Sunday, March 30, 2008

The R.I.S.E. Forum

I'm back safe and sound (even if a bit sleep deprived) from the R.I.S.E. Forum in Dayton. It was a great experience for my students (and pretty good for me too).

The first night of the conference, we'd just checked in my student s and I were talking in the hallway. One of the conference big shots (he's a regular talking head on MSNBC on stock market matters walked by, and we struck up a conversation. He said he was meeting at a local tavern with some students that had been out to his company , and invited my students along. So, they ended up having a beer or two with him, and talked stocks for about two hours. The next day, they got to hear Chris Gardener (the book The Pursuit of Happiness was based on his story), and even got their a picture taken with him.

The next two days, we all saw a number of excellent sessions, made a lot of good friends and contacts, and even got some ideas for our Student Managed Fund.

I'd recommend the conference for anyone who's considering it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Off To Dayton

Blogging will be light for the next couple of days - I'm at the R.I.S.E. Forum in Dayton Ohio. I may post a thing or two, but only if the speakers get too boring (and they've been excellent so far).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I'm In Mourning

My UCONN Huskies are out of the tournament, and they lost ugly. Ah well - at least Duke has gone down too. Surprisingly (at least according to Angus), this'll make Mungo happy.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Atlanta Tornado

I'd spent a fair bit of time in Atlanta a few years back, and still have quite a few good friends there. So, I was pretty concerned when a tornado hit downtown Atlanta last weekend. Luckily, no one I know was hurt since most of my friends live well north of the city.

But one of them sent this extremely cool photo of the city taken that night - it looks almost apocalyptic.

Yet another reminder that you do NOT want to mess with Mother Nature.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Some Time Wasting Resources

In case you're looking for a few new ways to kill some time (right - like we need more of those):

Fancast has entire episodes of many tv shows available online - free. And yes, they have Firefly and Buffy.

Crooksandliars has compiled a list of the 100 best standup comedians of all time - with links to Youtube clips for many of them.
Now you can blame me for your lack of productivity.

I spent most of yesterday editing a paper with my two colleagues. I like working this way - all three in a room (or in a conference call), arguing over each line, suggesting alternate phrasings, etc....

It's noisy and contentious, and takes time, a good self image, and an even better sense of humor (or we'd end up killing each other). But generally, if you can get three people to agree on something (or at least to not be vehemently against something), chances are, it won't suck.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Financial Rounds? Genius!

The Blog Readability Test supposedly determines what level of education is necessary to understand a blog. Here's Financial Rounds' result:

Nuff said. My sense is that it just picks up that I occasionally use big words.

In case you're interested, I found the site from Trainee Trader, which lists the results from a number of popular finance blogs.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rankings of Finance Doctoral Programs

Because I'm one of the few bloggers who regularly write about the life of a finance professor, I get about a dozen questions a month from people considering a PhD in finance (Note: if you're interested, you can read about a finance professor's typical day here and here, and about what's involved in getting a PhD in finance here).

The emails are one of the more surprising and most enjoyable things about writing the blog, and at least a couple of the folks who've sent me questions are currently in PhD programs. I look forward to seeing how their careers progress, knowing I may have played some small part it them.

Some of the most frequent questions I get are along the lines of "How do I find out how well respected University X's finance doctoral program is?" or alternately, "Where can a get a list of rankings of finance doctoral programs?"

I should have done this some time ago, but I'm a bit slow at times. But, since Unknown Daughter and She Who Must Be Obeyed are out to a classmate's birthday party, and Unknown Son is entranced by a Harry Potter movie, this seems like a good time to spent a little time on the Almighty Google. Here are the results:
  • Karolyis and Silvestrini have a piece on SSRN titled "Comparing the Research Productivity of Finance PhD Program Graduates" here
  • Jean Heck has a similar piece titled "Establishing a Pecking Order for Finance Academics: Ranking of U.S. Finance Doctoral Programs here. Both it and the Karolyi/Silvestrini piece analyze productivity on the basis of the author's doctoral-granting program, but this one lists a few more doctoral programs than the other piece. So, it might yield some possibilities for those looking for less selective programs.
  • Finally, Arizona State has a ranking of finance departments (which may or may not have doctoral programs) here, while EconPhD has a similar one covering several finance areas here.
Updated 3/18: A regular reader of the blog (thanks, Jeff) submitted a couple other rankings
  • Chan, Lung and Wolfe have a ranking of finance departments based on "citations" (in case you're not familiar with the term, a citation occurs when one author references another in his work). So, citation counts are often used as a measure of the impact a person's work has in the larger academic community.
  • The University of Texas-Dallas has a ranking of business schools (not finance departments) based on publications in a pretty wide number of journals across all business disciplines.
Hopefully, these will prove useful. If any of you are aware of any other rankings that are relatively recent (i.e. done in the last 4-5 years or so), let me know and I'll update the list.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring Break, and The Living Is Good

