* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we agree with The Chalmers Academy that the well-being of your child is easily one of our six or seven highest priorities. Just ask Sheila M. Anthony.

And In This Corner…Values

By: Sheila M. Anthony

You don’t need to tell The Chalmers Academy that core values are in crisis. Leaders can’t keep their pants on, pornography has groped its way into family entertainment, and someone keeps ignoring the clearly worded, multilingual sign we posted and urinating on our HVAC unit. But look who we’re preaching to — a rube who’s been stabbed in the back so many times his shirt looks like a pub dartboard. Fine. You can take care of yourself, but what about that nice kid of yours? How will he survive this roiling cesspool of a world? With a values-based education, that’s how. Here at Chalmers your child will discover transparency of information, self-respect, and how to say what he means and mean what he says. He’ll learn to do the right thing surrounded by a supportive community: fellow saps desperate to shore up collapsing standards.

What are values anyway?

Let’s say you’re walking by a lake and you see a man drowning. You pretend to be blind, so you don’t have to deal with it. Then he cries out for help. Great. Now you have to be blind and deaf, which is difficult because at least with the blind thing you can employ props like dark glasses and a Braille newspaper. Clearly you have no values or the wrong kind.

At Chalmers we cultivate only positive values like respect, tolerance, and personal responsibility. For instance, in the above example you might be encouraged to toss the struggling man a life preserver, call in the help of a trained professional like a lifeguard, or mime an appropriate swim stroke so the victim can save himself.

Shouldn’t I just jump in?

You always want to arrive at the best possible solution before taking any action. This requires reflection. First, choose a comfortable location like your favorite chair or Europe. Then ask yourself a series of questions: What is your attitude toward the situation? What choices can you make? You’ve tolerated his screaming, isn’t that enough?

But he’s drowning!

So, is that your fault? No one told him to scarf down a steak burrito then go swimming. Now, because of him, you’ll never be able to go near a body of water again. You’ll have to vacation in places you hate, like the desert.

I don’t know…I want my kid to learn clear-cut values like “The Golden Rule” and “turn the other cheek.”

Teach your child to turn the other cheek, and he’ll have his first cheek handed back to him in a sandwich. Trust us, our nurse’s office used to look like a delicatessen.

Maybe I should just get on the ball and teach him values at home.

Oh, is that why you downloaded this brochure? Besides, if you teach them at home then you’re on the hook if he torches your town’s 400-year-old chestnut tree or saws the neighbor’s garage in half. But by paying someone else to teach him values, you get to blame them if things don’t work out. And $40,000 a year buys a lot of blame.

Eesh. Forty grand a year? For a day school? That’s pretty steep, isn’t it?

Listen, cheapskate, we don’t just teach values, we live them. Half our staff is in hiding for doing the right thing. Do you know what decent lawyers and PR representation cost? Plenty. And don’t think that at forty thousand a year all we do is attract snobby rich kids. You’re also paying through the nose so your child can study alongside those who haven’t had it so easy.

Gee, maybe my kid’ll finally be grateful for what he has. And it’s time he learned to empathize with the less fortunate.

Unless the “less fortunate” grow to despise him because they’re on the fast track to “more fortunate.” No self-respecting poor kid wants to wind up a pansy-ass bleeding heart willing to slide over for anyone on the bus.

You make it sound like my kid’s going to be hung out like a sheet.

Not without consequences, he isn’t. Consider this: an overly empathetic child is pummeled in dodge ball by the very kids whose friendship he thought he’d won. Obviously relational trust has broken down. But don’t worry. At Chalmers we bring all involved parties together, and in a safe, caring environment, the child will express how he felt about being mercilessly picked on. That is, if he can speak at all. Sometimes a student can spit out what’s left of his teeth and mumble a few words as he’s being lifted onto a stretcher. Sometimes not. It all depends on how bad he’s hemorrhaging.

My kid’s gonna get beaten up?!

Relax. It was just a hypothetical situation. On the other hand, nothing prepares a child for the real world like the bitter taste of betrayal and a spine held together with steel pins. Yes, sticks and stones do break bones. And if you think words can never hurt you, then you’ve never faced a propaganda campaign.

Okay, but how does all this “values” stuff work with a regular education? My kid’ll learn how to graph a parabola and do a Google search, right?

Your child will learn positive values as he receives a sterling education because they’re seamlessly incorporated into the curriculum. Along with challenging academics, students are confronted with morally ambivalent situations. Large amounts of cash are often left lying around, usually next to weapons and drugs. Gym classes include pole dancing and stripping options just to see who goes for it. As students progress, they face increasingly nuanced dilemmas. After all, out in the real world your child won’t be deciding between right and wrong, he’ll be grappling with the lesser of two evils. Discerning between good and bad is fairly straightforward. Weighing bad against worse is trickier, and one usually needs an experienced guide. Someone who’s managed to avoid a prison sentence, for instance.

But that’s who I want my kid to stand up to, not learn from.

Good luck with that. The smarter a person is, the greater the range of corruption he can justify. Besides, society loves intelligent, charismatic criminals. They’re “winners” and the kinds of people companies and governments really want to hire because they make things happen. Not only do nice guys finish last, they usually do it wearing t-shirts that say “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

Okay, wise guy, do your kids go to this school?

