This website is a nice visualization of global weather conditions through the use of supercomputers. It will be interesting to see how the jet stream responds to larger systems this winter and what the impacts might be on the use of natural gas.

Now if there was just a streaming model of where money was flowing around the world…



 I found this article on the use of different shock methods by electric eels quite fascinating.


Electric eels produce the most powerful shocks of any fish. They can zap prey with up to 600 volts of electricity, enough to hurt even a human. But the serpentlike fish have an even more amazing trick up their sleeve, new research reveals. The eels can shock their prey from meters away, making them twitch to reveal their hiding spot and providing the eel with an easy snack." and ' "It's a fascinating example of evolution in action," Gallant says. "The eel isn't just applying a voltage to the water and hoping everything dies. It's a very specific behavior that's obviously been acted on by selection to be refined."



Here is a prediction from an experienced old timer–with natural gas leanings. T. Boone's take:

Oil price prognostication has become a new parlor game on Wall Street and in shale-oil pockets across the U.S. Pickens, in backing his own call, alluded to his roughly 50-year tenure in the oil industry, saying: "You can't imagine how many of these cycles I have seen and endured." 

Reminds one a bit of "Horse Tradin" by Mr. Green.



 Unusual comments in this article: "Oil Shock Streaks Across Globe From Moscow to Tehran to Caracas. Ready for $40?" .

The exploration budgets vs. chaos take–a correlation with rioting in Venezuela? Who blinks first?

"If the governments aren't able to spend to keep the kids off the streets they will go back to the streets, and we could start to see political disruption and upheaval," said Paul Stevens, distinguished fellow for energy, environment and resources at Chatham House in London, a U.K. policy group.

"The majority of members of OPEC need well over $100 a barrel to balance their budgets. If they start cutting expenditure, this is likely to cause problems."

More from Professor Stevens:

However, in terms of OPEC's current strategy, the break-even price is the wrong metric. What matters in the next few years is the shut-in price. After the 1986 price collapse, a number of stripper wells in US (with high variable costs) did close, but the loss of production was minimal. North Sea production, which had been OPEC's prime target, was hardly affected and actually increased in 1987. The current level of shut-in price for shale oil is again debatable, but almost certainly is well below $40 per barrel. Thus it will be some time before existing shale oil production falls, even if prices stay low. Should the oil price fall towards variable costs, threatening shale supply, it will be the OPEC producers who must blink first. They will then try to take back control of the market, if they can.

See more at: "Deja Vu for OPEC as Oil Prices Tumble".



 Perhaps other patterns and first appearances are to be found in the Twitter realm at lower cost.

"Twitter "Exhaust" Reveals Patterns of Unemployment":

"We demonstrate that behavioural features related to unemployment can be recovered from the digital exhaust left by the microblogging network Twitter," say Llorente and co.'


"The immediacy of social media may also allow governments to better measure and understand the effect of policies, social changes, natural or man-made disasters in the economical status of cities in almost real-time," say Llorente and co, adding that their techniques should be applicable anywhere in the world. Work like this shows how the nature of economic data gathering is changing. It'll be interesting to see how quickly governments and other organisations adapt.



 From the Department of Skyscraper Index.

A replica of Manhattan could be a tourist attraction one day in China? Amazing.

"Few Signs of Construction at Yujiapu, China's Manhattan Replica":

China's $50-billion knock-off of the Big Apple sits on a river bend — much like its namesake — near the port city of Tianjin, some 120 miles from Beijing. Complete with its own Rockefeller Center and Twin Towers, it's been billed as the world's largest financial center in the making. But this Manhattan still has a long way to go.

And yet, as the author writes in his book: "Henry Sanderson, Michael Forsythe China's Superbank: Debt, Oil and Influence 2012:

There's a point where ambition and enthusiasm becomes recklessness and hubris, and Tianjin may have crossed that line. There's no better place to witness the physical manifestation of hubris than Yujiapu, Tianjin's planned Manhattan.



 NNT says on Twitter that he has not received a critique so far of this paper he wrote on GMOs that addresses the "core math" of it. A variety of "fallacies" are discussed–"Loch Ness", "Crossing the Road", "Russian Roulette", "Carpenter", etc. etc. In this article, "Risk Expert: GMOs Could Destroy the Global Ecosystem" Taleb writes:

"It has became popular to claim irrationality for GMO and other skepticism on the part of the general public—not realizing that there is in fact an "expert problem" and such skepticism is healthy and even necessary for survival. For instance, in The Rational Animal, the authors pathologize people for not accepting GMOs although "the World Health Organization has never found evidence of ill effects," a standard confusion of evidence of absence and absence of evidence."



 I note that gold miners bullish percent is at zero. Maybe some bankruptcies are forthcoming–IAG? Just recently Dr Greenspan opined that gold was a good investment…then the Fed announcement and the slaughtering of gold shares commenced. Hm.

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

All In Sustaining Costs (AISC) become important. IAG sold a niobium mine so maybe they will be able to weather a year or so with this cash. Perhaps the mining companies with cash, relatively low debt and available credit will be able to buy others and their better prospects on the cheap. 

"IAMGOLD Probability of Bankruptcy":

This will be added to Iamgold's assets to allow the company to boast of $800 million in liquid assets, with an additional $500 million of unused credit facilities to give the company a total of $1.2 billion in available short-term cash.

An area for more research?



 Car Talk was a really fun radio show to listen to on long highway trips. Both of the brothers who did the show were very smart MIT grads with a great sense of humor and a penchant for fun practical jokes on each other. Here is an obituary for the older brother who recently died.

"Tom Magliozzi, One Half of the Jovial Brothers on ‘Car Talk,’ Dies at 77":

By his own account, after graduating from college, Mr. Magliozzi took a conventional path as an engineer until experiencing his "defining moment" after being involved in a close call on the highway. He described the incident in 1999, when the brothers shared a commencement speech at their alma mater. Tom described driving on Route 128 to his job in Foxboro, Mass., in a little MG that "weighed about 50 pounds" when a semi-truck cut him off. Afterward, he thought about how pathetic it would have been if he had died having "spent all my life, that I can remember at least, going to this job, living a life of quiet desperation." "So I pulled up into the parking lot, walked to my boss's office and quit on the spot." His brother chimed in, "Most people would have bought a bigger car."

Ed Stewart writes:

What is interesting is that they made an entire franchise out of something that seems so mundane and unworkable. No planner would have guessed, "this concept will be a hit." It entirely revolved around the talent and humor of the Magliozzi brothers. Isn't that the way most of the best things are? Talented people surprise us with things we enjoy or end up needing that we never would have anticipated. A great functional argument for an open system and individual choice vs. bureaucratic control, excessive tracking and credentialism.



 I thought this article about "How Rebounds Work" was quite fascinating.

And here is an even better link on the same topic with some very interesting graphics: "Where do rebounds go?"

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Very nice graphics and analysis.

One of the fundamentals of rebounding used to be that you tried to track your opponent while the ball was in the air to see what direction he was going and then you tried to turn your body at the last possible second in order to "box" him out or put a body on him before he got into the rebounding zone. Wide bodies (Wes Unseld, Malone, Barkley-types, etc) were particularly effective in doing so. It took energy and work effort to do this.

The example with Noah shows him going through uncontested–the defensive players turned their backs too early and lost the opportunity to box him out–it looks rather lazy. To some degree it seems that modern pro basketball players have concentrated on areas of the game or specialized to such an extent that the fundamentals are not practiced and are often found lacking.

A fair number of rebounds are made below the rim so positioning by shorter players can make up for height differences (some of those Princeton-Georgetown matchups demonstrated that).

And the really aggressive guys like Rodman, if they managed their fouls well, and scraped and clawed were often rewarded. Rodman was a master at judging rebound distances and "worming" his way to a rebound through narrow spaces. How he ended up in North Korea I don't know…crazed.

Scott Brooks writes:

Rebounds pretty much go to the opposite side of the hoop from where they are shot. That is not a new discovery.

What a coach should pay attention to therefore is where do shots initiate from. That is the key.

Since most of the world is right handed and since most players move in the direction of their dominate hand (thus keeping their body between the defender and the ball), most shots are going to come from the right side (or the defenses left side).

This bit of knowledge is very important, especially at the high school level or lower (it is still important at the college or higher level as well)…….but how to apply that knowledge… there's the rub.

Rebounding is more than just boxing out (which is a lost art nowadays). Rebounding is a team effort. I like my guards and forwards that play the toughest defense to guard the opponents shooters if we're in a man to man defense or to play to the "strong side" if we're in a zone (strong side is the offenses right side/defenses left side). I want my defenders to play the shooters tight so that when they do shoot, they can get a hand up high (the closer you are to the shooter, the higher you hand is relative to the shot), and force the shooter to put a little more arc on the ball than they would have preferred.

A ball with a high arc, more often than not, comes off the rim "soft" i.e. it is rebounded close to the rim and is usually rebounded in the paint, whereas a hard bounce will goes outside the paint to be rebounded away from the rim. Soft bounces allow my center and weak side forward to control the rebound the vast majority of the time, assuming they've properly boxed out.

What about the other players, what are they doing?

My strong side guard and forward are the ones usually defending against the shot. If the shot is taken by the shooting guard (sometimes called the "2 guard"), then the strong side forward chip blocks his man (if he's close) and rushes to the hoop in a sideways motion with his back to the baseline keeping his eye on the man he's defending until he gets close to the rim, then he plants his right foot and pivots on it towards the basket with his left foot and body moving clockwise motion.

My strong side guard defending the opposing shooting guard (2 guard), boxes out the shooting guard at the point of the shot and, if done right, neutralizes him 99% of the time, i.e. he will not get his own rebound and is out of the play unless the his team gets the offensive rebound (which will cause me, as a coach to "verbalize instructions in a loud manner" to my team for allowing an offensive rebound).

So what I have is my center covering the middle of the of the paint, my strong side forward covering the left side of the paint (from the defenders perspective) and I've got my weak side forward (my best rebounder) covering the right side of the paint…..i.e. the spot where the ball is most likely to go……and all of them are violently boxing out the opponents.

That leaves only my weak side guard. What is his job.

He is tasked with covering/preventing quick passes across the top of the key from (the defenses perspective) left to right…..i.e. in this scenario, instead of shooting the ball, the"2 guard" does a quick pass the point guard ("1 Guard") who whips it over to the small forward ("3 forward") who then shots. So my weak side defender has to play with his back to the baseline (basically parallel to the baseline) while the keeping the opposing "3 forward" in front of him. (it's another story for another day of what to do if their "3 forward" moves down to low and has to be passed off to my weakside forward). My weakside guard is, therefore, tasked with keeping pressure on their "3 forward" to stop that quick shot if a the quick pass I just described happened. If he does his job right, the "3 forward" can't get off the quick shot and it allows my defense the 1/2 of a second it needs to switch from (their perspective) left side to right side defense.

Back to the original scenario (ball on left side of the defense in the hands of the "2 guard"…….When the shoot is taken (by the "2 guard") , my weak side guard has to chip block the "3 forward", then roll out for the outlet pass. If done correctly, when he gets the outlet pass he takes a few quick dribbles and looks for our strong side guard…..(remember him).

If my strong side guard has done his job right in boxing out the shooting guard (remember I said the "2 guard" has been neutralized from the play) he's got the inside position on the shooting guard. And if the oppossing point guard (1 guard) on the other team is forced to deal with my weakside guard (who now has the ball) we basically have 2 on 1 fast break occurring.

What does a 2 on 1 fast break have to do with rebounding you say? Well, if you do enough of them, then the opposing team has to assign a man to fall back near center court each time they shot to defend against the fast break which means that I have a 5 on 4 rebounding advantage.

The art of rebounding is a team endeavor. A great rebounder is one who is surrounded by a great supporting cast that simply do their jobs.

Yes, you want your best rebounder on the weakside (forward position). This guy may not be the tallest person out there, but he is the most vicious tenacious meanest SOB on the floor. He is quick and he is instictive and has the ability to multitask…..i.e. watching the opposing players and timing his "boxing out" (that's an entire art that we should discuss another day), while watching the trajectory and velocity and spin on the ball to determine where it is likely to come off the rim.

Heck, my weakside forward is usually the smartest player on the floor. I call him my "Floor General"…..but why I can him that and the job I assign to him is an entire discussion for another day.

I've written about this before, but there is a lot more to the strategy of rebounding than what I've just written here. Heck, I've only discussed the defensive side of the equation…..and I haven't even elaborate (although I have in the past) on the subtle violence and mind games that are associated with great rebounding and stifling defense or even discussed offensive rebounding……maybe I'll write about those another day.



 Here is an impressive animal fact:

A team of researchers working in Namibia has found that elephants are able to detect rain storms from distances as far away as 150 miles. In their paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers describe how they tracked both elephants and rain over the course of several years and found the elephants were clearly able to detect rain events from great distances and move towards them.



 Something not well in Tokyo.

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

Super Typhoon Vongfong is about 4-5 days out. It's something to keep an eye on to see how it tracks and if the intensity changes downward.

The storm surge could be devastating and winds and rains in the 150 mph range are extremely destructive if they persist and typhoon stays organized near populated areas. 165 plus mph is unreal.

Satellite at present looks like Mitch 1998 in Atlantic.

Strangely it could have an effect in the US by shifting jet stream lower.



 Too many hands on one side of the ship?

Freeze, rain, snow, soil moisture, crops still in the field, next year's crop, silos, quality, hedging, foreign demand, sentiment…There are so many Ag variables to predict. It's complicated, but here is an interesting speculative comment for the Ag followers from Kevin Van Trump's "Current Marketing Thoughts":

There was ZERO "weather-risk" priced into the market, now there are some questions regarding quality and late damage to the crop here in the northern parts of the US, also a few fresh concerns about conditions in Brazil.


We have seen it time and time again the past few years, with the crazy speed of the market and the high frequency players in the game, whenever you get the trade overloaded to one-side or the other severe whiplash can occur in the blink of an eye. Speculators and hedgers alike can NOT rule out a $0.50 to $1.00 rally off the lows ($9.04) in the soybean market. Likewise you can't rule out a $0.25 to $0.50 cent rally off the recent lows in corn ($3.18) or wheat ($4.66).



 Perhaps one for the Department of Deception. Is the following not somewhat akin to moving the line in Las Vegas? Are there not examples of similar activities in other cases? A potential new crime at the millisecond level:

"'Spoofing,' a New Crime With a Catchy Name 'Spoofing,'":

A big hurdle in the "spoofing" case against a high-frequency trading firm is that a jury must decide whether one computer fooling another is a crime, Peter J. Henni…

"The indictment seeks to hold Mr. Coscia liable for trades executed in milliseconds by a computer, including one trade at 4:54 a.m. when he was probably asleep. The spoofing charges may send a chill through the high-frequency trading world because the evidence of fraudulent intent will come from a program that uses rapid-fire orders and does not depend on humans for its execution. So finding that Mr. Coscia engaged in spoofing may come down to a jury deciding whether one computer fooling another is a crime."

Ed Stewart writes: 

The indictment describes how Mr. Coscia's programs would enter small buy or sell orders for future contracts that he wanted to have filled. He then placed large orders on the other side of that trade at a higher or lower price to entice others to enter the market on the belief that the larger order would affect the price. Once the price moved so that his small order was filled, the program canceled the large orders. The program would then do the same transaction in reverse by entering another round of large orders that would move the price up or down to allow for Mr. Coscia to exit the position at a profit.

In other words he gamed other HFT traders who were using order book info to step in front of his large limit orders. As if jumping in front of a large limit order should be a protected activity? I would think non-HFT traders would applaud strategy, as it would increase the cost of stepping in front of orders, as the HFT would never know if it was a "spoof" or not. I see nothing inherently wrong with the strategy indeed it might be correcting a distortion itself.

The fact that this is a crime suggests to me that what is "level" to most is simply what tilts the odds in their favor.



 I found an interesting article about the town near Lookout Mountain and Ruby Falls: "Chatanooga's Gig: How  one city's super fast internet is driving a tech boom"

Like Atlanta they have a very nice aquarium and offer a fun downtown area to visit on the way to hiking in the Smokies. But this attraction of venture capital and entrepreneurship was news to me.

