Hump Day

Density of X+Y

For most, I'm sure that October 27th, was just another Wednesday, that capped the middle of the week before the Hallowe'en weekend. For me, the day marked another very important midpoint; October 27th is exactly the middle of the University of Calgary academic calendar.

The geek in me worked out that from my very first class, to the end of the last lab, the midpoint was at 13:30 today.  The moment passed with me buried in a book that blends together functional analysis and probability.  Looking at the syllabuses: the schedules are all half done, the textbooks are now creased half way through, and in most cases the median assignment is now either underway or graded.

Outside of the classroom things are clicking along.  The homefront has suffered, and the Honey-do list has grown; alternatively the projects in which I'm professionally involved are moving along, and all those involved are seeing progress.  I'm sure the Fiancée would like to see me around the homefront more often, and very soon I'll be on winter break driving her crazy around the homestead.

Half of me is thankful, that I've decided to take on the hard trail and get the difficult stuff out of the way right up front; the other half thinks the first is nuts, and would have preferred the easy seat.  I'll admit that by padding myself with undergraduate courses this semester and not wading into the graduate mathematics would have made the journey easier.  Although, if I survive the remainder of this semester and its winter successor, I'm sure I'll appreciate being able to focus on my thesis and not being distracted by the courses which are currently crushing me.

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A Groove in October

2010-09-28-10-21-42

One month into my educational adventure, and I'm starting to find my groove. I've become much more accustomed to formal mathematics, and have managed to overcome some of the hurdles that kept me from previous understanding. I had an epiphany, late in the evening while reading up on Lévy processes. I felt so happy, that I jumped on my motorcycle, and even took the long way home.

Upon getting home, I was still pretty elated, whistling as I came through the door. Sonja noticed my pickup in mood, as it hasn't been quite so joyous for the last while. After a small bout of smalltalk she mentioned that I was in a good spirits, and I told her I finally figured out why I couldn't understand any of these proofs I had been reading recently. She probed further, and I revealed to her that I figured out that processes produce functions. She looked at me, her face as stunned as my own had been a few hours previous.

A good deal of keeping my life straight recently has been trusty Google Calendar. Being integrated with my phone, it is very handy for setting up deadlines, and time slots to hammer out assignments. I have a good handle on what is expected for me during the rest of the year, and while tight, is manageable. I'm sure it will only be a web log post or two and I'll be exclaiming that classes are over, and I have more time to dedicate to other persuits.

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Gap

2010-08-08-20-01-05

So classes are underway, and I've had a sampling of all of my lectures this fall. My TA work is still on hold for the time being, as the professors want to ensure that enough knowledge has been injected into the students before they try to find out how much is left. I can say, without a doubt, that working in strictly a computer science aspect for almost the last decade has eroded my mathematical skills.

While in a class on Monday, the professor was dutifully going over the 'Things you should already know to take this course', and was laying out a framework for the rest of the year. At just past the half way mark, he scribed this to the chalk board:

Lévy process - Lévy–Khintchine representation

Durrrrr.......

Making matters worse, is that it didn't really look like that on the chalk board. Integrands turned into esses, exes and tees became hard to tell apart, superscript and subscripts swapped places and the whole thing turned into a white on black calcite orgy.

Even after I looked the equality up, and could clearly read it in tex glory, I still had no idea what was going on. I can recognize all the symbols, but the ideas I can't currently put together.  Making matters more difficult is that a good chunk of these developments have been made recently (in mathematical terms), and wouldn't have been around when I was schooling.  Not that it matters, the area in which I am now studying is not the same as my focus during my undergraduate schooling

Although, by the end of this year I will be able to explain what is going on with the Lévy–Khintchine representation of a Stochastic process, else I won't have the grades to be here and worry about it.

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It is official

U of C

At the beginning of this year, I applied to the University of Calgary's graduate program and was accepted.  Excitement and change are flying about the air while an odd blend of worry and optimism mix in my brain.  I would have publicized the news earlier, but I have been flat out between work, studying for my PMP Certification, becoming Batman, and ensuring some residual photographic and programming incomes.

