During a five-year stint of adult education in Seattle, I took several courses including a couple introductory foreign language courses. They were taught by a gentleman from South Africa, Bill Vande Merwe. With about a dozen other students we wrestled to learn alphabets and vocabulary. As we struggled, instructor Bill never prodded us with any taunting words, such as “Stick to it you’ll get,” or “You must learn the alphabet by such and such a date, because the vocabulary and your use of the foreign language dictionary depends on it.”
No he was a wise teacher of us slow-brain adults. He always used encouraging words. And a favorite saying of his was, “By the inch, it’s a cinch. By the mile, it’s a trial.” I had heard that saying before while growing up, but the way Bill taught me that saying stuck and it has helped me ever since to face any challenge by taking each one a step at a time. For Bill wrapped that saying in many other encouraging words and many a great stories (including facing down a lion).
Thank you brother Bill for imparting courage to me. Ever since we met I have sped through many a mile, conquering many a trial, taking them an inch at a time. I lost my job twice after we met and found a couple other jobs taking each job a day at a time. That simple philosophy taught by you wrapped in encouraging words took me from Seattle, Washington to Green Bay and Madison, Wisconsin.
From there it took me to Brighton, Michigan where I built a dream home out in the country on two acres. And when I thought I was settling down there to get to know my two boys, their wives and the four grand children of theirs, those simple encouraging words led me on to Florida. Day by day, trial by trial the soul courage you impressed upon me helped me smile through many a mile an inch at a time. Those courage-giving words in the last two years led me an inch at a time from Brighton, to speak several times. After speaking in Chicago, I went on to speak again in Washington, DC, then Denver, then Louisville, Kentucky, And that was so much fun that when I spoke in San Antonio, Texas I wrote a song to the tune “76 Trombones” which I sang again amidst twelve-hundred people brought together at a Climate Reality Conference in Miami by Al Gore.
Thank you Brother Bill for imparting courage to me to live through my struggles a day at a time and just take the next step.
Oh reader are you stuck in some dilemna? Don’t look too far ahead. Don’t cry about the big daunting journey you face. Just figure out the next joyous step you can take. If you inch along in a bright direction you can travel on. There are many places to see. Many new joys await. Remember that “by the inch it’s a cinch!” Know that someday you’ll be able to forget that “by the mile it’s a trial.”
Why another blog? Because some big issues sparked my passions in recent years. I’ve done quite a bit of reading about them. And the time has come to turn the tide in my life and go from reading to writing. What will I be blogging about? Read on…
During my journeys in recent years, I have been increasingly fascinated by climate change issues. This issue has a global impact and needs many perspectives to understand it. My own perspective on this issue is a fascination with how climate warming of the globe affects sea level rise. A series of events during the past few years sparked this interest. I did some in-depth scientific research on storm surge and sea level rise. I spoke about that in several cities. Then job circumstances led me to live in St. Petersburg, Florida for a while just a two-minute walk from Tampa Bay. Gulf of Mexico beaches were just a short drive away. As result I have enjoyed many seaside visits during the past year. That gave me a daily opportunity to see tide waters ebb and flow. Most seaside places have two tides per day. I just heard yesterday that Tampa Bay is one of two unique places in the world that has three tides a day. I will be investigating that and be sharing what I learn at some point on this blog. Days spent in St. Petersburg and much time spent on a North American committee of actuaries got me fascinated with climate change science, especially as regards the risk of Sea Level Rise.
I am also a life-long fan of the Detroit Tigers and major league baseball. I’m sure I’ll find myself watching many games there this year. I’ve read many books about baseball, mostly focused on the mathematical side, which is called sabermetrics for the uninitiated. Sabermetric baseball data and analytic mathematics has matured. I will be writing about this from many angles.
As an actuary, I enjoy juggling statistics. Both of the topics just mentioned will be fodder for this blog. Applied mathematics to investigate Climate Change and MLB Baseball will become subjects of these blogging kolkulations.
Leap Day 2008, February 29th that year to be exact, is the 3rd memorable day in my life so far.