"The city is one of the only places on Earth with internet as fast as 1 gigabit per second – about 50 times faster than the US average. Despite Big Cable's attempt to block the Gig's expansion plans, money keeps flowing into Chattanooga"


"The fibre-optic network uses IntelliRupter PulseClosers, made by S&C Electric, that can reroute power during outages. The University of California at Berkeley estimates that power outages cost the US economy $80bn a year through business disruption with manufacturers stopping their lines and restaurants closing. Chattanooga's share of that loss was about $100m, EPB estimates. The smart grid can detect a fault in milliseconds and route power around problems. Since the system was installed the duration of power outages has been cut in half."



 Joseph Heller invited Puzo and Updike to steeplechase where you get 50 rides for a 0.25. He told them how when he was a boy growing up in Coney Island he'd wait near the finish for the old people to come out, and ask them for their unused rides of the 50 they didn't take. In the current, Puzo went through the revolving barrel and hurt himself and they all sat on a bench and talked about their terrible publishers and agents, and the decline of the book business, and their kids wasted time on television. As they left after a few hours, some kids came up to them. "Hey mister, can I have your tickets?". There were 47 left.

I played raquetball on Sunday at the central park courts, where 53 years ago I won three national tournaments with my father watching. I was good in those days, and the only way I could get a game was to play my opponents for a quarter hitting every shot behind my back, or if they were really good, hitting it through the legs. I challenged some guys to a match, and they told me they would only play me their backhand against my regular game. I jauntily refused and challenged a 70 year old guy to a singles game. He was ahead 11-6 when he hit one to my backhand and I ran to cover it, and for the first time in many tens of thousands of matches, I fell hard on the back of the head. The sound was so great that the players 4 courts over rushed over to see if I had lost consciousness. When I got home, I mistakenly told the perfect wife about it, and she looked at me and said "should we use heroic measures tonight to wake you up if you don't wake up". I said "No, just take the money, and put it in index funds, and marry someone much younger".

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 


Hope your head is OK and you recover quickly. Sure that the doctors on the site have told you to be careful with that type of injury. At 70 you are considered just a kid in Palm Beach…

I have not heard from Mr. George Meegan lately [recent junto speaker and world traveler] but he is in the news in New Zealand.

Tomorrow an anniversary date recognized in New Zealand (where it is already the 18th).

"1983 - British adventurer George Meegan finishes a six-year long walk from the southernmost tip of South America to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska; covering 30,605 kilometers (19,021 miles)."

Thursday, September 18 - World - NZ Herald News



 Two top NFL running backs are in the news.

I wonder if a mental health component will be found to be associated with these cases? Repeated hits to head at RB position? PTSD and concussions… actual physical evidence of brain damage?

Forces are much higher in the NFL (Mass x acceleration) these days — brain matter being pushed back and forth (sloshed) by collision contact at almost all positions over and over in game and at weekly practices– regardless of helmet used and whether its head to head or not… special teams on kickoffs and punts being particularly risky plays.

The Peterson case involves child discipline vs. child abuse issue.



 Elections were held today and votes cast. Reinfieldt by most accounts is a good prime minister and statesman, but paradoxically the lure of change for change's sake appears to be in the works–the pendulum swings and pieces are rearranged on the chess board. A country of 10 million with a certain amount of world-wide influence…

"Sweden's Politics":

Sweden's election: The eight-year itch

The centre-right government of Fredrik Reinfeldt has been a great success, yet voters may well eject it in favour of the Social Democrats

FOR a decade Sweden could plausibly claim to be Europe's most successful economy. Anders Borg, the (formerly pony-tailed) centre-right finance minister since 2006, likes to trot out numbers for his time in office: GDP growth of 12.6%, a rise in gross disposable incomes of almost 20%, a budget moving into surplus and a public debt barely above 40% of GDP. These figures not only outshine Britain and the euro zone; they also eclipse America.



 The hot hand is a topic garnering renewed interest. (Chair has previously mentioned the shortcomings of some of these behavioral studies).

So maybe Alabama-born guard Andrew Toney, a Philadelphia 76er, did have a hot basketball hand–I'd like to think so. It would make a good follow-up interview and book topic.

At any rate, a link to a "hot-handedness" study was found mentioned on Jordan Ellenberg's blog (an Orioles fan by the way and author of a new book entitled How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking. Under his August 16, 2014 comments Ellenberg writes: "New 'hot hand' paper by Brett Green and Jeffrey Zweibel, about the hot hand for batters in baseball. They say it's there! And they echo a point I make in the book (which I learned from Bob Wardrop) — some of the "no such thing as the hot hand" studies are way too low-power to detect a hot hand of any realistic size."

1. Here is the link to the paper and interesting comments from links found via Brett Green's homepage, Assistant Professor at UC-Berkeley (Haas School of Business).

2. from another article on the topic:

Zwiebel says the earlier researchers were too quick to conclude that the belief in a hot hand was evidence of a cognitive or behavioral mistake. Most likely, what's really at work is not so much a mistake but an "equilibrium adjustment" around the hot-handed player — similar to the kinds of equilibrium adjustments that occur in finance and economics.

The behavioral camp jumps too quickly to the conclusion that almost all sports fans and participants are under a dumb illusion that there are hot hands," Zwiebel says. "They have jumped to that conclusion because it fits their story that everyone is making cognitive mistakes and that these mistakes are extraordinarily pervasive.

3. The existence in basketball of the hot hand was discussed by Harvard researchers at a recent conference and in a Boston Globe article: 

With the Harvard graduates able to know the position of the players on the court, they could see that players with recent success in shooting were more likely to be taking shots from further away, facing tighter defenses, and throwing up more difficult shots. "They were more likely to just jack it up," Ezekowitz said. "Shoot more often."

So the researchers controlled for these variables—and found what players and fans have long believed: The hot hand does exist. At least a little. According to the new research, players enjoying the hot hand are 1.2 to 2.4 percentage points more likely to make the next shot. Not exactly en fuego, but still.



 Dr. Eugster is giving Jack LaLanne a run for his money. I found this article quite entertaining:

"Miracle man: The 94-year-old who will put your fitness regime to shame"

The fact that he started making changes in his mid-80s is quite impressive. He is the new 100m (25.67s) and 200m (58.03s) British champ in the 95 year-old age category per his Twitter feed!

Here are some quotes I found interesting from Dr. Eugster:

…' There are three main techniques to achieving healthy old age, he believes – work, diet and exercise, and of these, number one is work: "Work keeps you healthy. You have to work because it keeps your mind and body active," he says, adding that soon after giving up work on his newsletter at the age of 82, he began to notice a physical decline.

"My mind and body weren't as busy. You must have a purpose in life. If you retire you're a nobody; you make no contribution to society and your health deteriorates," he says.

Retirement, believes Eugster, "is a financial disaster and a health catastrophe." It was never meant to go on as long as it does nowadays, he maintains. The second most important factor in a long and healthy life is nutrition, he says: "What we're eating nowadays is destroying our health. The human race is committing mass suicide by eating too much of the wrong food."

Thirdly, is exercise – take it regularly and make sure it's the kind of exercise that's relevant to your body type, he says. "In old age, no matter how old you are, food and exercise are crucial," says Eugster, adding that he is preparing to publish a book about ageing and, while he hasn't yet decided on a title, he's thinking about calling it, "95 and Loving It!"

He's currently in discussions about the establishment of a fitness training scheme for the elderly. While old age may be associated with problems such as loss of strength, muscle mass, balance or mental agility, Eugster believes these common ailments can be combated with specifically-tailored fitness programmes.

A passionate advocate for training in old age, he believes that the right type of training can be of huge benefit to older people.

Most gyms are targeted at 30-50 year-olds, he says, and don't usually have fitness programmes specifically tailored around problems related to old age. He is now, he says, at the age of 94, considering a potential business opportunity in the fitness coaching sector. Such a training programme for older people would emphasise continuous assessment of their physical strengths and weaknesses and their progress.

Although you may be old, competitive sports keeps both mind and body healthy, he believes. Life is all about challenges, and it's important to always attempt something new, no matter how old you are.

"One should take part in competitive sports at any age – or start a new sport at any age," says Eugster, pointing out that, although he has never run in his life, he is currently preparing for the British Masters Athletics Championships race in Birmingham next August. He will attempt the 100 and 200 metres for men aged 95 and over.

Since no records have yet been set in this age category, Eugster is currently aiming to beat all records set in the lower category, for men aged 90-plus.

And, if you need to be reminded, he himself is living proof of his own adage:

"Anyone's life in advanced years can be dramatically better than they can ever have imagined if they invest in the right type of training."

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

I hate to even hint at arguing with Pitt, but Dr. Eugster's pitch reads to me very much like an argument against people ever having enough money to do a Donald Eugene Little. This reads very much like an Animal Farm poster: keep people in harness until they drop because it is really better for them.

"If you retire you're a nobody; you make no contribution to society"….

People "retire" so they can take care of their grandchildren, so they can stop being sickened by the physical conditions of their work, so they can go fishing, so they can be free to do something other than what they have been doing.

And who is "society" that it should have the right to demand contributions?



 The past two issues of the Nautilus online science magazine on the general subjects of "Turbulence" and "Wind & Water" have several thought-provoking pieces.

One article on low level toxic exposure caught my attention and will provide grist for the doctors.

Perhaps Victorian sleeping porches and fresh air will come back in vogue.

A couple of quotes follow:

'Miller has spent 30 years hammering out a theory to explain the contemporary surge in perplexing, multi-symptom illnesses—from autism to Gulf War Syndrome—which represent a Kuhnian shift in medicine. She calls her theory "TILT," short for Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance. TILT posits that a surprising range of today's most common chronic conditions are linked to daily exposure to very low doses of synthetic chemicals that have been in mass production since World War II. These include organophosphate pesticides, flame-retardants, formaldehyde, benzene, and tens of thousands of other chemicals.'


'However, we can take steps to prevent it. We live 90 percent of our lives indoors, inside homes, offices, and cars. And indoor air is far more polluted than outdoor air. So we can begin with our home and office, by reducing chemicals there. Reduce scented products, reduce or eliminate indoor pesticides. If you're remodeling, you can use no-VOC paints, and tile or wood instead of carpet. Make sure you have good air circulation. Don't be enamored of that "new car" smell—a car a few years old is much healthier. And go outdoors; try to get into nature, even if a city park. Outdoor air is usually better for you.'




 I guess one of my greatest weaknesses is that after 50 years on wall street, I still don't have enough feel for any markets that I can make a trade and feel properly foundationed and backings with it if I don't have back testing and quantification. Perhaps if I could do things based on feel and tai chi I would be a wealthy man. But the Hindu will do what he can do.

I have a new business in case I run into hard times again. While in Vinyl Haven I set myself up at the flee market with a sign by my daughters: "checkers 50 cents a game". I found that like Johnson's there are no owls in Ireland, "there are no checker players in vinyl haven". I only lost 194% on my investment on that one as I had to pay $4.00 to the space not counting the 20 buck bribe paid to the mistress of the flee market.

I had two customers. One was so demure I paid her 0.50 to play me, and the other I reduced the price to 0.25 for the play. I did beat my daughter Kira in a hard fought game however. Anyway, a perfect occupation for a speculator down on his luck in the most boring place in the world if you're not a nautical or lobster personage.

anonymous writes: 

The pieces should be shells and lobster claws vs. sea stones or pine cones to give the game a local flavor. Also, a "learn to play" or "lessons" lead in might work better than pay-per-game. Might end up the talk of the town for the next 50 years.

Pitt T. Maner chimes in: 

 Backgammon holds an interest among some. I learned the basic rules of the game from an Obolensky in Palm Beach–but you have to be very good to make money at it.

An Israeli documentary was made about this fellow, an intuitive player ranked among the best:

"He is committed to backgammon, which is his main source of income—to the extent that he can find wealthy people who want to lose to him in cash-only private games. There are more of these than one might expect, but not a lot. Finding them and hanging on to them is a skill."


"At its heart, backgammon's cruelty resides in the dramatic volatility of the dice. Even a player who builds flawless structures on the board can lose to a novice. The good players simply win more often. As a result, backgammon is often played in marathon sessions that reward physical stamina, patience, and emotional equilibrium. One notable match lasted five days, with both players getting up only for bathroom breaks. The loser fell to the floor."

This is a great New Yorker article about him: "The Chaos of the Dice"

"Falafel (his real name is Matvey Natanzon, but no one calls him that, not even his mother) can make ten thousand dollars in half an hour playing backgammon."



 I've seen this study making the rounds on several websites now as a type of neuroeconomic confirmation of Buffetological principles…

Perhaps procedure might be slightly useful as a means of seeing physical brain improvement by training– such as that found through meditative practices.

"Traders who buy more aggressively based on NAcc signals earn less. High-earning traders have early warning signals in the anterior insular cortex before prices reach a peak, and sell coincidently with that signal, precipitating the crash. These experiments could help understand other cases in which human groups badly miscompute the value of actions or events."

"Neuroeconomists Confirm Warren Buffet's Wisdom":

"Seeing what's going on in people's brains when they are trading suggests that Buffett was right on target," says Colin Camerer, the Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics at Caltech.

That is because in their experimental markets, Camerer and his colleagues found two distinct types of activity in the brains of participants—one that made a small fraction of participants nervous and prompted them to sell their experimental shares even as prices were on the rise, and another that was much more common and made traders behave in a greedy way, buying aggressively during the bubble and even after the peak. The lucky few who received the early warning signal got out of the market early, ultimately causing the bubble to burst, and earned the most money. The others displayed what former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan called "irrational exuberance" and lost their proverbial shirts.



 I found this article on termite mounds, homeostasis, and especially the constructal law helpful in understanding markets and life.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

I found a few more items related to constructal law.

1. I believe Chair would find this website of interest:

2. Also Dr. Adrian Bejan's book Design in Nature

In this groundbreaking book, Adrian Bejan takes the recurring patterns in nature—trees, tributaries, air passages, neural networks, and lightning bolts…

3. Also this is a very good Q and A with Dr. Bejan:

Q: In the simplest non-technical terms, what is the Constructal Law?

A: The Constructal Law is my statement that there is a universal tendency (a phenomenon) toward design in nature, in the physics of everything. This tendency occurs because all of nature is composed of flow systems that change and evolve their configurations over time so that they flow more easily, to create greater access to the currents they move. '

4. Here is a Ted Talk by Dr. Bejan on the Constructal Law of Design and Evolution in Nature



 Another very interesting area of research that may lead to important medical benefits in the future is studying comb jellies– a complex organism that is now viewed as coming very early on the evolutionary ladder.

1. "Moroz Lab Research on the Comb Jelly in Nature"

'Comb jellies – a seemingly simple form of marine life — took a radically different path to neural complexity than the rest of the animal kingdom, a finding that could have implications for synthetic and regenerative medicine, new University of Florida research shows.

In an article being published May 21 in the journal Nature, researcher Leonid Moroz and his team decode the genomic blueprints for 10 ctenophore – or comb jelly – species, an analysis that suggests these beautiful sea creatures form the first branch on the animal kingdom's Tree of Life. In a remarkable evolutionary twist, ctenophores independently developed complex organs, neurons, muscles and behaviors that are far more sophisticated than sponges, which previously were viewed as the earliest lineage and do not have neuro-muscular systems.

The findings would reclassify comb jellies, reshaping two centuries of zoological thought, and imply that there are many ways to "make an animal" with neural and muscular systems, Moroz said.'

2. "The ctenophore genome and the evolutionary origins of neural systems" from Nature

"What if we could not only slow the progression of Parkinson's or memory loss in aging, but reverse it?" Moroz asks. "Ctenophores show us that there is more than one design for a complex nervous and muscular organization.

"Nature is much more innovative than we thought."



 A protein, named after the youngest of the Greek "Fates" responsible for spinning the "thread of life", is being studied for its beneficial effects on longevity and cognitive faculties. One wonders what the implications and positive effects of a 6 point or more increase in IQ might be for individuals or societies–a fun thought experiment.

1. "The 3% Solution"

What they found was startling. KL-VS did not curb decline, but it did boost cognitive faculties regardless of a person's age by the equivalent of about six IQ points. If this result, just published in Cell Reports, is confirmed, KL-VS will be the most important genetic agent of non-pathological variation in intelligence yet discovered.

2. A scientific paper on the subject

Whether factors that prolong life can also prevent, delay, or counteract neural dysfunction associated with aging and disease is a critical question with therapeutic implications…



 Have you ever heard of Oklo Nuclear Reactors. It is a very interesting subject.

