An Excerpt from My Upcoming Kindle Release

Here’s an excerpt from a longish (~2500-3000 word) essay I’m writing for publication as a Kindle Book. It frames current belief in the college degree vis-a-vis traditional monotheistic religions’ value systems, and critiques it thusly. Do enjoy:

Other doctrines with similar promises of deliverance (from evil, which is defined by each organization) have since emerged alongside the political -isms. These doctrines, much like those of monotheistic religions, moralize participation. No neutral “other” category exists if a doctrine’s raison d’être is predicated on establishing the supremacy of the doctrine’s adherents with respect to unbelievers.

And this brings me to my absolute favorite organizational whipping boy: the university system. If we want to use Atran’s three factor framework, evaluating the university system as one promising salvation, defining itself in terms of good and evil, and defining aforesaid good based on subscription to, somewhat mechanistic participation in its doctrine, it becomes clear that in many ways our longstanding infatuation with the university, its straw-man promises of material prosperity and intellectual richness, deliverance from poverty and dullness, resembles the unquestioning religious fervor and generalized dogma of monotheistic traditions Atran warns against. Drinking the Kool Aid is what we’re programmed to do. I’m just here to make it sour.

As soon as I am out of school, it’s getting a good edit and going up for sale. It will be $2 or $3, and will be available free to those who want a .PDF copy emailed to them.

On Realism and Graduate School Applications

I applied and was denied admission to the University of Chicago’s Masters Program in Social Sciences summarily and without review of my application. This was, to a certain extent, expected. I am a third-year. I spoke with one of my professors, a well-known political scientist at the U of C, about my denial from the masters program. His advice:

“Here is the reason why you were denied: you posed an existential threat to the established system. Now, I know how tempting it is to make the argument that rules were made to be broken, that there are exceptions to expectations, but I implore you to evaluate the implications of your actions had you been successful. You would have turned over an entire institution, one predicated on a sequential acquisition of credentials. You don’t have to sell me on the fact that some undergraduates are more intelligent than graduate students; I’m trying, here, to sell you on the structural realist argument that how smart you think you are, or whatever intelligence you might exhibit–none of that matters. Okay? Do you see what I’m getting at here? Your actions, their potential outcomes, are defined through systemic constraints–you could’ve been omniscient, for Chris’sake, but because you don’t meet their parameters for admission–acquisiton of a bachelor’s being one of them–they won’t accept you. My best recommendation to you: game the system. Expose it, too. The College needs some shaking up.”

A Quick Thought On Awesome

I want to find something awesome, you know, in the 19th century sense of the word ‘Awesome’. I’ve never really sat in awe of anything before. In finding what I find awesome, I will find what I want to do with my life.

I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine, Ted Gonder, about the end of autumn quarter, the inexcusable humanitarian atrocities perpetrated against students during finals week by the University of Chicago, and our plans for the Christmas holiday. Somewhere in there, conversation drifted to one of those very collegiate “what do you want to do when you grow up?” kind of exchanges. I am to a certain extent envious of Ted, because he knows, or at least has a ballpark estimate, of what he wants to do.

I don’t. I’m interested in approximately fifty bajillion things, ranging from 19th-20th century British and American history, astrophysics, cosmology, American literature old and new, psychology and cognition, and, for good measure, some finance, entrepreneurship, and not-for-profit work (because I like to pretend I’m a good person every once in awhile). I came to the following realization:

“I want to find something awesome, you know, in the 19th century, romantic sense of the word ‘Awesome’. I’ve never really sat in awe of anything before.  In finding what I find awesome, I will find what I want to do with my life.”

Unfortunately, for me, for now, I am not easily impressed by much. That will have to change.

A longer post, along The Halcyon Days’s vein of early summertime college apathy, is in the works.

Who Says Facebook Killed Smart Public Discourse?

Me. Yeah, I said it. Facebook killed intelligent conversation. Occasionally though, intelligent people, like my friend and UNAI co-conspirator Patrick Ip, post a quote from another (ostensibly) intelligent person on their Facebook feeds (né “walls”), and somehow, without rhyme or reason, a torrent of responses issues forth.

Me. Yeah, I said it. Facebook killed intelligent conversation. Occasionally though, intelligent people, like my friend and UNAI co-conspirator Patrick Ip, post a quote from another (ostensibly) intelligent person on their Facebook feeds (né “walls”), and somehow, without rhyme or reason, a torrent of responses issues forth.

I believe this is one of those conversations that people can have only in college… specifically, as undergraduates. It must have been the mounting pressure of final exams, because within a three-hour time frame, just over five-pages of single-spaced text was produced.

A big thank you goes out to Ted Gonder for providing a voice of reason over the discussion.

Names have been obfuscated to protect the innocent and/or quixotic.

