albion hills, summer 2008

pictures of curtis duffy and english pea on CS

chicago, i will miss you

August 31, 2008

Saturday, dinner at a restaurant in little India. Brish texted me that he would be 15 minutes late. I guesstimated 25 and it turned out to be 35. Note to self: increase the multiplier. Had the pleasure of meeting Niyanta. I found their bickering Bollywood-cute, even though I couldn't figure out half of what was said.

Sunday, Mum + Dad went to a Cirque du Soleil show. I stayed at home and watched the first season of Sex and the City, in search of an antidote to wide-legged gray pants. The scene where Carrie ponders if she may not be perfect enough for Mr. Big breaks my heart every single time. I would like to offer the hypothesis that insecurity leads to attraction to things that one is not perfect enough for, which leads to further insecurity. If one were to rank ibanks by the number of mentions in the show, Bear Stearns would definitely top the list.

August 28, 2008

Monday, Eddie is studying in Toronto. Wei + Me met up with him after work in Chinatown. We ordered lobster and ginger chicken jellyfish salad (sounds weird but quite delicious actually).

Thursday, met Hua's wife Cici for the first time. Another nice actuarial couple that cooks every night. I think I'm seeing a trend. When they go back to China later this year, they will spend three days taking wedding pictures. Wow.

Financial Times: On Wednesday the US Securities and Exchange Commission laid out its provisional timetable for US companies to switch from US GAAP to International Financial Reporting Standards. Providing certain conditions are met by 2011, the main date for the changeover will be 2014.

Economist: Messrs Kashyap, Rajan and Stein propose that banks be made to choose between higher capital requirements and buying capital insurance. A pension or sovereign-wealth fund would earn a premium and in return deposit, say, $10 billion of treasuries in a lockbox. When a predefined point is met, the funds would be released to the bank.

Alan Blinder, of Princeton University, noted that crises hurt almost everyone. Unless an insurer can be found who benefits from a crisis, “the insurance premium is going to be extremely high, because you’re making people pay in times when they don’t want to pay.”

August 24, 2008

Thursday and Friday, emerging job manager training. Mehmet told some crazy stories about working in Turkey. Maybe I should get a job there.

Friday, met some second year friends of Alex at the happy hour. Afterwards, Durgesh and I grabbed sushi before he attempted to carry a couple crates from his old apartment to his new apartment, a few blocks down the street.

Saturday afternoon, saw a couple really really really strange films by Dali. Here is my favorite piece from the picasso sculpture exhibit. The design gallery is always interesting; I only wish I can sit on everything. Saturday night, super yummy basil duck at spice thai with Durgesh and Zoey. Sandra joined us for our pre-dessert hike. At rice to riches, I indulged in four flavours: mango, coconut, almond & lemon.

Sunday, accompanied Durgesh to his classical guitar lesson. Sounds so nice. Maybe I will make my kids learn guitar instead of violin. Mini mandoos for lunch at k-town before train ride back to Newark.

August 20, 2008

Saturday, perfect weather. Mum + Dad + Me drove up Bruce Peninsula, passing a patch of wind farms. We hiked around flower pot island, inhaled fish tacos and watched women's marathon.

Sunday, kayaked from Cameron Lake to Cypress Lake and hiked around Lion's Head, where we observed some rock climbers on distant cliffs, before driving home in the lavender-tinted evening.

Wednesday morning, first flight into Newark. The swarming travelers made the trip from Penn Station to Grand Central a lot more difficult than I expected. In the afternoon, coffee with Camila before she had to pack for her trip to Seattle. In the evening, dinner in k-town with Steven Chen, followed by pink berry (green tea + mango + moshi). Saw an improvised musical, I EAT PANDAS: We Classy, at UCB.

The conversation turns to career goals. Since I have always enjoyed thinking about abstract long term stuff, the insurance industry is a good fit. For an insurance company, risk management and distribution are essential. (Using reinsurance to spread around risk is great; disconnecting risk management and distribution tends to create perverse incentives, which is not so great).

During the last three years, I have learnt to approach risk management rigorously. During the next three years, I hope to learn a great deal about distribution. If I cannot attain that kind of experience at my current job, I will probably do a MBA in marketing (Northwestern marketing people seem pretty cool) and work in distribution. After that, I will find (create if I cannot find) a job that will allow me to apply what I have learnt and think strategically.

