I related the story about the half-eaten bread pudding to my supervisor who replied with. “I was just fine. I saw it told everyone to take it. Is quite good.” This made me wince a little and I saw that she had a cup of it behind her. “Can you at least microwave it a little?” and she agreed to. Later I got an IM from her: Microwave melted chocolate. Even better. You are genius.

I suppose I’ve received worse news.

This incident made me step back and realize that I’ve been dealing with coworkers that have terrible taste in baked goods for nearly a decade. Do none of these people have grandmothers? Do none of them bake? Even on the days where I phone it in and use brownie mix people are agog over it. On my last day I should pull a Wizard of Oz and tell everyone “the power to bake was within you the whole time” before disappearing.

Maybe it is time to get Blackout Baking up and running.

Last Wednesday my work group went on a canoe trip and followed it up with a barbecue at a coworker’s house. I had baked a key lime cheesecake and half baked a bread pudding (thinking I’d serve it warm at the barbecue) and asked my boss to bring them. He was coming later and I had no place to store the baked goods while we canoed. He arrived, I asked him about the cakes and his reply was “aaaaah, shit”. So they waited in the work fridge for my return after Colossalcon.

I came in Monday, checked their status and found the bread pudding was half gone and the key lime cheesecake was completely gone. The cheesecake doesn’t surprise me but the bread pudding? It was only half-baked. Underdone bread pudding has the texture and appearance of croutons covered in chocolate chips and baby snot which never struck me as toothsome.

This rivals the time my coworkers at my previous employer ate 2.5 lbs of seized fudge which had the taste and texture of chocolate chalk.

Coworker #1: We should eat in the breakroom.
Coworker #2: I agree.
Coworker #3: We should eat in the conference room.
Coworker #2: That makes sense.
Coworker #1: Where are most people?
Coworker #3: The breakroom.
Coworker #2: No they aren’t.
Coworker #1: Then let’s go there.
Coworker #3: Ok.

Everyone wound up eating in an entirely separate meeting room. My coworker’s comment on this was “we aren’t stubborn, we will easily listen to a leader, but no one usually wants to be one.”

The CARe seminar is an annual event focused on property casualty reinsurance actuaries. Almost the entire work group was present from across three time zones and we had gotten permission to go canoeing.

We headed to the canoe rental place, changed, all received life preservers that made us look like idiots, and were taken a few miles up stream on the Brandywine river. I opted to canoe at the request of a coworker who had no watercraft experience and wanted me to pilot. I had no problem doing this until she screamed whenever we approached either the banks or an overhanging branch. This wasn’t the kind of gentle scream of surprise or a yell so much as the scream of someone being stabbed. I was relieved to find that she made the same scream while using a trampoline.

After a little under two hours, we left the Brandywine Creek, a remarkably domesticated body of water and went to one of my coworker’s houses for a bit of a barbecue.

We were all there. It sounds trite but my team very rarely gets together. The last time was 16 months ago and that was only for an global meeting of the analytical teams. Here we were, chatting and eating in a first order approximation of friendship. Everyone still had a certain amount of excess courtesy but we were by and large relaxed. We ate well, drank a little, and then had a camp fire. There was a guitar that two people played acceptably but sadly no one knew how to play any songs that everyone knew. A Québécois coworker played what seemed like the Tracy Chapman version of “What’s Up?” by Four Non-Blondes and we filed out when we were done.

I have trouble calling most of my coworkers friends. There are two notable exceptions, one being a coworker with whom at first I clung too for mutual self-defense and another whom I helped get hired. They both felt a little more distant here. My two previous workplaces spoiled me. One was a summer camp and the other was medical device design. The former involved one living with ones coworkers and the other had project arcs that were long enough that one often worked long hours for an extended stretch with a group. No one would be able to do all aspects of a medical project so you got used to relying on people. At my current workplace, many projects are parallelized more than anything with no one having unique abilities in the group. The distance could be born to the stereotypical introversion of actuaries or maybe I’m too noisy. In the mean time, I will keep giving them baked goods.

A recent hire asked me to her desk to help figure out why a data table in Excel wasn’t working properly. Data tables can be somewhat testy and when we got this one to work my coworker did a little dance and ran to tell another coworker we had figured it out.

I laughed, illuminated by her delight and said “Work is a lot more fun with you guys [the cohort of new hires] around”. She looked at me and said in her slight accent “That’s because you were jaded”. I’ve been at my current firm for less than three years and I’m “jaded”. Two weeks ago a coworker said I wasn’t spontaneous. I’m boring and jaded… I have some work to do.

The charge of being unspontaneous took me back. I’m been caught yelling things like “DR. SPACEMAN” and doing things like challenging people to foot races to settle disputes. Have I changed? Do I not have the spare 10% for the ridiculous or has some spontaneous part of me died? Is the office place just a bad environment to express it or am I just busy? Was it that I tend to send out meeting invites for training and tend to bake things on the same day of the week?

The paradox is that to prove her wrong, I can’t plan anything. I mentioned it to a coworker and his immediate response was “this calls for a glitter bomb”. Great, but the planning of such undoes spontaneous. And I feel like spontaneous and random are different, so bringing in the glitter bomb but not placing it until the mood moved me seems to somehow cheat.


I took an actuarial exam yesterday and am happy with how I did. I left one blank, had four that I consider near guesses (could only rule out one or two answer choices) plus the probably background noise of me just misreading questions or fatfingering a key on my calculator. I will be glad if I pass but if I didn’t, I think I’ll have been close.

