Sunday, November 20, 2022

Book Review: The Ultimate Actuarial Joke Book and Best Tweets From Actuarial Problem Dog by John Lee

It is with much chagrin and envy that I offer my review of a pair of books composed by John Lee, a.k.a the Actuarial Tutor. 

I once had a dream to dominate the actuarial humor market. Now, I realize I have to share it. I missed the boat on being the first to publish an actuarial joke book, but perhaps I can still claim the best actuarial parody blog on the internet.  And while I may not have my tweets compiled into a reader, I can take pride in the occasional zinger I throw out there. 

But this is not supposed to be a jealous rant, so let me swallow my pride and proceed to support a fellow actuarial humorist. 

Actuaries are a rare breed. And if you are lucky enough to find one, you may get a chance to get a glimpse of actuarial wit and charm.  But if you are unable to find one or if you happen to be an actuary who wants to present proof that actuaries are indeed capable of humor, then John Lee's books are just what you need. 

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Actuaries Are So Covert the CIA Wants Them As Spies!

The worn trope of the actuary is that they are total introverts - practically invisible. The job no one has ever heard of and no can explain. It doesn't even sound like a real thing.  They even refer to themselves as 'unicorns.'

It turns out that this sort of elusiveness may be in demand by the CIA - and in this case, not the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, but the actual US Government Central Intelligence Agency. 

A recent job opportunity popped up on the Society of Actuaries Website and while the job title is for a Science, Technology, and Weapons Analyst, we all know that this is just a front. This is a chance to build a network of  undercover actuaries, a legion of nerdy spies that will assess and mitigate risks with silent proficiency. 

Cue the Liam Neeson voice over:

..what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you...

The only remaining question is how do you like your martini - shaken or stirred? 

(This post will self destruct in 30 seconds)

Friday, September 30, 2022

Hurricane Ian

I went toe to toe with Hurricane Ian on September 28, 2022. This was probably the craziest day of my life.

After 48 hours of anticipation and anxiety we were on the receiving end of a furious storm, pummeling our house with 100mph winds for hours and hours and hours.

A storm we thought would miss us, came and punched us square in the nose.

This morning, the sun rose, and I am grateful for today. 

To be here. 

With my family. 

With four walls and a roof. 

And just 40 miles to the west of me, things have completely disappeared.

And as I process through this, the thoughts that ring in my ears are bitingly poignant clich├ęs about how precious our moments are. 

How delicate and fragile we are.

How we need to continually to return to what really matters in this very short, very crazy, very beautiful life.

And of course, being an actuary, I am thinking about uncertainty and risk.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Book Review: Do Good Better by William MacAskill

I didn't realize that donating to charity could be an actuarial exercise! Yet after reading Doing Good Better by William Macaskill, I've realized yet another application of this skill set. 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Actuary Sets Bungee Jumping Record

Happily, this post is not parody - it really happened!  Congrats to Francois-Marie Dibon who more than doubled the prior record.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Book Review: The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt


The Righteous Mind is a book about morals. At first glance, morality may belong to the realm of philosophers and theologians, but not actuaries.  Indeed, it may be hard to find a discourse on the greater good in a statistics text book.  Yet, there are three reasons I think actuaries will find this book appealing:

  1. Much of what actuaries are concerned with involves predicting human behavior. Perhaps understanding someone's moral framework can yield insights about their risk taking behavior or why they'd even consider buying insurance (or cheating the insurer). 
  2. The book provides mathematical framework for morality. The author introduces the Morality Matrix, which should get the actuarial taste buds salivating. Haidt expands left/right orientations into a deeper palate of dimension. For actuaries who enjoy component based studies, this will be a welcome analysis.
  3. Actuaries are humans, too. This book offers a look in the mirror, an opportunity to "know thyself" a little bit better, and also sheds some light on your fellow human beings.
This book challenged some of the conventions I had about the role and value of reason in my decision making and justifications It gave me an opportunity to check my biases. Most importantly it gave me language/tools to understand the current political and social landscape in a way that the mainstream media misses.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Actuaryland: A Theme Park Designed By and For Actuaries

Inspired by recent activity on Twitter, a nationally recognized amusement park design firm is entering a concept phase for a new niche attraction. 

The impetus of the idea came out of an exchange on the popularity of Bayesian Statistics - to which one @loveactuary responded "in actuaryland we love em" - to which @EvanSparks chimed in "Actuaryland: the theme park where all the roller coasters have accurate forecast for how long a guest can ride before throwing up." This is now commonly referred to as the Puke Index.

And thus a concept is born.

Like all theme parks, the admission price will likely cost a small fortune. @nateworrell went as far to say that all tickets will have to be 'prefunded.' 

Even with a ticket, the entry into the park will likely require patrons to have to pass through a series of entry requirements, each one mentally and emotionally demanding. Less than half of ticketed guests are expected to actually make it into the park.

Once in the park there are several marquee attractions. Of course lines and wait times are going to be unavoidable - @Catuary1 adds a new twist with a policy not to disclose estimated wait times to park goers. Instead "they will roughly tell you how long the wait is but it is very vague...".  This should certainly ramp up the levels of anxiety and apprehension!

And as you read the descriptions, it is important to remember that in Actuaryland "all the rides are simulations" (@nateworrell):

Friday, March 11, 2022

Viral Viruses - Booster Edition

Here we go with round 3 of the Corona series! 


  • When a Virus Goes Viral (2020) - "It’s not an abnormal thing to wonder when things will get back to normal. I don’t believe they will, I don’t think they ever do."

  • When a Virus Stays Viral (2021) - "I don't know what the right answer is, but if you are arguing for restaurants and bars to open up, tell me how many grandmas you are willing to kill. Conversely, if you want to save your grandma's life, tell me how many of your neighbors should lose their homes or jobs."

We will quickly revisit the core three buckets that are continually evolving:
  1. Decision making/uncertainty
  2. Risk models
  3. Major structural changes in the world
And for our "Booster," I will look at the questions raised in round two.

  • How do we recover all the bailout, relief money?
  • How do rental markets/evictions unfold?
  • Relocation effects?
  • Company Mergers/Acquisitions - particularly in travel and entertainment