Steven expressed surprise at my certainty. My certainty comes from my acceptance that I cannot do everything and this is good enough.

August 15, 2008

Saturday, family friend visiting from Australia. Apparently, housing price has gone through the roof since we left. Sounds like Fort McMurray, but on a national level.

Sunday, watched women's cycling road race.

During the week, watching women's gymnastics. So many heart-wrenching moments.

August 8, 2008

Friday, Sarah went through the Retail & Business Banking deck with me. She seems to have a story about every project and every consultant. One day, in the not so distant future, I hope that I can speak so eloquently about the business.

Fitch Downgrades OM Financial Life Ins Co to BBB+: The VA charge was taken on Old Mutual's Bermuda operations. It was primarily related to ineffective hedges on certain minimum return guarantees, particularly as they related to the Asian markets which were extremely volatile in the second quarter. The company has ceased offering the guarantee riders on all of its products (not just in the Asian market) until it completes a thorough review of the overall effectiveness of its hedging program.

August 7, 2008

Tuesday, met up with Luke at Spice Thai Cafe. We haven't seen each other for a year and a half; it's amazing how little he has changed.

Thursday, my first architecture for humanity Toronto chapter meetings. Lots of interesting projects going on.

Economist: Most eyes are on the promise by 17 large dealers to launch a clearing-house for credit derivatives by the end of this year. As with an exchange-based clearer, this would act as a central counterparty, backed by a default fund, and thus greatly reduce the risk of any one player’s failure destabilising the system. By turning their market into a hybrid—centrally cleared but still privately negotiated—they hope to make it more robust while safeguarding the fat spreads they earn by hawking OTC products. Demand for customised contracts is likely to remain heavy because many like the anonymity, points out Darrell Duffie of Stanford University. All the more reason to find ways, quickly, to blunt that sword.

Economist: the job we do has the risk profile of a short option position with unlimited downside and limited upside.

August 3, 2008

Friday, Sarah brought me Starbucks and told me a lot of interesting things about the corporate risk practice.

Saturday AM, mum's second piano lesson. She is hitting the right keys but having trouble maintaining proper tempo. In conclusion, practice makes perfect. saturday PM, tennis with mum & dad.

Sunday, easy 9 km hike with mum & dad around albion hills. They have a nice mountain hike trail also.

July 31, 2008

Tuesday, met Glenalan, my buddy. He used to work at Mercer Investment Consulting, so we probably met each other four years ago. Also chatted with Deb, my staffing manager. Me thinks my first project will be in Toronto.

Wednesday, spoke with Beth and Edward from strategic technology and finance & risk, respectively. They have both worked outside OW, so it's interesting to compare and contrast. Also discussed development and training with Amira and Beth. Going to New York in September to learn to become a good job manager.

Thursday, Health Ontario is mad at me because I did not notify them when I went to Chicago three years ago.

Economist: I've reluctantly discarded the notion of my continuing to manage the portfolio after my death—abandoning my hope to give new meaning to the term 'thinking outside the box'.

July 28, 2008

Sunday, outdoor concert at Toronto Music Garden, where each patch is particularly named. Sitting on Sarabande, we heard strings vibrating in the breeze. Dinner at CAVA to celebrate Stephen's bday, Denise's new adventure. Cider poached foie gras. Cider glazed sablefish. Duck anchovy torta. 48 hour beef cheeks. A litre of sangria. 10 years of friendship.

Monday, first day on the new job. Will make the most of the advice I received during interviews.

  • Empathy (listening skills)
  • Have a plan for work life balance
  • Focus on project management and presentation skills
  • Explain ideas while looking people in the eye
  • Make good use of beach time (research and proposals)
  • Talk to people about their projects
  • Don't make things overly complicated

Listening: Racheal Yamagata

July 27, 2008

Friday morning, yoga at Main Street.

Friday afternoon, lunch with June at Asian Legend. Not sure why Shanghainese dim sum is referred to as northern but the soupy mini buns and crispy pancakes are yummy. Her new office at North York Center has a lush view.

Friday night, Peter invited me to the OW happy hour. 4:30 white wine and apparently warm organic beer at the office. 6:30 gin + tonic at bymark. 8:30 red wine at Sid's place. 10:30 more red wine + lamb burger at allens. 12:30 clubbing. 2:30 ???

