Mid December 2005 {self worth, etc.}

I went to the art institute with Jinhe. The Impressionist collection, although impressive, is not quite cohesive. Me thinks the paintings should be arranged in a maze, as opposed to a series of numbered rooms.

I bought a postcard of Paris Street; Rainy Day by Caillebotte. It reflects my mood more than my memory of Paris. I also learnt the interesting fact that, when he painted his bedroom, Van Gogh was attempting to capture the peacefulness achieved by Seurat. It's just funny thinking about Van Gogh striving for peace. Perhaps he tried too hard.

In the basement, there were clever pictures taken by new grads from colleges around Chicago. One theme was consumption and how it affects our sense of self-worth. A particular picture made me laugh out loud: a girl clutching at a rail of wedding dresses.

I recently saw Harry Potter, Zorro, the Producers and Pride & Prejudice. Interestingly, I saw Roman Osin's work only hours after seeing Turner at the art institute. I object to the too-conventionally-handsome Mr. Darcy but I do love the scene where she sits in a swing. Beautiful spinning transience cruelly reminding you to count your chances. Or else.

I got my Fiona Apple CD so, as far as I am concerned, Christmas is here.

Early December 2005 {home sweet home}

After working 15 hours a day for 10 days straight on this M&A project and drinking too much at the Christmas party, I am feeling pretty tired. Now that the project is over, I am taking lots of little breaks at work and bumped into this article:

But the China Daily loyally expressed scepticism, asking, “How come an imitation of a democratic system ends up selecting the singer who has the least ability to carry a tune?” That, of course, is democracy.

Also doing some Christmas shopping online and I am totally psyched about going home for the holidays!

Late November 2005 {the next step}

Spent a week in Huntington Beach, CA, for Milliman Life Consultant Forum as well as orientation. Had a great time chasing seagulls.

The following week, spent two days with seemingly happy clients (yay!) in Philadelphia. Now it is American Thanksgiving but I am in no mood to travel. So I am hanging out with Jinhe's family as well as getting organized in an attempt to define the next step ...

Zoe Cruz Delivers Remarks At Alma Mater

Mid November 2005 {so happy}

I did not realize that time changed on the Sunday prior to Course 8. Hence, I arrived an hour early and freaked out because the exam center was empty. When everyone else finally arrived, there were delays due to mixed up booklets.

This was definitely the most chaotic exam that I have ever written. Somehow, I felt very much at peace that day, probably due to the beautiful scene in Grant Park. Camus said, "Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower." Wendy says, "Thanksgiving is a second autumn where every light is a leaf" =P

To relax, I bought enough things (including Caramel Macchiato Fragrance Oil) from the Body Shop to get a bunch of free stuff; the coconut body butter is really yummy. I read Wicked as well as the new novella from Gabriel Garcia Marquez. So happy ...

Mid October 2005 {when strangers smile}

Apparently, my white blood cells are doing crazy things.

At first, when I visited my primary physician, I was told the condition is triggered by stress. Then, the specialist that I am seeing suggested that I eat more red meat. Go ahead, he said, get as stressed as you want.

I find the possibility of my suffering from a stress related disorder disconcerting because stress does not bother me. I would not recognize myself if I were not in the fight and flight (or in my case, fight and fight) mode.

Despite being rather behind in my studying, I feel quite relaxed ... lingering in bookstores on the way home ... reading Sylvia Plath ... staring at random pretty girls in grocery stores; it startles me when they smile back.

Late September 2005 {i am a self fulfilling prophecy}

As expected, I didn't really hit the books until mid September and I am going crazy. I rather enjoyed reading Hull, Hardy and Mortgage Backed Securities but the fact I enjoy it means I actually read slower >.<

I finished first reading of course 3 3 days before the exam. So, if I first first reading of course 8 8 days before the exam, I should pass. If this does not sound quite realistic, see title of this entry.

So the highlight of my life is study breaks and I have been reading W. The photography is quite breathtaking and I love the current masculine-feminine trend as much as I hate being trendy.