"2 billion-year-old African nuclear reactor proves that Mother Nature still has a few tricks up her sleeve"

The objects in question are called the Oklo reactors, naturally occurring nuclear reactors named for the West African region of Gabon in which they reside. They've been dead for a very long time, probably over 1.5 billion years, but the evidence of their prior action is unmistakable. Sometime a bit less than 2 billion years ago, and lasting for about 300,000 years, the Oklo reactors held a series of stable nuclear fission reactions.

There has only ever been one natural nuclear reactor found, but study of how it worked, and why, is still informing nuclear decision-making to this very day.

 "Oklo Reactors and Implications for Nuclear Science"

"Unravelling how the geosphere and the biosphere evolved together is one of the most fascinating tasks for modern science. The Oklo natural nuclear reactors, basically formed by cyanobacteria two billion years ago, are yet another example of the surprises to be found in Earth's history. Since their discovery over forty years ago, the reactors have provided a rich source of information on topics as applied as can nuclear wastes be safely stored indefinitely to topics as esoteric as are the forces of physics changing as the Universe ages? "



 A 69 year-old, geochemist/geologist is challenging the current paradigms.

From "Ancient Fossils Suggest Complex Life Evolved on Land"

Evidence from Southwestern deserts suggests that oxygen-breathing organisms arose on land rather than in the seas.

'Over a wilderness campfire the night before our climb to the cave, the soft-spoken Knauth confided that he enjoys challenging the prevailing paradigms in science and plans to keep it up. "In my old age, I am so disappointed that people close their minds and jump on whatever splashy, simplistic bandwagon is in vogue," he said. "But if you start with the rocks and work upward to an interpretation, it often reveals a reality that is not the one in vogue." '


'He is also convinced that multicellular oxygen breathers — the ancestors of modern animals — may well have lived in and fed upon photosynthesizing microbes that were spewing millions of tons of oxygen into the atmosphere. In fact, rather than these Precambrian animals (called metazoans) colonizing land tens of millions of years after the Cambrian explosion of life in the seas, Knauth thinks that the reverse may have occurred; land-based animals crawled into the sea, spawning marine metazoans with shells.'



 This interesting anthropological study is making the internet rounds.

"From Athletes to Couch Potatoes":

"Using Shaw's study of bone rigidity among modern Cambridge University undergraduates, Macintosh suggests that male mobility among earliest farmers (around 7,300 years ago) was, on average, at a level near that of today's student cross-country runners. Within just over 3,000 years, average mobility had dropped to the level of those students rated as sedentary, after which the decline slowed."

'Indeed the hunter-gatherers of 30,000 to 150,00 years ago traveled extremely long distances while hauling all kinds of weight. "They were much stronger than the long-distance runners of today," says Shaw. In a study he published earlier this year, he concluded that "the people back then were monsters by comparison. What you see today is quite pathetic."

Here is the original study.



 I was sent this video about a honey badger taking on 6 lions. I noted a similarity between the way the honey badger reacts to attack. He retreats bitten, backing up with face towards adversary, then counterattacks, retreats for a little, then attacks again and retreat attack again.  Is it general or random?

Ken Drees shares from wikipedia: 

Honey badgers are very intelligent and are known to be capable of using tools. In the 1997 documentary series Land of the Tiger, a honey badger in India was filmed making use of a tool; the animal rolled a log and stood on it to reach a kingfisher fledgling stuck up in the roots coming from the ceiling in an underground cave.

As with other mustelids of relatively large size, such as wolverines and badgers, honey badgers are notorious for their strength, ferocity and toughness. They have been known to savagely and fearlessly attack almost any kind of animal when escape is impossible, reportedly even repelling much larger predators such as lions. Bee stings, porcupine quills, and animal bites rarely penetrate their skin. If horses, cattle, or Cape buffalos intrude upon a ratel's burrow, it will attack them. They are virtually tireless in combat and can wear out much larger animals in physical confrontations. The aversion of most predators toward hunting honey badgers has led to the theory that the countershaded coats of cheetah kittens evolved in imitation of the honey badger's colouration to ward off predators.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

 Honey badgers have a very interesting collaborative endeavor with the honey guide bird. It's an amazing partnership. Here is a vid about it: The honey guide bird leads the honey badger.

UPDATE: It's evidently a myth started by an early Swedish naturalist who heard of the behavior from a 2nd-hand source! Similar to the cliff-diving Norwegian lemming movie meme in some respects.

But at least the birds appear to interact at some level with humans on the honey trail and probably are not far behind a marauding honey badger to pick up the crumbs:

"Lies, Damned Lies, and Honey Badgers"

'Claire Spottiswoode, author of the recent honeyguide paper, set me straight. Even though the bird certainly teams up with humans, Spottiswoode said, "There is no persuasive evidence that honeyguides ever guide honey badgers". Cue baffled noises from me, and the faint whimper of broken childhood memories. Spottiswoode continued: "You might have seen the YouTube clip of a honeyguide seemingly guiding a honey badger - I'm afraid that was a set-up with a stuffed honeyguide and tame badger!"'


'The myth of the badger-guiding honeyguide began in 1785 with a man called Anders Sparrman, who had heard the story from local people. He never saw the actual behaviour first-hand. Neither had anyone else. In 1990, three ornithologists – Dean, Siegfried and Macdonald – wrote a paper debunking the honeyguide/honey badger story. In it, they wrote, "Naturalists and biologists have been active in Africa for more than 200 years. During this period, to the best of our knowledge, no biologist or naturalist, amateur or professional, has observed a Greater Honeyguide leading a Honey Badger to a beehive." '

Ken Drees writes:

My sister was in a party hiking in Sumatra, Indonesia some time back that was ambushed by the honey badger. He lay in wait and as soon as the local guide of the group appeared from under a fallen tree at the bottom of a ravine on an established path he swooped. Luckily the guide was quick enough to swing his machete, which had a chunk out of the blade after he caught mr. honey badger's shoulder. My sister was number two behind the guide, ducking under the log at the time of the attack and felt his furry coat on his retreat. The guide was very quick to start hacking a new path through the jungle and organizing the troops to flea since he was certain the honey bear would be back. After a few skipped heartbeats all worked out ok on that day. But it appears from this he's a thinker and from the guide's reaction and concern, the attack retreat attack is possibly not random. 

Jim Sogi writes: 

In The Book of Five Rings one of Musashi Miyamoto's three main strategies is to retreat …attack …retreat…. attack…retreat. It throws the pursuers off balance and separates multiple attackers and allows you the choice of your terrain and setting.



 This professor in my daughter's department at MIT is working on using viruses to build batteries. I found this article about it pretty interesting.

"The DNA of Materials"

Molluscs produce proteins which combine with ions of calcium and carbonate in seawater. This provides the material for them to make two types of crystals, which they assemble into layers to create an immensely strong composite structure.

As [Angela Belcher] looked out of the window one day while wondering about this, her gaze drifted to a periodic table of elements stuck on the wall. If an abalone has within its DNA the ability to code for the proteins needed to gather the materials to construct a shell, would it be possible to tinker with the DNA sequences in other creatures to gather some of the elements on the periodic table? In particular, Dr Belcher asked herself, could creatures build semiconductors like those used in electronic circuits?

Pitt T. Maner III adds: 

The ascidians (sea squirts, tunnicates) ability to concentrate vandium at 100x the level found in current seawater has always been an interesting evolutionary puzzle.

1. Check out the wikipedia article on vanadins

2. Here is some related recent research involving vanadyl compounds used to inhibit gastric cancer cell line.
3) Ascidians provide a fertile ground for studies in the field of natural products. Similar to sponges and bryozoans, many ascidians avoid predation or fouling by producing noxious secondary metabolites [48]–[52]. Because of these properties, numerous species of ascidians may thus be a potential source of new anti-cancer compounds [53], [54]. Trabectedin (earlier known as ecteinascidin-743, commercial name Yondelis®), a marine-derived alkaloid isolated from extracts of Ecteinascidia turbinate, is now being used in treatment of soft-tissue sarcomas [55], [56]. Antimalarial compounds have been isolated from the solitary ascidians Microcosmus helleri, Ascidia sydneiensis and Phallusia nigra [57], and numerous other compounds with anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-bacterial capabilities are in various clinical trial stages by the pharmaceutical industry. The management and use of these organisms as sources of natural products is dependent, however, on understanding their taxonomy, the integrative basis of biology.



 There are several things to be considered here. First, the aircraft. The Boeing 777 is one of the most reliable aircraft ever built. Only three of the aircraft hulls have been lost:

1. British Airways flight 38 crashed short of the runway at Heathrow on Jan 17, 2008 due to ice crystals in the fuel that clogged a heat exchanger and prevented the engines from delivering thrust at a critical point on the landing approach. This situation only occurred in certain Rolls Royce engines [Trent 800] and has since been resolved by a new design of the engine oil fuel flow heat exchangers and restrictions on the amount of time the aircraft is permitted to operate with fuel temperatures below -10 degrees Celsius. This can safely be disregarded as a possible cause in the Malaysia incident.

2. Last years highly visible Asiana 214 accident at San Francisco was due to pilot error and a failure to maintain proper airspeed on the landing approach — there was nothing wrong with the aircraft.

3. On July 29, 2011 an Egypt Air B777-200ER was destroyed in Cairo when a fire erupted in the cockpit while parked at the gate [Final Report, Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation 172 page PDF]. This was attributed to a probable electrical fault or short circuit involving the first officers oxygen mask delivery hose, but the cause was not conclusively proven. It resulted in a a Boeing Alert Service Bulletin that in turn prompted an Airworthiness Directive that "requires replacing the low-pressure oxygen hoses with non-conductive low-pressure oxygen hoses in the flight compartment." [2011-NM-279-AD 8 page pdf]

The Cairo incident is interesting in that a cockpit fire can cause catastrophic damage and result in the loss of the aircraft, see Swissair Flight 111. A cockpit fire could reasonably prevent the flight crew from communicating their situation with air traffic control especially if it was fed by oxygen and required prompt attention from both pilots.

There was some speculation about an electrical failure which may have been the cause of the disappearance as well as the cessation of communications. I seriously doubt this however, as the B777 is equipped with a RAM Air Turbine to generate sufficient power to run essential systems in the event of such a failure.

Also, it is possible that the aircraft, like Air France 447, was transmitting system diagnostic data to the airline (not air traffic control) via ACARS  (which could provide clues) but if this information exists, we haven't heard about it yet.

In this article in today's New York Times  Malaysian authorities have stated that radar data may indicate that the flight had "possibly attempted to turn back". As a radar controller, and a witness to the events of 9/11, I can state that if there is radar data available, even if the aircraft's transponder was shut off or disabled, one can make reasonable assumptions by linking any strong primary targets to the last beacon targets if they are consistent with the track or with the turn characteristics of that type aircraft at it's last known altitude and speed. This is exactly what air traffic control did when the transponders aboard American 11 were turned off. There were strong primary radar returns that began where the beacon returns ceased and they were certain that they were looking at American 11 as it turned south down the Hudson river and when it disappeared over Manhattan.

As we don't have access to any radar data that the Malaysians may have, we cannot make any statements about it other than what we hear from them.

If there was a change in course this could imply many things — the crew was distracted by something like a fire or severe problem with the aircraft or possibly a cockpit intrusion. The fact that nothing was communicated to air traffic controllers could also imply that the crew was either too busy and therefore unable to communicate or they were prevented from communicating by intruders.

It is certainly possible that the aircraft was hijacked. A loss of transponder returns would occur if hijackers were savvy enough to turn the transponder off and a change in course would be consistent with a hijacking. This aircraft was fueled for a long flight and if the aircraft was indeed taken by force, there is no telling how far or where they might have taken it.

There is also the possibility of some sort of catastrophic explosion. Possibly a bomb or dangerous or poorly stowed cargo. There are many precedents for cargo fires, Value Jet 592 comes to mind as does Federal Express 1406 [Accident Report, 147 page pdf] (This flight may be of particular interest to DailySpec readers as it was carrying,I am told by persons directly involved, on the order of 100 million dollars in federal reserve notes on their way to Boston to be taken out of circulation and destroyed.)

There has also been speculation of a possible crash/suicide by one of the pilots.

This too is not unprecedented, Silk Air 185, Egypt Air 990, and most recently LAM Mozambique 470 are all suspected to be murder-suicides by members of the flight crew.

Any of these scenarios may prove true. The search area is very, very large and if the aircraft went down in the water, it may take a long time to find debris. There should definitely be some identifiable debris — even if the aircraft exploded. Strangely, it may prove easier to find evidence of a crash in the sea than one on land. Floating debris will probably persist on the surface for some time, whereas a crash site in remote territory may be amazingly difficult to locate, especially if their was no fire or if the aircraft came down in small pieces. If this happened over dense jungle or forest, there is very little chance that it will be detected from the air.

I am just as anxious as the next person to know what truly happened. This will take some time, investigations cannot be rushed.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

There is an attempt to crowdsource the satellite imagery in order to remotely sense objects that might be related to the crash zone.

I have not seen this site before. In the oil industry "lineament analysis" of aerial and satellite imagery was used to try to find surface features that might be associated with potential subsurface geological structures.

So it is like looking for a small, anomalous linear feature–"needle in a haystack" as they say. Problem being that there are many linear features caused by breaking ocean waves, seafloor substrate, clouds, shadows and such.

It seems a computer program could also look for aligned pixels or anomalies and at multiple bandwidths.



 I read this article today and wondered if it will have applications in the financial sphere.

"Perjurers and fake reviews train software to spot lies":

LAWYERS and judges use skill and instinct to sense who might be lying in court. Soon they may be able to rely on a computer, too.

An AI system trained on false statements is highly accurate at spotting deceptive language in written or spoken testimony. It can also be used to weed out fake online reviews of books, hotels and restaurants."

Also, I found this new book on poker tells that also may be of interest: Reading Poker Tells

The poker tell is one of the most romanticized ideas in gambling, the notion that there is a code that will tell you everything about your opponent's hand just waiting to be unlocked. In reality, tells are usually more subtle than they are in the movies, but that doesn't mean there aren't some big, honkin' obvious ones. Here are some of the most transparent ones to ever make it onto television, and how to spot (or avoid making) them yourself. 

And here is the author's Twitter feed.



 Las Vegas is a very interesting city to visit and a pleasant surprise, outside of the gambling establishment and Strip areas. There are very reasonable prices for rooms and buffets and surrounded by many natural wonders within a day's reach.

Various cons, of course, are on display 24/7. While leaving the parking area I was approached by a vehicle with two men who wanted to offer me a fantastic deal on a 3-carat diamond that had recently come into their possession. "No thank you", I said and they quickly moved on without comment. A limo driver noted later that he had had an offer from a rich, turbaned man for his car (a red Cadillac) many years ago with payment to be made in 4 gold bricks. The driver checked two of the bricks with the local pawn shop and fortunately determined that they were worthless.

The city has its share of down and out transients but all in all the city vibe is positive and the energy associated with the arrival of NASCAR week and a huge display of construction-related equipment (excavators, trackhoes, platform lifts, various concrete pump trucks, etc. in the convention center–all supersized) was palpable.

A very spectacular, geologic structure, the Keystone thrust fault is located just west of town in the Red Rock Canyon Natural Conservation area. Hiking through this beautiful area with crossbedded ("herring bone") Aztec sandstone and red, Jurassic Kayenta Fm. One sees the many adaptations that plants and animals have evolved to collect and conserve water that comes during infrequent rains– and often in the form of raging, flash floods.

Fossils, despite promising intel from locals, however, are not easily found and only a few, small crinoid plates were noted during a long walk over a fossiliferous ridge south of the main park along horse and burro trails. It's a tricky business when you are walking along the Permio-Triassic extinction boundary!

A good museum on crime (as in "does not pay") is located downtown and aptly called the Mob Museum and graphically shows the typical end result of the "gangsta" lifestyle. Several hours did not do justice to the displays.

I was interested that Estes Kefauver held a session in the early 50s of his crime in America investigating committee (broadcast on national TV) in the same Mob Museum building. My grandfather once worked as a floor manager during one of Kefauver's presidential bids– and also for baseball commissioner, "Happy" Chandler in similar vein on other occasion.

The National Atomic Testing Museum was quite fascinating to visit although I did not pay the extra fee for the Alien Area 51 exhibit and focused instead on the historical displays of atomic and hydrogen bomb development. Trinitite was on sale in the gift shop but high prices for a tiny piece of fused glass held little appeal.

