Showing posts from May, 2009

SAS is the Devil

I've spent 10 hours over the last two days debugging a SAS program I wrote about 2 months ago. It was written for a paper that's coming along nicely, but I haven't revisited the data (or the program) for a while.

Unfortunately, I didn't document the program very well.

I thought, "well, all I have to do is run this one test. That shouldn't take long."

Cue Jaws theme song and commence profanity


When will I learn?

Now that I've gotten down to a part of the program that has to run for a while (merging two VERY large (> 50 gig) datasets), I can take a break.

update: It finally finished running. It "only" took 14 hours (yes, that's right, 14 hours). And that's after having used every trick I knew to make it more efficient.

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day - time to remember and honor all those who fought to preserve our way of life.

As I've done in previous years, here's a link to Ronald Reagan's classic "The Boys of Pointe du Hoc" speech, given in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of D-Day (compliments of American Rhetoric).

After that, go see this PowerPoint file sent to me by Bob Jensen. If you don't have Powerpoint click here to view it without music. If you do have it, download the file here (both stored on DocStoc).

Now it's off the the movies, followed by charring some animal flesh on the grille.

Googlenomics, Auction Theory, and Hal Varian

Like many programs, the Unknown Alma Mater's doctoral program used Varian's Economics text for our Micro Sequence. So, I perk up when I hear Varian's name mentioned.

It turns out he's Google's Chief Economist (who knew - Google has a chief economist?). A recent Steven Levy piece in Wired magazine talks about the ways the company uses economic theory (and auction theory in specific) in their Google AdWords program. Here are a couple of snippets:
At the time, most online companies were still selling advertising the way it was done in the days of Mad Men. But Varian saw immediately that Google's ad business was less like buying traditional spots and more like computer dating. "The theory was Google as yenta—matchmaker," he says. He also realized there was another old idea underlying the new approach: A 1983 paper by Harvard economist Herman Leonard described using marketplace mechanisms to assign job candidates to slots in a corporation, or students …


I also run a blog for Unknown University's Finance department. Unfortunately, I seem to have inadvertantly changed a setting on the blog (either that, or I've got some kind of virus).

I was just trying to post something on the blog, and when I typed anything in, it immediately transformed into different characters. For example, if I typed in


It displayed as


Can anyone tell me what's going on, and how to fix it?

update: yes, I am an idiot. Somehow, I had enabled the "tranliterate into Hindi option" in the settings.

Interesting Times In The Unknown Household

For a number of reasons, I haven't been blogging much:
First off, I'm still in post-semester recovery mode. This happens every Spring - after the semester is over, I need a week or two to decompress, clean out the detritus of the year from my office, and kick back a bit before refocusing on my summer research goals. This time around, between the timing of exams and faculty meetings, it was worse than usual.
Second, we've catching up on some "family time". We offloaded the Unknown Baby Boy (UBB) to the Unknown Sister-in-Law and took the kids to Six Flags in Lake George for a couple of days. Unknown Son is currently into a minor Looney Tunes obsession, and they have an entire section of the park with an LT theme. Without UBB, we got to focus on the older two kids, and we even got a couple of good nights' sleep.
We're also cleaning up the Unknown House. Because of all the craziness we've had this spring, we're doing Spring Cleaning this time arou…

Grading - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Sometimes I think I'm in a Godfather movie (i.e. "Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in").

Actually, it's my own fault. Last week, I had a touch schedule: lack of sleep, doing executive education, an all-day faculty meeting, and only 48 hours between my final exam and when grades had to be posted. With all that, I somehow managed to get it all done.

Or maybe not.

Turns out I made an error in my grading spreadsheet. Not surprising, since I use the excel functions quite a bit in grading - I pick the highest "n out of k" quizzes, weight the exams differently based on whether then grade on the final is better than on one or more of the earlier exams, and have a few other curves built in.

As a result, I usually spend a LOT of time debugging the spreadsheet before assigning final grades. But not this time.

So now I have to file about a half-dozen grade change forms.

Grading - the gift that keeps on giving.

With a bit of luck, I should be able to get…

Q&A With Myron Scholes

Here's a short "Crash Course" interview with Nobel Laureate Myron Scholes, conducted by Deborah Solomon.

The guy's got a sense of humor. Who'da thunk it?

Stick A Fork In Me!

The semester is now officially over at Unknown University. I gave my last final Tuesday afternoon (the last slot in finals week). Unfortunately, grades had to be turned in by 4 today (only 48 hours later).

