Why the AAA Property Team is so awesome

So this came about after I decided that I was going to wear a tie everyday to work for the hell of it:

I think we can all agree that the gentleman in the yellow had the best “funny” face. Upon voting and being told this, his reply was:

I’m not sure how I feel about “winning” the funny face contest!?  Possible explanations for the expression on my face might include:

– That’s not my funny face.  That’s my regular face.  Regular just looks funny where my face is concerned.

– Does it worry anybody else that I look horrified and Mustafa looks happy?  Is there a correlation?

– Did anyone else see Mustafa’s monkey slap me across the face right before the picture was snapped?

– That expression is the expression I had on my face this morning when I read Mustafa’s note about Alen being out of the office today.

– That expression is the expression I always have on my face when Christian’s eyes roll into the back of his head.

ps:  I had no idea that Amrita belonged to a gang.  Until today.

pps:  My thanks to all who wore ties today!  It was fun to join forces and Windsor knots to pull a prank on Alen … even if he wasn’t here to enjoy it.

Thank you,

Oh yeah, by the way, Kimball is the Property Team Executive.

Man, the things you miss when you take a day off to study.

This is Why You Don’t Set Future Drink-Offs While Drunk

Rules found in a text file named “20120511rulescindylincannotbackout.txt” on my office computer:

Cindy promises to get Lu to pay.
Lin wants to bring husband.
Cindy will bring Dave just in case Lu does not pay.
Ray will bring other Dave
Wei will bring 3rd Dave.
Mustafa will watch the show with Vivian (Luna’s ex-roommate)
“Dave” or Lu will pay
Girls and Guys are equal
Cindy notes thats Alen is sweating.
(Loser or Lu) pays.
Lin warns Alen of possibility of selling house
Alen warns Cindy of possibility of having significant lump sum to pay.
Lin will most likely pay (see is from inner mongolian <<<<<< real mongolian)
Lin will bring Mao Tai.
Lin requests contingencies, Alen disagrees. Cindy needs dictionary. Alen sucks.

Good Company Culture

If you’ve ever been to any of the infosessions I’ve held on behalf of AAA, you’ll know that one of the things I emphasize most about AAA is its awesome company culture. Some examples that I give include the trust managers give to you in terms of projects, the study dinner and study program that brings all the actuaries together on Mondays and Wednesdays, the Tuesday/Thursday basketball “meetings”, Poker Nights, Game Nights, etc. A lot of that makes us sound like the Google of insurance companies – and in many cases, we are (except the market share, haha). But when you boil that down, all that really consists of is just time for fun and games. That’s something that should be consistent across all companies with a younger workforce (which, as I’ve learned, is actually pretty difficult to find in the insurance sector). But to me and my short 1+ year tenure, AAA is something different, its something that transcends that – I have just never been able to formulate exactly what and have always chocked it up to the infamous “Honeymoon phase”. Well, last Friday, I had my epiphany.

So maybe some background on the situation.

Around 3 weeks ago, in our Quarterly Actuarial communications meeting, our head actuary told us that the Research manager, James, would be leaving us in 2 weeks. From what he described, the issue was more personal related as opposed to company related – which implies negotiation is probably out of the question. To most of the actuaries in the room, 80% of who (including me) have been directly a product of the expansion of the actuarial department, this came in complete shock. For the whole last year, we’ve seen more and more people join the department, seen more and more events to accommodate the growing population, it seems almost inconceivable that people would be leaving right in the midst of that. I still remember, after the head actuary announced this news, the whole room was silent. Now, for those who know me, I’ve never really been bothered by silence in my life. People have always used the phrase “awkward silence” to describe situations, but I really have never felt that. I have never felt the urge to fill any sort of silence with meaningless chatter or random jokes. But this was different – this silence was deafening. I couldn’t handle it. So being the inconsiderate prick that I sometimes am, I asked the head actuary “What is your timeline in filling the position?” I think I regretted that question as soon as it left my mouth. Interestingly enough, while my question sought a professional response, the head actuary did not give me one. He said that he was still in shock and would like to get to the bottom of the situation and he began recounting some of the feats that James had accomplished while he was with us. From the head actuary’s words you can tell – he was in emotional denial and James, in many cases, is irreplaceable.