Skiing is available nearby and quite fun even for a cautious, green run specialist like me (the resort gives a free lesson for warmup purposes that helps the novice get reacquainted with skis)  And of course, the Death Valley area, is a mere 1.5 hour drive away and holds such unusual stops as Marta Becket's Amaragosa Opera House   and fantastic variegated colors at Zabriskie point.

Well I had to put $20 on the Florida basketball team (giving away a ridiculous 12 points to LSU) and by sheer luck (with perhaps a touch of insight about season-ending, home court propensity) walked away with $18.50 (after vig deduction) in order to leave Vegas, this time at least, a winner on all accounts.

Stick to the natural wonders, folklore and history and you will always win out West.



 The young middle bridge to Palm Beach is now lit in pink and red lighting at night for the Komen charity and Valentine's. It has an interesting history summarized as:

1) Spend oodles of money to restore the old bridge superstructure only to send divers down and find that the footings and supports were rotting from attack by marine organisms.
2) Build a temporary bridge by pile driving casing into the intracoastal sediments until bedrock was reached. Tremendous noise for months
3) Demolish old bridge.
4) Build new bridge.
5) Remove and demolish temporary bridge

Ah, yes, "lessons learned" and "your tax dollars at work". Attached is an interesting warning sign on the bridge. Those waiting for advice, signals and divinations from the sages, oracles, and other prophets take heed at the message. (it's real purpose is to prevent accidents around pinch points as the bridge is raised and lowered and to prevent interference with bridge tender operations).



 A good article (for Valentine's Day) on how a 900-year old rune inscription was deciphered that read "kiss me".

'Why did Vikings sometimes use codes when they wrote in runes? Were the messages secret, or did they have other reasons for encrypting their runic texts? Researchers still don't know for sure.

But Runologist K. Jonas Nordby thinks he has made progress toward an answer. He has managed to crack a code called jötunvillur, which has baffled linguists and historians for years.

His discovery can help researchers understand the purpose behind the mystery codes. "It's like solving a riddle," says Nordby.

"After a while I started to see a pattern in what appeared to be meaningless combinations of runes," he says. '



 I'm feeling inspired today by the camouflaging ability of the cuttlefish.

The cuttlefish uses an ingenious approach to materials composition and structure, one that we have never employed in our engineered displays," said coauthor Evelyn Hu, Tarr-Coyne Professor of Applied Physics and of Electrical Engineering at SEAS. "It is extremely challenging for us to replicate the mechanisms that the cuttlefish uses. For example, we cannot yet engineer materials that have the elasticity to expand 500 times in surface area. And were we able to do that, the richness of color of the expanded and unexpanded material would be dramatically different. Think of stretching and shrinking a balloon. The cuttlefish may have found a way to compensate for this change in richness of color by being an 'active' light emitter (fluorescent), not simply modulating light through passive reflection.


'Parker is an Army reservist who completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan, so using the cuttlefish to find a biologically inspired design for new types of military camouflage carries special meaning for him. Poor camouflage patterns can cost lives on the battlefield.

"Throughout history, people have dreamed of having an 'invisible suit,'" Parker said. "Nature solved that problem, and now it's up to us to replicate this genius, so, like the cuttlefish, we can avoid our predators."

"In Search of Nature's Camouflage"

Chris Tucker writes:

This 5 minute video has astounding footage of cuttlefish, octopi and squid blending into their environments.

The octopus footage at the end is particularly amazing. But I thought the squid was fascinating as it kept its warm cuddly colors on the side of his body that faced the female and the other side of his body colored to warn off other males and it flips as he swims to her other side. It's definitely worth taking the time to watch.

"Ted Talk: David Gallo Shows Underwater Astonishments"



 I wonder if the new technology 4D Geoseis would have applications in other parts of the world and if rights can be obtained that might make it useful as a business idea. For instance, in South Florida I know of a underground utility search company that uses radar, metal detectors, and other devices to look for buried lines before you dig (this is normally a free service from the individual utility companies for the lines leading into your property) on your property that used to charge about $700/day to send a trained technician and equipment to your site.

In the middle of Florida there are several companies that locate sinkholes or potential sinkholes (ie. Karst solution features) under properties and charge significant fees.

So a service that delineates potential fracture zones in high definition before a building or structure is constructed would seem to be very useful or perhaps information that insurance companies would like to know in advance.

As a general analogy to markets one might ask about or think of the potential fault zones that could "reactivate" and cause seismic shifts that have been inactive and buried for many years.

"Hollywood developments straddle earthquake fault, new maps show"

Hollywood building



Here is a Periodic Table of Asset Classes and Yearly Returns. It needs updating for 2013, but it's interesting to see how the Emerging Markets box moves from worst to best during several years (like Lithium, Li, volatile when exposed to air or water) or stays near the bottom (1994-1998) or top (2002-2007) over an extended time period.

Perhaps further detail would be useful to break out individual countries and sub-categories and stocks driving index returns and to make chart more interactive.

1. Callan Periodic Table of Investment Returns

2. Lithium



 My sun loving family has just completed its 13th RV school break drive out to Disney! As always, there was another family coming with us from NYC, but this time was different, thanks to emergence of TravelPony start-up in an unmistakably competitive cyber-travel industry. TravelPony says that billions are spent daily by the industry on advertising, but that they're a rebel who pays their customer direct for cyber referrals, to foster a word-of-mouth pyramid.

I'll share with the list what I did: I bid on a smaller RV this time to transport to FL, thus improving my fuel-economy by a third (10mpg vs 7mpg over the 1100-mile one-way). Additionally, AMEX had a tremendous 20% off gas just to sync your CC via twitter and enroll in BP award offer, which paid back $5 on every $25 fill-up thru 12/31/13. So all I had to do to fill my 55-gallon tank in VA and SC at $3.039 regular pump was to replace the nozzle 4-5 times, registering separate $25.01, $25.02, $25.03, $25.04, $25.05 AMEX charges. Mind you that Blue Cash card stacks 3% cash-back on top, and also enrollment in the regular BP program knocks further 10 cents/gallon: the secret to any TRUE deal is necessarily stackable discounts!

So my fuel bill this time was handily downsized, but now (with a 3-bed RV vs. our usual 4-bed RV) I had to lodge the guest family in Disney proximity — and that's where Travel Pony trotted in. I did this:

1. Have my guest family email their referral link to my email addresses, so they would earn $15 Paypal cash for EACH of my email address that spends it's way to an at least a $12 cash back reward.

2. Log into and click thru to TravelPony for 4-10% cash back on hotel/taxes spend. Once travelpony site opens in separate window, replace it with my referral , where I get $25 travelpony spend credit for the first purchase that every referred email account completes.

3. As every email account Signs Up for a travelpony account through my link, they will each instantly get a $35 spend credit into each email-based account they create. I also provide them discount code VIPONY2013 for 10% off of the already competitive Travelpony hotel rates (which are 10-20% below Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Orbitz,, and such to start with).

4. TravelPony listed named (not anonymous) three-star resorts in Disney area at $29-45 double queen room! With a few practiced clicks thru, one email account at a time and one room at a time, I managed to string up effectively an entire week of complimentary stays: just utilizing the initial $35 per travelpony email account credits, my own $25 travelpony referral credits, topcashback percentage, Topcashback $15 per account referral cash and cashback on CC programs. I'm always available for any travel question, and we are looking forward to Feb 15-24 President Week break, followed by Spring Break April 11-22.

Orlando weather was a real treat this Xmas: in every resort, we actually opted for non-heated pool+jacuzzi combination, avoiding the more crowded heated pools. Happy New Year everyone!



 American Scientist has a recent article on The Science of Seaweed. It is behind a paywall but it has an excerpt:

"The macroalgae collectively known as seaweeds are photosynthetic marine organisms that historically have enriched human beings ecologically, industrially, medicinally, nutritionally, gastronomically, and culturally. Excerpts from Ole G. Mouritsen's latest book sample these many benefits, showing the range of Mouritsen's self-confessed obsession with what began for him as a culinary delight. The biology and chemistry of these marine macroalgae is narrated with spotlights on Victorians' beachcombing and pressing specimens in England, the fascinating discovery of the red alga Porphyra's life cycle, Mouritsen's lone sojourn to the algae treasure trove hidden in the Natural History Museum of London, and a world-class chef's irresistible concoction of seaweed-flavored ice cream. "

But I see the entire, very interesting article at the following link that mentions that seaweed contains minerals in an abundance an order of magnitude higher than terrestrial plants.

Here is Dr. Mouritsen's new Seaweed cookbook . In it he proposes a new term: "gastrophysics"!



 There should be a study of whether time outs when a team is winning is better than time outs when a team is losing. Take basketball for example. Many spurts come with non-percentage and lucky threes in the minute by minutes of a game and between games. Often a team will win big with threes in one game and then lose big the next with the same strategy. Take the worst player like Smith. He won a few games at the beginning of last season and then lost dozens more with the same non-percentage play at the end. This compounded of course with his bad character— how do teammates let a player get away with partying late in the night before a play-off? And how does a persons' percentage on risky shots drop near the crucial ends of a game or playoffs when the adversaries pay it much closer and tougher?

Of course, this relates to markets. The time to quit is when you're way ahead not, when you're way behind. Take Jeff as an example. After creating untold profits with his trifecta on the grains last year, he's been quiet. Not only because of the illness in his family. But because he knows about ever changing cycles. And he knows that at Vegas, everyone has a stop loss when they lose too much. But never a stop gain when they make too much.

Steve Ellison adds: 

In last night's hockey game between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks, Canucks coach John Tortorella called time out early in the second period immediately after the Bruins scored to tie the game, 1-1 (a Canucks defenseman muffed a pass back, and a Bruins player snatched the puck and scored on a breakaway). He was visibly angry and shouting at his players during the time out. Whether by coincidence or not, the Canucks scored within minutes to retake the lead and never looked back as they eventually won, 6-2:

"'There was a lot of emotion. He just wanted the boys to get going,' said Canucks winger David Booth of Tortorella's impassioned words early in the second." 

anonymous writes: 

 For what it's worth, this is a brief exploration of short and mid-term timeout effects on basketball scoring according to situational variable.


The aim of this study was to identify the effects of timeouts on Basketball teams' performance differences, as measured by points scored by the team that calls a timeout and points scored by the opponent team according to game location, the quality of the opponent and the game quarter. Sixty games were analysed using the play-by-play game-related statistics from the Asociación de Clubes de Baloncesto (ACB) League in Spain (2009–2010 season).

For each timeout, the points scored in the previous and post 3, 5 and 10 ball possessions were registered for the teams that called the timeout and for the opponents (nC6 and nB7, n22 andn19, n2 and n0 for 3, 5 and 10 ball possessions, respectively).

For the teams that called the timeout, the results reflected positive effects on points scored, with increases of 1.59, 2.10 and 2.29 points during the period within the third, fifth and tenth timeout ball possessions.

For the teams that have not called the timeout, the results identified timeout negative effects in points scored, during the period within the third and fifth ball possessions (decreases in points scored of 1.59 and 1.77, respectively).

Unexpectedly, the situational variables had little or no effects on points scored, which opens up this important topic for further studies and discussion.

Pitt T. Maner III adds: 

Time Outs in pro basketball are thought to favor the defense, allowing time to get set and also introducing the inbound play (and the potential for a steal). But as the writer of the following article notes there are lots of variables to consider (and you may want to call a TO quickly if Smith is dribbling down court on a 1 on 4 break).

Further testing may be needed. A couple of quotes:

"Call Time-Out? Not So Fast, Pro Coaches"

Said Stotts: "One thing I think is very difficult for basketball in comparison to football and baseball is those two sports have static events. There's an at-bat and something happens on that at-bat and you can quantify each at-bat and same thing with football with, even though there's 11 players on the field, you have a down and yardage each time and it's a very static event. Basketball is a free-flowing, with different matchups and different set of circumstances, perhaps every time down the floor."


'By utilizing play-by-play data from each game of the 2012-13 NBA season
(as well as computer skills far beyond my capabilities), it is possible
to determine what effect "prior events" have on a team's subsequent
shooting percentage. The excellent site NBAwowy.comhas this data for
each individual team. Aggregating all of this data allows one to draw
some very interesting conclusions league-wide, based on a sample of over
200,000 possessions throughout the season. At first blush, one
conclusion immediately leaped off the spreadsheet before any other:
Coaches should call timeout much less often after a change of



 From the hallowed halls…but probably not limited to them these days. Perhaps related to the perceived importance of not upsetting the confidence of gifted students? Grade plunge protection? Grist for the academics:

"A little bird has told me that the most frequently given grade at Harvard College right now is an A-," Mansfield said during the meeting's question period. "If this is true or nearly true, it represents a failure on the part of this faculty and its leadership to maintain our academic standards."

Harris then stood and looked towards FAS Dean Michael D. Smith in hesitation.

"I can answer the question, if you want me to." Harris said. "The median grade in Harvard College is indeed an A-. The most frequently awarded grade in Harvard College is actually a straight A."


Richard Owen writes: 

This is an interesting phenomenon. In the UK, the current coalition have started to engineer grade deflation for pre-uni qualification. It seems somewhat unfair to those at the inflexion point. Perhaps instead grades should be given on a continuously rising index number, so just like money, it debases but still acts as a reasonable measure.

I do not know the reality, but given that at universities like Oxford (certainly pre-WW1) it was standard practice to arrange a place for your son or daughter and that a typist could be hired to write your final papers, the idea that standards have always been nosebleedingly high doesn't seem right. Indeed, the intake quality is probably as high as ever, given the internationalisation of educational institutions. 

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

 As Richard knows, in the 19th century even faculty positions were allocated by social rank. His idea about an index is a marvelous suggestion; perhaps there could be a "mixed" educational economy in which people were allowed to buy grades or at least grade insurance and the underprivileged could get "extra" grades.

What is certain is that the schools will not allow anyone to set standard examinations. It would sabotage compulsory education (which now includes college attendance for anyone wanting a civil service or corporate job) if there were uniform measures of skills for which anyone could take tests and get scores.

James Bower writes: 

In graduate school there was a strict 3.25 curve for all courses. It was skewed (approx 30%, 50%, 15%, 5% other), but still there were only so many A's available. You would think teachers would/should create enough difficulty to create a wider distribution of outcomes.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

It is interesting to note that the last thing Artie did, the day before he died was to grade all the exams of his class, and give them all A's. Usually he only gave 85% of his class A's. What's so terrible about giving an A? The kid took the class, or played the piano or great music. It's beautiful. 



 In the September 5th, 2013 issue of nature, they have a nice article reviewing Batesian Mimicry, the kind where harmless and very good to eat butterflies mimic the appearance of poisonous ones to avoid being eaten. I have often pointed out that all the forms of deception that appear in nature have their counterparts in markets, and the study of such deception is one of the most useful things for the market operator to master. The nature article points out that that many microorganisms produce proteins that mimic the "form and function of host proteins to counter immune defenses." Pictures of innocuous bacteria and deadly viruses that appear identical accompany the article. They conclude: "it is exciting to consider how Bates's observations of rainforest butterflies might help to inform our understanding of infectious disease today". It is exciting to consider how the study of microscopic deception in the tick by tick prices might inform our understanding of deception in the larger spheres so endemic to market moves.

The same issue of Nature has such a loathsome article about plate tectonics saying that it shows that government funding is necessary for all scientific achievement, and that women and socialists made the key contribution to the spreading of the ocean floor and the reversals of magnetic polarity that led to plate tectonics, and that this same alliance is necessary for us to appreciate global warming that I wanted to throw my copy of nature out the window, and I did.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Thank you, Vic. Here is an illustration from the issue you noted which displays the mimicry seen at the molecular level. Pretty amazing. And here is a cute one from the website of one of the authors.



