Advance notice: This post is actuarial in nature, so please don’t feel distraught if not much of it makes sense to you. It is intended to be included in a very elite group of articles which make actuaries laugh more than the rest of you lot. It is based upon a table I stumbled upon while working through a Prophet model. The table’s name is Category.fac, and part of it is reproduced above. All inferences are fictional, and any resemblance to real animals is entirely unintended.
Once upon a time, there was a clutter of feral cats, living at the bottom of a field. There were some trees, a brook, a few large boulders and a hawthorn hedge. The cats were generally rather content with their lot, but some of them had a bit of history, and some were rather more involved in changing their future than you may expect.
Among these cats, there were two main leaders. One had been with the pounce for many years. He’d been involved in enough scrapes to lose eight of his lives, and had recently changed his name to Mortal_Cat*. (He was, in fact, one of only two cats on their last life, the other, TB_Cat, being an old sickly ginger suffering from a persistent cough.)
The other important cat was known as Zillmer_Cat. He had arrived on the scene only a few weeks ago, speaking with a foreign accent, and displaying a remarkable prowess for resolving the strain caused by sharing out the meat at a kill. No one knew what the significance of his name was, assuming that it meant something where he came from. Zillmer_Cat had been less than forthright about it – saying that it would take a long time to tell the whole story, but agreeing to explain it in small chunks over the next few months.
You may think that having two leaders is a recipe for conflict, and that there would have to be a challenge, a fight and a victory to decide the overall leadership of the clowder. But you’d be wrong – all the cats were aware of Mortal_Cat’s somewhat imminent demise, and were civilised enough to allow a reasonable period of handover between the two leaders. True, there had been some who had wanted to be next in line instead of Zillmer_Cat (particularly Commissn_Cat, who seemed to think he was destined for the post), but after some stern words from Quota_Cat, who keeps this sort of thing in check, they’d backed down.
In particular, there had been one grey Chartreux who had been secretly wanting more prominence, but never had the courage to do anything about it. She’d finally put up a decent show of strength, but the speed of her recusal following Quota_Cat’s denouncement had led the others to rename her Surrendr_Cat.
Now, the significance of this clutter is not so much their leadership, but their integral role in the Everlasting Mission Of All True Cats Everywhere. This is, of course, to rid the world of dogs, one hound at a time. And thanks to the engineering prowess of one particularly clever (but socially inept) member, they’d come up with an ingenious method of disposing of small dogs. Uniflex_Cat had discovered that branches of yew trees, securely fastened at one end, could be bent over, and used as a primitive catapult. (They, of course, called it a dogapult.) He’d spent a lot of time working on the mechanism, and had devised an almost foolproof method of getting it to work. It involved the close collaboration of four young cats, each of which had changed their name to allow the glory associated with their role to reflect on them more fully.
First up, there was Returns_Cat, who would go out scouting for dogs. Upon discovering a suitable target, he would initiate the chase, and return to the site of the catapult. His role was to lead the dog directly over the spot where the catapult was set. As soon as the dog was close, the second cat, named Pup_Load_Cat, would emerge, usually causing the dog to have a second take, and stop dead in its tracks. The third cat (Pup_Adj_Cat) would only have a job to do if the dog was not correctly positioned at this point. Its role was to push, entice, or cajole the dog onto the precise spot. At this point, Uplift_Cat, the final member of the quartet, would trigger the release mechanism, and the dog would be launched on a trajectory of parabolic pain. Where larger dogs were lured back, a fifth member (Res_Load_Cat) was summoned to assist with the corraling of the dog.
Naturally, the cats were keen to avoid their little secret getting out, and so the head of Feline Intelligence (Sh_Sh_Cat) was charged with keeping news of their invention out of the hands of the evil canines. This meant that Lapses_Cat, who had a habit of telling all to all, needed to be watched very carefully. This job was given to Euro_Cat, who had travelled widely, and knew a thing or two about keeping cats quiet.
And so, it came to pass that when Mortal_Cat lived up to his new name, the clutter took on a revolutionary role under the leadership of Zillmer_Cat. The cats prospered, and took pride in the high esteem in which they were held wherever tales of their prowess were told.
* A note on the naming of cats. Much of what TS Eliot may have led you to believe applies only to cats in captivity. Wild cats do not keep the same name throughout their life, preferring to change with their circumstances or roles within the clutter. This will commonly happen when they move from one life to the next, or if they switch clutters. Note also that wild cats are somewhat in more of a hurry than domestic cats, and therefore do not actually pronounce the spaces between words. They tend to sling from one word to the next, an effect I have attempted to convey by using underscores.
** At the risk of completely ruining the humour in the story, here is a list of each of the cat names, with their actuarial meaning:
Mortal_Cat: Denotes which mortality table is used for the product.
TB_Cat: Specifies which bonus series is used for Terminal Bonuses.
Zillmer_Cat: Gives the type of Zillmerisation adjustment being used.
Commissn_Cat: Links to the method of paying commission to sales agents.
Surrendr_Cat: Specifies the surrender penalty for early withdrawal from the policy.
Returns_Cat: Investment returns.
Pup_Load_Cat: Loading applied to a policy made Paid Up.
Pup_Adj_Cat: Adjustment to a policy value on being made Paid Up.
Res_Load_Cat: Loading applied to the reserve held on a policy.
Uplift_Cat: How the benefit payable on a policy is uplifted to match the asset share held.
Sh_Sh_Cat: Shareholder share of bonus declarations.
Lapses_Cat: Which table to use for determining proportion of policyholders lapsing.
Euro_Cat: How Euro-denominated assets are treated.