The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Cool things

A quorum:

  • After 8.3 hours of work, I finished my accounting final. I've no idea how well I did, but I'm already planning to ask the professor for a meeting when I'm next in Durham.
  • We had our first freeze today, about three weeks earlier than usual. We missed the record low (-3°C, set in 1996), but after two weeks of below-normal temperatures, it was a fitting reminder of this year's El Niño.
  • We also had the Chicago Marathon today, with a start temperature of 1°C. The cold start helped; Sammy Wanjiru (below, third from left) set a new course record of 2:05:40. As someone who can't run that fast over 100 meters, to do it over 42 km is amazing.
  • Wanjiru wasn't the fastest participant, however. The Chicago Marathon starts with the wheelchair race. Kurt Fearnley (below) won his third-straight Chicago title in 1:29:09, averaging 28.3 km/h—about as fast as a decent biker.

I'm still not done with the first term—we have two more assignments, plus an exam the day we start in Dubai—but I think for the remainder of today, I'm going to goof off.

Unplugging for a day

After Parker and I get back from the walk we're about to take, I'll have two final exams and, immediately after, some Scotch. Since one of the exams might take me 24 hours to complete, you can imagine the quantity of Scotch waiting at the end of it.

In the meantime, via Andrew Sullivan, I leave you with this Spanish car advertisement that I can't quite wrap my head around:

Full of sound and fury signifying...what, exactly?

A number of confusing changes occurred to the world while I slept:

  • President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. I love the man; I voted for him; I gave lots of money[1] to two of his campaigns. I'm still confused. It might offend some of my fellow progressives to say, but possibly the prize means nothing more than "thank you for not being like the last guy, and keep up the good work." The President is, in fact, the second person who is not George W. Bush to win the Prize in the last four years.
  • For reasons which passeth all understanding[2], we crashed a rocket into the moon. We want to find out if the moon has enough water to make long-term habitation possible. Otherwise, we'll have to build a pipeline from the Great Lakes, which poses certain engineering challenges.
  • Both of these stories came to me during WBEZ-Chicago's pledge week, which started yesterday. Please, I beg all my readers in Chicago, please make a donation so they'll stop begging. The only glimmer of good news in the timing of the Fall pledge drive comes in the form of an exquisite torture perpetrated upon me and my 118 classmates by Fuqua. I won't be able to listen to much NPR this weekend because:
  • I have two final exams due this weekend, both take-home, one 90 minutes long and the other with 24 hours to complete. (The clock starts when we download the exams from the school's web portal.) The professor for exam #1 says it's relatively straightforward, everyone will pass, don't worry. The professor for exam #2, who served six years on the Financial Accounting Standards Board and who drafted important regulations of the accounting profession itself, says "someone who is reasonably prepared and who doesn't need to use notes should be able to complete it in 4 or 5 hours." So, a former FASB member who's taught accounting for 30 years will find it "challenging." One hundred eighteen people started crying. (One dude in our class is an accountant who got 117 out of 120 on the midterm.)
  • The U.S. dollar continues to slide slowly into uncomfortable depths. I got an alert while writing this entry that the Canadian dollar has risen against our currency from a low of 76c in March to 95c today. We're also slipping against the Euro and the Yen, but not, I'm happy to say, against Sterling or the Emirati Dirham, the two currencies I'm concerned about in the next few weeks.[3]
  • Finally, a dear friend from North Carolina sent a delightful finals-weekend care package to Parker and me, including doggie fortune cookies and human chocolate-chip cookies. And now Parker has the whole world in his paws (see below).

[1] Lots for me, anyway; NPR wouldn't have given me a mug for the amount I gave.

[2] Aaron Sorkin's favorite phrase, from Phillippans 4:7. Yes, athiests quote Bible verses sometimes.

[3] I'm concerned because I'm about to go to Dubai, via London, for school. The Dirham hasn't changed because it's pegged to the dollar...for now.

Linkpourri

Between my clients and school, I have run out of free time. I hope to have some in 2011; I hope to.

But I have seen a bunch of interesting things in the past few days:

I hope to resume my normal posting frequency soon.

Overconfidence in management

We had an interesting lecture this morning on overconfidence and decision making. Here's a quiz: guess the range that you can say, with 90% confidence, contains the correct value. So for example, if the question were "Parker's weight in kilograms," you could guess a range of 10 to 40, which means you are 90% confident that Parker weighs between 10 and 40 kilos. (You'd be right; he weighs 25 kilos.)

Here are the questions our prof hit us with today:

Fact Units Low end? High end?
GE total revenues (2003) $ bn
Michael Eisner's salary (2003) $
Microsoft employees worldwide (2004) thousands
Starbuck's stores worldwide (2004) stores
McKinsey Group annual revenue per consultant (2001) $
United Auto Workers total membership, non retired (2004) thousands
Blockbuster share of U.S. video rentals (2003) %
Canadian citizens per donut shop (2001) people
Ameritrade total daily trades by members (2004) thousands
Berkshire-Hathaway cumulative returns (1999-2004) %

Also guess how many of these you got right.

Answers tomorrow.

I will not read your script

I left a word out, which I hate, because you should read Josh Olson's recent piece in the Village Voice:

You are not owed a read from a professional, even if you think you have an in, and even if you think it's not a huge imposition. It's not your choice to make. This needs to be clear--when you ask a professional for their take on your material, you're not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you're asking them to give you--gratis--the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours.

Or, my favorite lines: "It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't. (By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)"

That's 'cause they're better

The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that craft beers, like our own Goose Island brews, have not suffered a dropoff in sales during the recession, unlike the (ahem) "flagship beers" most people consume:

Some of the industry's biggest brands lost their fizz during mid-summer, which is prime time for beer. Bud Light, the nation's best-selling beer, saw a rare sales revenue decline, 3.8 percent, during the four weeks ended Aug. 9, according to Information Resources Inc., which tracks sales in conventional supermarkets and convenience and drugstores.

Isolate the small-but-fast-growing craft sector, which makes up about 5 percent of beer sales, and the story is different.

Craft sales volume as measured in barrels increased 5 percent during the first half of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008, according to the Brewers Association, a craft beer trade group. That's down from a 6.5 percent increase a year ago, but still strong given the weak economy, analysts say.

Too bad the Trib didn't have an economist look at this. I'm not an economist either, but I think one could come up with a good explanation, along the lines of lower marginal consumption costs for craft-beer drinkers, and lower price sensitivity in general at higher levels of quality. In other words, people like me don't care about spending an extra 50c per beer for significantly higher quality, because we're after a good-tasting drink, not a cheap buzz.

Thoughts?

The results are in (London residency day 9, part 1)

We got our official team MBTI profile back this morning. It turns out, I was wrong on one person's Sensing-iNtuitive axis; we're really ESTJ ESTJ ESTJ ESTP ENTP INTP. The balance of Ps and Js is good; the unanimity of Ts is not; and we're acutely aware of the issues surrounding the 5:1 E:I ratio.

But that's all for tonight, when we work out our "team charter," the list of expectations and guidelines for how we'll work together from now until April, when Duke recomposes all the teams. Now, half of the class are taking a cruise up the Thames while the other half go on corporate tours. Photos to follow this evening.