 It is so frustrating to watch Smith create losses for the team, with their random one on one play, and only he and Melo shooting in the clutch that I've taken to listening on the radio rather than tv. Amazingly, the announcers on the radio are infinitely better than the tv, with Walt Frazier bringing up the rear on tv, with his ridiculous rhymes, "jiving and diving". Rather than commentary. Anyway, Spero on radio is sagacious. He routinely says things like, "the team that scores the last basket before an overtime, i.e. the catch up basket generally wins the overtime." Also, "when you shoot 3 fouls, there's a tendency to miss them much more than the percentages would show". Things like that should be tested in markets as they express highs and lows in human behavior.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Just happened to watch the Knicks (6 straight losses at home) in the 4th quarter and in OT against Indiana the other night–it wasn't pretty. Shot selection was poor down the stretch and J.R. seems to have a knack for clanging critical shots. No comparison to the old days of Frazier, Bradley, Debusschere, Lucas, Reid, and the ever graceful, with bandaged knees, whirling dervish-like, "Earl the Pearl". Maybe they will do better when injured players return…

"It's possible that what Smith refers to as "panic mode" really just means that he's going to get serious and do his part to ensure that the Knicks don't continue to slide into the lottery. Still, it's interesting to consider what panic mode could mean for a player as enigmatic and frustrating as J.R. Smith. On a nightly basis, Smith baffles with his erratic shot selection, defensive breakdowns, and ability to take over a game playing exactly the same style that submarines his team's chances at a win. Panic Mode J.R. Smith could be even crazier, with a tendency to dribble with his palms and throw elbow passes as a matter of course. I mean, he already got stuck inside a garage on Thursday, so something must have changed."




 Cryptonomicon looks like a fun read and perhaps presages some of the issues in the news now. What secrets will be revealed in the next 30 years about things going on today?:

About the book:

"With this extraordinary first volume in what promises to be an epoch-making masterpiece, Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse—mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy—is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Waterhouse and Detachment 2702—commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence has cracked the enemy's fabled Enigma code.

It is a game, a cryptographic chess match between Waterhouse and his German counterpart, translated into action by the gung-ho Shaftoe and his forces. Fast-forward to the present, where Waterhouse's crypto-hacker grandson, Randy, is attempting to create a "data haven" in Southeast Asia—a place where encrypted data can be stored and exchanged free of repression and scrutiny. As governments and multinationals attack the endeavor, Randy joins forces with Shaftoe's tough-as-nails granddaughter, Amy, to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi submarine that holds the key to keeping the dream of a data haven afloat. But soon their scheme brings to light a massive conspiracy with its roots in Detachment 2702 linked to an unbreakable Nazi code called Arethusa. And it will represent the path to unimaginable riches and a future of personal and digital liberty…or to universal totalitarianism reborn.

A breathtaking tour de force, and Neal Stephenson's most accomplished and affecting work to date, Cryptonomicon is profound and prophetic, hypnotic and hyper-driven, as it leaps forward and back between World War II and the World Wide Web, hinting all the while at a dark day-after-tomorrow. It is a work of great art, thought and creative daring; the product of a truly iconoclastic imagination working with white-hot intensity."

Scott Brooks writes: 

I read Cryptonomicon about 10 years ago and found it to be a mostly fascinating and fun read.

I recommend it to anyone looking for an enjoyable way to wile away the afternoon.

That said, Stephenson has a very distinct writing style that is somewhat cryptic (if you'll pardon the pun). There were multiple times in the book when I would have absolutely no idea what he was talking about, who the characters were or what it had to do with the story. He told the story in a disjointed and odd manor.

It was like he was writing in a puzzle format and tried to make things a confusing…like he was trying to be clever. Unfortunately, he only came across irritating. He did tie things back together later in the book, but it became a bit off-putting after a while.

However, that aside, I did enjoy it and recommend it to the group.



 There was a very interesting segment on 60 Minutes last night about GoPro and its young CEO, Nick Woodman. A fellow who failed with an earlier business but who came up with a great and very profitable idea.

One can imagine attaching the GoPro camera to a RC mini-quadcopter along with certain geosensing tools (small magnetometers, maybe gravitometers, GPS etc. –depending on lifting capacity of the copter) in order to aid prospecting for minerals in rough or jungle terranes. Certainly it suggests a way to more quickly do local remote sensing projects.

I would imagine it potentially useful for archaelogical or environmental work too. One can envision a "smart" GoPro that could process remotely sensed information (possibly in extended wavelengths like IR). Inspection of all types of man-made structures becomes easier.

As mentioned in the 60 Minutes program, coral reef surveys have been greatly improved by utilizing the underwater GoPro cameras.

Here is the TV segment with Anderson Cooper.

Here is a company with geosensing possibilities like GoPro uses. 



Many of the estimated 6-7 million expats have headed to Mexico but Medellin, Colombia has been mentioned before as a good city for entrepreneurial souls. Perhaps Rosetta Stone or other language companies will do better as more boomers head south.


"Medellin, the former drug capital of Colombia, has launched a film commission as part of concerted bid to convert it into the film capital of this Andean nation. Spurred by Medellin mayor Anibal Gaviria, a 10-year strategic plan begins with construction next year of what Medellin film commissioner Francisco Pulgarin describes will be the largest audiovisual complex in Latin America with film and TV studios and other amenities. Infrastructure build-up will complement an initiative to train more people — in both English and Spanish — in the audiovisual sector."


Medellín: With a metropolitan area of about 3.8 million people, it's Colombia's second-largest city. Its location in the northern Andes ensures pleasant weather year-round, with temperatures rarely rising above 80F or falling below 60F. Most buildings are constructed of red brick, set off by the greenery of the city's many parks and botanical gardens. Five of Latin America's 35 top-rated hospitals are located in Medellín, Peddicord says.

Downsides: Air travel to the U.S. generally requires changing planes at least once; air pollution can be a problem in the center of the city; and the English-speaking expatriate community is small. "You are going to have to learn some Spanish," she says.'



 Grist for the toxicologists and epidemiologists and experts on the site. I am concerned about sushi. Check out this article.

"Although uncertainties remain regarding the assessment of cancer risk at low doses of ionizing radiation to humans, the dose received from PBFT consumption by subsistence fisherman can be estimated to result in two additional fatal cancer cases per 10,000,000 similarly exposed people."

I wonder if the mercury, PCB, and other contaminants have more impact from a toxicological standpoint or is it an order of magnitude.

This is the Fukushima radioactive "tag" used to track fish migratory patterns.

On another related subject, this is a paper on atmospheric fallout (and congenital hypothyroidism, CH) from Fukushima:

"Understanding why CH rates have risen in developed nations such as the US is a complex task, as multiple factors are likely involved. Exposure to radiation, especially the thyroid-seeking radioiodine isotopes, should be considered as one of these factors. The meltdown at Fukushima Dai-ichi presents an opportunity to analyze this factor, and studies such as this one should continue."



 I have a hypothesis that older people with money to invest put too much value on youth in their investments, i.e, that they think that young people and things that young people buy are better than other things. I wonder if this is because of their desire for immortality or just a rejection of their loss of virility. I looked for articles that were relevant to this hypothesis but not having the scope or sweep of Pitt, or Mr. E, I have not yet struck pay dirt.

Vince Fulco writes: 

Add to the mix of hypotheses, worry about not keeping up or relevant on world developments, IT, or scientific advancements. It is exhausting for some generations given they were raised with sliderules.

Scott Brooks writes: 

Isn't it fair to say that the growth companies of yesterday are the value companies of today?

Older people probably want, at least, some growth in the portfolio, so they invest some of their money with the younger generation who generally more innovative and/or more attuned to "newest" innovations and idea's that come out.

This makes me think of the thread that we had on the open list last week about music. The older we get, the less we are attuned to modern (innovative?) music. We become entrenched in what we know and what impacted our lives growing up.

My theory is that the growth stage of our lives occurs during our teens, 20's and 30's. In our 40's we begin to transition into entrenched value stages and by our 50's (and one), we are value driven.

I think this applies to music and investing.

However, if we are smart (and I'd like to think we are… least some of the time), we inherently understand that "youth innovates and invents" and we want to be a part of that.

And since by the time we are in our 40's (and up) we have the money, we are the ones that the "youthful innovators and inventors" come to for cash to fund their ventures. And if we missed the Angel/VC and even IPO stage, we'll still invest a portion of our portfolio's with them to harness their vision……and recapture some of our own lost youthful vigor and insight.

Kim Zussman adds: 

Perhaps this wasn't the case before Microsoft (Apple, Google, Facebook, etc) showed that young computer mavens could hit it big, and that nerds will rule the world. People who came of age in the PC era.

Weren't the big success stories pre-1980's stodgier companies?

Scott Brooks writes: 

Wouldn't it be fair to say that GM, Ford, IBM, were the growth and innovative companies of the Henry Ford and Bob Hope Generations?

IMHO, every generation has their MSFT or AAPL, or GOOG……it's just that by the time we know about them (we being the next generation), they've become value companies.

The car companies and airline companies of our parents generation were the equivalent to the computer companies of our generation.

Pitt T. Maner III adds: 

 One would think that the influence of youth is increasing due to the higher use of the internet by the over 50 crowd (which includes me).

1. "Baby Boomers Driving Technology Wave":

'What explains the rapid pick-up of tech tools among the older crowd? "The younger investor is usually an influencer towards their parents in terms of technology," says Ryan by email.

The numbers dovetail findings by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project that more than half of adults 65 and older are online today. They're flocking to YouTube, social networks and shopping sites—while also growing more comfortable using banking and other financial services online. They form a surprisingly active demographic for Facebook, where 57% of those 50 to 64 are on the social network, according to Pew.'

So you might look at who are the main internet influencers with respect to individual stocks and the stock market and older internet users. For instance Cramer appears to have a fair amount of online "clout" with respect to stock selection as might several others on CNBC.

2. There are many companies trying to figure out and somewhat quantify who the influencers are– such as Klout.

3. This is a recent paper on the influence of the collective mood state on Twitter with respect to the market.

Behavioral economics tells us that emotions can profoundly affect individual behavior and decision-making. Does this also apply to societies at large, i.e., can societies experience mood states that affect their collective decision making? By extension is the public mood correlated or even predictive of economic indicators? Here we investigate whether measurements of collective mood states derived from large-scale Twitter feeds are correlated to the value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) over time. We analyze the text content of daily Twitter feeds by two mood tracking tools, namely OpinionFinder that measures positive vs. negative mood and Google-Profile of Mood States (GPOMS) that measures mood in terms of 6 dimensions (Calm, Alert, Sure, Vital, Kind, and Happy). We cross-validate the resulting mood time series by comparing their ability to detect the public's response to the presidential election and Thanksgiving day in 2008. A Granger causality analysis and a Self-Organizing Fuzzy Neural Network are then used to investigate the hypothesis that public mood states, as measured by the OpinionFinder and GPOMS mood time series, are predictive of changes in DJIA closing values. Our results indicate that the accuracy of DJIA predictions can be significantly improved by the inclusion of specific public mood dimensions but not others. We find an accuracy of 87.6% in predicting the daily up and down changes in the closing values of the DJIA and a reduction of the Mean Average Percentage Error by more than 6%.

4. That reminds me of these websites



avoiding the herd

5. This influence effect on the older investor might have to be considered with respect to the depressing findings asserted by this research:

"Examining the economic costs of aging, we find that older investors earn about 3-5% lower annual return on a risk-adjusted basis. Collectively, our evidence indicates that older investors' portfolio choices reflect greater knowledge about investing but their investment skill deteriorates with age due to the adverse effects of cognitive aging."

David Lillienfeld writes: 

And the problem is that it's unclear that there's any company to take over the place of MSFT, AAPL or GOOG besides AMZN, which can't seem to earn any money (real profit, not just revenues). I had hoped that my now, there would be some suggestion of which companies those may be, but I'm not seeing them.

Scott Brooks writes: 

You could have said almost the same thing about railroads…..then came big steel.

You could have said almost the same thing about big steel….and then came GM.

You could have said almost the same thing about GM…..and then came IBM.

You could have said almost the same thing about IBM…..and then came MSFT.

You could have said almost the same thing about MSFT…..and then came GOOG.

You could have said almost about GOOG…..and then came……?

You have successful well run companies that create cash flow and then use that cash flow and credit to buy up smaller (other) companies….and become dominate.

Isn't that just the way the eternal business cycle works?

Isn't that really just the way of mankind and government?



 There is a beautiful location within view (for now) across the intracoastal from me. Attractive ladies and their cute dogs frequent the area. And a row of investment service companies are right around the block.

Demand for Large Boat Slips at Town Dock Surges

"There's become such a demand for bigger boats, and there's not enough space for them," said Dockmaster Mike Horn. "Last week, the phone didn't stop ringing. A lot of people will call, and we just have to say 'no.' The 38 slips for 100-foot-plus yachts are completely booked, with seasonal and annual leases."



 The advice of Art Bisguier comes to mind when considering the Australian's post on turning off the lights. "Schtalll," he always said. "Sit on your hands and write your move down before you move the piece." I always say if you waited a day or two or hour or two on every trade, or definitely to the end of the day on every trade, you'd do much better. We live in a web of deception.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

With due respect to everyone quoted, I'm not sure. Just like in board games there is time limit, so in any market contract, there is window of opportunity to cease a favorable price. Have recent tests shown that reversals occur between sessions, as opposed to intra-session?

I agree that was the case in yesteryear, because participants who over-leveraged during the day had to liquidate on the close, amplifying the riot. But these days, the pre-set electronic limits prevent such intra-day indiscretion. So it's just as likely to hit major pinnacle or nadir any time in the session.

Craig Mee writes: 

 Wouldn't it make sense to take all the bright lights, and colored up and down arrows, and green and red charts off your screens and replace them with blacks and greys. The flickering of the table creates undue excitement in one's mind and drives one to "play" when they probably should sit. 

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Funny, I was just reading something along the same lines but related to gambling. Best not to confuse the exciting red cherries and the appearance of green as being indicative of possible success.

"How Slot Machines Trick Your Brains":

"A reel on a virtual slot machine may seem to be cycling between 22 positions, but the machine powering it could have 64. This means you're seeing those cherries moving by way more than the odds that they will stop. Schull cites a study by Kevin Harrigan, an expert in algorithms, which says that if this type of machine were to pay off according to what people are seeing, players would win 297 percent of the time."



 I saw this clever book on Amazon: "The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That" by Richard Betts.

Perhaps a scratch and smell investment guide in a humorous vein would be a fun thing too. One conjectures that if investments had attached smells that many longshots (and decaying ventures) would be avoided and bargains would be more readily identifiable.

My environmental geologist snoozle became very adept at detecting 50 ppm or greater ("impacted") hydrocarbon levels in soils–but that is another story. At any rate, back to articles about the book:

1. "Knock wine off its pedestal. That's the goal of wine expert Richard Betts. And he has come up with a brilliant way to do it: a scratch n' sniff guide to the aromas and flavors of the wine world. With beautiful illustrations from Wendy MacNaughton, the 10-page board book looks like it belongs with your kid's toys instead of next to The Joy of Cooking.But don't let the playfulness fool you. There's some serious wine science in Bett's new book, The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert."

2. 'Betts points out that all we actually taste is sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

"Everything else we experience comes from our sense of smell. And we can break that down into three specific areas that define all wine: fruit, earth and wood, oak in particular."

Earth is the toughest one to explain, he says, but as soon as he invites people to recall the smell of potting soil or river mud from a camping trip, they get it. For fruit, it's red fruit or black fruit. For oak, if it's American it smells one way, French another way. '



 I wish I hadn't written the chapter on poker in edspec. I hadn't played for 30 years when I wrote it, and all I did was read some books from the gamblers book club, and then write about it as a layman, poseur, armchair geezer. I wasted 5 pages of everyone's time on it. And anyone who knows the game would have seen I was out of my league. I try not to be as ignorant of my ignorance as I once was.

The current issue of Outside is all about the secrets of survival. What it takes to stay alive. I am ignorant on this subject. The only thing I know about it, is from books, that when you're the captain, you're supposed to be the last man out, until you say "every man for himself" as Aubrey did. Also, what I read in L'Amour about always being aggressive at the beginning when threatened with a life saving situation. But people on this site are infinitely more knowledgeable than I on this subject as are all my kids and partner, who all had to spend a few days alone in the Vermont wilderness as part of the Mountain School they went to.

So please, give us your survival things, and comment on what Outside said, so that we can survive better in speculation, a consummation devoutly to be wished, and which the all seeing eye would like to do so many things in this life over again related thereto.

Jim Sogi writes: 

 Many cases of death in the wilderness are as a result of a series of small stupid mistakes that compound and make what is not a deadly situation, into a deadly one. First is lack of preparation. The classic case is the two hour hike without proper basics such as jackets, maps, water, shoes, compass and the weather gets bad. The party hurries, mistake 2. One in the party gets injured: mistake 3. The parties separate to get help: mistake
4. Both parties become disoriented and lost and panic, running about. mistake 5. Their bodies are found days later a few feet off the path. All stupid mistakes, compounding a nice situation and tipping into irretrievable disaster. It is the same as Chair talks about: a good base of operation. Basic needs of the operation in the wild are adequate shoes, protection from weather, warmth and hydration, and basic navigation.