Saturday morning, recovery time. Saturday afternoon, Mum's first piano lesson. She promises to practice everyday. Saturday evening, tennis with mum + dad.

Let them drink organic milk: “The poor tend to shop in the aisles of the supermarket where the presence of Chinese goods has increased most,” says Mr Broda. These are also the aisles where prices have fallen fastest. The authors reckon that low-cost imports from China alone offset more than a quarter of the measured rise in income inequality since 1994.

Listening: Tristan Prettyman

July 24, 2008

Monday night, opening night of Rogers Cup. Saw exhibition game of Boris Becker versus Daniel Nestor, followed by first round game of Frank Dancevic versus Mario Ancic. First game I ever attended where both players are younger than me.

Tuesday, Wei and Hong cooked super yummy dinner for me. As we ate noodles and red bean ice cream, we watched lots of boats drifting about in the harbour.

Wednesday, checked out Rock Oasis. Bouldering is still really hard. Met Allison, who has been climbing for two years. Hopefully will find some people to top rope with.

Thursday, Owen in town for work. My first visitor from Chicago. Queen Street East was alive with jazz.

Economist: the days when insurance companies could be relied on to be the dumbest guys in the room seem to be over.

Admittedly, America's AIG got into serious trouble after expanding into the business of insuring mortgage bonds, but Swiss Re was the only other company to dabble in this dangerous niche. By and large only those insurers which own banks, like Germany's Allianz and ING of the Netherlands, have revealed big exposures to the toxic end of the credit spectrum. And the industry's disclosure about such assets has tended to be far superior to that of the banks. ING's last quarterly report was 96 pages long, with a 190-page statistical supplement chucked in for fun.

Why then are investors so sceptical? Unfortunately, earnings are still a bad proxy for the cashflow available to shareholders. If more light can be let into these financial black boxes, they may be viewed a bit more generously.

investment executive career guide: Mary and I were interviewed.

July 21, 2008

Thursday, Toronto to Montreal via Via Rail.

Friday, Montreal to Lake George with a three hour hiking break. As usual, Carl and I got rained on. We hid from stormy clouds and picked wild blueberries.

Saturday morning, pushed Carl and Zoey around on top of the Sleeping Beauty cliff. Saturday night, a glass of bubbly at the wine bar in Saratoga Springs accompanied by Dancing Cow Bouree, Lazy Lady Goat Cheese, Shelbourne Farms Cheddar + a lot of great conversation.

Sunday morning, kayaking around Green Island in the rain. Yes, again! Sunday afternoon, chilled melon avocado soup + duck confit sandwich at Maestro's. Chasing after Zoey's train.

Economist: The theory is that, when volatility is high, markets are usually falling. That is because there is rarely such a thing as a "forced buyer" of shares. But there can be forced sellers, when investors need to dump their holdings to meet margin calls or repay debts. Faced with such selling, marketmakers adjust their prices sharply and that is what creates spikes in the VIX.

It has yet to reach the heights seen in 2002, or when Long-Term Capital Management, a hedge fund, was being rescued in 1998. Both incidents, which pushed the VIX above 40, proved to be good moments to buy shares on a 12-month view.

July 17, 2008

Monday, spinning class at Main Street Cardio, a new fitness facility housed in an old church in my neighborhood. On the way, I passed the public library where I had spent many weekends reading fashion magazines in high school.

Wednesday, visited ROM with Margaret. Since Toronto is her first stop in Canada, we walked around the gallery of Canada. My fav section is that of China, Korea and Japan: individual glass enclosure means that I can walk around each exhibit and appreciate it from different angles. I saw the South Asia and Middle East section for the first time. The flow of information across cultures even in ancient times is amazing. Margaret, who participates in lace making competitions, was mesmerized by the Textiles & Costume gallery. Shanghai Kaleidoscope was interesting: a camera ebbs and flows along Nanjing Road.

Economist: An end to GSE status looks unlikely: as truly private companies Fannie and Freddie would require unrealistically large injections of equity. The government wants to avoid nationalisation. That leaves the status quo, the public subsidy of private profit: a combination as toxic as it was in Smith's day.

Economist: Gerard Cassidy of RBC Capital Markets reckons that up to 300 banks are likely to fail over the next three years, compared with just three during 2007. This number is less frightening than it sounds. More than 1,000 banks failed at the height of the savings and loans crisis in the late 1980s. "There are 8,000 banks in America and most people haven't heard of 7,950 of them," says Fred Cannon of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, an investment bank.

