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Showing posts from January, 2011

The Dismal States

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If you're like me and stuck in the latest round of global warming (we're getting 8-10" - as usual, I blame Al Gore), you can use a chuckle. Here it is.

Every state is "special" for one reason or another. So, someone with far too much time on their hands put this together - the United States of Shame. Enjoy.

I will add that the Massachusetts distinction is absolutely correct.

HT: Ace of Spades.
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Dealing With The Truth

Before I start today, I want to repeat something I wrote recently. I have been creating these blog entries now for 54 weeks and, in that time, we have had 28,634 page views. That is fantastic but it is something that could never have happened without your help, without your passing along the URL to other folks who might be interested in teaching. So, once again, thank you for telling your friends about this site as well as you neighbors, relatives, coworkers, enemies, casual strangers, and even aliens from another planet. This blog goes nowhere without your help.
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In the well-known movie “A Few Good Men,” the Tom Cruise character yells “I want the truth!” and the Jack Nicholson character responds “You can't handle the truth!” Great line.

When it comes to teaching, college professors will often assert that they want the truth about what is happening in class but I’m not sure they can handle the truth.

I was reminded of this exchange this morning in the Doonesbury cartoo…

Englisizing The Paper

I'm in editing mode. Lately, I've been working with a couple of coauthors who are very, very good theorists. Their game theory/math chops are so much better than mine that I try not to discuss it. In addition, one of them is very connected with the top people in the accounting area (he was the other's chair, which is how we met).

They just dropped about a 40 page current version of a paper we've been working on for quite a while. The logic of the paper flows soundly, and the empirics are solid.

Unfortunately, neither of my coauthors has English as a mother tongue. So, I'm in charge of "Englishizing" the paper.

Oh my!

Update: I may have given the wrong impression (at least, based on a comment by Bob Jensen). My colleague and I have been working on this paper for quite some time, and we've all been involved with most parts of the paper (with the exception of the game-theoretic part, which is admittedly not my strength). My contributions have been…

I Don't Work Well Under Deadlines

"I don't work well under deadlines. But without them, I don't work at all."

I heard that line about 15 years ago from my dissertation chair, and it's stuck with me.

In the last three weeks, I've sent off three papers to conferences.
For one, I had to edit abut 40 pages or so. My coauthor (who is a theorist and non0native speaker) wrote the first draft. It's a good idea, but the writing needed a lot of work. We sent it off to the American Accounting Association Meeting. We also sent it off to a regional conference, because the school whee one of my coauthors works at counts these things.
A second is a paper that's been floating around for a while. It needed one final going over before submitting to a journal. We realized a week ago that the initial version had been submitted to the Financial Management Association (FMA) conference and rejected a year ago. This version has a lot more stuff in it and is much more polished. However, I hadn&#…

The $10 Million Question

There is an old question that teachers sometimes ask their students. In fact, I have asked it of my students on occasion. A student will come in and say “I just cannot seem to do well in your course. No matter what I try, nothing seems to work. I’ve tried everything and I keep getting bad grades. I just cannot do it.”

The teacher’s response is straight-forward “If I offered you $10 million, could you make an A in my class? You make an A and you will get a check for $10 million.”

If the student is honest, they usually respond “Well, yes, for $10 million, I would do absolutely nothing but studying night and day for your course and I imagine that I could make an A. I am not sure that I could make 100 but I could get an A. I would become obsessed for $10 million.”

The response from the teacher is obvious: “So, your problem in my class is not ability. It is only a question of motivation. If you could become motivated enough, you could make an A.”

It is a great story because so…

Toilet Training the Unknown Baby Boy

This post is further proof that child rearing rots your brain. I'm actually posting on a finance blog about toilet training my kid. Ah well, it give me a break from madly working on the paper I'm trying to finish for the FMA deadline - I already sent one, but this one is insurance.

The Unknown Baby Boy (a.k.a. "Knucklehead") isn't toilet trained yet. He turns 2 in late March, so we're in no rush - if we make it to the warm weather, we'll probably use the time-honored approach of letting him run around outside with no pants on (yes, trees will be involved, and let the neighbors beware).

It's a time-honored tradition for guys to make a game out of their "liquidity management" (hey - it's a finance blog, so I have to at least make a pun in that direction. Some people advocate using little targets for the little guy when training (he can;t write cursive yet, so that's out...). But Sega has taken it to a whole other level. They&…

Getting Ready To Start Classes

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I'm still in the midst of hurriedly putting a paper together for the FMA deadline (Friday). So, it's pretty much been reading articles, writing, reading, writing, rewriting, rewriting, etc...

But during my breaks, I try to put a bit of time in on my next semester's classes. I'm teaching Investments again after a couple of years' break, so I'm redoing my syllabus (it['s a new edition of the text, too).

When this happens, my thoughts invariable turn to teaching (not just WHAT to teach, but HOW and WHY). Here's some good advice on the HOW: don't use Dilbert's approach to answering students' questions:


That is, unless you're tenured and don't care about evaluations. Of course, if you're tenured, you might often feel the need to use to respond to many of your colleagues. At least, that seems how it works in a few cases I've seen.

Ah well - I'm done with my workout and time to get to work (and it's not even 6:30 yet). …

Here We Go Again

My classes begin anew on Monday and, although I have done this now for 40 years, there is still a real sense of nervous anticipation. One of the great (and maybe scary) aspects about college teaching is that no matter how good or bad one semester is, you have to start all over again with each new class. Whether I was the greatest teacher in the world in the fall or the very worst, that has nothing to do with the young people who will walk into my classroom on Monday at 9:00 a.m. I cannot rest of my laurels. But, I am also not held back by the mistakes I have made. On Monday, everything starts over. It is a brand new semester.

Where do I want to focus my attention on Monday?

Last summer, our school hired a new dean. About two months into the fall semester, she asked to attend one of my classes. We picked a day and time and she showed up and sat in the back. It was an introductory class full of sophomores.

I was lucky. The students that day were great. They had prep…

Month-End Recap, Dec 2010

As usual, this is not investment advice and should not be construed as such.

I am currently 90% invested, as follows:

62% Agricultural commodities
10% Other commodities
12% Emerging market equities
06% Miscellaneous equities
10% Cash

My largest position continues to be in soybeans, followed by sugar.

Although my net exposure hasn't changed from last month, I've redone my allocations somewhat. Most tangibly, I've continued to sell EM equities into weakness, while adding to my exposure in grains and softs. Both switches worked out well. Looking ahead, I hope not to make any major portfolio changes for at least a few months.

As for performance: December was a very good month to end what was a very good year for my portfolio. I ended the year at my high-water mark, which is always gratifying. Even more gratifying is the fact that I handily beat pretty much every benchmark imaginable -- MSCI World, S&P 500, GSCI, CRB, Gold, Oil, RJA, Barc Agg Bond, CSHFI, you name it -- with…

Take a Moment to Relish What You Did

This morning I received an email from one of my favorite former students who is spending this year studying in Europe. Not surprisingly, she asked the traditional question: how was your semester?

After 40 years at this job, my initial reaction was to write back: “Oh, you know, same old same old. Been there, done that.”

After a few seconds of reflection, I realized that I didn’t like that attitude. I needed to change my tune. If that is the way I view my work, then maybe it is time to find a different job. I could make a lot more money being a banker or a lawyer and still be able to say “same old same old” about the work.

Being a teacher is the most wonderful job in the world. It gives you the opportunity to affect dozens of lives every day when you walk into the classroom. There is never an unimportant moment. An opportunity like that should not be taken for granted. When a semester concludes, every teacher should pause and celebrate what they have been able to…