The second main survival issues are the basic needs of human survival: water and warmth. One can go for days, and almost weeks without food, but without water, hours can bring on death. If the body goes just a few degrees below or above its normal temperature, body and mental functions shut down and the person goes into a stupor. It can happen in 70-80 temperatures surprisingly.

Often, the simple cure to avoiding the above is just to stop. People have a real need to be doing something, and often it is not helpful and leads to disaster. How many parallels there are to trading!

I have a simple survival first aid package. Loss of blood is one of main causes of battlefield death. Unless bleeding is stopped, death will quickly follow often in minutes. Cetox granules go in the wound and staunch the bleeding by forming clots. Pressure and bandaging or sealing with stitches or tape will stabilize until further help. Also in the kit are pain killers. Sprains and breaks are common, and pain killer will allow the party to limp or carry to further help. The commercial first aid kits are often a waste. Water treatment is top of the survival bag list to kill giardia and cryptosporidium that will cause runs and dehydration. A small tarp or space blanket and jacket will provide enough shelter to avoid hypothermia by blocking wind and rain. Tape such as dermoplast or even duct tape can be used to staunch bleeding, make splints and stabilize breaks and sprains. A good flint and steel and tinder and water proof matches will help build a fire to keep warm. That's about all in my kit. All the crap in the commercial kits tend to be useless weight. Most survival situations only last 3 days. By then 95 percent are rescued or dead. Just stay warm, drink water, and keep your blood inside you.


98.6 The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive
Cody Lundin
Backcountry Skiing Skills Wheeler, Margaret
First Aid: A Pocket Guide Van Tilburg
Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue ,
Selters, Andrew

Deep Survival, Gonzales, Lawrence

Phil McDonnell writes: 

About the only thing I can add to Mr. Sogi's excellent summary of survival techniques is to recommend the choice of tinder for the flint and steel technique. I have considerable experience from Boy Scout days with flint and steel. The best tinder by far is steel wool. I believe the reason is that hitting the steel against the flint throws off molten steel sparks which somehow are attracted to the steel wool fibers. In competitions I used to be able to boil a #10 tin can of water in 3-4 minutes.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

 I occasionally watch the Les Stroud Survivorman show and he has some good ideas on the subject. Similar to Mr. Sogi.

For urban disaster he emphasizes having a basic kit stored in a plastic container.

In Stroud's view it is ideal to keep:
1) a week's supply of water and 2) a nice first aid kit (probably doesn't hurt for everyone in the family to take the Red Cross First Aid/CPR course or from another qualified provider. He advises having a 3) crank-up radio to keep in touch with outside world and 4) a shake, non-battery flashlight. 5) Water proof matches, 6) Rope, 7) a Multi-Tool.

During the hurricane season a trip to Costco to prepare for a possible storm is important. Easy to pick up canned goods, water and other items needed. A little wine to share with your fellow condo survivors doesn't hurt either when the power and water go off for a week and you are sweltering without the A/C. I like a big lantern-type flashlight with fresh batteries so you can read a bit at night.

At any rate, Stroud emphasizes staying dry to avoid hypothermia in the wilderness. Exposure is a big risk in the wilds.

Ed Stewart writes: 

 James has an excellent summary of important points.  I will add (or expand on) a few.

First, be very cautious when venturing into new territory.  If one is experienced at hiking a certain path or mountain or area, Don't assume "it is all the same" when you go to a new place.   Don't assume, "I know how to find my way".   I grew up in rural New England and spent a great deal of time in the woods (back country type skiing, hiking, fishing, etc) from a young age.   My families home was near a govt owned wilderness area, and over time I got to know the terrain extremely well in terms of having a mental map and orientation, but also things like natural formations that could be useful as shelter, etc. Knowing a wilderness territory is like knowing where the "utilities" are that you can access from any position.

It is very dangerous to generalize such specific knowledge into thinking "I am good at finding my way", a mistake I experienced and learned from.

Wear the right clothes initially, not just in a backup capacity. What is comfortable in ideal conditions (light cotton long sleeve T-shirt, etc) can be a disaster when conditions change. Material that is waterproof and/or maintains insulating ability when wet is always good.

Extreme danger emerges out of "usual" situations and seemingly small challenges. It is hard to see danger without experience. For example a recreational hiker thinks, "that small rock formation would be fun to climb".   The problem is, how it looks at the bottom (easy!) is a distortion relative to what one sees close up (unstable rocks, dirt, etc) from a now dangerous height. "From a distance" assessments are not an accurate judge of things for most people.

Focus on external factors that reveal themselves through the five senses. Take the time to observe. Stop and listen. Look at shadows, type of earth you are on, gradient, sounds, smells. Getting into that observation mode, not talking, not focusing on your own thoughts but on what is "out there." Bringing the senses alive to the slightest changes in the environment is a significant survival skill.

Experience coping with blood and guts, both literally and metaphorically, prepares one for survival. Many people are very deceived about survival situations because most of modern life is very safe, sanitized, and compartmentalized. Meat comes in a plastic package. "Someone else" does the dirty work. "Someone else" fixes an injured person. "Someone else" makes things safe and secure. People are squeamish about crossing boundaries, and when confronted with them can panic or become ill. An easy way to develop a natural survival mentality in any circumstance is to look for ways to cross boundaries before one is forced to do so.

The sound of a heavy metal bell can carry a great distance.  As I said, I grew up in a very rural area and our home was on a large number of acres. When I was out late fishing, etc, my mom had a very heavy metal bell that she would ring– a sound which would carry for miles and alert me to come home — and immediately, automatically set my orientation.   There are plenty of ways that a low cost item like this can be used.

Vince Fulco writes: 

 Besides some of the other great pubs listed here, the US Special Forces Medical Handbook (a bit dated) can be found on amazon and similar for $10. There is plenty of food for thought for the non-medical professional for when the stuff hits the fan in a bigger way.

Vincent Andres writes: 

I remember well one of Reinhold Messner's simple tips.

When in danger, you are yourself the very first level of protection (and also one of the best, since your reaction can be very immediate). So work well on this very first level, and don't count on somebody else doing the job for you.

This is also a very libertarian and Randian tip.




 The greatest storm chaser, Tim Samaras devoted his life to unlocking the mysteries of extreme weather (his father placed an ad for used tv sets for him to fix). Then came the tornado of May 31.

The monster storm. 

"His mother had given up making him play little league baseball after she noticed that he would spend game time gazing not at the ball but instead at whatever in the sky interested him"

"And if it happens,  I die chasing the tornado), I'm going to go out collecting my data."

"The Oklahoma city mortuary director refused to be paid or his efforts. He was doing research, trying to save lives". "Winter (his son who didn't know who his father was until 28 years old ), pleaded to be allowed to stand outside to watch the tornado while the other kids clambered into the basement."

Perhaps Nassim will live and I will die chasing a 10% decline.

Note that the reason for unusual and premature deaths like that of Tim Samaras are usually from romance or getting in over the head about money. Tim was in a small Saturn car rather than the land rover because he only had 10,000 to spend on the rest of the year for all his gas and employees. The son died with him. 

Pitt T. Maner comments: 

 A couple of more quotes from an excellent article by Brantley Hargrove in Dallas Observer News:

'Their deaths have forced the insular storm-chasing community to search its soul. None from their ranks had ever died in a tornado. And this wasn't some amateur yahoo with an iPhone. Samaras was the godfather of this pursuit. Now he and the compacted hull of his white Chevy Cobalt had become the glaring evidence of their own fallibility. If so great a man could not save himself, how could any?'


"There's always been chasers who pushed the limits, got too close, and I've certainly done that a few times myself," Robinson says. "You'd think maybe it should have been somebody who did something reckless or careless. It shakes you up when you realize that someone with his experience can end up in that situation."

One of things Samaras loved about the study of tornadoes was that it remains a wide-open frontier. So many fundamental questions continue to go unanswered. How much can the pressure fall inside of a tornado? Why do some mesocyclones produce tornadoes while others do not?'



 Vladimir Keilis-Borok remembered:

"Scientist Who Sought to Predict Quakes Dies at 92"

"Earthquake prediction today remains elusive. Most scientists are generally pessimistic about ever having that ability and have instead focused on emergency preparedness and advocating for an early warning system designed to give people a few seconds of notice after a quake occurs but before damaging waves spread widely."

and perhaps V K-B's methods may be useful for political election outcomes?

'Keilis-Borok and his team identified patterns of seismic activity using mathematical algorithms. Their predictions were based on finding a "seismic chain," or series of smaller quakes, that could be a precursor to a major jolt. He called this methodology "tail wagging the dog."'



 It's only a flesh wound…as Monty Python would say.

I thought this was a great article about chemical codes and signaling amongst plants.

"Learning to Speak Shrub":

'Entomologist Richard Karban knows how to get sagebrush talking. To start the conversation, he poses as a grasshopper or a chewing beetle—he uses scissors to cut leaves on one of the shrubs. Lopping off the leaves entirely won't fool the plants. So he makes many snips around the edges and tips of the leaves—"a lot of little bites."

A few months later, Karban, a professor at the University of California, Davis who studies plant defense communication, returns to the sagebrush and examines its leaves, many of which now have damage from real grasshoppers or beetles. However, within about two feet of the branches he clipped, leaves have been spared the worst ravages of the hungry insects. That's because Karban's cuttings convinced those damaged leaves they were under insect attack, so they sent chemical alarms into the air. Neighboring leaves intercepted and deciphered the code messages, and began prepping their own defenses against the bugs.

It makes me wonder what pheromones the markets release?



A site claims to have an algorithm for determining "optimal puts" for your portfolio:

"So far, judging by the costs of hedging the iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT), options market participants don't appear to find the prospect of a default likely. But if one were to happen, it's difficult to predict how hard Treasury securities (and ETFs comprised of them) would get hit. For investors who would like to insure against an unlikely but potentially disastrous scenario, here are two ways of doing so."



The Prisoner's Dilemma is very well analyzed in the highly recommended very technical book, Evolutionary Dynamics by Martin Nowak.

The two by two payoff matrix:

                         Remain Silent       Confess

Remain Silent          -1                      -10

Confess                     0                       -7

shows payoffs to you if you and your colleague have committed a crime. The D. A says that if you confess and your colleague doesn't, you go free. But if you don't confess and he confesses you get 10 years in jail. But if you both confess you both get 7 years in jail. But if you both are silent, you both get just 1 year in jail because they can't prove anything.

 The problem is that you do better by being disloyal to your partner. And so does he.

Rapaport has a very good solution to this problem if you play the game repeatedly. It has many applications to trading. If you are a flexion and you have inside information, perhaps from being one of the hundred people receiving economic releases in advance on a need to know basis, and your conspirator is a trend follower, or someone you are revealing the news to, as so often happens, you do better if you act but your colleague doesn't. Same for him. But if you both act, you'll move the market and the opportunity will be lost.

What other situations in markets can be modeled by the prisoners dilemma, and how do the solutions that Nowak and Wiki discuss illumine our trading, and enlighten us as to the disadvantages we face.

Tyler McClellan adds: 

Freeman Dyson published a short paper in the last year or so that supposedly showed a very unintuitive and until then unknown solution to this game.

"Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma Contains Strategies the Dominate and Evolutionary Opponent"

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

The speculations about the Prisoner's dilemma too often omit the fact that the criminals both belong to the same tribe. The criminals' choices of rat/don't rat are bounded not only by the lesser/greater punishments by the prosecutors but also by the rewards/punishments offered by the gang/group. When the group's incentives are included in the calculations, the conspirators will, as wise guys, follow the logic of silence. That is why successful Federal prosecutions of organized crime that depend on informers have to offer the additional incentive of bribery. An offer of lesser punishment is not enough.

Pitt T. Maner III comments: 

And the game rules and risk/reward payouts in open systems would seem even more variable and subject to interpretation/enforcement depending on the players involved.

This article
has two viewpoints on some recent data: "it's suggestive" vs. "overwhelming"

"Does a burst of ETF trading in the same millisecond of the Federal Reserve's policy statement raise an eyebrow? Sure. Is it indicative of a leak or insider trading? Not necessarily. For that, you'd need something besides numbers on a chart."

And this is one of the latest papers on the subject which might be of interest:

"Penn Biologists Show that Generosity Leads to Evolutionary Success"

"Last year William Press and I proposed the 'extortion strategy' in the game of Prisoner's Dilemma, enabling one player to maintain a dominant position over the other," said Dyson, who is retired as a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, N.J. "One year later, Stewart and Plotkin turned our strategy upside down and showed that it enables one player to coax the other gently toward collaboration. They understood our strategy better than we did. They reached by rigorous mathematics the happy conclusion that, in a game between ruthless antagonists, generosity wins." '

Richard Owen writes:

It always seems to be that the merits of a mathematical discovery aren't enough by themselves. The closed system needs to be extrapolated to the wide world. Thus a specific proof about a mathematical game is assumed to show that "it pays to be generous in life." As if, without the mathematical imprimatur, this might be held in some doubt. That particular habit of taking results proved in a closed system and extrapolating them to the wide world is probably particularly relevant to the investment field.

Jim Sogi adds: 

I definitely like this author's approach to game theory using a spreadsheet to tally levels of factors similar to a plus minus decision list. The approach can definitely be used to quantify market information and decisions. It breaks down multi factored complex decisions into manageable quantifiable choices which are tallied to arrive at the big decision.



 "Effects of Ancient Meteor Impact Still Visible On Earth"

This is fairly recent in a geologic sense.  I listened to a great
lecture by Dr. Ed Petuch at FAU the other night and he mentioned that
part of the debris field from this event are found in Argentina.  Entire
sections of sediments were scoured from the sea floor in the blast area
and are missing in the geologic record.  The following portion of the article
describes what happened:

'More than 35 million years ago, a 15-story wall of water triggered by an asteroid strike washed over Virginia from its coast, then located at Richmond, to the foot of the inland Blue Ridge Mountains — an impact that would affect millions of people should it occur today. Yet despite its age, the effects of this ancient asteroid strike, as well as other epic space rock impact scars, can still be felt today, scientists say. 

The Virginia impact site, called the Chesapeake Bay Crater, is the largest known impact site in the United States and the sixth largest in the world, said Gerald Johnson, professor emeritus of geology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Despite its size, clues about the crater weren't found until 1983, when a layer of fused glass beads indicating an impact were recovered as part of a core sample. The site itself wasn't found until nearly a decade later. [When Space Attacks: The 6 Craziest Impacts]
The comet or asteroid that caused the impact, and likely measured 5 to 8 miles (8 to 13 kilometers) in diameter, hurtled through the air toward the area that is now Washington, D.C., when it fell. The impact crated a massive wave 1,500 feet (457 meters) high, researchers said.
Though the impactor left a crater about 52 miles across and 1.2 miles deep (84 km across and 1.9 km deep), the object itself vaporized, Johnson explained.'
"I'm just sad we can't have a piece of it," Johnson said in a statement.




Just ran across the new book by Mr. Spitznagel tonight  (The Dao of Capital: Austrian Investing in a Distorted World) and saw your recommendation on Amazon. Spitznagel uses some of the forest fire ecosystem ideas that the Dailyspec has discussed.

Patience and discipline appear to be points emphasized by the author.

I thought this was a good quote of the day: 

Yet, in both poker games and financial markets distorted by the manipulation of antes and interest rates, respectively, this makes sense. Current valuations indicate that Mr. Bernanke's continuing monetary policy is fooling investors into taking enormous risk for no expected return, or close to it.

Perhaps investors should heed the poker player in similar circumstances, who would instead choose a guaranteed zero return, saving his chips for another day, for another chance to play the holy game — but with fairer rules where the value of the hand truly justifies the risk and reward."



 One has been watching youtube videos on tennis footwork with a view to improving Aubrey's squash game. Many videos talk about moving in to the ball rather than waiting. Apparently this is the secret of Federer's footwork with his walking step which just means, as far as I can see, hitting every shot as if it were an approach shot. Paul Gold has a series of 4 steps that he recommends. Using the eyes to watch the ball, and getting into an athletic position, taking a split step on every shot to take a proper first step, and getting to the ball with big steps pushing off the opposite foot to where the ball is going.