Late August 2005 {better than air miles}

Someone once told me that the best thing about being a consultant is the number of air miles you collect without even trying. I think I have discovered something even better than that =)

My second trip to Philadelphia was surprisingly smooth. No delayed flights. No cars with dead batteries. No overbooked hotels. I even made myself a waffle for breakfast.

Back in Chicago, I finally settled into my apartment. It's actually the only place I looked at. And fell in love with.

When I open the window, I see the neon Target and Jewel signs, I see the river with its moving bridges, I hear the subway, I hear the Metra and I hear the traffic below. It's got that "we are going places" feel but at the same time that "above the crowd" serenity.

I like to walk along the Grant Park side of Michigan Avenue when I go to work. It's like walking along Park Avenue towards the Met building but with a touch of Paris. I walk by musicians (the symphony) and artists (the art institute). I walk by the epitome of Chicago architecture and art deco subway entrances.

Life is perfect! And then I realize I am walking to work on a Sunday afternoon ...

Late August 2005 {travel}

Day 1:
+ Flight to Philly was delayed for one hour
+ Avis gave us a car with a dead battery
+ No room left at the place we booked

Day 2:
+ Left client site half an hour later than expected
+ Got stuck in traffic in Middle-of-Nowhere PA
+ Sam project-managed our way to the airport only to discover the flight was delayed for three hours

Other highlights of the week include:
+ Coffee-flavoured mochi bon bon (ice cream in rice paper) at vong's thai kitchen with quintin
+ Moving in and discovering that my apartment comes with six spotlights on a track
+ Trying apple flavoured hookah with donna (wendy wants coffee flavour la)

Mid August 2005 {blur}

Everything is a blur right now. Going to Philly this week. Moving next weekend. Going to to Philly again next week. I am looking forward to it all and not getting enough sleep at all.

Since I am moving in soon, I have began subscribing to magazines. Definitely the economist. Probably vogue. Right now, you can get a deal if you subscribe to both vogue and w. I have never read w but the Brad Pitt/Angelina story totally caught my eyes.

Place any guy in the same picture frame as Angelina and he becomes a secondary character. I am shocked that Brad Pitt is okay with this.

The new "two beautiful people getting married and making beautiful children" is "two beautiful people getting married and basking in the glow of beautiful espresso & cream decor"?

Early August 2005 {settling ...}

I dislike the expression settling down as it makes me feel like sediment in a river, but settling down I am, at least for now, in Chicago where many rivers enter the lake. Until August 23, I am hanging out in a west-facing corporate apartment; no lake view but lots of sipping pink grape fruit juice to pink sunsets.

Early April 2005 {sempre dritto}

It is said by J. G. Links, the author of Venice for Pleasure, that the only direction you will get from a Venetian is 'sempre dritto' (dritto being the Venetian contraction for diritto). This is approximately 'always direct', or even 'straight ahead'. The orienteer constrained by 'either/or' logic, implicitly expects the single 'best' direction. However, this poor soul will miss the greater truth in the statement 'sempre dritto' of our fleeting acquaintance. What he is telling us is: "Where you are going does not depend on the particular path you take. In Venice, there are beautiful things on each path. Take one. Do not worry about the path taking you to your destination. Your destination will find you." And now, to you my friend, I say, sempre dritto.

[quoted] [pictured]

Early March 2005 {Time & Money}

Interviewed with EY last week and rather enjoyed the team building exercise as silly as it may seem. Even though I asked to depart New York at 8 pm on Saturday, the candidate care coordinator (yes, it's an actual position at EY) booked my flight for 8 pm Sunday. Stupid me of course did not check my ticket until I arrived at the airport on Saturday. Fortunately, Jenny was willing to put up with me for another night.

New York is an exciting place for sure. Met up with Brish and heard stories about Barclay's bond traders. Apparently, JAFO is short for Just Another F*cking Observer. Pretty good acronym actually! When I commented to Jenny that it is hard to believe that some people can be so negative and so successful, she said that traders work with money, not people =P

We took a couple walks through Central Park and I made a movie of ducks landing on the frozen surface of the pond. For some reason, the Gates are still up! We hugged giant teddy bears at FAO Schwarz and dug into espresso fudge brownie in Trump Tower, which did not taste like coffee at all =(

In the end, New York, with its vibrating dollar signs, is not the place for me. Sometimes what we live for is the reason we don't live at all.

