Late December 2004
{all that is gold does not glitter
not all those that wander are lost}

Visited Steven in London this weekend and survived an outdoor temperature of negative 17 degrees celsius. On the greyhound, I read the other as prime minister essays. Contrary to my previous comment regarding lawyers, quite a few of the law school guys discussed the efficiency issue. The most interesting part is seeing how their experiences have shaped their views. I wished I read them earlier. It would seem silly to email people now to say Merry Christmas and I love your essay by the way.

In the usual what do I want to do discussion, Steven expressed the opinion that my resume is not as sharp as I am in person. Actually, I have recently come to that conclusion myself. It is funny how much self awareness I gained the day after I submitted grad school applications. Up to this point in my life, my transcript, coop evaluation and actuarial exam passing record have provided me with plenty of opportunities. Consequently, I never learnt how to spice up my resume.

Sometimes, I am convinced that I am not destined for 'glamourous' jobs because I am not attending Harvard, because I chose actuarial science, because I like to take my time to think, because I am too damn analytical. But I had to smiled when I read the following on the Record, the Harvard Law newspaper:

The unavoidable fact is that being a lawyer in a private law firm is usually not glamorous work. As one of the other summer associates at my firm joked, "I almost skipped the fine print. But then I realized that I couldn't skip the fine print. That's my job. I'm going to write fine print for a living."

Sometimes I forget who I am trying to impress. The details are never glamourous but the details are always important. Whatever I do, I need to inspire myself and be creative. Now that I have captured this happy thought, I am off for an hour on the treadmill, since frost bite is not an option.

Late December 2004 {Serenity}

I spent a day hiding in my room to recover from my atrocious score of 4.0. I have regained a sense of serenity: If I am not accepted, I will pursue other opportunities. It's also okay to not know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I am 21, for crying out loud.

Since I do not have Internet in my room this term, I spent the entire day reading articles from the Economist which I had previously skipped. The technology quarterly is very exciting. There are so many brilliant people out there changing the way we live.

Back in the office, I received from Xiao Xiao a link to this article contrasting Russian and American men. “How can I know what will happen to us when I don’t even know what kind of government we’ll have tomorrow!”

I like to browse through Wharton Diaries when I take breaks because it is just so relaxing reading about people who are so much more stressed out than I am. I am impressed by the fact that Wharton is so open about the thoughts of their students. Anyway, I was referred to an article entitled The MBA Philosopher King. I do not deem it necessary to mention that Wharton MBA's are cocky but this is a clever reference to Plato/Socrates indeed.

"Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophers, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other one compelled to stand aside, cities will never rest from their evils."

Late December 2004 {Mind in Circles}

Because Wharton and Harvard applications are due today, I called the hotline for my GRE analytical writing score. It was so unbelievably bad that I hit repeat until the database access software hang up on me.

Dad called up to say: Did you read the instructions? Even when I was in English Second Language Class, I did well in standardized tests. I was so confident about this task that I did not even prepare for it. Reality check: you are not as smart as you think.

Mid December 2004 {Think Positive}

Even though there are a million things to do and even though I am told not to bother, I often choose to do extra things to make life easier for other people. Then, somebody comes around with minor complaints regarding every extra little thing that I choose to do. On the one hand, I do not always respond well to criticism and that needs to change. On the other hand, I feel that some people do not understand my intentions i.e. I do not live for political correctness and I do not play mind games.

Someone recently said to me that it is a priviledge that my generation, when choosing a career, can take into consideration how meaningful such a career is. I never thought about it this way. It is only because that we have our current standard of living that so many of us can afford to trade earning for meaning.

While completing Wharton application, I found this working paper. "There are two different criteria that need to be considered when evaluating strategies. The standard one that economists use is efficiency ... The other criterion that is often used to choose between alternative risk management programs is equity ... We need to consider equity along with efficiency issues in developing public/private partnerships." Although it is said regarding risk management, I believe this philosophy applies in a much greater arena.

Mid December 2004 {Politics & Lawyers}

Article from McKinsey on boosting government productivity: "reforms take sustained attention—often rare when they become caught up in partisan or interest group politics. What's more, political cultures remain oriented to legislation, not to executing and managing programs. Few people make their name by improving the way government runs" & "In an era of permanent fiscal pressure, liberals should welcome a more efficient government to assure that more money is available for social needs. Conservatives should welcome it to help keep taxes at levels consistent with strong economic growth. Rightly understood, better performance by government can become that rare arena in which common ground is possible."