Spring Break has officially begun at Unknown University. Since I'm on a Tuesday/Thursday schedule this semester, that means blessed relief from classes for another 10 days.

Other than a bit of extra time catching up with the Unknown Family (it's off to Horton Hears a Who in a few minutes), that means I get to focus on my research and catch up on studying for CFA Level2. I've got a rewrite of a first draft that need attention, a revise and resubmit to work on, and another rejection that needs to be tweaked and sent back out.

As for the CFA, I'm pretty much on track, but there's still a lot to go (and only 12 weeks until the exam). I still need to take a first pass at Ethics and Derivatives, I'm only about half done with the Fixed Income material, and Financial Statement Analysis will need at least two more passes before I'm comfortable with it.

But for now, I'm lovin the break from the classroom. I like teaching, but a breather is always appreciated by this point in the semester.

And no, I don't expect to show up on any video collections sold over the cable channels (even as comic relief).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What NOT To Do On A Job Interview

Once you get to a certain age, most people have at made at least one blunder interview. However, here's hoping you've never done one of these whoppers listed by CareerBuilder in their annual survey of hiring managers. My personal favorites are:
  • Candidate told the interviewer he wouldn’t be able to stay with the job long because he thought he might get an inheritance if his uncle died - and his uncle wasn’t "looking too good"
  • Candidate flushed the toilet while talking to interviewer during phone interview.
Read the whole thing Here.

It also lists the more common (and easily avoidable) mistakes candidates make that turf their chances, so it's not just a humorous diversion - it's actually worth reading.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Pictorial Summary of The Spitzer Scandal

I'm not exactly a big fan of Elliot Spitzer. In fact, I'm taking part in what Barry Ritholtz called "A schadenfreude festival on Wall Street" about the whole thing. While I think he mae some small positive impact by shining a brighter spotlight on some agency issues previously kept in the dark (a view shared by Nell Minow of the Corporate Library), I think he caused far more harm by using his office to browbeat firms for his own political gain. He also came off as a vindictive, somewhat megalomaniacal S.O.B. who regularly used his office to threaten those who disagreed with him.

So far, Long or Short Capital has the best summary of the affair (in pictures, yet) here.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Video

Regular readers of this blog are aware of the Unknown Son's continuing treatment for cancer. While I try not to post about his illness and treatment too much, I do talk about it (and related topics) from time to time.

Here's a great video someone put together for National Cancer Awareness Month (it's actually September). My sister lost her oldest son recently to the same cancer that Unknown Son originally had (neuroblastoma), and she linked to it on her site

If it touches you, consider making a contribution. There are are many good groups that are supporting research on childhood cancer. One of the best is Curesearch, which is associated with the Childrens Oncology Group and the National Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Advice to First Year Ph.D. Students

I came across this a while back, tagged it, and immediately forgot about it. So while I spend my day torturing the English language (my coauthors are both internationals and I'm in charge of "englishizing" the paper), this might keep y'all busy. It's written by Matt Pearson, a UC-Davis econ grad student, but there's so much overlap between econ and finance at "good" programs, that it's worth reading the finance PhD students, too. He starts out with a few running themes:
  • You'll spend a lot of the first year studying things you think are useless, silly, or off point. Expect it. But realize that you really don't know yet what's needed and what's not. So, keep slogging - it does get better, and learning the foundational stuff is essential.
  • You'll often feel like an impostor - particularly when one or more of your classmates is a star that seems to coast through things. In my case, we had a student who was ABD in physics, and he could run rings around some of the professors when it came to high-level math chops. In contrast, I struggled with basic real analysis. I got through it, but it wasn't pretty.
  • You'll want to give up - often. In fact, this is a running joke with some of the students. Avoid the temptation.
Following these observations, he gives some very practical tips that seem painfully obvious, but are often ignored. Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Down With The Flu