I ran a training session with the new hires and caught up on work I had put off. The day was frantic and I had only barely regained my abilities to interact with no calculators when I got a message from a coworker.

Him: Best loss listing ever.
Me: Howso?
Him: The entire description for this loss is “cleaning tools, testicles”.

Messages like this are why I fear an open laugh as my entire company would be able to hear us laugh. “Cleaning tools, testicles” means that at some point, some person in a claims department somewhere decided that the only additional information required to move forward on a workers’ compensation claim was “cleaning tools, testicles”. Someone thought that, in its entirety, described what had happened to the listed injured person. There was no additional information as to the line of work, the time of day, the type of person (presumably male?), or environment that solicited “cleaning tools, testicles” nor the chain of events that lead up to or followed “cleaning tools, testicles”. A simple mystery. One that will probably solved by a urologist and someone somewhere in an HR department.

My firm hired four inexperienced actuaries. That increases our basic pricing team from three to seven and I get to have a hand in their education. To make room for this gaggle of new proto-actuaries we’re shuffling some existing people into offices that are now empty. Their time there will be comparatively brief; we’ll be moving into a new office space with very few private offices in about six months, but for now some group gets to have their tiny domains.

Since the move in has happened, I’ve noticed two changes:
1) They spend most of the time with their office doors closed. This suggests to me, that given the opportunity for privacy, they will take it.
2) They ask people to swing by their offices. I’m not entirely sure where this tendency comes from. It could be a subtle observation that the person leaving their office has a tiny amount more walking to do vs someone who just goes to threshold of their fief. It come be a tiny tyranny. It could be trying the phrase on for size.

I hope the latter fades quickly. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy the quieter work place.

The move to an open office plan is not one I meet gladly. My current tactic is to accumulate enough monitors to block out intrusions and bathe myself is soft warm light. I have some pack ratting to do.

Me: Hi.
Coworker: Today is your last day before you leave for surgery, correct?
Me: Yes. I’ll be out for two weeks.
Coworker: Our manager indicated that I should hug you because you and I went to school together. I do not think that would be appropriate so I would like to offer you a handshake. *holds out hand*.
Me: Thanks *shakes hand*
Coworker: May your recovery speed be a positive outlier in your favor.
I feel that last line should be the actuary’s blessing.

My offices uses Microsoft Lync but turns off message logging for “security reasons”.  This frustrates me to no end as conversation logging is infinitely useful when one works with people who will write three or four paragraph IMs with important information in lieu of an email.  A coworker and I installed Pidgin to deal with this lack of logging and it was nice to have a unified messaging platform on my computer.  The coworker and I chatted and explored the fuller functionality of Pidgin like logging, psychic mode, and showing previous conversations but slowly our chatter became more informal as we both reminisced about using Pidgin in college.  This was fine, but the breaking point came after we picked apart the hair and clothing choices of our coworkers and I linked him to hahgay.com.  This site is profoundly useful but probably in violation of my firm’s diversity policy.

1) I removed Pidgin.
2) I deleted the Pidgin conversation log.
3) I now understand why logging is disabled.


Crucial to the actuarial craft is estimating how losses will develop.  Say someone gets in a car accident, it’s easy to figure out how much fixing the car will cost but it can take years for all the costs of an injury to come to light.  If a firm has enough history, you can calculate a loss development to pull those losses forward based on loss data but often the data can be spare so one has to use another method.  One of the most popular is the Bornhuetter-Ferguson method often abbreviated to “BF method”.

This creates an odd scenario:

Coworker #1: The paucity of data makes LDF selection tenuous.
Coworker #2: I think we should go with the BF value I selected.
Coworker #1: Your BF is poorly supported.
Coworker #2: My BF is better than yours, I think.

I’m glad my grown coworkers get to argue about who has a better BF.  I really wanted to chime in with “which of your BFs brought you flowers most recently?”

Tonight was the first corporate holiday party that I’ve attended. The firm had rented out the Franklin Institute and seeded the place with food stations. I don’t drink and was trying to keep to keto. The people manning the chicken salad station and the roast beef carving station quickly became friends.

The museum was open to us, and I had a bonded with a coworker when we found out the flight simulator would indeed go upside down. Upon egress, we found out the sim cockpit wasn’t nearly as sound-proof as one would want and expect and our expletives were heard throughout the hall. There as quite a line for the simulator later, and I’d like to think my clarion call of “OH FUCK” was partly to blame.

Most of the actuaries drank lightly, some other departments moreso and a coworker challenged me to a dance competition. I giggled politely and then looked him in the eye saying “you, me, Lindy Hop, floor, now.” He reeled back in wide-eyed terror. Mind you, I have no idea how one does the Lindy Hop but I was gambling on him being in the same boat. He bowed to my dance non-skills and I became dance champion for an evening with skills so renowned I would never have to demonstrate them.

The party was fun and the food was presentable.  There were a few hundred people present and although our firm occupies 20 floors of a high-rise, the event seemed small.  I ran into a lot of Temple University alumni and even a woman who had helped me contact the Actuaries Club of Philadelphia.  She was a transplant from another career track only a few years ago and I noticed she had the professional title of “FAS” which takes most people five to 10 years.  I asked her about this:

Me: How did you do that?
Her: I put my head down and studied my ass off for three years.
Me: Did you have a social life?
Her: No, not really.  But now I look back on my paychecks and laugh at how small they are.
Me: Would you do it again if you had to?
Her: Best decision I ever made.

With that, I formulated a plan to pass three actuarial exams this year.  My odds of passing all three are about 20%, my odds of passing two are closer to 50%, and my odds of passing one are probably around 90%.