Recently, a 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper summarized and rewarded the toil and stride of my last four years. Yes, I was accepted into Columbia University's Ph.D. program in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (link). My plan is to concentrate on financial engineering at their Center for Applied Probability. They even offered me a TAship that will pay for tuition, housing, and assorted goodies on the condition that I torture a subset of the 5000 or so undergrads at Columbia by hard grading and incomprehensible teaching. Just hope that they don't assign me to Engineering Calculus I. In the words of James Cook, "The long term psychological effects can be devastating."
Many of my friends, relatives, and family are very happy for me. Especially my parents. Now, I am two hours away from our home in New Jersey. I myself was more excited before the acceptance than after. This is the weird thing about human curiosity and desire. We usually want things that we don't have, but once we have them, it doesn't seem as interesting. Columbia is just another university, albeit much smaller than UofT. It seems to be quite cosmopolitan as well. My preferred place of residence is this place called International House (I-House). It seems to be a very diverse place full of vitality where grad students from all over the world gather and study, drink, celebrate, discuss, and suffer.
This Ph.D. program is a very safe route for me. I study hard, graduate, and find a decent job in financial modelling. However, I have a strong tendency to try to jump the system. Recently, I came up with a few business ideas but all of them seem to break some antitrust or racketeering law. I was told by some close friends that I should think outside the box, but still inside the lawful box......otherwise I might end up in a box.
The antitrust laws in the U.S. are quite comprehensive. Ever heard of this practice called bid-rigging? Suppose there is a government contract and two competitors (A&B) trying to grab the contract. Instead of trying to outbid each other, A & B get together and cooperate by keeping the bid price high. Afterwards, whoever wins the contract would subcontract or reward a portion of it to the loser. Well people, this is an anti-competitive practice so don't do it. If you do see it happening, you can file a complaint with the Justice Dept Antitrust Division here.
Laws are meant to be broken, or at least circumvented. This is surely the case of Vice-President Dick. Instead of bid-rigging, Dick simply issued a $7-billion no-bid contract to his former company Haliburton. When Democrat Senator Leahy tried to challenge Dick to this corrupt practice, Dick dismissed him and replied: "go fuck yourself." (Source) Nicely done Dick. This is almost as creative as former Enron officer Jeffrey Skilling's answer at his Harvard Business School interview. When asked whether he is smart or not, he smartly replied "I'm fucking smart." (Source)
Other area of law I've been interested in recently is labour law. I asked the question, why is it that white-collar jobs don't usually have unions? My proposed answer is that the working condition in white-collar jobs is not bad enough yet to warrant the risk of forming unions. Also, opportunities for promotion is quite frequent in white-collar jobs and most white-collar workers with the organizational and leadership skills to start unions are dying to jump into management.
Yes, there is risk to starting unions. Check out the Wal-Mart anti-union efforts in Quebec. A secret union was petitioned by the employees of Walmart at Jonquiere, Quebec. When intimidation didn't stop the unionization efforts, Walmart HQ decided to simply close the store down citing "profit concerns." (Read here) The better news is that countries like Germany have mandatory union requirements so Walmart is forced to recognize union workers in Germany.
Ok mates, this is the end of reading week and I have a ton of work to do. Still searching for an internship, got a newspaper issue to put out, and have to finish assignments in PDE, Real analysis, time series analysis, multivariate statistics, and stochastic calculus. I wish i'm in Afghanistan.
The Disease of More
1 week ago