My wedding day is number 1. The day I turned 52 ranks 2nd. The day I turned fifty ranks 4th. Growing up I was taught that things come in threes and sevens. This memory is about my third most memorable day.
On February 29th of 2008 I was out of work. Being in between jobs at the time, I had “lots of time” which is what people think. Hunting for work and landing on your feet, to do it right, is a focused overtime sixty-hour a week job. Why? Because you have to reinvent yourself. A job transition puts you into the school of hard knocks and quiet tiers (pun intended) on a full-time basis.People thin you have time to spare, so I got volunteered to be Treasurer of the Casualty Actuaries of the Northwest (CANW). I had accepted that role in the fall of 2007 because it gave me a “natural” way to network. Really, I’m more of a shy introvert which is a necessary trait to be a mathematician.
Anyway, on that leap day of 2008 the CANW was hosting one of it’s two annual meetings at the Seattle Athletic Club. So I had to attend. At big seminars, such as that day was, I like sitting in a corner and listening to presentations, soaking in the content, and then returning home to apply a new idea or four to a mathematical model. This day I was forced to be different. I HAD TO MEET THE SPEAKER because I had written him his remuneration check for the key note speech he gave that day. First, I met him right after his speech, but all I did was to give him my business card. His talk was about how he shared part of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Vice President Al Gore so thrilled me that all i mumbled about were the new ideas he’d opened my eyes to see. My networking energy was a bit spent, but I couldn’t head home, for I had forgotten to give him his remuneration check. I had to stay for happy hour…
So I stayed late after the conference and followed the crowd to the bar. He was a very popular speaker so a lot of people crowed around Dr. Mills making him hard to get to. BUT I HAD TO MEET HIM to give him his check, so I hovered and hovered. When I finally did meet him, all I could tell him was “You changed my life.” That was my instinctive introduction. And those words became true, for I was so excited to learn about new ways of measuring things in the world, that it broke me out of my mold.
To that point my work largely as a back-room actuary helping run companies that sold all kinds of property & casualty insurance. Dr. Mills had said actuaries’ skills are needed to help with the work of measuring climate. Being in between jobs at that point my thoughts took a more global turn. I HAD TO FIND A WAY TO STEER MY CAREER TO PLACES TACKLING GLOBAL CHALLENGES. And seven years later now I can honestly say I did. My career switched from a casualty focus to focus more on properties. First I found a company in Green Bay, Wisconsin that insured homes in most states of the USA. Then I became chief actuary of a California company in Madison, WI that had property data on most every home and business.. I got Dr. Mills to recommend me to the chair of that committee and so I joined it. Work with that international actuarial committee gave me a bit of global hazard knowledge. That tiny gift led to speaking to several audiences of national leaders in 2014, and that led to work at a Florida company that insures Floridians’ homes and businesses against hurricane and storm surge damage.
So Leap Day 2008 was the third best day of my life because of how I got the holy boldness to reinvent myself. Marrying my college sweet heart tops that day because as grand as that leap-day lesson in boldness was, it doesn’t hold a candle to the life lessons I’ve learned from my spouse and better half, Trudi, my Jersey Gal and Velvet Hammer.
Dear Friends and Internet Travelers!
I am a mathematician. I like juggling numbers and squeezing stories out of them that help people understand their world by measuring and quantify things quickly for them. My college training led to a career as an actuary in many insurance companies. While talking one day with an underwriter at the biggest insurance company I worked at, she said to me, “Steve you do very nice calculations. You do Kolkulations.” That inspired my domain name, which I’ve been using for personal email for many years.
In this website I will and sharing my Kolk-ulations. This kolkulations blog will post my calculations of interest, which are mathematically flavored explorations of things that fascinate me. This will often be of climate risks that fascinate me (which are growing as the globe heats up) and occasionally of baseball sabermetrics (my explorations of MLB statistics for fun). My aim is to share beneficial ideas and fun topics for you to ponder and explore with me.
-Stephen Lee Kolk, sometimes known as Captain Tangent.