The last couple of years, I've gotten a flu shot every year (I've caught the flu before, and I'll take the minor discomfort of a shot to that any day). Unfortunately, a good number of flu cases this year were from a strain that wasn't covered by the vaccine. The Unknown Family had four of those cases. They're now mostly over it, but I've developed my yearly case of bronchitis as a result. It's funny how the timing worked out - Unknown Son started spiking a fever of 103 Thursday night. Since fevers over 100.5 are cause for concern for cancer patients (with a surgical port and a possibly compromised immune system, infections are a constant concern - if he gets one, it's serious). So, we went to the ER at about 10:00 Thursday night. It turned out to be the flu, which, while not trivial, is far better than infection. In any event, they gave him fluids and antibiotics, and we were back home by 11:00.

Unfortunately, I had to get up the next day at 5:00 to get to the CFA Level 2 accounting review I was taking (it was several hours' drive to the hotel where it was being held). Let's just say that it was a bit difficult focusing in accounting for 16 hours over two days with a sleep deficit and the onset of the flu. Having said that, John Harris' workshop was outstanding. He may well be one of the best instructors I've seen in my life. For anyone with concerns about their grasp of the accounting material, I'd highly recommend him.

After that, I had to fly out of town Monday morning to attend the dissertation defense of one of my students from my previous school (they passed, by the way). After the defense, I spend the afternoon working on a paper with my coauthor (who's also the aforementioned student's major professor). It's always easier to write with both authors in the room, since the give and take is critical.

In any event, I managed to survive the week. The Unknown Family is pretty much over the flu. Unknown Son had low white blood cell counts on Wednesday, so we postponed his weekly chemo until next week. It was likely just an aftereffect of the flu rather than from the chemo, but it's better to be safe in these cases. I still have the bronchitis, which will take another week or two to completely recover from. But on the plus side, the frequent violent coughing spasms have stopped anyone from asking me to volunteer for any new assignments (no one wants to get close enough to ask). So even bronchitis has its upside.

In any event, that's about enough. Unknown Son is watching a movie with a friend, and a friend of Unknown Wife is coming over tonight to babysit. So, we get a rare night out. Woo Hoo!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Tooth Fairy Has a Sprained Wing

It's the second post in a row, but the Tooth Fairy showed up again. I just got back from a two-day review workshop for the Level 2 Financial Statement Analysis material. While I was away, Unknown Daughter's tooth fell out. Unfortunately, while I did get home in time to put the kids to bed, I was dead beat (I've come down with the virus that's been working its way through our household. So, I forgot to take the tooth and leave the usual lucre under UD's pillow.

I realized this when I awoke this morning, but it was too late - if I took care of the tooth then, UD might wake up and I'd get caught in the act. Luckily, the Tooth Fairy sent the following email to UD:
Dear Unknown Daughter:

First off, I am sorry for not taking care of your tooth last night. I picked up a tooth from a giant child the other day and it was way too heavy for me (I should have asked another tooth fairy to go with me so we could lift it together). So I ended up spraining my wing. The doctor told me I have to rest it for a day until it gets better.

As for your questions -- like I said before, I can listen through your teeth by magic (remember - I AM a fairy after all. That means I have magical powers). Yes, I do work for Santa some times. He pays me around Christmas to tell him when children have been naughty or nice. Being able to listen in through kids' teeth is a big help, since almost every child has teeth. And if a child is too young for teeth, his mommy (not his MOMMA, his mommy) and daddy usually have teeth, so I can listen through theirs.

You asked if I can see through yellow teeth. If your teeth are yellow, I can still see through them, but it makes everything look all yellowish. So, I don't like yellow teeth that much, because I can't see as well.

I told you how I know about you calling you mother Momma - I heard it through your teeth.

My wing is feeling a bit better, so I should be able to get your tooth tonight.


The Tooth Fairy
So, it seems that all's right in the Unknown Household. In fact, UD wants the email printed out so she can show all her friends at school - for some reason they don't believe that the tooth fairy sends us emails.