July 14, 2008

DEBORAH WRIGHT: I went back up to the business school at Harvard to take a bunch of personality tests. I found that while making money was on the list of qualities I valued in a job, it was not at the top. It was a startling revelation.

July 13, 2008

Friday early evening, Milliman happy hour at Rivers with Ravi, Allison who is visiting Ravi, Chad, Maggie who I just met, Terry, Max and Sandro who are comparing a certain neck muscle, and Mark who is trying to start his own hedge fund.

Friday late evening, sushi with Eddie, Fred, Lin, Jenny & Shirley at Agami. Sashimi. Seven rolls: Super White Tuna Carpaccio (my fav), crunchy melt, king dragon, ocean drive, millennium, fire & agami. Four desserts: green tea cheese cake, banana sushi, tempura apple & banana crisp. Afterwards, we visited the ELF apartment and listened to "Beijing welcomes you". Lin discovered Chen Kun.

Saturday, Sahil made two healthy and yummy veggie pizzas (thin and thick crust) with Jenny's assistance. We ate one for lunch and my parents had the other for dinner.

Sunday, leaving, in a SUV.

July 10, 2008

Monday, Alex and Linda cooked up delicious Asian style chicken and veggie at their cosy new apartment.

Tuesday, dinner with Philip at Argyle; loved the green papaya salad and fried flat noodles. Oh Dear Leader, I'm so eager. Someone made a sketch of us on the red line.

Thursday lunch with Daren, Ken & Jenny at Tower Club. Will definitely come back next year to check out Ken's electric bike.

Thursday dinner with Shirley, Jenny & Sam at Le Buchon. Sam retold the story of being mistaken for an intern when he first joined Milliman.

July 6, 2008

Cleaning up my personal drive at work.

Here is Wendy's VBA Tip Sheet.
1. Document all code changes.
2. Make inputs blue and bold.
3. When printing numbers, format because some programs do not recognize scientific notation.
4. Set calculation=xlCalculationManual at the start of code.
5. Set directory and drive at the start of code.
Call ChDir(ThisWorkbook.Path)
Call ChDrive(ThisWorkbook.Path)

Sunday, dinner at tsuki with Jenny, Jim & Jeff. We started with the special, melt-in-your-mouth otoro. My fav rolls are as follows.

Hamachi Atama Sushi:
Asparagus maki crowned with yellowtail & torched Japanese spicy mayonnaise

Spicy Pinenut Tuna :
Spicy tuna maki with pinenuts, pistachios & rosemary, topped with white tuna and ginger paste

I like my food showered in bonito flakes.

July 5, 2008

Thursday, kick boxing class. Round house!

Friday am, byebye brunch with Katie. Her 80 person wedding turned into a 200 person wedding but she is having a blast.

Friday pm, walked around Taste with Brish and his CME friend Terry. Makes sense that what I did my first weekend in Chicago is also what I did my last weekend in Chicago. Mr. I-refuse-to-do-long-distance is starting a new chapter of his life. Looking forward to seeing him every other week in Toronto.

Saturday, made pizza from scratch with Jenny i.e. we idly squeezed the tomatoes, rapidly minced the garlic, gently sliced the basil, energetically rolled the dough and shimmied the pizza into the oven. Okay, it was a cooking class at Chopping Block. View of Chicago River on the way back to the office.

July 2, 2008

Sunday, Jenny and I painted sushi :)

Monday, took a Zumba class i.e. salsa moves performed quickly enough to constitute cardio.

Tuesday, byebye lunch with Rachael at Tokyo Lunch Box. She was recently promoted and still settling into her new position. I'm not very good at byebye lunches.

Wednesday, last meeting at the foundation.

ING Closes Acquisition of CitiStreet: ING is now the third largest defined contribution business in the US based on combined assets under management.

July 1, 2008

Cannot believe it's July first already. What was I doing last July first? What will I be doing next July first? Added a clock to this page. Tic Toc Tic Toc. Leaving Chicago in twelve days.

Reviewing past entries.

Fav from 2004: 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.

Fav from 2007: Talked to Mentee Xi for two hours wherein he attempted to convince me that I am a typical Shanghai girl because I think relationships are about common goals, as opposed to sacrifice. FYI, my definition of sacrifice does not encompass giving up something good for something better; that's called prioritizing.