Thursday, August 24, 2006

The First Week.... always the hardest, I suppose.

When I got back to graduate school...boy, let's just say these classes are tough. I'm so tired right now that I don't have much to write, before falling over. I'll give you something of a framework:

* I have my own office. It's really an inner foyer between the door to the hallway and the door to the offices of two other professors, but I'll take what I can get.
* Microeconomics and Risk Management are my biggest classes. Lots of Masters/Ph. D. students. My Probability class has about seven people in it. (Including one person with a masters and another with a Ph. D. in physics.) My Econometrics class has three people in it -- and it will probably be the hardest class of the four.
* Debating about whether or not to take the "boot camp" class as an audit. I might very well do so.
* Probability is taught by the good Dr. S. He's already given us a homework assignment, which doesn't seem so hard...yet.
* Econometrics is tough, because a) I haven't seen the material, b) I don't know if I have the math background, c) the professor is Dr. N, who speaks accented English and isn't the best for explanations.
* Microecon might be enjoyable, but this might be a tough class. One of my problems is "find the utility function for "Things go better with Coke!" I suspect it is U(x,y) = x^a*y^b , where x=things and y=Coke. Even if you lose things, you will compensate for the loss of them by getting more Coke.
* Probability is a lot of set theory and sigma-fields. I pray I don't get lost in it.
* Risk Management is taught by the dept chair. Who wasn't there today. So a colleague of his taught in his place. He only taught for 30 minutes. Didn't learn much...but he's Dr. K, the man I'm going to be working for this year.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Right now, it's Monday, the first day of classes at our University. I have no classes today, those have been reserved for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. So I've been a graduate student for two days now and haven't actually done anything.

Last Friday, we had the doctoral students' orientation. I met a young fellow named B. who is also a Risk Management major. He's Chinese, and he heard about our university due to a visit to China from one of our faculty. He has a bachelor's and a master's from his Chinese University. We'll call him "B." for now. B. states that there are only five universities in China with insurance programs.

Together, B. and I make the new class of Risk Management students. According to our doctoral advisor, the Risk Management/Insurance department accepts students based on how well their financial portfolio did. It didn't do so great last year, so this year there were only two new doctoral students.

I found out two things I didn't know. First, we would be assigned to one of the professors and work about 10 hrs/week. That's not bad. When I went to grad school about 20 years ago, we had to teach a class as well. No teaching for us right now. Some of the graduate students have worked with the same professor since the day they showed up, and that professor eventually supervised their dissertation work.

Which makes me wonder who I'll get assigned to. I know Dr. S, but he's a new guy -- do I really want to be the first dissertation he ever supervised? Dr. N has never supervised a dissertation. As for Dr. G, as doctoral advisor he might be way too busy to call on for a supervision.

And then, there's Dr. C. The Famous Dr. C. One student worked with him and ended up co-authoring three journal articles along with dissertation work. The problem with Dr. C is...well, he's scary. He has a real curt, straightforward manner. I've never had to have a conversation with him.

Supposedly, one of the truths in finding someone to supervise your dissertation is that it should be someone you get along with. If I don't get along with Dr. C, there's not much point in asking. Maybe I'm just looking to far ahead, but I want to work with someone in a productive relationship for both of us, and if we're going to be spending that "academic time" together, you want there to be a good relationship. (Sounds like a marraige, doesn't it?)

Second, we will have an office. It will be an office shared with three other people (the department has some overcrowding) but I never expected an office at all. I can hang my shingle there and hide out between classes, if the office isn't getting any use.

But of course, I have to have a key, and before that, I have to find out who I'm working for...and Dr. G hasn't gotten around to that, yet. So I wait. Or rather, B. and I wait since it's likely we'll be sharing an office.

Our Friday meeting was a meet-and-greet type of meeting. Not too much real information, and I doubt it would relevant to write about.

Today, I returned to campus for three reasons:

First, to find out who I'm working for. No such luck. Dr. G isn't even in the office.

Second, to sign up for employment. This involves going over to payroll and filling out a lot of forms, and of course, I'm missing one needed bit of info. The university requires direct deposit. I don't have a canceled check, I have to bring one tomorrow. I would like to get paid at the end of the month, honestly, I would.

