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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Before the Lobotomy (exams)

Christmas break. What a perfect opportunity to eat like a horse /students who have to cook for themselves all semester long fully appreciate their moms´ cookies/, drink like a fish /read: get terribly wasted and vomit all New Year´s Day long/ and sleep like a log (do not confuse with log). Right. Not if you are an unlucky student whose exams begin in early January (condolences, anyone?)…

“Remember to learn to forget – whiskey shots and cheap cigarettes.”

Yeah, forgetting is easy peasy. Input: vodka + juice. Please wait, disc formatting in process. Bzzt, done. T-distribution, Linking Limit Lemma, Weak Axiom of Revealed Preferences: Error, files not found.

I honestly wonder how many students are responsible enough to back up their precious files and open them once or twice during the holidays. Sure, your Windows may crash from time to time (after all, we are all somewhat Gatesian now), but that is not an excuse.

“The brutality of reality.” Packing, going to the mountains. No skis this year (no snow, perhaps global warming exists after all?), taking textbooks and a calculator instead. Thanks, Holland! ,)

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Posted by on 27 December, 2011 in Education

 

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Dear Reader,

I would like to most sincerely wish you Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays, if you prefer), no stress, awesome presents (and tact for people who are not witty enough to be sarcastic), great food, enough time with your loved ones and – perhaps most importantly – an unlimited supply of inner happiness, satisfaction and joy.

Additionally, I wish you all the best in the year 2012 (hope the world does not end) – success at work or school, great co-workers or classmates, tons of laughter, many happy family reunions, reliable friends, caring significant others, pots of luck and, of course, good health!

Truly yours,

… 

 
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Posted by on 24 December, 2011 in Random

 

A Tribute to Vaclav Havel

Yesterday, the 18th of December 2011, marks probably one of the saddest days in not only the Czech, but also in the whole post-Eastern Europe history. Black flags, millions of burning candles, thousands of people mourning in the streets or in front of the Prague Castle: The dissident playwright who led the “Velvet revolution” in former Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, died at the age of 75.

One may say that this was another “shot that was heard around the world“. (See the obituaries in The Guardian, The Economist, The Independent.) For a moment it seemed that life came to a halt. In the words of people who loved and admired Havel: “Life was somewhat easier while knowing he was around.”

There are many things to thank Mr. Havel for and I personally deeply regret not doing so even though I was honoured of talking to him in person – almost exactly – two years ago as a finalist of a literary competition. If I were to list everything my nation and country should be grateful for, if would probably make for a little book. Hence, I will be only brief, but not any less sincere in saying:

Dear Mr. Havel,

Words cannot accurately describe the degree to which I am thankful.

I admire your courage to speak up and fight what you believed in, I find solace and comfort in reading your speeches and books, I grief for all injustice that had been done to you.

I would like to most sincerely thank you not just in my name, but also in the name of our country for freedom and democracy that you helped to bring about. Your compassion and incorruptibility, bravery and perseverance have gone down in history. You made the world a slightly better place. In our hearts you shall live forever.

“Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred.” (Vaclav Havel)

 
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Posted by on 19 December, 2011 in Politics

 

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The Power (Read: Beauty) of Deadlines

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Douglas Adams.

“Deadlines. What a nasty word!” You say and shiver with disgust. You think of the most recent deadline you missed because of your not-anymore-secret procrastination or extremely heavy workload that would kill a horse. You think of your furious boss/teacher and your ashamed look of which you only caught a glimpse in a shop window on your way back home. Finally, you visualize the relief you felt the moment you sank into bed knowing that there won´t be any deadlines for the following two weeks.

Yet, no matter how evil deadlines may seem, they are actually the best thing since sliced bread. They are the ultimate whip who enforces discipline: They make you stay up late and/or get up early, they approve your increased coffee consumption and make you realize both the stick (punishment for being late) and the carrot (reward for not missing the d- thing).

If you think that deadlines are unnecessary and (especially if imposed “from above”) ineffective because you yourself know best what and by when you are capable of finishing – you are wrong. Let me illustrate it first and subsequently back it up with evidence.

Imagine your boss asks you to submit a paper on the efficiency of the latest advertising campaign you launched but does not give you a specific deadline; (s)he merely hints that “it would be nice to have it by the end of the month”. What will you do? Chances are, you really care about making a good impression. Hence, you take your time to gather data and check every single thing that could possibly go wrong. You process the data and spend many days creating fancy graphs, charts, tables and who knows what else.

However, the evening before the day you want to submit the paper you realize that in Section 3.3.1.a there is a sentence that slightly changes the meaning of the whole paragraph. You change it in the morning, but then you start wondering – was it just this one mistake, or are there more? You postpone the meeting with your boss and go over every detail again. And then you come up with an idea for a new graph that could make the report much better. But you do not have the right data. So, here we go again, two more weeks… And in the end your desire to hand in a “perfect” piece of work (to impress) makes you waste your time and your “normal” work suffers.

Sounds familiar? Now let´s look at what data say:

According to Dr. Ariely and his “Predictably Irrational”, students who got strict deadlines “from above” when their papers (during a semester) were due scored on average much higher than those who just came up with personal deadlines. But guess who scored the worst: It was those, who were not subject to any deadlines at all (apart from the end of the grading period).

The explanation is simple: Deadlines make us realize the value of time. If you are pressed for time, you a) focus more – because you have no alternative, b) prioritize – otherwise you fail, c) plan your work and stick to the plan – the only smart thing to do and d) beat your procrastination syndrome easier – as there is no time left in your plan for “procrastination”.

Of course, this works <=> (non-mathematicians read: “if and only if”) you do not collapse from stress because you are unable to manage your time (tips here).

