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March 24, 2005

Traveling Again

3/22 AM -- Flew out of Manchester, NH in the early hours today, for three days at company HQ. With any luck, I'll have no interesting travel stories at all. But my layover times do look very short... The flight down, which had the shortest layover (next plane already boarding when first plane landed), went well enough...

While on this trip, I need to make characters and finalize notes for my AmberCon games. I have one character still to make, one to review from last year, and several submissions for Nine Lives in Amber to make sure I have personalized hooks ready to use. A great way to spend several hours in flight and evenings in a hotel room, I think.

3/22 PM -- Especially when there's no sign of a working 'net connection in the room...


3/24 3 PM -- But, other than that (and a failure to bring the PowerBook along due to not realizing my Wednesday dinner choice was a wireless hotspot), the work stuff went well, ending with a bit of entertaining evacuation nonsense due to a rumored bomb threat (I'll find out details Monday, I expect). I'm typing this note as I wait on my first flight back toward New Hampshire and a 3-day weekend. More to follow!

3/24 6 PM -- In LGA, there is wireless but it only lets you to a limited number of sites free, and I won't be here more than 30 minutes... so I'm just typing as I wait for them to prep my plane (currently 20 minutes late, but here and being readied) and then I'm for home.

23/24 8:30 PM -- Home. Tired. More later.

[date corrected thanks to someone more observant than I was last night]

Posted by ghoul at 05:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 16, 2005

Signs of Spring

In the truest of all signs of spring, the birds are returning. In this case, Mariah and Kaver are back to their nestbox on the Kodak building.

But, in a sign that winter isn't quite done yet, my milage slipped to 44.7 this AM, at 37,385 on the odometer. That means around 40 mpg since the last change, so the trend of warming is bringing life back to the Prius's hybrid systems. Here's hoping the next report will be the restoration of 44.8!

Posted by ghoul at 02:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 13, 2005

A Few Comics Links

Collected from various sources over the last week and a half...

The Greatest Spider-Man Story Ever Told

Superman's Origin The Way It Wasn't

and, for those with broadband or a LOT of time to wait on the download...

Adam West Is Still Batman

Posted by ghoul at 08:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Where I've Been

where you've been:
bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

(And, barring a change in plans, I'll be in Louisiana for a few days before the end of May.)

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Posted by ghoul at 01:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2005

Theory and Practice

Yesterday, I made a mistake. A fairly annoying one, too, because I should know better.

I wore my "practice" hat to a "theory" discussion, and then took forever (in discussion terms) to recognize this and (as best I could) change hats.

This is, of course, an issue I deal with all the time, not in my hobbies (where yesterday's mistake was, thankfully) but in my occupation. As an actuary, in particular as a product development actuary, I'm frequently challenged to take academic economic theory and re-cast it into a practical, executable plan, and in doing so I've had to recognize the limitations of both perspectives. My friend Grant often says (with no claim to have originated it) "In Theory, there is no difference between Theory and Practice. In Practice, there is no relationship between Theory and Practice." It's taken a bit too far, but it's essentially a correct observation.

The Theory world is ruled by the unforgiving taskmaster of logic. If Theory A is used as part of the justification/derivation/proof of Theory B, then if Theory A is proven wrong even just a little, then Theory B is immediately and totally discredited as well. That's why, in the Theory world, one must be very careful with words and what they mean, and why having a fundamental assumption questioned even in the slightest can cause an intense and forceful uproar, often resulting in statements that, on their face, seem totally out of proportion to the issue at hand (to a layman).

The Practice world is ruled by practicality. In the Practice world, Practice A may be used to justify Practice B, but it is recognized that a change to Practice A only might affect Practice B. One must review the implications on an individual basis. Changes are expected and the norm, review of assumptions and practices is continuous. Anything else is assured to fail.

So, in Mathematical Theory, 2+2=4. This is a hard, cold fact. But in Mathematical Practice, 2+2 can equal anything from just above 3 to just below 5, because 2 can be recognized as "anything from 1.5 to 2.5". There it is in simple terms... Theory and Practice are two different things.

This gets even hairier when you get to the advanced stuff. For example, the Black-Scholes Option Valuation Pricing Model (the basis of vast arrays of modern high-finance, usually in one of its successor forms) is proposed as a mathematical proof, fairly straightforwardly derived from a set of assumptions. The problem is that, in practice, each and every one of those assumptions is almost always false. Despite this, Black-Scholes works. This is because (as demonstrated in an excellent follow-up paper by one of the original creators of the theory, I believe Black) the sensitivity of the model to the inherent error in each of its assumptions is, in fact, quite small. It will fail now and then (there is one particularly large international hedge fund collapse that can be blamed on just such a failure at heart), but the vast majority of the time it will be as accurate as any of the other calculations used in financial work.

So, in Theory, Black-Scholes is wrong (based on several false assumptions) and cannot be used as a basis for further work (unless you carry forward all its questionable assumptions). In fact, it's right far, far more often than it's wrong, and when wrong it's usually wrong by a very small amount. It is flawed in that it's hard to see when it is very wrong until after the fact... In Practice, that means it can be used with appropriate care and understanding even if, in Theory, it must be thrown out.

One must recognize which realm the discussion is in and, thus, which set of reactions questioning a base assumption will create. In a Theory discussion, the reaction is sudden and forceful. In a Practice discussion, it's usually a quiet "hmm". From the exact same question.

Yesterday, I forgot to do this. As such, I wasted several good people's time and likely frayed a temper or two (temporarily, I hope). And that was completely and totally my mistake, not theirs.

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