Archive for category comedy

Smoking a bit too much actuarial science

I was recently at a party where some students were smoking. I’ve become quite a believer in the futility of telling people why they should not smoke. Sometimes, as I see people smoking, some of these arguments come unbidden, and I can’t help but indulge in the futile practice.

On this night, however, I was sorely tempted to say, “Don’t you know that if you take out life insurance, you will be paying smoking rates, even if you’re only a casual smoker.” But of course, these people were years away from caring about life insurance premiums.

I kept quiet. Clearly too much actuarial science has an adverse effect on the brain. Perhaps I should consider quitting actuarial science, maybe become a beekeeper, and try not to think about whether beekeepers have higher disability insurance premiums.

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Love in terms of music, actuarial science, finance and programming

Friends of mine recently got married. One of them has a background in actuarial science and computer science and the other has a masters degree in music. I thought it would be fun to write them a poem that needed both these backgrounds to appreciate fully, and thus I came up with the following:

Love is like a symphony, a Beethoven symphony
(no 7 of course)
its present value cannot be determined
(no hypothecation allowed )
it has more power than compound interest
able to decipher even the most inscrutable VB code
love can make life feel like a stroll 
through country gardens
but sometimes, one must face 
nights on a bare mountain or even
the isle of the dead
but love is a commitment
a contract writ before God
it is a long-term investment, that
rides out short-term fluctuations
(it beats any human benchmark)
with not even death as a decrement

Here are the specific references if you want to look them up. Actuarial science: hypothecation, decrement, contract.  Finance: compound interest, present value, long-term investment, short-term fluctuations. Programming: VB. Music: Beethoven symphony, country gardens, isle of the dead, night on the bare the mountain.

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Some (not so) humble poetry

Ironic self-aggrandisement is a peculiar form of humour. I use it all the time, but it may be quite irritating to tell everyone how wonderful you are, even if you do so in an ironic tone, because, just maybe, a little part of you believes what you say.

By rights the world should worship me
I saved it just the other day
but of course I’m too humble to admit it
 
I’m actually a very charming person
but I’m afraid my charm only works
on intelligent people
 
I have many good characteristics
a razor-sharp wit, for one
and I’m really good in the sack
 
when I rule the world
you can be in my harem
you should be honoured 
many other people will die
 
everyone should just do what I say
the world would be a better place
why not go into politics?
no, no, politics is for people
with superiority complexes
 
I’ll make you my queen
you could rule the world
with an iron hand
or the household at least
I’ll rule the world
 
god and I are buddies
he asks Me for advice sometimes
the rain of fire that destroyed the world
my idea, or was that the previous world?

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The laws of biking in Amsterdam

This is not even a lot of bikes

This is not even a lot of bikes

If you live in Amsterdam, you will get to know the laws of biking. Ignore these laws at your peril. If you think you will not cycle in Amsterdam (I did) you are wrong. You will cycle, and you will like it, and you will complain whenever you are forced to use public transport because it is expensive and slow. Biking is awesome (except when the weather is really horrible, for instance when it snows, and even then “real” Amsterdammers will bike) and good for you and the environment. You are not really an Amsterdammer before you regularly go around on your bike.

The laws of biking in Amsterdam

  1. You will bike in Amsterdam.
  2. Murphy’s law of biking: The wind is always against you.
  3. Corollary to law 2: The wind will be against you no matter which way you turn.
  4. Trams are designed to lure unsuspecting bikers onto their tracks, and then tram-ple them.
  5. Red lights do not apply to Dutch cyclists.
  6. Foreigners who think law 5 also applies to them may get tram-pled.
  7. Your bike will get stolen.
  8. Corollary to law 7: an expensive lock is better than an expensive bike.
  9. You will lose the keys to your bike lock and have to cut it off.
  10. You will forget where you left your bike, among thousands of other bikes in the area.
  11. Take OV (public transport) and be late. Take the bike and be on time.

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By the power vested in me by the State, the Church and Facebook….

Some of my friends have gotten married recently. And soon after (within hours) they changed their relationship status on Facebook. It’s almost like with dating, it’s not really official until it’s “Facebook official.” Facebook seems even to have changed the way we get married and how we announce it to the world. No longer in the newspaper, but in a relationship status.

Perhaps weddings should start including a relationship status ceremony in which the couples change their relationship status (perhaps there are people who have already done so). I can just imagine the minister saying something like “By the power vested in me by the state, the Church and Facebook, I  pronounce you ‘married’. You may now change your relationship status.”