Late February 2005 {The Actuarial Image}

Just watched the videos at I think individual actuaries need to be more aware of the future of the profession. But I also feel funny that I am joining a profession that needs an image campaign. I like the usage of red. This world needs more red.

Wendy as SOA campaign director:

The best Enterprise Risk Management solution?

Actuaries actually.

Nah, I think I shall go back to managing my own image campaign i.e. living my life, since actions are stronger than words.

Mid February 2005 {Trains in My Mind}

On nights when I stay up, loud thoughts tumble on. When I work on projects, I attempt to balance the pros and the cons and take calculated risks. When it comes to personal decisions, I am afraid of failure, afraid that I am the result of a series of fortunate events and, one of these days, the coin will come up tails.

Mid February 2005 {Vent!}

I hate to be ungrateful, since I probably would not have received Wooddy Scholarship if I were not attending UW, but I also hate the finance office with a passion. This is not directed towards any particular person involved, since all they did was follow standard procedures. Yet, for me to comply with their standard procedures, I am obliged to sign papers that are not applicable to my situation. Since I chose not to, they first threatened to kick me out of school and then charged me 130 for late fees.

If I were to pay 130 and learn something, it would be okay. But I still do not understand why I must sign a piece of paper promising to pay my tuition if my scholarship is denied when they have been withholding the funds for the past four months. When I asked them why they did not communicate with student awards, I was hit with, "Does the mail person at a company know how to do the president's job?" Well, they should be able to access the same set of data at varying levels of aggregation if needed to fulfill their job functions. No, I did not actually say that.

Mid February 2005 {Or is it simply stupidity?}

Wrote econometrics test today. Forgot that it was today until 1 am, after last minute scrambling to finish pension assignment 2. Thank goodness we weren't expected to prove the consistency of estimators and such. Received marks for pension assignment 1 and realized that I missed part of a question. This loss of half a percent of final marks can definitely be attributed to stupidity.

The emphasis here is not on half a percent but on stupidity. Any amount of marks is too much to lose when attributable to stupidity. I am completely out of focus this term. I can identify a million distractions but, instead, I shall calm down and try harder.

I need to call someone to plan a trip to Philadelphia. Now that I am typing it, I think I rather like the word Philadelphia.

Also flying to New York City early March, unfortunately a week too late for the Gates, which is a series of bright orange installations throughout Central Park. The theme is echoed on the Kenneth Cole website. Synchronized insanity, after all, is the inimitable essence of New York City. I am looking forward to whatever weather the postmodern eternal city is willing to offer me. Life is too short to hide underneath an umbrella, unless it is bright as a tangerine.

Early February 2005 {Vanity}

For my current batch of JAS articles, I interviewed two interestingly successful actuaries. They both considered becoming professors after undergrad then decided against it. What are the chances?

Social security is apparently hot enough to appear in Rolling Stone, I noted while reading a Gwen Stefani interview. She rather eloquently says, "I imagine my children are going to save me from my vanity and be my passion and fill whatever fears I have of the amazing time I'm having right now being gone. I don't want to drop off and not be on the radio or not be able to talk about myself for hours. I don't want it to go away. But at the same time, I never expected to be here in the first place."

Vanity, is that my problem?

Reading: hilarious manga called Doubt

Early February 2005 {Chicago}

I discovered a number of things this past weekend. Here are two: I love travelling alone as I am so much more observant when it is just me and my camera; I love Chicago and New York seems no more than an impressive pile of glass and concrete in comparison.

Thursday, just settled down although I did stumble across Michigan Avenue into Millennium Park because I did not realize how close the Palmer Hilton is to the subway station.

