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Showing posts from April, 2011

Commodities: Gains on Fed announcement

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On Wednesday 4/27, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made a public statement that effectively said the following: we're done buying bonds, but we don't expect interest rates to drastically change. With low interest rates comes the possibility/probability of inflation -- with this inflationary expectation, it's no surprise that commodities prices ascended. AGQ, an ETF with a bullish stance on the value of silver, saw a single day gain of over 13.5% on 4/27. GLD, a similar ETF linked positively to the value of gold, saw a more tempered (but still positive) gain of ~2% on Wednesday the 27th. The value of these instruments (and their underlying commodities) should be interesting to follow in the coming months, especially as QE2 comes to a close at the end of the second quarter.

The Default Major

A colleague just pointed out a great article in the New York Times, titled "The Default Major". Here's a few choice pieces:
Business majors spend less time preparing for class than do students in any other broad field, according to the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement: nearly half of seniors majoring in business say they spend fewer than 11 hours a week studying outside class. In their new book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” the sociologists Richard Arum and JosipaRoksa report that business majors had the weakest gains during the first two years of college on a national test of writing and reasoning skills. And when business students take the GMAT, the entry examination for M.B.A. programs, they score lower than students in every other major.

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Donald R. Bacon, a business professor at the University of Denver, studied group projects at his institution and found a perverse dynamic: the groups that functioned …

Another Good Ride

It was another nice day today (but windy as all get out). So, I did another 17 1/2 mile ride. Yesterday, my feet were freezing (it was about 50 degrees). Today, it was warmer (no need for a jacket), but the wind was brutal - over 20 mph at times.

Still, it was good, and about 5 minutes faster than yesterday for the same course. I was pretty tired after yesterday's ride, but the forecast says rain for the next few days, so I figured I'd take the ride when I could get it.

I must have gone harder than I thought, because about three hours later, I got a hamstring cramp of truly biblical proportions. Luckily, the Unknown Family was out of town, because I actually yelled (and loudly)

But given the chance, I'd take the ride again if I could. It's biking season!

Some Good Thinking

In writing this blog, I have occasionally shared one of my favorite quotes about teaching: "Teaching does not come from years of doing it. It actually comes from thinking about it.“ I bring up this quote whenever I lead any discussion of teaching. Almost inevitably, someone in the audience asks how a teacher goes about thinking about teaching. It is easy to make a joke about sitting in a dark room in focused contemplation but most of us would just fall asleep.

I believe one of the best ways to think about teaching occurs when you write an examination for your students. Since I have spent most of my current weekend writing a test, the process certainly has been on my mind.

Writing a test brings up so many questions having to do with your class.
--What level of understanding is a student supposed to have developed based on how you structured the coverage?
--What are you trying to test? What are your priorities?
--How do you write questions that differentiate between s…

Newsletter - 1st & 2nd Volume

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Hey Guys,

Check out the first two volumes of our newsletter!

See links below:

Newsletter Volume 1

Newsletter Volume 2

Costly College: More than Tuition

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Think paying for tuition and rooms and board is good enough? Think again!

When it comes to paying for college, tuition and housing are just the beginning. The real catch is the supposedly trivial miscellaneous costs. These costs include cab fare, parking permits, concert tickets, eating out, shopping spree, and much more. School meals plans cannot cover all the midnight food deliveries and caffeinated beverages, just like free university shuttles cannot guarantee low transportation costs. And students often find themselves packing new clothes into their wardrobes. Now, as we approach the end of our school year, what happens to all those things that we stuffed into our wardrobes and dorm rooms? Last things on the budget, storage payments and extra shipping costs.

Read personal accounts from parents at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704487904576267393582628666.html?mod=WSJ_PersonalFinance_PF4#articleTabs%3Darticle

The First Ride of the Season

Up until the last two weeks or so, I've been getting up at least 5 days a week at 4:30 and working out at the local YMCA from 5-6 (mostly spinning on the stationary bike). As a result of this and watching my diet, I've dropped about 15 pounds since the beginning of the year. So, I'm about the same weight at the beginning of biking season that I usually am around mid-Jul. I was wondering how this would translate to actually being on the road.

Today I found out - I took my first ride of the season, and went about 17 1/2 miles (about twice what I usually do at the beginning of the season). Despite the relative cold (about 52 and windy as all get out), it was pretty easy - I was able to keep my heart rate under 150 pretty much the whole way (except for the last 50 yards of a steep half-mile long hill at the 8 mile mark). So, it looks like it'll be a good riding season.