I finished the almost all the grading last night at 3 a.m. (except for the final assigning of grades). So, it looked like the coast was clear.

Unfortunately, nothing is ever easy in the Unknown Household.

This morning, Unknown Elder Son was looking and feeling washed out. So, after a quick trip to the local hospital to have his blood counts taken, it turns out he needed a blood transfusion (not an uncommon thing - anemia is a common side effect of chemo).

Unknown Wife took him in for the transfusion, and I got to attend the faculty meeting with the Unknown Baby in tow (he slept through the entire morning, which is probably the best course of action when on a faculty retreat). After lunch, I left to feed him and drop him off at a neighbor's house for the afternoon, so I coul…

Happy Mother's Day

We're off to a neighboring state to visit my mother for Mother's day. It'll be the first time my side of the family gets to see the Unknown Baby Boy in person.

As for the rest of my life, I have a final exam to write for Tuesday, followed by an executive education class on Wednesday, a Faculty retreat on Thursday, and a trip to Six Flags in Lake George over the weekend (Unknown Older Son is a big Loony Tunes fan, and we wanted to go there before his stem cell transplant in early June).

So, blogging will continue to be light for the next week or so.

Now go tell your Mother (or the mother of your children) how much you appreciate her.

A Good Conference, Followed By More Crazy

I thought I'd put a few impressions of the EFA conference from this past week. While pretty short, it was a very good time: catching up with old friends, making some new ones, getting a lot of work done, and SLEEEEEP!

Because of all the other stuff going on in the Unknown Household, I was only able to get away for a day, so I took an early Friday flight to Baltimore, followed by the train to Washington. I arrived at the conference hotel just before lunch. Between 11:00 Friday and 1:30 Saturday (when I took the hotel shuttle to the airport for my return flight) I
Had two papers presented (both were presented by coauthors), and received good comments on both. In both cases, the papers were well received by the discussant and the audience.
Met with coauthors on three papers (the two mentioned above and a third one that's also coming along nicely). On two of the papers, we just talked briefly to discuss what needs to be done next to get them out the door. On the third paper,…

Next Semester Should Be Interesting

We're winding down the semester at Unknown University (only one exam to go, and I'm done). So, I was looking ahead to next semester (hey - I was on the train, and had little better to do for an hour and a half), and I realized that it will be the most interesting and varied teaching load I've ever had. Here's the lineup:
Fixed Income: This is a new prep for me. It's an overview of the Fixed Income field, and is taught with a standard lecture approach. My goal is that students coming our of the class would be comfortable discussing anything they'd be thrown in an interview for an entry-level FI interview. At a minimum, it'll cover everything on the FI section of the CFA Level 1 exam, and about half of the CFA L2 FI material. I approach courses like this in a very structured manner - I give the students in a course like this very explicit guidlines as to what they should be able to explain or calculate (these are similar to the Learning Outcome State…

Hedge Fund Manager Clifford Asness Pushes Back At Obama

One of the hot stories this last week was that the Obama Administration had supposedly pressured and/or threatened hedge fund managers who held Chrysler debt.
ABC News reports:
Thomas Lauria, Global Practice Head of the Financial Restructuring and Insolvency Group at White & Case, told ABC News that [White House financial adviser Steven] Rattner suggested to an official of the boutique investment bank Perella Weinberg Partners that officials of the Obama White House would embarrass the firm for opposing the Obama administration plan, which President Obama announced Thursday, and which requires creditors to accept roughly 29 cents on the dollar for an estimated $6.8 billion owed by Chrysler. [...]Lauria said the president's assertion that his clients weren't willing to make any sacrifice is false. The clients were willing to take 50 cents on the dollar from Chrysler for their debt, he said.President Obama also said of Lauria's clients, "I don't stand with them. I…

Using "Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive" In The Classroom

I recently started reading Goldstein, Martin, and Cialdini's "Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive." It could easily be described as "Freakonomics for Social Psychology". It's a fun, easy, and very informative read, with each chapter only about 1500-2000 words long, and highlighting one persuasion technique. So, you can knock out a chapter in 10 minutes or so.

It's a very interesting introduction to the social psychology literature on persuasion - it lists all the underlying research in the appendix.

In addition to learning some interesting things, I've also gotten some great ideas to use in my classes. I'll be discussing these over the next few weeks, starting with

Chapters 1 & 2: "The Bandwagon effect"
One way to increase compliance with a request is to mention that a lot of other people have done the same thing. In these chapters, the authors mention a study where they tried to see if they could increase the pe…