Most often when I mention to people that I'm leaving steady employment to obtain a Masters degree in Applied Math, the responses I receive fall into one of two categories.  The first type of response is 'what will you do?', sometime phrased as 'what does that mean?'.  For those people I'll weave a tail about how I'm going to study in the finance lab and eventually move into writing software for financial people.  The second response, usually from my geekier friends, is a vague reference to applied math not being as pure as Real Math.

Then the conversation usually moves into why I'd give up a relatively comfortable dink's life, to take a vow of poverty and return to the money racket that is higher education.  The answer to that question is complex.

I believe what started me thinking down the path was reading the book: A Thousand Barrels a Second.  Peter's telling of his predictions for the oil industry shook me a bit.  I know that oil gets broken down into many products and that the world won't just change overnight.  I actually predict another really good run, or maybe two, in the fossil fuel based energy sector.  As the price pushes higher, you'll see more technologies that rely on different sources of energy become more viable.  Throw in a little telecommuting + virtual reality to keep us off the roads and the supply-demand balance will shift and suddenly the oil and gas industry will become very tight on the margins.

I probably took Peter's words differently than most because of my upbringing in northern British Columbia and working towards a degree in Computer Science.  I found myself first set back by the tech bust and then the forestry industry getting butchered.  Both seemed like industries that could never fail.

The Dot-Coms were becoming overnight millionaires, and that there was enough of everything to go around in the new digital age.  Stories of Silicon Valley excess, and the adjusting of economics to a limitless supply of electrons made it seem that mankind had now found easy street, and for the rest of time we could employ the miracles of the internet.  I often joke that I heard the dot-com bubble pop.

Forestry in my home town also appeared to be invulnerable.  Forestry itself is set up around supply and demand, and ensuring meeting demand sustainably.  We thought everything in the world could be made from the parts of a tree, including a plethora of biodegradable plastics, and we would be able to just take our refuse and use it to grow more trees.  While I grew up you either worked at one of the many mills around town, or you sold stuff to people who worked at the mills.  Furthermore, the British Columbia Forest Service logo was the most common thing to see on the side of a white truck, which is eerily similar to the number of energy company logos I see now.  Then a piece of legislation, and the price of forest products became too expensive and the industry was dismantled.

Staring towards the future, I became pretty certain that during my lifetime I'll see the oil industry be carved up.  It won't die, both tech and forestry are still alive and breathing today.  I believe it will just become a lot more difficult to be employed in the field, and I don't want to have the unemployment cycle make me a job seeking 50 year old whose only experience is tied to a tight energy sector.

The path now forked.  If I was going to walk away from the oil and gas sector, what would I like to do?  I thought about photography, but reasoned that if I had to flog it for a living, I probably wouldn't like it as much.  I've had a couple encounters doing photography part time, that made it clear that doing it day after day, all day, day in day out would very quickly make the magic of capturing photos disappear in the wind.  I entertained the idea of making custom wood products and becoming a carpenter, and again I thought that my love of turning and making woodcraft furniture would die after I faced the reality that I'd be competing against cheap people buying cheap stuff from Ikea and Walmart.  It was around this time I began to consider finance.

I've carried a wonder of the stock market since I began earnestly investing around 2004.  Furthermore a good deal of available time, I dedicate to analyzing and attempting to understand the markets. I've written useful pieces of software to help me out.  I've voluntarily read books on finance that most people would find to be the most boring print ever put to paper.  I spend most of my day with a secondary monitor showing me what is going on in the market.  When worrying about industries, as long as there is money, there will be a finance industry and if there is no money, I probably don't need to worry about working.

At first the thought was to just switch, and I started probing into what kind of finance jobs are available.  It appeared I would either have to set myself back, and get hired on somewhere as an associate somewhere, and take a pay hit because I would basically be a programmer not knowing what he's programming, or I could try and learn a thing or two about finance before I entered the field.  A few searches about education in finance and I found the finance lab at the U of Calgary.  The rub was that the programme in which I wanted to study, required full time study and a stint as a teacher's assistant.  As the conflict with my day job would be too great, I wearily weighed my options.

Eventually the scales tipped in the favour of returning to school.  I've served notice with my employer, and have started letting people know.  There is going to be a lot of change in my life this year.

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