I'll be riding in the Angel Ride, a 50 mile fund-raiser for the Hole In The Wall Campover Memorial Day …

Finance Videos Online

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of using pre-recorded videos as resources for my students. I've been wondering if they would be attractive to others.

I recently came across a site called MindBites - they provide a platform for the distribution of video content online. Basically, they're an iTunes-type store for instructional videos. So, I uploaded my tutorials (so far, only the first two) for the Texas Instruments BA 2+ calculator, and priced them at $0.99 each (pretty much an iTunes model). I'm curious to see if anyone buys them.

Since I'm already putting much of my core Introductory Finance Class into short videos as a resource for my students, I'll post them to the Mindbites site as well. I figure there might be someone who's willing to pay a few bucks for (as an example) a series of 5 videos (about 3 hours alltogether of lectures on Time Value (with examples for using the calculator, the formulas, and Excel spreadsheets). If …

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Guidance

A good friend of mine, Steve Markoff, has written an excellent essay on learning to teach by being a student. It is well worth reading at https://blogs.montclair.edu/academy/2011/04/11/being-a-student/.

Over the years, I have taken classes in everything from Russian culture and ballroom dancing to jewelry making and photography just to remind myself of what it is like to be the person in class who feels lost and confused. Many universities allow faculty members to take classes for free or at reduced prices. Put aside your fears and go sign up for a class where you are not the expert.
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When it comes to college students, the old saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” is all too often true. For the most part, they are young people who have only seen a very narrow slice of life and, like the blind men and the elephant, they believe that the slice of life they have experienced represents the reality of life. Thus, at times, they need guidance even though they may not a…

3 Years in Jail for Blogging

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In Cairo, an Egyptian blogger, Maikel Nabil, was sentenced to three years in prison for criticizing the military in what human rights advocates called one of the more alarming violations of freedom of expression since a popular uprising led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two months ago. Mr. Nabil assailed the Egyptian armed forces for what he called its continuation of the corruption and anti-democratic practices of Mr. Mubarak. Read more at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/world/middleeast/12egypt.html?_r=1&smid=tw-nytimes&seid=auto

Japan: No Rest For The Weary

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New worries spiked after another major earthquake (7.4 magnitude) shook northeast Japan on Thusday night. The world's third largest economy, right behind US and China, has been stagnant for years and is now facing arguably the worst crisis since World War II. Besides human suffering, the country now carries heavy economic burdens as the nuclear safety hazard creates a long-term regional energy shortage. The ongoing tension in the Persian Gulf and rising oil prices only make the problem worse. With the possibility of another magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami looming, according to official research, Japan's economic prospect seems rather grim and uncertain at this point.

Follow up and read more on the economic and political impact of Japan's earthquake at: http://thisbluemarble.com/showthread.php?s=036635f37dab04d7839f72114bb8b91f&t=35866

Another Tech Bubble

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Are we heading for another tech bubble? The latest technology funds and Internet start-ups have been given very substantial valuations. For example, valuations for Facebook have quintupled within the last 2 years and Groupon's estimated value increased from $1.4 billion to $25 billion. What are the implications of this?

Read more at: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/03/30/are-we-heading-for-another-tech-bubble?ref=business

UCONN WIns!

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My undergraduate alma mater won ugly, but they won. And since it's not gymnastics or diving, there are no points for style.

I think I'll give my students a couple point bonus on their exam Thursday because I'm in such a good mood.

Looking Back: Alexi Savov

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Just a recap of our event on March 24th! Alexi Savov, Assistant Professor of Finance led us through an interesting discussion on Risky Arbitrage. Although seemingly confusing (how can an arbitrage be risky?!), Professor Savov successfully guided us through the mechanics of arbitrages and their application to markets in real life.

My Picture With Bill Walton

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I just got back from the R.I.S.E. conference in Dayton. There were some pretty good sessions, and my students got a lot out of it (as usual). The highlight for me was hearing Bill Walton (the "World's Tallest Grateful Dead Fan") speak -- I grew up a Boston Celtics fan, and he closed his career (as the quintessential Sixth Man) with them.

He was an exceptional speaker - since he's only 5 years older than me, his illustrations and anecdotes were a real trip down memory lane. Also, he's gone through some major stress: he's had over 60 surgeries on his back and feet, and spent almost two years on the floor due to spinal problems. At one point, he was so depressed and in despair that he contemplated suicide. So I get where he's coming from.

Now, only a few years after having his spine pretty much surgically reconstructed in an amazing medical procedure (they basically built an internal support cage around his spine), he's cycled 100 miles across De…