– – – – – – – – – – – –


Patrick Ip ‎posted

“Never, ever, for the rest of your careers, hire someone who had a GPA of 4.0. Ever. Because the definition of a 4.0 is that this person buys the act; they don’t screw around. Tommy Jefferson, Al Hamilton, and Georgie Washington, they were screwing around. This was a dinky doo-dippy country and they said, let’s go after that George dude. Now that was not smart. If they had 4.0 grade point averages, they would not have started this revolution.” -Tom Peters Continue reading “Who Says Facebook Killed Smart Public Discourse?”

Careerism is Dead.

I’m now blogging for Flyover Geeks, a Chicago-based blog aiming to be the TechCrunch of the midwest, the “flyover states”. I’ve been tasked with writing about college, entrepreneurship, and my opinion of both/either of them. Here, on The Halcyon Days, I’ve posted the first paragraph of my Flyover Geeks post, “Careerism is Dead”. It is a pared-down version of a Halcyon Days post from the summer.

From the time they’re young, kids are told to go to college and get a good job. Well, I’ve been doing some thinking about what it means to have a “good job”, and I find myself unimpressed. Look no further than the movies to find examples of Good Jobs. Charlie Sheen’s character in Wall Street had a good job selling stock to rich people. What about Leo DiCaprio’s Frank Wheeler in the film adaptation of Revolutionary Road? He had a good job at Knox Business Machines doing… something. What he did, exactly, is a little unclear. In fact, there are dozens of such characters who worked hard to graduate from Brand Name University only to get a Good Job that utilizes precisely 0% of what he/she learned in school. I don’t know who came up with the whole Good Job idea, but they were a spot-on marketer. Good Jobs, to be frank and a tad crass, suck.

To read the whole piece, click Here.

How To Get Hired at a Hedge Fund: A Résumé Dissection

My previous post, How To Get In To College, was obscenely successful. It was, however, somewhat simplistic in its execution, which is what likely lent to its popularity. I tried my hand at eviscerating yet another hackneyed variant on the application: the résumé.

My previous post, How To Get In To College, was obscenely successful. It was, however, somewhat simplistic in its execution, which is what likely lent to its popularity. I tried my hand at eviscerating yet another hackneyed variant on the application: the résumé. Be forewarned that this one is a bit more dense than HTGITC, primarily due to the use of acronyms and prolix technical names that proved, for better or worse, to be low-hanging fruits begging to be picked and mashed into satire.

{Below is a dissected, entirely fictitious résumé submitted to an entirely fictitious hedge fund I called the Rhodes Group. To wit, any company named herein is entirely fictitious; any similarity in name or operation to extant investment management or advisory firms is wholly coincidental. Goldman Sachs, though it makes a cameo here, bears no material similarity to the Goldman Sachs external to the confines of the work of fiction below.}

————

Profile

“Boy-Genius” financial wunderkind. Driven by quantitative performance measures. Technically well-versed. Corporate doublespeak rendering of attempt at self-aggrandizing originality expressed as sentence fragment.

Experience

Founder and Managing Director–The Sybarite Group

Coy exegesis of undergraduate experience founding the now defunct hedge fund, Sybarite Group. (named—in that great tradition of hedge funds—through the following formula: “[Arcane Word] Group”) Note on how such determination was inspired by Ken Griffin, a fellow collegiate hedge-fund-founder of now-proven “financial omnicompetence.” Some overinflated description of its “thesis”, and of its “Global Macro” strategy undertaken in the Seeking of Alpha in the thinly-traded, now-delisted Iraqi ADRs and junk bonds, summed up by an analytical diatribe on the implosion of SG’s Interest rate Debt-Equity Arbitrage (“IDEA”) strategy-program platform after several concurrent debt crises in malaria-afflicted regions of the world. [Although, it was “an extremely interesting and rapidly-developing ‘space'” at the time of SG’s inception.] Chalking it all up to “Failure is often the cost of valuable experience gained.”

[Gloss-over of the fact that the applicant was but the titular head of SG, for even though the applicant thought Global Macro to be tailor-made for his non-quant poli-sci degree, one that would contribute “Fundamental Understanding of Hypervolatile Geopolitical Issues And Resultant Market Inefficiencies”, the applicant’s wanton mathematical incompetence relegated him to creating flowcharts, infographics, and writing the quarterly report]

Market Informatics Intern–Informa, LLP

Saccharine remembrance of the ol’ internship days. A description of developing “proprietary Melville MaxAlpha rectilinear delimiting operational quantizers”, which is just a fancy name for some Excel spreadsheet-jockeying done in the back office—at which the applicant Excelled. Heavy usage of “integrated systems approach” when explaining implementation of said MMARDOQs into the high-frequency black box ‘algo’ trading carried out by Baku—the multimillion-dollar computer (named for the Japanese mythical beast that stalks the dream world and subsists by devouring nightmares) connected through high-purity fiber optic cable to the NYSE’s order matching engine and any number of as yet SEC-unregulated dark pools of liquidity. Grave description of managing “informatics throughput spillover”. Quiet demurring in the interest of modesty, however false.