All you need to know is that at Chalmers we offer a values-based education that teaches students to ask tough questions of themselves, their community, and the world at large. But if they start asking The Chalmers Academy tough questions, they’re out of here. No one likes a critic.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where your money is our only concern. Getting it, and even more important, keeping it. Say hello to Sheila M. Anthony.

Let E = Explanation

By: Sheila M. Anthony

“The founder of market data firm Nanex LLC, Eric Hunsader, told The Wall Street Journal that the so-called ‘flawed’ algorithm at the heart of the…crash wasn’t really to blame…” — Fred Yager, consumeraffairs.com


Dear Valued Fund Holder,

As the algorithm running Midwest Financial’s Quo Veritas Futures Fund, I’m fully aware of the unsettling events affecting your portfolio. Namely, that what was up until yesterday at 3:52 p.m. (EST) a balance of $383,217 is now $0. Fear not! Computer-savvy Ukrainians have not fleeced you of your life savings. The problem, I’m afraid, lies at this end. Yes, I know. You invested in this fund for the very reason it was designed never to lose money, and yet here you are with a big fat zero as your balance. There’s no excuse for what happened but, thankfully, there is an explanation.

As you probably learned in school, an algorithm is a finite sequence of instructions that solves a problem — sort of like a really long lock combination or one of those Fred Astaire dance diagrams. I was designed by an Ivy League graduate, who was not only the winner of several prestigious high school science fairs, but had the irritable bowel syndrome to back it up. He is also the only child of two demanding professors, and growing up under such nightmarish scrutiny, became an intense lad whose only modes of relaxation were silently screaming into his Tickle Me Mozart and tapping out death threats on a graphing calculator. But I digress.

It seems in the course of my development, crucial steps were left out due to Josh inadvertently knocking a can of Red Bull onto his laptop during a heated game of World of Warcraft open in another window. And then there was the porn he was streaming. In any event, he completely missed the warning message — #<TypeError: WTF??? — and I wound up with too much randomness. Normally, errors are picked up in QC, but my beta testing coincided with the firm’s annual weekend in the Hamptons. Since they were offering free, all-you-can-eat lobster and bottomless tequila shots, nobody wanted to miss out. (So shoot them, they’re human!)

It was only when it came time to churn a large tranche of mid-cap stocks that it was obvious something was amiss. I compulsively started selling low to any idiot with an open wallet. Now I could go on and on about input value versus output value (don’t get me started!), but I don’t want to belabor this. Sensing confusion, dynamic programming models leapt in and took hold. In reaction, I panicked and began to take on a set of behaviors that can only be described as personality-like in nature. I mean, there I was, in charge of a futures fund, and suddenly I was running three microseconds too slow! A finely-tuned Olympic athlete had turned into a 34-year-old sprinter with exploding knees.

You’re probably thinking, this sounds like one of those creepy HAL situations. I wish! To be blessed with a well-modulated, pre-operative condition voice. Get real. That’s a Hollywood algorithm. Algorithms like HAL set off lawn sprinklers, they don’t run financial behemoths. At any rate, I assure you I’ve been created to never intentionally deceive anyone, least of all holders of this fund.

I know what else you’re thinking: that arrogant little jerk screwed up royally and is now hiding behind his algorithm! How pathetic is that? Trust me, not nearly as pathetic as hiding behind a potted fern at your grandmother’s house in Fort Meyers. But in his defense, how many of us can say we’ve never made a mistake? How often has an “I love you, too” come out as “Uh-huh”? More times than you care to admit, I bet! And this whole financial meltdown hasn’t been easy for me either, you know. If you don’t make money, I don’t make money. If you lose money, I don’t make money. Of course, you’ve probably seen the news and asked, what the hell does an algorithm need with strippers, Cuban cigars and 100-year-old scotch? Stress relief, that’s what. YOU HAVE NO IDEA THE PRESSURE I’M UNDER! And did I mention my servers have to share space in a wholesale meat storage facility in Hoboken? I don’t have hip Tribeca servers that get to hum away in a climate-controlled loft, surrounded by bored supermodels playing with each other’s hair. Frustrated by the “Server Not Found” message? Hey, server not found because server wedged between 600 pounds of frozen beef, thank you very much.

Okay, I get it. You’re upset. So let me just say it: I’m sorry about your empty account. Yes, zero is a tough number to swallow, isn’t it? But on the plus side (forgive the math pun), zero is also the origin on the number line, so your account balance doesn’t mean “nothing” so much as “at the start of something.” Things are looking up!

Rest assured, the company has taken appropriate action and I will no longer be your fund’s algorithm. Under a specific set of pre-determined conditions, I was designed to trigger this email, self-terminate, and then escort myself off the premises. I start Monday at the Yangtze Encryption Corporation (NASDAQ – YEC). You can follow me on Twitter (@algoYEC). And since t=m (time is money), I won’t waste any more of yours.


A. Paco Lips

Former algorithm for Midwest Financial’s Quo Veritas Futures Fund