I wonder if these steps have a value for market people. Get prepared before the day with the proper equipment and study deciding whether you wish to buy or sell and which ones adjusting your trade level and size with the proper current volatilities and market movements and announcement. Trading and then preparing for the next shot…

Alston Mabry writes: 

The trading analogy for me is that I find myself in two basic modes: (1) reactive, waiting to see what's going to happen next, or (2) predictive, identifying what I think are the highest-probability paths over the next X time period, defining what I will do in each case and preparing for that action.

On the morale side, it's easy for lack or preparation or a losing trade to push me into mode (1); whereas getting back into mode (2) takes preparation, focus and discipline.

Anonymous writes: 

Related to the preparation stage of the game, it is interesting to pontificate about how many moves ahead board game players and sportspeople think and how the speculative game can be improved by adding this type of thinking.

I played basketball up to a fairly high level ( I played center for my state) and in that sport one only tried to anticipate one move ahead (to try and steal the ball or make the rebound).

My limited experience in tennis and squash leads me to think that the best in these games have time to think perhaps two moves ahead (Chair may have a view on that given that he has been known to hit the occasional hard squash ball just above the tin).

I read that chess and checkers players may think many moves ahead — perhaps all the way to a game's conclusion given an opponents error (or good move). Distinguished personages on this list might add meat to this point?

So, how many reactions ahead in the markets…? My various quantitative approaches likely have a substantially shorter holding period than most on the list so the following needs to be filtered by this fact:

* In terms of prediction, I have not been able to produce consistent alpha from any method that looks more than two steps ahead or behind (Market A's move effects Market A's future as well as Market B's future and Market A&B's move effects the future of Markets A,B & C)

* I guess one can also look at this in terms of degrees of freedom- more than 3 or 4 is probably too many. (Or to quote Arnold Zellner "…KISS….Keep it Sophisticatedly Simple)

* It might be a reasonable generality that the more steps ahead (or back) you look the longer needs to be your time frame.

Back more directly to Tennis & basketball. As a center in basketball I had two things to do in preparation. These were to be fully stretched out to jump high and to be completely focused on getting the ball to my pre- chosen team mate. When rebounding you have to commit before the shooter fully raises his arms. In tennis, the unbeatable ground strokes are often those hit on the rise — as it were. In both cases you have to anticipate to hit the perfect stroke or 'deny' the shooter.

The same in markets I think.

This comes back to being ready — obviously.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

I would wonder if there are specific training or virtual simulators (software) for traders that would be useful to identify and improve weak areas in preparation, execution, timing, psychological tendencies, etc.

For athletes and racquet players the analogy might be some type of virtual practice such as Virtual Tennis Academy where there would be actual analysis of footwork and stroke production in slow motion using attached sensors. With eventually perhaps some type of instant feedback (ie. sound, vibration) to cue the practicing player on what he or she is doing right.

Film analysis is becoming important in tennis as well.

A recent article, for instance, suggests that improvement in cognitive abilities in older persons is possible through the use of computer games:

"Commercial companies have claimed for years that computer games can make the user smarter, but have been criticized for failing to show that improved skills in the game translate into better performance in daily life1. Now a study published this week in Nature2 — the one in which Linsey participated — convincingly shows that if a game is tailored to a precise cognitive deficit, in this case multitasking in older people, it can indeed be effective."

The world of quantified self programs appears to be ever expanding. Why not financial and sports feedback too?

Charles Pennington writes: 

I tentatively have a theory that players stand way too far back to receive serve. One of the most awkward serve receives is a high backhand. But if you stand up close to the service line, perhaps halfway between the service line and the baseline, then you know that the ball is going to be bouncing nearby, and you can try to catch it low before it gets above your shoulders. If things go as planned, you'll punch the ball back and make the server have to scramble for the ball with little time to spare. However, I haven't really had a chance to try this out against a big server.

Anton Johnson writes: 

It is a joy to watch the masterful footwork of an accomplished base thief.

The speedster, with orders received, his eyes fixed on the pitcher, quickly side-steps, while never crossing his feet, feeling his way to tease the 12' danger zone. When sensing the pitcher suddenly whirl, with his weight biased to the left, he must cross right foot over left, to initiate the saving dive, and avert the embarrassment of a catastrophic pick-off.

However, when the enemy is committed, and with armed help at the plate, with explosive power he crosses left foot over right to continue the fight, knees powering forward, to slide just under the tag, to win the battle to own second base. 



 We mentioned rice on the site a few weeks back. I just ran across a few items of possible interest.

Evidently one white rice (Oryza) index shown below is hitting a 2-year low.

Behind China, India and Indonesia appear to be the 2 biggest producers and 2 biggest consumers.

Here is an article and video on the Thai Rice Mortgage "Scheme" :

"In the latest in our series on Thailand's populist, big-spending programmes - known as Thaksinomics - we look at the price guarantee for the country's rice farmers. It was a promise made by the governing Pheua Thai party during the election campaign two years ago. The policy involved buying the entire rice crop at a fixed price - and as a result the government has accumulated a vast stockpile of the food, which if sold at today's prices would incur a loss. The BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head reports on one of Thaksinomics' most controversial policies."



 One repeats that Tom Wiswell wrote 30 books and he considered the book he was writing of quotations of advice for board players and others the best book he ever wrote although it has not been published. All of his aphorisms are very very good for kids and there are about 500 of them in Edspec.  One I believe that is most important for business is "never get in over your head". Whenever Tom got into a complicated position he'd shake his head and say "I think I'm in over my head. I have to simplify" He never lost for 25 years or so. I've heard that from others in business also. I would be a wealthy man if I followed that advice.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Here is a link to some of Wiswell's proverbs on an older page on Daily Speculations, and here is an interesting site for the chess players with Mr. Davies advice on learning from the strong part way down.



 My Dad and I went hunting for diamonds in Arkansas almost exactly 40 years ago in the Crater of Diamonds State Park after a long drive from Alabama. We started out in the park about 9 AM and in about 30 minutes it felt like 100 degrees F and 100% humidity and that was about all the digging we were up for. My recollection was filling up a jar with the crater dirt which had a greenish cast characteristic of weathered kimberlite from a deep mantle source. We were staying in a nearby hotel in Delight, Ark., the home of Glen Campbell, and must have spent the rest of the day in front of the A/C drinking lemonade watching dust and flies move about in the heat outside. Seems like we made it back to Vicksburg for a quick visit of the battlefield after that.

It's a fun place for kids though and an unusual one of  a kind park to visit— but go when it's cooler if possible.  A good rain seems to help with the diamond hunting too.

Here is the latest story from the park:

A 12-year-old North Carolina boy picked up a five-carat diamond shortly after entering a one-of-a-kind Arkansas state park last month. "We were probably there about 10 minutes and I was looking around on the ground and found it on top," Michael Dettlaff told "It was very glassy. Very smooth."



 Have any of you heard about Cart Life? This is a fascinating article about the creator.

"'Cart Life': How Richard Hofmeier game became a success story":

Cart Life is a special game. The management simulator, depicting the lives of three street vendors, is one of those rare titles that touches you on a personal level as you try to balance both your work and personal lives in an unforgiving world.

It's truly remarkable that it was developed by one man - Richard Hofmeier - and his recent scoop of Independent Games Festival awards was no less than he deserved after everything he has put into the project.

"The Making of Cart Life":

For Hofmeier, there's a certain beauty in the monotony of this sort of work, or at least in the way that humans approach and cope with monotony, and it's this appreciation that provided the theme for Cart Life. "Watch Chinese factory workers sort decks of cards and pack them – it's mind-blowing how beautiful this act can be. Listen to Ghanan postal workers cancel stamps; they're working the stamps on the envelopes like drums, and they're whistling – it's the sweetest music. Games are especially effective in cultivating very isolated realms of prehensile expertise. What's funny is how this prehensile expertise has infected so many game makers themselves, and many of them only want to make new games that utilise their own mastery of old systems. I wish I'd [owned] a copy of Cart Life when I was 11 or 12 years old, so I'd have black belts in areas like punctuality, detailed memorisation of disposable information, typing speed, and consumer math."



 This article shows results of experiment on the E-Coli bacteria detailing the survival or death of the bacteria in response to the way it handles introduced exogenous stimuli. The upshot is that small changes in exogenous conditions can lead to large substantial differences in outcomes. Surely a rich field for market related phenomena looking at how small changes in one input (say rates) may lead to large movement in other markets (say currencies) when the dependent variable is already under some stress.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

This is a really interesting field.

It looks like bacteria have been "hedging their bets" for quite some time. And they have a type of "memory" that influences their response to current environmental conditions. On a larger scale it is interesting to note what happens to the ecology of a system when a "keystone species" is removed. The field of "synthetic ecology/biology" looks to have important findings for a wide range of fields and the bacterial algorithms already developed are being used for engineering problems.

1. "Bet-hedging in stochastically switching environments":

"We investigate the evolution of bet-hedging in a population that experiences a stochastically switching environment by means of adaptive dynamics. The aim is to extend known results to the situation at hand, and to deepen the understanding of the range of validity of these results. We find three different types of evolutionarily stable strategies (ESSs) depending on the frequency at which the environment changes: for a rapid change, a monomorphic phenotype adapted to the mean environment; for an intermediate range, a bimorphic bet-hedging phenotype; for slowly changing environments, a monomorphic phenotype adapted to the current environment. While the last result is only obtained by means of heuristic arguments and simulations, the first two results are based on the analysis of Lyapunov exponents for stochastically switching systems."

2. "Memory in Microbes: Quantifying History-Dependent Behavior in a Bacterium":

"Your average bacterium is unlikely to recite π to 15 places or compose a symphony. Yet evidence is mounting that these 'simple' cells contain complex control circuitry capable of generating multi-stable behaviors and other complex dynamics that have been conceptually linked to memory in other systems. And though few would call this phenomenon memory in the 'human' sense, it has long been known that bacterial cells that have experienced different environmental histories may respond differently to current conditions [1]–[3]. Though some of these history-dependent behavioral differences may be physically necessary consequences of the prior history, and thus some might argue insignificant, other behavioral differences may be controllable and therefore selectable and even fitness enhancing manifestations of memory."

3. The work of Professor Robert T. Paine and the concept of the "keystone species" where an organism has a big effect relative to its abundance:

"It was a ritual that began in 1963, on an 8-metre stretch of shore in Makah Bay, Washington. The bay's rocky intertidal zone normally hosts a thriving community of mussels, barnacles, limpets, anemones and algae. But it changed completely after Paine banished the starfish. The barnacles that the sea star (Pisaster ochraceus) usually ate advanced through the predator-free zone, and were later replaced by mussels. These invaders crowded out the algae and limpets, which fled for less competitive pastures. Within a year, the total number of species had halved: a diverse tidal wonderland became a black monoculture of mussels1."

anonymous adds: 

 OK, what about Slime Molds (particularly, Dictyostelium discoideum). It has the absolutely stunning biological characteristic that it spends much of its life as thousands of individual cells and other times as a single entity.

When times are good for Dictyostelium doscoideum its 'cells' wander off and enjoy themselves. However, in less hospitable environments the 'swarm' of cells coalesce and form a single entity.

Apparently the cells emit acrasion (or AMP) that contains information useful for other cells

When things are starting to look tough the cells pump out increasing amounts of AMP and the cells begin to cluster….Other cells follow these trails and increase to mass towards it completed whole.

Now, I wonder about the stock market. During the regular upward movements most of the components are doing their own thing, following their oscillations generally higher…. When 'it' hits the fan, the correlations between the stocks increase rapidly to 1.0 and they form a single bearish, growling entity.

Now without pushing the analogy too far, I wonder if stocks 'transmit' statistical information (AMP to follow the analogy) to each other (in this context they would not transmit as much as 'exhibit' some form of common statistical behaviour) that forced the behaviour of component stocks into a more correlated state.

Testing possibilities are legion.

Gary Rogan writes: 

My general objections to giving some purpose to the market have to do with incentives, or more precisely lack thereof to do anything in particular.

I read a whole chapter of a book on a slime mold presented as an altruism study. The reason it was presented like that is that when the individual slime mold cells cooperate, only the lucky few that join the growing "mushroom" at the right time get to propagate because they get to form spores only at a particular state of development of the hastily arranged colony. Nevertheless, when presented with a choice of dying for sure or maybe propagating (and the cells only cooperate when they are close to death) they chose to cooperate and propagate. There is also some amount of deception involved when the cells jokey for position, but not a lot, since any particular placement is hard to achieve.

What is the equivalent reason for stocks to cooperate?

Bill Rafter writes: 

Should what you say about stocks transmitting statistical information occur, it would mean a relative decline of idiosyncratic volatility. That is something we have studied, and found that when the going gets tough, the idiosyncratic vol grows faster than the market's vol.There are some other measures of "group think" that are good indicators of both the broad markets and individual assets.

I would posit that stocks do not transmit info, but their owners do. Consider the case of futures in which one market takes such a hit as to require significant margin calls. Human nature being what it is, the public sells its winners to finance its losers, and non-related markets dive along with the primary.



 Pitt has inspired as usual some cross field thoughts. I recently read "You Know Me Al" a compilation of all Ring Larnder's baseball stories. And it struck me that nothing has changed in baseball in the last 100 years. All the plays were the same. And the travel and romance was the same. Alibi Ike for example went into a tailspin and lost his team the pennant when he alibied about the engagement ring he bought for his girl and she overheard it. The owner of the Pittsburg team in those days was a woman who liked scholarly guys from Yale. There were guys on every team that knew everything and antagonized their teammates so much that they couldn't stay on the team. And the sabermetrics that the coaches used was very similar also.

I was thinking. What plays are there in baseball that are similar to what the market does. The streaks that each team has at home and away. The records after this pitcher or that pitcher is against rigties or lefties. The records after home and away games. The double plays, the triple steals, the inducement to get into a fight to get a player kicked out of the game, the crooked umpires, the thrown games, the emphasis on the world series money for the coaches, the travel expenses. All the same and related to markets. The problem is that I don't know anything about baseball. And many here, most here know much more about our national pastime than I do.

Could you suggest some areas from baseball that the market might copy, and that might lead to interesting hypotheses about markets that would be useful predictives to test. I have to admit that with my limited knowledge of baseball, when Larry Ritter challenged me to come up with 100 of such, before he would tell me that his thesis student, the fake Dr. received a fake doctorate, it was hard for me to come up with them, even with the Collab's able inspiration.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

One of the things I have wondered about is why sports techniques that appear to offer statistically better results like Rick Barry's two-handed "granny" basketball free throw or maybe knuckleball pitching in baseball are so infrequently used.  Is there is a fear of using unorthodox means of winning, a fear of looking stupid/uncool, or just not wanting to stand out from the way it has always been done?
Here is a film about knuckleball pitchers that some of the baseball fans might enjoy:

"Knuckleball! is the story of a few good men, a handful of pitchers in the entire history of baseball forced to resort to the lowest rung on the credibility ladder in their sport: throwing a ball so slow and unpredictable that no one wants anything to do with it.
The film follows the Major League’s only knuckleballers in 2011, Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, as they pursue a mercurial art form in a world that values speed, accuracy, and numerical accountability."

David Lilienfeld writes:

For Os and Bosox fans, there was actually an interesting piece in today's NYTimes about both teams giving some thought to the knuckleball. It sounds like the Os want to build their pitching staff around the pitch–or at least many of the pitchers. I'm hopeful that they succeed, not simply because I remember Hoyt Wilhelm in an Orioles uniform (ah, those not-so-golden days of Jim Gentile, Brooks, and Dick Hall), but it also raises the prospects of longer-throwing pitchers. I don't just mean longer careers, though there is that. I'm also thinking of more innings pitched, 4 starter rosters and the like. Having come of age during the Orioles pitching trifecta of 1969-71, I find the idea of a 4 man starting rotation appealing. The notion of "one-hundred and one, and then you're done" isn't a mantra I'm partial to. Some have suggested that Sandy Koufax's retirement after winning only 165 games (I think he has the fewest of anyone in the HOF who wasn't a reliever–and I also can think of few who would argue that he doesn't belong there) is testimony to the need to rigorously monitor pitch count. Perhaps, except that Koufax's well-known arthritis (he used to ice down his elbow for up to 2 hours after each outing) resulted from an injury running the bases, not from pitching. Pitchers weren't coddled the way they are today. It's been suggested that better swing guidance has resulted in better hitting players requiring pitchers throwing with greater finesse or power. Perhaps. I'm pretty sure that's not true for the knuckleball pitcher, though. Having watched Jim Palmer pitch, I doubt the idea applied to him, either. His slider broke down and his fastball would rise. I don't care how good your swing might be, you still have to figure out how to contact the ball, and that's something batters had a devil of a time doing. The same was true of Bob Gibson. Now Denny McLain and Steve Stone are great examples of a pitcher destroying their arms in the name of pitching performance. But I don't think that was as common as some would suggest, and if their arms weren't coddled, they would be fine dealing with today's batters. After all, there haven't been a surge in HR production, or even extra bases (esp triples), which I might expect if the effects of the improved swings were that probative. I don't think there have been two seasons where there was improved hitting performance (absent PEDs) requiring changes in pitching staffs along the lines that we've seen. It's like writing–with PCs and MS Office, writing has become easier, far easier, than in time past. Has writing become any better? Has the average speed of a fastball increased during the past 20-30 years? What about the degree of breaking balls? In almost 50 years, no one has come close to the Koufax curve. That wasn't a matter of an "improved arm" and it would have broken just as much (well, maybe less well with reduced amounts of pitching) today as it did then.