My problem with so many politicians trained as lawyers is that they essentially develop their style of thinking in an adversarial environment. They think standard of living will increase for EVERYONE if only we would move towards their ideology on the utility curve. What do less taxes or more spending on education and health care mean when we know nothing about productivity? Why isn't anyone running on the promise to match the productivity increases in the private sector and to take us to a higher utility curve?

Early December 2004 {Finance Geek}

Saturday, Xiao Min cooked for me and we watched Before Sunrise. I think it more or less illustrates that serendipity is not impossible for smart, cynical and over-analytical people. I love it, I love it, I love it but I don't know how to believe in things that are statistically unlikely.

Last night, I saw The Incredibles with Xi and it was incredible. Better than the last 007! Xi also told me some fun prof quotes. Rob Brown to a student who just got a haircut: Did you pay for that? Mary Hardy on Mathematics of Finance (MF) versus Financial Mathematics (FM): one of them is short for something bad.

When I was speaking with Ken Seng yesterday, he mentioned that I can keep my office for next term. I love having my own office in school! Then he jokingly asked if I need a fridge. Okay, I admit to keeping a huge amount of food in my office.

Today I overheard Jia Hua Chen discussing how TA workloads vary even though the pay does not as well as inadequate funding. I suggested an auction system. Then, Jerry Lawless walked by and suggested that, since class sizes are not known until the beginning of term, Ken Seng and I can establish a futures market.

Life as a finance geek, what else can one possibly wish for?

Early December 2004 {Shang Hai, Shang Hai}

So Wendy, who is not particularly interested in 'hot stuff' such as I-banking, found herself reading BCG's I-banking report Q3/2004. It caught my attention with this sentence: "China's growing demand for investment banking services is attracting large foreign banks". These days, China seems to be the place for everything. Supposedly, if there were more Chinese fluent in English, China will also be the next outsourcing hotspot. But I have this uneasy feeling, almost as if this is too good to be true.

When I was in Ottawa, we met and had lunch with the Chinese ambassador. Then, I was asked to present a gift to the Speaker in Mandarin. I have not spoken Mandarin in a formal environment for such a long time! If I wish to leverage my language skills in the future, I really need to spend a couple years in China to familiarize myself with the business culture. But the consumer culture in China's large cities bothers me to no end.

While on the BCG website, I stumbled across a fun game. Interactive case study! And I think I learnt something. Just because you are convinced a particular strategy is not feasible does not mean you stop researching. You have to convince other people! I still conjecture that management consultants mostly tell their clients what they want to hear. But, as always, the question is: "Where is the evidence?"

Also, I did some more training at GGY. Annuity, Scenario Tools & Stochastic Processing. Now I am one of the cool people with Axis installed on their laptops.

Late November 2004 {Revelations}

Nov 19: Braindead from GRE exam. A week is not enough for memorizing GRE vocabulary. However, I should not be rejected for a verbal score of 660. After all, six means "smooth sailing" in Chinese culture. What does Wendy do when she is braindead? She watches Jude. As usual, the film emphasizes romance as compared to the novel. Could not go to sleep at night because I cannot understand why people make other people suffer simply because they are unmarried with children. Trying hard to not to think about the gay marriage debate.

Nov 21: Saw "The Take" with Karen. Thoroughly enjoyed it and did not even find Naomi Klein annoying. Documentaries are so stylish these days. I like the constructive approach but I disagree what happened in Argentina is attributable to globalization per se. The film does not mention inflation or labour law.

Nov 23: Attended CIA professionalism workshop. Learnt that I am not a very forgiving person. Saw "Ghost in the Shell 2" with Luke. Beautiful, in an extremely disturbing way, of course. Again, thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I feel it was unnecessarily complex, like Matrix Reloaded versus the original Matrix.

Nov 24 to 28: Exciting but tiring week in Ottawa. I will NOT be drinking wine on New Year's Eve. Ashleigh is the national winner and it is well deserved. You do not have to speak to her for long to realize that she is extremely articulate. More importantly, she has presence. As much as I love to talk in front of people, I finally realized that I do not enjoy talking about myself. Not sure if this is a skill that I need to pick up. Depending on where I find myself in the future, I guess.

