getting a new 46 inch flat panel model. Ah, the Kingdom of Thingdom has a new subject.
In any event, here's wishing a Merry Christmas (or whatever else you choose to celebrate this time of year) to all my readers (all three of them).

It's finally feeling like Christmas in the Unknown Household - we've got Christmas songs playing on the radio, Winnie the Pooh (the Unknown Son's (a.k.a. Knucklehead's) recent fascination) on TV, and I'm in the middle of making up a quadruple batch of pumpkin soup on the stove A double batch will be for our neighborhood party tonight and another is for the big family get-together at our place on Christmas Day. So the place sounds and smells like Christmas.







mythe Goddess made me save my grade spreadsheet to the wrong name

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Congresscritters Aren't Like The Rest Of Us

This last few weeks, we've heard a lot about research conducted by Ziobrowski et. al. (see here and here) on the possibility of informed trading by Senators and Congressmen. Based on abnormal returns earned on their portfolios, it appears that they do use their "inside information" in ways that would be illegal for those not in government service. In case you haven't seen it, here's the 60 Minutes story that brought Ziobrowski's research into the public eye:


Now here's another fun fact - Congresscritters not only get to profit from material nonpublic information, they also get to reveal it to select parties too. It seems like a number of hedge funds regularly meet with members of congress to get fast track access to this information. Here's a video from the Wall Street Journal for your viewing pleasure.




And here I though our elected officials were pure of heart and above approach (sorry - I think I shouldn't have changed my meds without doctor's orders).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stuck In Grading

Ah, all classes are done, and my finals have been taken. Unfortunately, I had a rather large group in my principles class, and they had a long final - 73 students and a final with 25 multiple choice questions(concepts and definitions) and 21 problems. I'm currently on problem 11, so I still have about 730 "student-problems) to grade (about 5-6 hours of work).

Then the grumbling by the students starts. I've already had one email me to complain that "my tests didn't assess the students' learning properly" - within a day of the exam.

But even with all that, this still beats any other job I can imagine.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winding Down The Semester at Unknown University

It's Saturday afternoon, and I'm in my office writing final exams while the rest of the Unknown Family is one state away at a nephew's birthday part.

So that means it must be the end of the semester.

I have one day of classes left and two exams to give - one in my principles class and one for my student-managed investment fund class. and both exams are well on the way to being written. So, I'm in better shape than I have been at the end of the semester than in a while (I'm usually doing the mad scramble for the finish line). I figure another day's work on the exams and a couple of days grading, and I'm done until the next crop comes in.

It's been a good semester. My principles class went better than it's gone in a long time. I always try to give my students their money's worth, and push them significantly harder than in the other sections of the class. In prior semesters, they'd griped about this to the Powers That Be.

This semester seemed different. Part of this was that I have a much better attitude about life than I had previously. Most people who know me would characterize me as enthusiastic (sometimes to a fault) and optimistic. While the Unknown Son was in the final stages of his illness, I was very stressed (ya think?). When I'm stressed, I get more than a bit sarcastic, and that never plays well with students (particularly when you're really pushing them).

This semester, I was unabashedly positive and relaxed in the class. I also spent much more time early on framing their expectations. So, there was very little griping to the folks in the Dean's office. Finally, I made a concerted effort to make sure the focii of the class were working problems (and making THEM work problems) in class until they couldn't take it any more, and forcing them to participate. The students seem to have gotten the message that an easier road in class is often not the the best option.

Unfortunately, we don't do a common final exam for the principles class at Unknown University. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that my students have a better grasp of the material than in some of the other sections, but I'm always leery of making statements like this because of biases in my own perceptions (confirmation bias, hubris, and so on). I'd like to see if hard data shows that they know more, or if I'm just convincing myself. Maybe next time I can convince them to go the common exam road.

My student-managed fund class also did better than I expected. I always fear the worst as they're getting read for their end-of-semester presentation to the Alumni. This semester, we made the presentation it at the offices of a major investment-management company. The students did well, so it should help with placement of our grads at this firm in the future. I brought a couple of juniors who will be in the class next semester along to the presentation, and one of them might have made a connection there (with an Unknown University alum who already works at the firm). So, he might have made a major step towards scoring an internship for this summer.

In any event, I've had enough office time for a Saturday. So it's time to head out for some Christmas shopping and then settle in for the big UFC fight tonight. Since the Unknown Family is out of town, I get to do the bachelor thing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer Promotes Bullying! (sniff, sniff)

People of my generation got used to seeing Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer at least a hal-dozen times each holiday season. It was so ubiquitous that asking someone my age "What do bumbles do" would have about an 80% chance of being answered "Bounce".

It was only a matter of time before the PC crowd got a hold of it. Special ed professor George Giuliani claims that St. Nick's behavior in cartoon is tantamount to bullying, and sends the wrong message to children watching the family favorite. In response, he's written a new book, "No More Bullies at the North Pole," which re-tells the story of the triumphant reindeer (I checked - it's not available at Amazon in case you were thinking of getting it).

"Santa has ten policies that are very unfair, and Mrs. Claus sets out to correct those policies, and what you just saw, where Rudolph is being treated very very badly, and that should never happen," Guiliani said.

Here's an interview of this guy on Fox. It's also notable because they have a response from Brad Stine, one of my favorite comedians. I'd say he does a good job of treating the good professor's idea with all the seriousness it deserves.

In case you're not aware of him, Brad Stine is best knows for his routine "Put a helmet on!" here's a clip


HT: Ace of Spades Headquarters

Ah well - enough wasting of time. Back to work. I have an exam to write, a paper to finish, and a presentation to check (my student-managed investment fund group is making their end-of-semester presentation to the fund's advisory board in two days, and this time we're doing it on-site at the offices of a major investment management firm).

update: The Unknown Daughter thought I was kidding when I told her someone had made up a story about Rudolph being bullied. She's finding out that the world is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. Then she proceeded to make fun of Professor Giuliani. That's my girl.