The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog


I mentioned a few days ago that I'm swamped. I didn't realize at the time how swamped, sadly. It turns out I'm more swamped than Florida. I'm so swamped, the Rs.O.U.S.[1] are drowning.

So, though it's redundant, I'll reiterate I'm not dead. I am, however, slowing to the worst ratio of blog entries per month since October 2007.

Part of this comes from how much work and school are challenging me right now. This is good, actually. I have only a finite amount of creativity, but I'm using it all. And Decmeber 12th—the end of my MBA—really isn't that far away.

[1] Since "rodent" is the subject, it gets pluralized. "ROUSs" may be what Westley called them on first reference, but on second reference he said "rodents of unusual size." Q.E.D.

Hotting up

Chicago hit 32°C yesterday for the first time since August 9th, and barely missed setting records:

By the time Monday evening's rush hour was getting underway, 33°C highs had been logged at both Midway and O'Hare---18°C higher than the peak reading of 14°C a week earlier---a level 10°C above normal. Only 21 of the past 140 years have recorded a temperature of 33°C or higher this early in the warm season underscoring the rare nature of the hot spell. There hasn't been a warmer May temperature in Chicago in the past 4 years. It was hotter here than in perennial hot spots like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and Orlando.

The forecast for this coming weekend calls for temperatures in the 20°C–22°C range. That still won't help my electricity bill, which will spike a little earlier than usual this year.

Lost in the weeds

I've got about three hours left on the 8-hour clock for my finance midterm, which is good because I think it will take me only about four hours to finish the last bits. I'm pleased we're learning all the skills required to perform detailed financial analysis at someone else's direction, rather than the skills to direct someone else to do it and to figure out what it means, because it provides a nice break from all that stuff in all our other courses.

After today, we have hardly any work left this term:

  • Strategy case, due Saturday May 29th before class
  • Finance assignment #5, due Monday May 31st
  • Finance assignment #6, due Monday June 7th
  • Finance and Strategy final exams, both due Monday June 14th
  • A 20-page Strategy paper, also due Monday June 14th
  • CCL culture dash video, due Wednesday June 16th
  • CCL business analysis paper, due Thursday June 17th

Our Term 5 books should arrive right around then, along with Term 6 registration, as the rock slides down the mountain again.

At least we're more than halfway done. And I've got the Lost finale tonight. I expect it'll make more sense than finance.

Four examples of mathematics in our lives

Exhibit the First: This morning on NPR, a "retired banker from Eagle River, Wis.," when interviewed about the retirement of Rep. David Obey (D-WI) claimed, "I think the majority of people up here are independent thinkers."

Exhibit the Second: via Gulliver, a study of airfare fluctuations in the U.S. market found airfares fluctuate millions of times per year for some city pairs in the U.S. For example, airfares between Atlanta and Las Vegas changed almost 2.5m times last year. Gulliver pointed out that this reflects intense price competition and really good pricing strategies. As for the number of changes? Multiply out the number of seats available times a modest frequency of changes (hundreds of seconds between changes for each seat) and you get into the millions. I'm interested what my marketing professor would say.

Exhibit the Third: via Sullivan, a Spanish mathemetician has examined marital breakups, complete with colorful charts.

Exhibit the Last: Glenview, Ill., police arrested four kids over the weekend for trying to tip cows at a local museum farm. The mathematical tie-in comes from the mass differential between a 500 kg cow and a 80 kg human. Said Wagner Farm director Todd Price, "cow tipping has never been a major concern, mostly because it's harder than people think."

About those gold medals from the Tokyo Olympics...

I've heard of résumé padding, but, wow:

[Adam] Wheeler had never attended the exclusive Phillips Academy prep school in Andover or MIT. And his academic record at Harvard was far less dazzling than he claimed. Instead of straight A's, Wheeler had received some A's, a few B's and a D. His SAT scores were also much less impressive: 1160 and 1220, not the perfect 1600 he had claimed, according to court documents.

Wheeler, 23, of Milton, Del., was ordered held on $5,000 bail Tuesday after pleading not guilty to 20 counts of larceny, identity fraud and other charges. ... Wheeler was tossed from Harvard last fall after he tried to get the school's endorsement for Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships, and a professor reviewing his applications found evidence he had plagiarized from another professor, prosecutors say. Wheeler's parents gave him up to a Yale official who called to ask about their son's transfer application.

