Sunday, June 29, 2014

The things that come along when least expected...

Years ago I came to Charlottesville, Virginia to grade CFA exam papers.  That was in the early 1990's just after I qualified and the CFA people were trying to become a little more international.  Back then you could do the exam in French (for the French Canadians, not interestingly for French people.  They had to write in English like everyone else) as well, something that has ceased now the qualification is so international in its scope.

This morning for instance I discovered that nearly 300,000 people are registered candidates with the largest component by far being non-US -- actually by a 2 to 1 factor.  Chinese students are the single most populous component of those taking the exams today.  Amazing.

So why do I know all this stuff, you ask?  Well I volunteered to start grading exam papers again and after an agonizing year plus of getting an H1-B visa (thank you CFA for doing the hard lifting), here I am back in Charlottesville.

Nice town actually.  Home to the University of Virginia and its famous Thomas Jefferson influences.  His home called Monticello is very nearby and is a wonderful old piece of colonial architecture.

Downtown these days is very chic.  It wasn't always as back in the aftermath of the Civil War, those damned Yankees burned the place to the ground and it took quite a while to rebuild.  It was also the start point for the famous Lewis and Clarke expedition that started the process of opening up the far west.

But when I first started coming to Charlottesville, downtown was very run down and a place to avoid.  A guy I spoke with today told me when he was at the university in the late seventies it was like Detroit today and full of bums and drug addicts.  Students were always getting in fights.

Now it is anything but.  Totally regenerated into a chic downtown Mall area with lovely shops, bars and restaurants.  That's where I'm staying actually too.

Charlottesville's Downtown Mall

Today's first day was a tortuous reminder of what happens when you put 20 highly intelligent and qualified people with opinions and egos together in a room and ask them to add 1 plus 1.  It took all day and we still haven't made it to 2 yet!

I'd actually forgotten about this aspect of things.  Back then you sort of rolled up and got going.  These days its risk management, consistency of style, no grading drift (i.e. from an agreed answer) and generally avoiding the possibility of being sued.  So only half of the Level 3 paper is not-machine graded and there are 5 times as many graders being used.  Sounds like hospitals and their machines that go bing that just have to be used and which cost a fortune to operate.

Today's wonderful experience was a Beatles tribute band called 'The WannaBeatles' (check out their website here).  It wasn't any more than a straight tribute show of the guys -- no look alikes, just middle aged ex-teachers having fun -- but they had some local school girls as dancers and a choir that sang Eleanor Rigby and Obladi Oblada.

Jefferson Theatre

The musicians weren't that great but the songs were of course magical.  The venue was the old Jefferson Theatre that could hold 200 people at the most and it was jammed with people of all ages singing along and dancing in the aisles.

Just magical.  Now I've seen the Beatles, well OK the WannaBeatles.  Still good though and I'm still grinning!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hot, sweet and sticky

This time of the year Cayman is getting over its nice warm and comfortable temperatures and moving into the 'if you move, you sweat' time.  90 degrees and high humidity does that to you!

It had been a while since I've been in Cayman so I was interested to see what had happened since the last time I had visited.  Cayman was on a growth spurt whilst my home island Bermuda was struggling.  Projects were starting, building was happening, growth was happening.

I just wanted to see it.

Cayman has been great about attracting cruise ships, one guy I spoke with said in one day was his record.  I don't know what time of year that was but this week there was 4 on one day -- at 4,000 passengers per ship, that makes 16,000 cruise ship passengers looking to do things on Cayman, use transport, buy stuff and go to the beach.  Given that there's no dock facility and that cruise ship passengers have to catch a tender in, I was impressed that that logistical nightmare could be achieved successfully.

4 cruise ships in George Town Harbour

But as I didn't know until I spoke to Mike at tennis one night that in actuality passengers had to pass through security akin to Miami Airport each time they went back on the boat.

And if that wasn't bad enough they had to wait in the bobbing tenders while 200 other passengers were cleared first.

And if THAT wasn't bad enough, the cruise line would take all duty free booze and any food from passengers (to be returned at the port of origination for sure) as they wanted passengers to eat and drink ON the boat, not off it.

Little wonder that some passengers, in fact quite a lot, don't bother getting off at all!

The new Shetty Hospital at the east end is finished now although the car park was empty which to me suggests none if any patients yet.  Mind you the Cayman Compass reported a couple of major sounding heart procedures taking place recently so I guess it is working… just not much at the moment.

Shetty Hospital's car park

Talk abounds about this project taking off, that one breaking ground and for sure there is some activity going on but not as much as I'd heard.

But I did see this house being built near Kaibo on the north coast.  Whoa!

Not too shabby a place outside Kaibo.  

And I did have a great game of golf at the North Sound Club where my 2-year old shoes lost their soles on both feet but on different holes.  The pro at halfway laughed himself silly and told me it was the heat and humidity that melted the glue that held them together.  He did kindly lend me his golf shoes though so I didn't have to waddle round the back 9 -- I actually shot 42!

And I did see the greatest sunset on 7-Mile Beach!

I also found a great new app for my iPhone called Track My Tour.  Its a great toy that tracks your travels on what looks like Google Maps.  I used it all over Cayman… and annoyed everyone I came into in the process.  Fun though!!