Coming out of the meeting, it was evident that the shock was only just dissipating. The usual random chatter that would fill the first floor as we left these large meetings wasn’t at its normal decibel. I went through the rest of the day with a heavy heart and it was quite strange. To be honest, I have not really interacted much with James during my tenure at AAA. He was in a lot of my meetings earlier in the year, but didn’t say much. I went to Berkeley with him during a career fair during the Fall of 2011, but, while I got to know James a lot better during that trip, I wouldn’t consider it as something that would make me react this way to the news. James really was your typical quirky, super intelligent, yet not extremely outgoing individual. He was always smiley, always polite, but never said much.

Now fast forward two weeks to last Friday. After successfully dodging the elephant in the room during our goodbye lunch to James, it was finally the time for James to leave AAA. After receiving the final goodbye email from James, telling us all to keep in touch and thanking us for our companionship, I tried my best to summarize my sentiments:


It will be tough to see you go.

Best of luck to you and all your future endeavors.”

I don’t know if he read it, I don’t know if he even got a chance to. But before you know it, he was passing by my cube on his way to the elevators. With the head actuary accompanying him out, James smiled and waved – “Goodbye Alen.” And really, it was at that moment that I finally realized what good company culture really meant.

Any company can segment days out for fun and create game days, basketball days, poker nights and call it team building. But really, only companies with a good company culture can “team build.” The perks are only there as a mask to attract those seeking it. In fact, “company” culture doesn’t have anything to do with a company’s policy. The real “company” culture lies in the quality of its employees. Sure you can have all the game days in the world, but what use is it if there are consistently people thinking they have better things to do or people who just can’t get along with others? The attraction that AAA has to me is not about all the time we have to hang out, to go to happy hours, to play games – its about mutual respect. The terrific company culture comes from the hiring of people who are just excellent, upstanding individuals (note: there is a subtle difference between this and people who are quantitatively strong – which has been and continues to be a typical hire for most companies) . Then, when you mix in all the fun and all the parties, your coworkers no longer are just coworkers – they’re like family (cliche, I know). The real reason why I was so sad to see James go is not because I had some deep spiritual connection with him – it was because deep down I knew, that at the next event when I turn around expecting to see James smiling at one of my dumb jokes about credibility or statistics, I won’t see him. There will be a missing cog in the team, an absent member in the family. And that, my friends, is always sad.

With that being said, you can take it as a plug for AAA, or maybe just as evidence to my over-sentimentality – either way, I’m pretty fucking happy to be here.

Major Grocery Victory

So while shopping for groceries today, i discovered that 空心菜 is finally back in season!

While cooking it usually has a pretty tedious prep process (remove all the leaves from stems), it can be made into 2 dishes quite easily! You can cook the leaves with diced garlic for the traditional 蒜蓉空心菜 and then dice the stems and add some 豆豉辣椒 for a pretty traditional 湖南豆豉辣椒空心菜根  (creative naming, right?). I think I’ve just found my food for the next couple of lunches at work.

To add on top of that, I just found out that the local Korean market sells eel! Some say that 99 ranch has it too – but I have not yet been able to locate it (or at least in the one that’s close to me). Have been wanting to cook some unagi (and duck – but haven’t found a right time to do so yet). Dinner tonight:

番茄炒蛋 (tomato and eggs)
烤鳗鱼 (unagi)
Pan Seared Opah (don’t know how to translate “pan-seared” in chinese, haha. Opah = 月鱼)
苋菜汤 (Zen Choy soup)

Interesting note: For some reason, the storekeeper at the local Korean grocery market keeps offering me Yakult Yogurt when I’m paying for my stuff. I wonder if she just has an overstock of Yakult Yogurt that she wants me to buy from or if shes just using it as a retention tool. Either way, its working!