[Failure to acknowledge the fact that the “ur-nerds” who studied particle physics and quantum mechanics and polyformatic abstracted Khurana processes were the ones who worked with Baku and the MMARDOQs, and that the applicant’s only role in their development was coming up with the technical-sounding name and attendant acronym.]

Deputy Compliance Task Force Officer—Goldman Sachs

Affected evaluation of the obligatory stint at Goldman Sachs, replete with doting, sweet, sweet nothings for his GS team and, more broadly, for the applicant’s scanty twenty-one months spent there—which may or may not have been the best, most stimulating year of the applicant’s life heretofore, the definitive answer to which (“May… or may not…”) is strictly guarded under an expansive NDA, as are his specific responsibilities as Deputy Compliance Task Force Officer. A sentence saying something to the extent of “You know how they are at Goldman…” with no explicit referent to whom “they” might be.

[For the maintenance of the firm’s immaculate media profile: “All rights to acknowledge negligence, failure to act, and operational incompetence, willful or accidental, committed by current and former employees of the Partnership are hereby legally waived by the undersigned according to Section 4.18.1221 of the Comprehensive Nondisclosure Agreement. (Comp-NDA)”]

External Relations Chairman & Interim CMO—StratPraxis | Mammon

A rather stodgy description of current duties writing copy for the newly formed StratPraxis Fund Group, a subdivision of Greenwich, CT based Mammon Strategy Partners, a position held until the applicant gets back on his feet. “The current post-recessionary labor market is expected to remain growth-averse for an extended period. Although composing promotional material for StratPraxis is engrossing, it doesn’t allow me to utilize my organic leadership abilities or my people skills. Newly capable in the construction of creative phrasing, I welcome the challenge of applying these skills to the securitization arm of the Rhodes Group.”

Education

Brand Name University—Political Science, 20–

Are you too smart for college?

What I believe the value of a “college education” to be is the following: the formalistic academic environment provided by our nations’ colleges and universities provides its young people with the framework–the papers, the reading assignments, the problem sets, etc.–to undertake the rather formidable task of consuming and digesting giant quantities of information, and, hopefully, be able to articulate it come the time for an exam or term paper.

Over the course of the past week, as I begin to say good byes and good lucks to my friends graduating from the University of Chicago, I’ve been doing some thinking. Why am I going through the process of “getting a college education?” Which I suppose can be rephrased as “what is a ‘college education,’ what’s so important about it, and why do I have to pay so much for one when all I’m doing is writing papers and reading books?” This quickly degenerates into an eggheaded discussion about what, ontologically, “education” is: I am not here to have that discussion, nor do I want to have it. Ever again.

What I believe the value of a “college education” to be is the following: the formalistic academic environment provided by our nations’ colleges and universities provides its young people with the framework–the papers, the reading assignments, the problem sets, etc.–to undertake the rather formidable task of consuming and digesting giant quantities of information, and, hopefully, be able to articulate it come the time for an exam or term paper. It is assumed by unwitting and idealistic faculty that “critical thinking” skills, among others, are picked up along the way. However, and I am not the first to say it, the internet and its attendant social networks and carefully hidden pockets of clandestine information have fundamentally changed the way that my classmates and I undertake the learning process; to wit, it is easier to get academic work “out of the way” without much intellectual effort in order to develop other projects. In short, we’ve hacked college. Most of us “get it done,” not for its own sake–”to learn and to grow”–but to GTFO, so to speak, and, as one of my fellow economics major friends so eloquently put it, “make shit-tons of money.”

If there is one thing that this year has taught me, it is the two flavors of motivation: does one pursue a goal as a means to some other end or as an end in itself? I, personally, have been straddling both sides of this duality, but as of late firmly decided that I only get to “do” college once, and thus I will devote myself as fully to the academic portion of it as possible. However, it seems that the pedagogical focus of the “modern college experience”–building a social network and padding a resume–is, effectively and convincingly, the cynosure among business-minded students–even at the ferociously eggheaded UChicago.

Consider the following conjecture: If you are the entrepreneurial type, the type who wants to get out there and get something started, or if you believe that academia is holding you back from what you want to do, take it from someone who’s read way too much in his life: Aristotle, Nietzsche, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx won’t make you successful. They will, however, help you find significance in your accomplishments. If you’re the retrospective type, one that cerebrates post hoc, you’ll be able to educate yourself later not because society is telling you to, but because you can approach that process with the same zeal with which you approach your current projects. If you have all of these great world-changing ideas, the wherewithal to see them through to execution and are willing to forego the short-term social cache of a college degree, then find an experienced mentor or two, build your network, and get cracking.

Parents often counter their college-bound teens’ assertions that many of today’s most prosperous companies were started by college drop-outs with the fact that their founders were smart enough to get into college in the first place. Bill Gates was also smart enough to realize that if he didn’t start Microsoft, somebody else would.

I’m not making any claims to being too smart for college. I enjoy academic life, and I want the social validation of a degree. I am, in fact, too cowardly to take the plunge into starting my projects in earnest now; few are willing to make that leap, and that’s the point. That said, I am currently researching options for a gap year.