There is nothing wrong with the effect of Facebook on marriage. It’s efficient and adds another social dimension, the online dimension, to marriage celebrations. But, as I recently reminded a newlywed, when you’ve gotten married you should go on your honeymoon and leave Facebook alone.

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Only in Amsterdam

I am not a photographer. However, I find myself with a few photos of things in Amsterdam that I felt like photographing at that moment. They’re not all peculiarly Amsterdammish, but I think now is the time to share them. These pictures were mostly taken in winter, so with Spring nearing (it’s still too cold to say winter is over) I feel like I should say goodbye to this winter and all the misery it caused me.

First up is a picture of a bike in a peculiar position. In a city with more bicycles than people (yes, there really are more bicycles than people) bikes get up to all kinds of naughty things. In Afrikaans we have a saying “op die paal”, but that has nothing to do with poles or bicycles.

A bicycle "op die paal"

A bicycle “op die paal”

Next, bicycles covered in snow (mine is the one right in front). It snows in lots of places I know, but I come from a warm place with no snow. Snow and bicycles are an unhappy combination.

snow cycles

snow cycles

Some dirty brown snow. I have mentioned in a previous post that snow is rarely white and pretty for long. It becomes brown, dirty and trampled soon enough. I am not the only person who thinks snow is overrated. There is one other Dutch person who also thinks so. One person could be mistaken but two never are.

the dirty snow road

the dirty snow road

In Amsterdam there is graffiti everywhere. Not a single open space next to a train or metro track is unadorned. Here is some graffiti inside a metro which I found amusing. It’s so adorable the way they misspelt “rebel.”

adorable grafitti

adorable grafitti

A three-wheeled car like the one driven by Mr Bean’s enemy. Did you ever think you would see one of those in real life? I almost felt like doing something nasty to it. But then I thought, that would make me Mr Bean, so I just took a photo. (Actually I did not think any of this, but I did think it would sound cool if I said so).

three-wheeled car IMAG0512

three wheeled car

A dog in a chair at Waterlooplein. Amsterdammers love their dogs. It is a cute dog.

adorable dog in a chair

adorable dog in a chair

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Never snow, never snow, never snow

I sometimes feel like the only person on Earth that hates snow. It is snowing outside right now, whereas my family is currently experiencing a heat wave in another part of the world. Having been through a heat wave, I can honestly say, I would rather have the heat wave.

Advantages of snow

  • It is white and (somewhat) pretty – for a little while.

Disadvantages of snow

  • It is cold
  • It is not fun to cycle in the snow – it burns your eyes.
  • It is not fun to drive in the snow (I assume)
  • It is not fun to cycle or drive after it has snowed – snow that has thawed a little and frozen again is slippery and dangerous.
  • It is not white and pretty for very long. Soon it becomes brown and dirty and ugly as people and cars trample through it.
  • It delays all the trains (at least it does in the Netherlands where the train service are perpetually surprised when it snows in winter)
  • It is cold

I omit snowmen and snowballs from this list since these involve interaction with the cold snow, which can obviously not be an advantage. Also, for those people who don’t yet know: snow is cold.

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Why I hate elevators

At work I prefer to climb ten flights of stairs rather than use the elevator. I arrive at my desk out of breath and my colleagues must be thinking: “he really hates elevators”. They would be right.

The perks of not using an elevator:

  1. No more awkward silences. Even people who know each other seem to feel awkward and run out of things to say the moment they’re in an elevator.
  2. No more having to tactically avert your eyes (staring at the numbers lighting up or some unseen corner of the elevator) to avoid eye contact with strangers.
  3. You’re not in a small metal container that could plummet you to your death.
  4. You’re not in a small metal container that might get stuck and cause you to spend hours and hours between floors with nothing to do.
  5. You’re not in a small metal container with people you don’t want to be stuck with for hours and hours with nothing to do.
  6. You’re not in a small metal container packed liked sardines, feeling claustrophic, trying desperately not to touch anyone with any part of your body, thinking, “please don’t let it get stuck today. Please don’t let it get stuck today.”
  7. You don’t have to wait for elevator to get to your floor and stand there looking insipid while you not talk to the strangers you won’t talk to once you’re in the elevator. You can just get on with it.
  8. You get some exercise for a change and you might live longer for it.

Admittedly, if I had to climb 20 flights of stairs, I might decide to brave the metal container. But I would not be happy about it.

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