Friday, interview and lunch at Italian Village. I had four interviews with seven people. Actually, from the second interview onwards, I asked 75% of the questions and felt like the interviewer =P Although I suppose I have no basis for comparison, I am impressed with the answers provided.

One thing is for sure, interviews are better for the ego than grad school applications. No need to suffer through spasms of inferiority complex due to confrontation by questions such as "provide a one-page list of publications" or "what do you hope to achieve in life".

Once business is over, I walked up State Street and Magnificent Mile. I tried to do to Chicago what Monet did to London from the Hancock Observatory and felt obliged to visit Navy Pier because the Ferris Wheel looked so pretty from above. Enjoyed tomato basil mozzarella melt at Cosi's. I do miss it!

Saturday, early start at Jackson Park. I visited an used book store and bought "The Economic Doctrines of John Maynard Keynes", published in 1938, because the intro was cute in suggesting that the government of people by philosophers was finally becoming a reality as economists become more and more involved in shaping policies. Ate waffle at a special pancake place near by.

U Chicago is beautiful. I ate my daily apple at the new Hyde Park building of the business school. While I sat reading their publication, Capital Ideas, I realized most people walking by were Chinese and speaking Mandarin. Perhaps this is not an accurate sample since most people do not come to school on Saturdays? Realizing that I only had three hours left until sunset, I inhaled some Chinese food and ran towards Grant Park and the Art Institute. Completed the day by catching fireworks on Magnificent Mile and buying two pairs of shoes =)

Sunday, got up an hour before sunrise so that I can see various building on the west side of the loop before leaving for O'Hare. In the boarding area, the TV was tuned to CNN and guess what was on? Social security reform!

Late January 2005
{Quantitative Measure of Trendy}

From management information system class, I discovered that Zara is known to possess one of the world's most responsive supply chains. Their time to market is 12 times faster than The Gap.

Despite my convictions regarding attending grad school next year, I am going to Chicago next week for a job interview with Milliman. Apparently, the practice leader dropped out of a PhD program.

Last week, I saw Finding Neverland with Denise and Stephen. It was wonderful and awakened certain dreams in me of becoming a writer. I also saw the House of Flying Daggers. The plot is complicated yet predictable in its complexity. The cinematography, however, is breathtaking. I also saw Y tu mamá también. Completely hilarious!

Mid January 2005 {Institutions}

After a term of fulltime research, I had began to envision a university as a collaborative network of professors and students and to forget that it is also a large institution.

Recently, I received a letter from the president's office, congratulating me for the as prime minister award. Dad suggested that I book an appointment to see the president and thank him. I decided against it since his secretary probably typed the letter. Today, he spoke at the reception for NSERC award holders. After the speeches, I introduced myself and thanked him. I am fairly certain that he had no idea what I was referring to but smoothly went on to discuss other matters. The expected outcome.

However, at the beginning of the summer, the results of another encounter with the institution was not so expected. I visited the grad studies office to inquire about the Rhodes Scholarship. I was more or less curious about Waterloo's criteria. I was told that it was very difficult to win and that was all. Perhaps I should apply my newly acquired econometric techniques to analyze the causal relationship between support from staff and number of scholarships won.

On a less whiny note, I found this on the LSE website: "Cambridge was proved right initially, but from a longer term perspective LSE was probably the winner." Are they trying to be funny? As Keynes would say, "In the long run, we are all dead."

Mid January 2005 {Wendy Yu, ASA}

Thankfully, I passed course 5.

Banff and Calgary were great. While posting on flickr, I stumbled across another ice climbing picture and made a comment. The guy responded that the picture was from Banff and he had in fact recently ice climbed some of the landscape amidst my photos. Small world, eh?

While picking up my econometrics course notes today, I found a copy of the fortieth anniversary edition of Capitalism and Freedom with a new preface. In it, Milton Friedman says, "the one major defect in the book seems to me an inadequate treatment of the role of political freedom, which under some circumstances promotes economic and civic freedom, and under others, inhibits economic and civic freedom." Me thinks I need to read more on this!

Early January 2005 {Sylvia Plath}

Surprisingly, finding motivation in the Bell Jar: "I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."