Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


BTBA shortlist 2018

Just a quick take on the winnowing of the longlist, as announced at The Millions and 3% (fiction & poetry): as always, sorry to see some of my favorites fall off, glad to see that what piqued interest made it (more at my longlist post), and congrats to Open Letter and Two Lines for their double-entry bookkeeping. And, as usual, I expect I'll end up reading half the shortlist entries. But the turnover among the judges makes it less predictable, not that that isn't a Good Thing, just that my interests seem to be diverging somewhat from the prize criteria (more esoteric? I dunno: has the fiction BTBA become more exoteric?). Looking forward to attending the announcement of the winners (May 31 at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W 18th St, NYC).


a long look back

Attention conservation notice: personal reminiscence sans advice, draw what lessons you may.

Today marks a decade since my last full day of work.

A story I liked to tell on my dad:
When I was on the decade plan in college (finished in 9 years, but had a semester's worth of advanced placement), my father would complain, "When are you going to graduate and get a job, you lazy bum?"
So when I finally graduated, and took a position on staff in a NYC programming consultancy, my father asked, "When are you going to get a real job, you lazy bum?"
The consultancy placed me in a research group at Merrill Lynch, which then hired me away, and my father changed his tune.
"Lucky bum."

As, indeed, I was, and am. My career in finance spanned The Great Moderation, which I graduated pretty much just in time for, and I brought a package of skills* in high demand and short supply just as finance was adapting techniques from mathematical physics. Not that I had any idea, it was just stuff I picked up along the way, often at work whilst in and between college (you may have gathered that I was not such a good student by conventional measures, but I was an excellent self-teacher, and I shan't deny other talents) (some of this path previously retraced, though I should note that when I first started as a programmer [cheap, dues to be paid], the only F on my transcript was Intro to Comp Sci [Algol, couldn't be bothered]). Once on Wall Street, I fell quickly on to the fast track, and just as quickly fell off, just as well (never administrated anybody or sold anything, supervising and marketing different story; more a grease monkey than a cog in the machine). So, as a model-maker for market-makers and reconciler of business and risk models, I became a postgrad student of markets, hard work but with an unheard-of stipend (even broke the 1% threshold once, back when it was lower, but only because bonus and severance collided). Yes there were accomplishments, but it would be tedious to list, or read; and while some of these were ostensibly solo, they persistently depended upon a broad array of co-workers and their diverse skills and talents, and not just within my department. But I served with distinction, among which, my last employer declared me redundant, twice over (albeit a decade apart).

So I left between the Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros fails, but didn't know it was for good. I thought I'd sit out the coming round of Musical Chairs, but further events interceded: divorce (my wife's career restarted as mine wound down), a Cipro misadventure, and Irenic wrath ... by which point my shelf life was past expiration date. But a 5-figure lifestyle on a 6-figure income left enough to last long enough (I hope), and time enough for nonremunerative but otherwise rewarding pursuits.

* maths, stats, tech writing, programming: I stumbled into APL without knowing it was a Wall St fave; nor that my homegrown knowledge was top-notch, until the consultancy shoe-horned me into an interview (2 strikes against) wherein I requested an ashtray while taking the tech exam (+ foul tips), which I knocked out of the park. Wholly unplanned but not unforeshadowed: my high school yearbook quote was "Technology has brought meaning into the lives of many technicians." Nowadays, such a mix is often prerequisite to entry-level interviews.