Mid November 2004 {Motorcycle Diaries}

Wednesday, I saw Motorcycle Diaries with Xiao Min and her friend Jack. They both thought it was very similar to Chinese revolutionary films. If you regard it as such, then it was a very sketchy piece. To me, it was more loss of innocence. Yes, Wendy thinks everything is loss of innocence.

"Let the world change you and you can change the world." The idealist in me says that this life is not about the struggle for power. But one cannot stop the ebb and flow of the world; one must harness this energy if one hopes to make a difference.

Two summers ago, Tanya and I saw a film on the violent end to Che's life. Knowing what we know, the gunpowder statement is a whisper of the past future. I wonder if such moments exist in my own life.

Before the movie, Jenny, Xiao Min and I celebrated the end of SOA exams at the Rude Native. I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet spicy flavour of the lamb. Also, Tuesday, Xiao Min and I tried the eggplant pizza at City Cafe. The scent of freshly baked bread was memorable. As much as I used to complain about Waterloo, I think I will miss it when it is gone.

Wanting:Wanting more than life
Denying:Denying less than never
Too much black coffee
(cups of unfathomable theories)
Too little caffeine
Too little time on my hands
(another leaf on my path)
Too much static in my head
(circular arpeggio in my dreams)

Early November 2004 {Intent}

Convocation: Saturday, June 18, 10:00 am

As I sit here filing paper to indicate my intent to graduate, I really feel that I am approaching the end of an era. A few months ago, when June suggested that I get involved with the graduate committee, my response was something like: "Oh no, I am far too busy for that!" These days, I am rushing towards yearbook deadlines and loving it. Editing stories and laying out pictures provide the perfect denouement to my time here.

I really enjoy surfing portfolios online and recently stumbled across something really interesting. Like so many games, you cannot possibly win.

Late October 2004 {Relentless}

Course 5 was ... okay. Question 7 in the morning threw me off but the afternoon session was not the huge rush that course 6 was. In fact, some candidates left early. I ran into a number of Mercer people but we were too highstrung to carry on proper conversations.

I think I fell in love with the Manulife building again. In May when I first arrived in Canada, I remember walking by and thinking that I will work here. Perhaps my dreams are small but it is funny how dreams become reality.

After the exam, I did nothing for two days. It is ridiculous how restless and overslept I felt, to the point of having a headache. No fear for I am writing GRE in two weeks.

Mid October 2004
{why we should consume more fast food}

I am a week away from course 5. Maybe the stress is getting to me but some readings are so hilarious. After a good laugh though, I can only sigh because it is all real.

"The fast food industry is an example of where retirees can go for part-time work after they retire from their lifetime career." Quoted from "Introduction to retirement income security systems" by Patricia L. Scahill, FSA, JD.

Considering the findings of the government-appointed Pensions Committee, I hope everyone in the UK loves fast food. "The biggest setback has been in private defined-benefit schemes, which pay pensions linked to years of service and final salaries. Employers have responded to falling stockmarkets and ballooning pension liabilities by closing these schemes to new members. The decline has been startling. In 1995, there were 5m people in open private-sector schemes, now there are only 2m. Instead, new employees join defined-contribution schemes, which are much less generously funded. The commission estimates that the impact of this shift alone will result in a decline in private-pension saving of 1% of GDP." Quoted from "Harsh choices - Pensions" (The Economist).

On a brighter note, for it takes light to make pictures after all, here are some jewels I stumbled across on flickr. An infinite field of tulips. Heart shaped coffee foam. A kitty named hazelnut. Refulgent rust. Life.

Late September 2004
{what is potential but an open hand}

What is potential but an open hand
      That holds everything yet grasps nothing
What is opportunity but choices
      That render you incapable of making a choice
Remember the fumbling at the door
      Because you have too many keys?

The limit of a limit is yet another limit
A chance is a chance because it is only a chance
While superman is only expected to save us all
While gifted children develop learning disabilities
      We shiver as we strive for tomorrow

A: My high school won the Ministry of Education and Training Award for Exemplary Practices in Integrating Exceptional Students.

B: My research progress:
the_future = f(the_present, many_desires) + Z
where Z ~ N(0,1)