Third, to take a course in how to turn on a campus workstation. Campus workstations are all over class, and this way, I can just log on to one and download whatever data that will make my life easier. That's at two. Ninety more minutes to kill.

However, today's visit was worthwhile -- I got a discount card for my department to buy books. But I've already paid for books! So bring books back, bring receipt, get discount, pay for books again....

The motto of the graduate student. "Hurry up and wait."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

So Where The Hell Are We?

I am now about to begin my first semester as a Mathematical Risk Management graduate student. This Friday, we will have our first orientation as doctoral students. It starts at 11:30 am and is destined to last possibly as much as seven hours, with lunch and dinner offered.

I think I could probably use the experience of the Right Minded Actuary to make small talk in an academic setting. I'm never comfortable during these occasions, and I always end up saying the wrong thing. Undoubtedly, it's best to say nothing -- or to find someone who likes talking about themselves and let them talk until the cows come home.

We have finally moved into our little house. And we've waited for contractors, for phone people, cable people, plumbers, electricians, yard workers, painters -- the list goes on, forever, not to mention the art of actually moving things out of the apartment to the new house.

(Incidentally: right now, I'm in Birmingham, AL. The wife wanted company on a business trip, and I was glad to oblige.)

So I didn't get much study done. I had hoped to read Axler's "Linear Algebra Done Right", but right now, I'm stuck in the middle of Chapter 6. And, as any student can tell you, I found time for a lot of other fun things that didn't forward my education. I'm going to have to get better at this planning business.

Other than that, no news except waiting for the hammer to fall. What I learned to pass Exam FM seems like ancient history -- if a subject isn't reinforced, it disappears. The Exam P stuff seems to be fading away as well. Then again, many of these students might have had a summer off. (So what is the academic schedule of overseas students? Do they come to the US just out of classes, still in the right frame of mind? This three-months off lay off didn't do me any good.)

If you have a subscription to the WSJ, you can read this article about a plagiarism scandal at Ohio State University. It seemed that a master's degree student in mechanical engineering was having trouble getting a thesis topic approved -- so he went rooting about in the old theses for some inspiration.

He found an interesting topic, and followed the tracks of the "literature review". Basically, when you're writing a thesis, you review the literature, providing your reader with a path of what has been done before. When this student went further backwards -- looking at the cited materials in the first thesis -- he found that entire paragraphs and pages were lifted from existing works without paraphrase or attribution.

So, what was the fallout?

* The chairman of the mechanical engineering department at OSU is stepping down.
* One thesis supervisor might be "fired" (his academic contract will not be renewed).
* A professor at Miami University might lose his job -- he was one of those who graduated after writing a partially-plagiarised work.
* Students accused of plagiarism are being contacted to either revise their theses, or have their degrees revoked.

The explanation being given is that these were foreign students who did not have a great command of English. Supposedly, they a) came from countries with looser definitions of plagiarism, or b) did not know how to paraphrase accurately in the English langauge. I don't know if that's an appropriate excuse -- their supervisors, furthermore, were also not from America, which complicates the matter.

All I can imagine is reading dusty risk management theses somewhere, and being confronted with such a thing happening at my own university. And I ask myself, "what would I do...?"

(P. S. No spellcheck at this computer. Pleaze ignor bad spelin.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My Exam P Score

My score for Exam P was...drumroll please....


...TEN. That's a "one" followed by a "zero". It is the maximum score on Exam P.

I'm still picking my jaw off the floor.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

This Actuary is Progressing....

Here we go.

SOA grades for Exam P are in.

I PASSED! Woo-hoo! And now I have both Exam P and Exam FM under my belt!!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Where I've Been

Undoubtedly, if you've been following this blog, you might wonder where I've been. Have I been studying too hard? Locked in a closet, in fear of the results of Exam P?

No. My wife and I have purchased a house, and of course, we're trying to upgrade it. If you want to see some of the things we've done, go to:

Monday, June 12, 2006

Insurance Fraud in California

You know, if your SUV is giving you problems with high monthly payments and no end in sight with gas prices...just burn it!

Insurance Fraud a Problem ....