Prosecutor John Verner said in court Tuesday that Wheeler essentially stole $45,000 in financial aid, scholarship money and academic awards from Harvard.

Just thinking back to my application to Fuqua, I can't figure out how he faked his academic record. All the supporting documents, like transcripts, usually have to come directly from the institutions, for starters. Doesn't Harvard have control systems?

This week's Economist

Mondays are Economist days over here. I've got myself into a rhythm of travel, school, work, and keeping sane that requires me to put things in small boxes of time; on Mondays I read the latest Economist. This week had two unusually interesting (and short) articles in the "Finance and Economics" section[1].

First, a report that numeracy predicts mortgage defaults better than any other variable:

Even accounting for a host of differences between people—including attitudes to risk, income levels and credit scores—those who fell behind on their mortgages were noticeably less numerate than those who kept up with their payments in the same overall circumstances. The least numerate fell behind about 25% of the time. For those who did best on the test, the number of payments they missed was almost 12%. A fifth of the least numerate group had been in foreclosure, but only 7% of those who were more numerically adept had.

Surprisingly, the least numerate were not making loan choices that differed much from their peers. They were about as likely to have a fixed-rate mortgage as the more numerically able. They did not borrow a larger share of their income. And loans were about the same fraction of the house’s value.

They've even got a handy quiz of the type the researchers used. Two pages on, in the "Economics Focus" column, the newspaper reported on the FCC's decision two weeks ago to treat ISPs as common carriers for their last-mile service. This is a big deal:

A medieval innkeeper, for example, often offered the only lodging in town; a boatman could cross only with the king’s writ. Second, the state sometimes offers favours of its own to transporters—public lands and roads, say, or the seizure of private property to make way for new infrastructure—and expects a certain level of public service in return. Third, transport is essential to commerce. It represents an input cost to almost all businesses, and to restrict access or overcharge is to burden the entire economy.

All these arguments applied in spades to 19th-century rail. Like a medieval town’s sole inn, a railway line is a perfect example of a natural monopoly: it is tremendously expensive to build and it is difficult to justify more than one set of tracks on any route just to guarantee competition. ...

Telecoms operators argue that America does not need common carriage for internet access, because the country’s unique network of local cable monopolies competes against its last-mile copper-wire monopolies. ... The FCC’s current plan—to ask last-mile providers to subsidise rural service, and to ensure equal treatment of packets of information—is a mild intervention by global standards.

Time now to review, once again, the team's finance assignment due tonight, and then collapse in a heap. The Daily Parker will probably continue to have slightly less velocity than usual for a week or so as I twist myself into a small knot of anxiety over my finance midterm. If only it could be as engaging as a class as it is in a newspaper.

[1] Yes, the topic interests me in the abstract, but at the same time I can't wait until the end of doing concrete finance—e.g., working out CAPM calculations—once my finance class ends next month.

Quick catch-up

I needed to catch my breath this weekend, so The Daily Parker fell to the bottom of the stack. Here are some of the things that passed before my eyes in the last few days:

  • Math teacher Dan Meyer gave a TED Talk in March suggesting improvements to how we teach math. He says we should teach kids how to reason, not just plug in formulae. As I'm going through the effects of bad mathematics education myself this term, his talk resonated.
  • The Texas Taliban have made another tinfoil hat recommendation to the Texas School Board, this time to have textbooks explain to children "Threats of global government to individual freedom and liberty includ[ing] the votes of the U. N. General Assembly, the International Criminal Court, the U. N. Gun Ban proposal, forced redistribution of American wealth to third world countries, and global environmental initiatives."
  • Melvin Conner, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Eduction, sums up new research in childhood cognitive development, including the worrying trend of earlier puberty and later emotional maturity.
  • Scott Adams ruminates on brain management in ways I've noticed myself: "I also find it impossible to do any sort of creative writing while listening to music, perhaps for the same reason: Creativity springs from a deep examination of self, which you then generalize, and music seems to share that bandwidth."

There were a few others in there, too, which I'll post as soon as I remember them.