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November 16, 2009

Just Dithering About College

Steven R. Berryman

A quick overnight out toward Maryland’s Eastern Shore over the past weekend took yours truly and my oldest son Paul to Salisbury University for a pre-admissions visit.


Braving the floods of the Nor’easter and the speed-trap business in the city of Trappe, we got in the night before and stayed at the Best Western on Rt. 13 Business.


Weary from the dark dangerous drive, I treated at the steak house next door and we feasted on the best Crab Imperial of all time, plus some crab cakes. Later, by prior arrangement, we met up with a Walkersville acquaintance of Paul’s, an S.U. freshman, for some indoor tennis, just before bed.


The king-size bed afforded the needed sleep and some father-son bonding as we watched some questionable cable TV content. During this time I flashed back to my own college experiences; hopes high that Paul could take full advantage of his higher education, and avoid some of my mistakes!


I love picking up a paper that I don’t usually read while traveling, and found a Washington Times. And as I never read the financial/money sections – they can be a “trap,” too – it was most fortunate that I happened upon an electronic stock trading column by Chris Versace called “High-frequency, dark-pool trading growing in popularity.”


Now, in my mind computers have always had a downside and a dark side. 


For all of their promises of time-saving benefit, the promised leisure time to come out of computerizing the world materialized as a zero sum benefit; the usage simply offers you additional time dithering on that same computer will all of the new found free time!


The dark-pool and high frequency components described amounted to a computer stock trading scam that especially works against long-term stock traders. In a feat that one could only accomplish in the digital domain, high volume ultra-short period stock trades take place in cyber space.


For instance, with the right programs, a trading house or institutional trader with the means could purchase and hold a given stock position for a matter of seconds, just during a coming peak in value, and be sold back out seconds later before a negative gyration of that very quick cycle change.


Enough of these micro-bursts added together has resulted in enormous profits…for some.


Reportedly the Security and Exchange Commission is only now looking into this practice, and is taking some restorative action. Amazingly, it is suspected that 70 percent of all stock trades are currently arranged in this computerized-gaming manor.


The loser is the one who cannot avail themselves of the insiders trick. And that’s most traders that hold for the long haul.


So, I put down the paper in disgust and returned to matters at hand, just a bit wiser and more wary.


We headed onto the beautiful S.U. campus in time to get center row seating in the grand auditorium that is Holloway Hall. This is the original building of the university that now serves over 7,000 undergrads.


The large facility was standing room only during our recruitment speechifying and multi-media slide show.  From President Dr. Janet Dudley-Eschbach to the Gull’s mascot Sammy the Seagull, all were treated with a tempting taste of this outstanding institution of higher knowledge.


S.U. is rated a best-buy nationally for the category of all full-featured liberal-arts schools by many a prestigious group, 7,000 plus applications are combed through producing about 1,300 freshmen typically.


With large endowments, facilities are spacious and numerous on-campus. Frank Purdue, of the chicken industry fame, is largely responsible for an entire upgrade currently happening for business students.


Remember: “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken”? It worked!


The school is also famous for producing teachers, nurses, and communications majors. Computer and editing labs are the best outfitted I have ever seen, complete with HDTV video cams.


The average class size and student faculty ratio allows for real student-professor interaction.


It may have been a set-up, but we ran into only happy smiling faces during the entire tour. Dorms were ample, and clubs and intramural activity were evident everywhere.


Exhausted from so much information and adventure, we returned home with Paul insisting we work immediately on the Early Action Admission forms. Then later, on to the FAFSA financial forms again….uugghhh….


But well worth the effort for all concerned…and I recommend this direction to others as well.


Makes me want to do it all over again myself, better prepared. But I can’t complain because…


…I’m still dithering after all these years.


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