1:00AM Cooking

Product of my new late night cooking schedule (being an actuary is tough!):

Steamed Rice
Sauteed Swiss Chard
Pan Seared Opah
Cubed Steak with Mushrooms
Over-hard Eggs

You can’t really see much other than the steak and eggs, I guess you’ll just have to trust me on the rest 😛

Work this Week

My Calendar for this Week

Effective time to do work ~zero.


Edit: Uploaded a “safer” photo. You get the point.

Life: Worries

Why do we all make life so hard for ourselves?

Let it all go and just live.



今天在飞机上,不知为什么说到了断掌的事情 – 让我想起了我外婆以前跟我说我的断掌一些特点,所以上网查了一查…

英国十九世 著名手相学家基罗说得好,他说:“这种人有一种可怕的强烈性格,他们的集中能力很强,一旦精神集中于某一个目标,就会用尽全力去把这个目标做好,一直到完 全竣工为止。可是他不善于利用群众的力量,即使把这目标完成了,也弄得筋疲力尽,无法再从事新的工作了。”这种人在性格上有如下各个特点:性情忠耿,是非 观念极强。一发现别人在进行欺诈,便忍不住要大发脾气,非把对方的欺诈揭穿决不肯罢休的。工作能力很强,不管怎样困难的事情,都由自己独个儿去处理,不喜 欢别人来插手。万一因为自己个人的能力有限,近得把一些不大重要的工作交给别人去做,也老是牵肠挂肚脏,非亲自去干它一下,是不得安心的。如果爱上一个人 的时候,他会尽一切办法使自己的爱人快乐,使自己的爱人感到无比的幸福,甚至在一生一世中也是如此。但要是不幸失去他的欢心,他便恨得相当强烈,非使对方 感到极度难堪不可。刚愎自用。暴躁。也容易感到灰心。由于这种人的性情特别,所以跟这种人谈恋爱的时候一定要相当小心,否则就会吃亏的。这种人性格多疑, 对人不信任。不过断掌的可以做大事业。










怎么办?缺点多端 – 真要慢慢的去改。


We should never wait and hope for the competition to make a mistake.

I think I’ve gotten too complacent lately. Its time to kick it up a notch.

The Power of Music

Lately, for some reason, I’ve been extremely sensitive to music. Maybe its the new ATH-A700s I bought for work or maybe its the enormous amounts of caffeine I’ve been ingesting with my tea. Who knows? Anyway, just thought I’d share some super-legit Chinese music.

徐佳莹 – 身骑白马

Somewhat of an old song by a past winner of 星光大道. The mix of Taiwanese “folk” music (歌仔戏) and Mandarin is extremely unique with a very touching story behind the Taiwanese (google 薛平贵与王宝钏 or 身骑白马过三关). When I first heard the Taiwanese chorus, it was just like SHUT IT DOWN LETS GO HOME. For those interested, here is the “Chinese Idol” version: 星光大道 – 徐佳莹 身骑白马

丁当 – 洋葱

Remarkable song with remarkable lyrics. The lyrics were written by the lead singer of Mayday (阿信), relating the layers of an onion with the secrets and layers of the heart. Many have criticized 阿信 for not being able to sing well, but honestly, if you can write lyrics like that, who cares if you can sing well. I also like how well 丁当’s voice matches with this song. Story of my life.

Beyond – 海阔天空

Probably the only Cantonese song that I really like – a song about pursuing dreams. The writer of the song (the used-to-be lead singer of Beyond) died in 1993, shortly after this song became famous. This concert was in 1996, I believe the first concert that Beyond went to without the lead singer. The guy in green is his brother. The emotion in this song is immense.

Lastly, lets end on a happier note:

王力宏 – 依然爱你

This song just makes me happy.