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!

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