The bottom line is – do not loathe your boss for giving you deadlines (you can do that for a million other things). (S)He is just trying to make you more productive and better organized. Remember that having freedom to do whatever you want to do is great only as long as you know where you are headed. Always think of the whip and the cake (promotion?) and do “what you gotta do“. It pays off.

 
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Posted by on 12 December, 2011 in Rationality

 

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Traders Trophy Worldwide

Have you ever considered becoming a professional trader? Or, to put it differently: Have you ever considered a stressful job where you could make (a lot of)^3 money? In case the answer is YES, then you´d probably like to hear more about the competition called Traders Trophy Worldwide. One of the best trading simulations you can imagine.

In this trading simulation you get to trade securities in an environment that closely resembles the real market. Apart from trying to make a lot of money, you have to make sure you a) answer telephone calls from your clients and other participants in the room and are active in the market  (“you are the market maker”), b) manage risk effectively and c) respond to the news that pop out every few seconds, minimize your losses and get stable returns on your investments.

Each participating university has its own qualification round, then the best traders advance to the national finals and again, the best of the best make it to the world finals. Putting all the fancy prizes, traveling and adrenalin aside, what are the main reasons you should at least give it a try?

First and foremost, if you want to become a trader, this is the best way to find out if you have what it takes. Having straight A´s is not good enough, because you have to make BIG decisions – and make them on-the-spot. If you are a nervous wreck each time you have to buy more shares, then this is going to be truly hellish 60 minutes of your life.

Secondly, since this is sponsored by companies that actually use this competition as a recruitment tool, winning can earn you your dream position (or at least make the firms aware of your existence, which helps). Better still, you will get to talk to people who work for these companies and get their views on this profession. And the icing on the cake – they are all happy to talk to you and share their experience. They do not look down on you just because you have not yet finished your Diploma; no way.

Lastly, this competition is great fun. You meet awesome new people, laugh at your own stupidity as you will – almost inevitably at some point in time – lose thousands of dollars in a single click (I actually enjoyed losing money that was not mine!) and then, if you are lucky, you will advance to the next round and go through all that again! Oh, and do not get me started on the gorgeous food that was served…

However, even if you end up in red, you can still win at least something. Personal experience: I made a loss of more than 15 000 dollars (so I did not make it to the national finals), yet I won in one of the three categories, namely the “Market maker” one. I was amazed to hear that, I definitely did not see it coming.

The Netherlands, beware: Next year I am giving it another shot. *Wink*

 
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Posted by on 9 December, 2011 in Entrepreneurship

 

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Long-Distance Relationships: The Art of (Im)Possible

August 2011. A true break-up “Big Bang”. Five spoonfuls of tears, three cups of despair and a hysteria icing. Not a particularly enjoyable sight, if you ask me. The reason for this explosion was neither unfaithfulness nor lies: The sole reason for this tragedy in one act was the fear of a long-distance relationship that “um, y’ know, can never work“. All close friends of both devastated protagonists could look forward to a great time. Absolutely not.

Do not get me wrong. Break-ups are probably a good idea if the relationship is stuck in a rut and the partners cannot be bothered to change it. However, going to college in a foreign country is something completely different: If you try hard, it can even prove to be more enjoyable than the “normal stereotype” when, say, you live in the same city.

Of course. By no means do I mean to say that being in a long-distance relationship is easy. It surely means a lot of lonely nights, a slight Skype addiction and – in some cases – perhaps even temptation one needs to resist. You can see it as a challenge: either it will kill the relationship right away (proving that it had never been a particularly strong relationship anyway), or it will strengthen it. That which does not kill us

To put it differently: If you both truly care and are willing to dedicate time to sustaining the relationship, to sacrifice some comfort, subdue your passions and trust each other entirely, then your relationship does stand a chance. Your reunions may become less frequent, yet much merrier as you will learn a) to cherish every second that you were given and b) to live your life with your significant other to the fullest.

The issue of long-distance relationships is, as I have already hinted above, extremely relevant for university students. Chances are you have already met someone special at high school, but you were accepted to different colleges. In that case you are facing two options: The Bing Bang break-up, or “the Skype approach”. Let me tell you two stories concerning these two choices – and you make your pick.

Story number one: My college classmate Lyn* was in a relationship for 4 years. Then she received an offer from a Dutch university and suddenly, she and her love would had been more than 700 km apart. They rather broke up and stopped calling (and writing to) each other. Once she arrived here, she fell head over heels in love with another guy, Adrian*. They hit it off right away. In three weeks Lyn woke up to reality she didn´t really enjoy: Her “sweetheart” was not only leading a rather incompatible life with hers, but did not see any merit in concepts such as “secrets” or “faithfulness”. To cut a long story short, she broke up with him and ended up at the school psychologist´s office. Two weeks ago she told me she was dropping out of the programme and going back home. And don´t get me started on the venereal disease she contracted…

Story number two: My former debate team-mate and a great friend of mine, Martin*, has been in (happy) a long-distance relationship (the same one) for more than three years now. Despite there being 12 timezones separating him and his girlfriend Elisabeth*, this couple manages to keep their relationship alive and enjoy every second of it. Both excel at what they study and are on their way to pursue a Master. This time, however, in the same city.

At the end of the day, I believe it is trust that counts: Without it, you are never going to make it. But if you really love each other and the relationship is based on more than just sex, than no distance is a true obstacle. You can have your love grow like a flower (or a banana..or bigotry? – video 2:03) or cut off any connection and pray for Time to heal your wounds…

PS: Edited by my boyfriend. Via e-mail.

* Names were changed.

 
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Posted by on 6 December, 2011 in Random

 

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