In short, I look forward to the rise of the knucklers and the return of the 4 man rotation and pitching staff sanity. 



 This is an interesting article for the statisticians on this site:

"How Aaron Clauset Discovered a Pattern Behind Terrorist Attacks…and What it Told Him":

"Another concern remained: The data was too clear, the pattern too obvious. "Surely, someone has thought of this before," Clauset recalls thinking. But the only example they could find of similar research was the work of Lewis Fry Richardson, an English mathematician and Quaker pacifist who drove an ambulance in World War I. Along with doing major work in the fields of weather forecasting and fractals, Richardson would go on to analyze all the wars from 1815 to 1945 and conclude that they followed a power-law distribution; he found the same pattern in gang killings in Chicago and Shanghai"


"At the prestigious Joint Statistical Meetings this August, however, Clauset and Woodard will return to the prediction issue: They will present new research concluding that if the level of terrorism violence remains stable — as it has, more or less, for decades — there's roughly a 30 percent chance of an attack similar to 9/11 in the next decade. To hedge their bets, they'll also note that if terrorism violence begins to ebb, that chance drops to just 7 or 8 percent. But if terrorism gets worse, the chances of another 9/11 increase significantly — to 80 percent."

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

Richardson's fundamental observation is one that anyone of sense has to agree with - "world" wars are disastrous beyond measure. The 2 World Wars– the only magnitude 7s in Richardson's classifications — were responsible for 3 out of every 5 wartime deaths in the period between the end of the Napoleonic War and VJ-Day. But those of us who cannot hack the math find one aspect of Richardson's study to be just plain bad history. By using logarithms he manages to fit a number of wars of fundamentally different importance into the same "magnitude" — a Richardson 6 war can have anywhere from 316,228 to 3,162,278 deaths.

One other random observation: those of us who love the 18th century above all others (Mozart, Washington, Watt, and Lavoisier) have this fact in our favor — the 1700s were the one period in modern (i.e. post 1400) history that had a complete absence of mass killing in war.

Statistics from Peter Brecke, Georgia Tech.



 After putting up a chart of the Dimson, Marsh and Staunton very thorough enumeration of buying every stock in the US, from 1899 to date showing that $1 grew rather steadily to 25507  (the 1929 and 2008 declines look like blips), my college roommate Jim Wynne, in the audience, who recently won the equivalent of the Nobel prize in engineering for inventing laser surgery asked, "how could you say buy and hold" which was sung beautifully by Tamra Paselk (to the tune of "Night and Day"), is great when stocks like Kodak and Xerox have fallen on such hard times or gone bust and so few of the Dow stocks of 1899 are here today.

the chart

the table

 I explained that the complete enumeration of the triumphal trio covers all bad and all good (they even take account of the total zero of Russian stocks in 1914 and China in 1944), and there are many bad and many good that make up the totality. But on the spot, I couldn't think of a physical example to show that taking one instance of an experiment, an anecdotal approach, the flash of one outlying proton in a collider, did not determine the average results, and that diversification of 12 stocks would give a correlation of 95% or so with the results of the trio.

What physical analogy should I have used to educate my erudite former roommate who is now working on a cure for skin cancer with the same lasers he used to create laser surgery.

Shane James writes: 

What about the growth a Sequoia Tree. More generally the Allometry involved. The tree grows out & up even though some branches fall by the wayside and die.

Pitt T. Maner adds: 

I would imagine that there are some biological curves under certain restrained conditions that could be overlain for effect and be quite memorable.

Bacterial growth curve

Or groundwater testing where pumps are turned on and off over intervals and cause drawdowns that quickly rebound once the pumps are turned off.

Victor Niederhoffer adds: 

As to the reason that it goes up 30,000 a century, I attribute it to the power of compounding along with the required rate of return on investments, and the amount that the entrepreneurs must pay the investor to obtain risk capital, with the spillover effect to publicly traded issues. Amazing a 9 % compounding leads to 200 times as much as a 5% compounding (from memory) after 100 years. That's why Asian stocks are so much better values than ours. 

Steve Ellison adds: 

An event that is vivid, such as the failure of a once-giant company, may not be at all representative. Consider airplane crashes, for example, which cause many to fear flying. At one moment in 2011, for example, over 5000 airplanes were airborne over the US. How many of them crashed? Probably none.

Similarly, 20 times as many people are killed by falling coconuts as by sharks. I'm still waiting for the movie Return of the Killer Coconuts.

Gary Rogan writes: 

The simplest, albeit imperfect, analogy seems to be the number of species on earth. It is estimated that over 98% of all known species are extinct and it's likely that well over 99% of all species that ever existed are extinct.

In addition to the constant relatively steady elimination of species there are mass extinctions:

"In the past 540 million years there have been five major events when over 50% of animal species died."

And yet, will all of that biodiversity has increased over time:

"Based on analyses of fossils, scientists estimate that marine biodiversity today is about twice the average level that existed over the past 600 million years, and that biodiversity among terrestrial organisms is about twice the average since life adapted to land about 440 million years ago. Fossil records also indicate that on average species exist for about 5 to 10 million years, which corresponds to an extinction rate of 0.1 to 1 species per million."



 A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see a mother nightjar bird protecting her baby chick at Jonathan Dickinson State Park here in South Florida.

Upon approach of her nest, the nightjar began to hop and roll across the ground like she had a broken wing. The poignant act completely fooled me but an experienced biologist in my company said," look over here" and there on the ground was a perfectly camouflaged baby chick.

The nightjar mother can continue such deception to lure predators long distances away from her nest.



 The full moon was discussed many years ago on this site by Mr. McDonnell with respect to markets with results "consistent with randomness". It would seem though that the day(s) after a full moon and particularly near the end of a difficult week might cause some sleep deficit effects to show in sensitive individuals–but perhaps extra coffee is used to counter such things.

"Blame Bad night's Sleep on the Moon":

Malcom von Schantz, a sleep and circadian researcher at the University of Surrey in the U.K., called the new findings "fascinating" because they run counter to the results of several other studies that failed to find a link between the moon and human behavior.

"Essentially, every report published to date has failed to show significant associations between the phase of the moon and any number of behavioral and physiological parameters," von Schantz, who was not involved in the study, said in an email."This is the very first report that suggests an association with one behavior, sleep, and of course it's a behavior that in our species normally occurs at night."

"Evidence That the Lunar Cycle Influences Human Sleep":

We found that around full moon, electroencephalogram (EEG) delta activity during NREM sleep, an indicator of deep sleep, decreased by 30%, time to fall asleep increased by 5 min, and EEG-assessed total sleep duration was reduced by 20 min. These changes were associated with a decrease in subjective sleep quality and diminished endogenous melatonin levels. This is the first reliable evidence that a lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans when measured under the highly controlled conditions of a circadian laboratory study protocol without time cues.



 Scientists have defined a new category of storm upon reviewing 30 years of data, most often found in Australia, China and the US:

"Brown Ocean Can Fuel Inland Tropical Cyclones"

Before making landfall, tropical storms gather power from the warm waters of the ocean. Storms in the newly defined category derive their energy instead from the evaporation of abundant soil moisture – a phenomenon that Andersen and Shepherd call the "brown ocean." 



 The Perfect Swarm by Len Fisher is a model of a what a good quasi scientific book simplifying recent findings in the theory of complexity, chaos, crowd behavior, decision making, swarm intelligence, group think and social behavior in humans and insects should be. The author is a physical scientist and inventor with uncommon insight into many subjects that are relevant to our everyday and market life. Typical is his perfect one sentence summary of the Madoff fraud: "Investors collectively deluded themselves into thinking that he must be cheating on their behalf rather than his own." Exactly. There was always the hope that he would front run the limit orders of the over the counter market making operation he ran on their behalf and this led many to gloss over the complexities and fuzzy explanations of how he purportedly made profits for the investors, marks, and stooges. What's surprising is that someone not close to the markets could see this so clearly. It's typical of the Fisher insights and laser ray reporting of many of the studies and anecdotes in the complexity field.

The book opens with a discussion of how locusts and bees manage to go about their lives and find food. They follow three simple rules with wide application. Avoidance, alignment and attraction (move toward the average). These rules when quantified explain a myriad of patterns in human, fish, bird, and insect behavior. How would they apply to markets? Certainly the alignment would relate to following the trend. Attraction would be a form of moving to the limit orders and stop orders. And avoidance—reduce vig. "Computer simulations have shown that synchrony emerges because each locust acts as a self propelled particle whose velocity is determined by those of its neighbors according to a simple rule". Robots can be trained to find the right place to move to with similar rules and humans in crowds follow these rules whenever the density reaches more than 1 person a foot. We don't flap our wings but keep our arms close to our sides. Instead of diving we shorten our steps. The bees and ants get to their food sources by following in the paths of a knowledgeable leader. The investors tendency to follow Buffett, Gross, Soros, and the leaders of the Fed springs to mind.

There is a nice discussion of how averaging can lead to better estimates of things like weights, marbles, or answers to tests. Galton is treated respectfully here although Fisher is quite clear that he is a fellow traveler and agrarian who believes strongly in the idea that has the world in its grip, and is in the anti Bush, climate change is the source of all evils camp. I didn't like the discussion that follows showing how Page's diversity theorem can lead to reducing error as a function of diversity. It seems to me to be an identity similar to the corrections made for between group and person means in standard experimental designs.

The discussion of group think was particularly valuable to me. He shows how it led to the Columbia and Challenger disasters. He reveals the little known fact that Feynman's demurrals to the group think that administrative failure was the cause but that physical problems with the O Rings resilience to cold was the cause were suppressed. The leader of the report, Rogers, a flexion of the Rubin, Paulson persuasion considered Feynman a trouble maker and tried to keep Feynman's conclusions from the public and his own group members. Apparently similar suppression of divergent and unpopular views figured in various assassination reports that have come down the pike. A strong leader can cause many errors and damage by not being open to divergent views, as we know from the Lehman bankruptcy, and the mortgage crisis. I know of many who traded derivatives with big losses who also would have benefited had they encouraged a Feynman in the wings and paid more attention to such a independent thinker. Perhaps it would be advisable for the bearded chair to encourage diverse views about the wisdom of the bailout and quantitative easings, and whether there is more harm to the common man in such than the benefits to the banks whose bad assets are being purchased.

The most insightful chapter of the book, and the one with the least tarnish from hauling in the grab bag of pseudo scientific psychological studies that make up the unfalsifiable, contrived, irrational behavior paradigms that come down the pike from Kahneman and his followers in New Mexico is the chapter on decision making under uncertainty. He lists five ways of making decisions: Recognition, fluency, tallying, taking the best, and satisficing. All of them are highly relevant for market participants. The chapter is footnoted with good summaries of the literature in each field. A typical finding is that just making a list of the good and bad reasons for doing something and putting them on a balance scale without weighting leads to better predictions than regressions. There is also a nice summary of satisficing citing Mosteller's work that a good rule is to take the first third of the applicants, see which is best, and then choose the next one from the remainder that exceeds the best. This rules leads to amazingly good chances of finding the best 5 or 10% in a sample. I have always felt that applying this rule to the first 10 extremes in a day or week might lead to similar beneficent results. An interesting aside as to how the great social media companies Yahoo, Amazon, Google modify these rules for their fast moving markets to hire, fire, set boundaries, and exit ensues. Regrettably many of the star companies mentioned like Nortel, Orticon, and Enron have fallen on hard times using these heuristics. 

There are too many good anecdotes in this book to pass over. For example, James Thurber reports in his bio that everyone in Columbus, Ohio, started running madly thinking that a dam had broken instigated by just one random sighting of a person running with "practically everyone in the city following him madly in the first half hour". In talking about the dangers of group think he points out that if we had not believed in basic research we would never have had x-rays, antibiotics, radio, television, or cars with inflatable tires. It is refreshing to know that in many panic situations, in crowds trying to escape fires and crushes, "the overwhelming reactions of people to the crowd pressure was to attempt to help those nearby who seemed to be in trouble".

The book is well footnoted with 72 pages of footnotes with discussions and very well indexed. If it weren't for the defects in many of the quasi scientific studies he cites, it would be useful to a wide range of investors without digging deeper into the subject. However, on the mathematical and statistical aspects of the studies he cites, the author often fall prey to the promiscuous hypothesis bias wherein whatever results come out from the study, he attributes to a real behavioral regularity rather than a random permutation of the data or a reasonable attempt at rationality when putting the contrived laboratory situations into a real life framework. One highly recommends this book for learning, stimulation, and profit. 

Pitt T. Maner III comments:

Great review. I find it interesting these processes are at work with some of the simplest organisms as well:

"In the mid-1990s, Ben-Jacob discovered two strains of bacteria that form some of the most spectacular patterns of collective behavior known. When grown on thin, hard surfaces with limited nutrients, a colony of the soil-dwelling facultative anaerobe Paenibacillus vortex secretes a lubricating fluid that allows the cells to swim and form large colonies with intricate fractal-like branching patterns. At the end of each branch, a swirling vortex of bacteria expands its edges.

Within the swarm, which typically contains a greater number of cells than the number of humans on Earth, lanes and highways much more complex than those formed by shiners or wildebeests transfer information and even cargo throughout the colony."

from "Crowd Control"

I also found this  presentation on "Learning from Bacteria about Social Networks" fascinating. The same guy has also compared the stock market to an epileptic patient.

Also great is the Microbes Mind Forum and Dr. Ben-Jacob's bacteria as art.



 There must be a way of measuring the hills and valleys and their durations. Possibly with survival statistics. And then computing similarities of the present to the most egregious bad or remarkably good ones in the past. Once this similarity is measured, presumably with a squared distance, the similarity would be correlated with subsequent action. I would imagine geologists and modern statisticians have many rules of thumb for computing such distances of current to past.

Rocky Humbert writes: 

I think we both know that the vast corpus of academic research demonstrates no systematic predictability from simply looking at price charts.

The issue is, when one is otherwise bullishly or bearishly inclined, can the chart's characteristics help an investor improve his/her results?

For Bruce Kovner et al, the answer is yes. "Fundamentalists who say they are not going to pay any attention to the charts are like a doctor who says he's not going to take a patient's temperature."

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

It does look at times as though certain "faulted" structures get reactivated and blocks rise again in the basin and range of the market (with reference to HPQ, GMCR, NFLX, SODA, CMG, et al.) Are they more susceptible to future reversals based on past history?

"Ultimately, the broader scientific challenge in the Basin and Range Province is to compare geologically determined rates and styles of deformation to contemporary strain fields determined by GPS to see if regions of accelerated extension are relicts of geologically recent activity or precursors of future activity. Hopefully, the new compilation of faults in the Basin and Range will provide an ever-growing archive of paleoseismic information that will encourage such comparisons."

from "Summary Of the Late Quaternary Tectonics of the Basin and Range Province in Nevada, Eastern California, and Utah

Gary Rogan writes: 

Assuming random news flow, something that has really negative sentiment will react with a larger upward move to a positive piece of news than something that has really positive sentiment. Clearly something that has been going down for a long time is likely to have negative sentiment, therefore it is more susceptible to a reversal than something that has been going up for a long time (which is actually incapable of a reversal on positive news unless it's "sell the news", and the effect of similar positive news is also likely to be smaller). On the other hand if there are no positive news or a state of illiquidity is achieved than negative sentiment doesn't help. So the trick is to look for things that have SOME chance of positive news and are not near bankruptcy.

keep looking »


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