Jun

27

 Batteries will become increasingly important actors in the future. This opinion is shared by many managers in the utility industry. As evidence, there are massive R&D public/private partnerships already underway, involving government laboratories, universities, and corporate participants. There are at least five separate centers of innovation in the United States, Europe, and China. Already, there have been interesting breakthrough technologies announced, including lithium ion II batteries.

For our conversations, I believe it might be important to have a common understanding of the term "battery." For me, a battery is an energy storage mechanism. In most cases, it's a chemical.

In my opinion, a fuel cell is not a battery any more than a car engine is a battery. A fuel cell does not store energy; it converts energy. The fuel tank stores energy.

If you chose to combine the fuel tank with the fuel cell and call the combination a battery, that's fine. Personally, given where we are today, I don't believe there are many opportunities for fuel cells in the transportation sector.

A problem with fuel cell economics is how proponents set up the question. They usually begin the argument with, "given I have hydrogen," fuels cells are amazing. I might agree; fuel cells can be amazing little power plants if sourcing hydrogen were not a substantial challenge.

Unfortunately, that's not reality. If fuel were free, oil-burning power plants could also be amazing.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) serves to make a point. What is an FCEV? It's an electric car with a fuel cell, and a hydrogen tank bolted on. Like a Tesla, an FCEV needs a motor and a bank of batteries. However, FCEV's battery capacity has to be reduced to accommodate added weight and space needed for the fuel tank, fuel management system, and the [hot] fuel cell. To make concerns more challenging, the fuel tank in an FCEV has to be larger than normal because compressed hydrogen is a relatively low-density fuel and it can be hazardous.

The first macro question that should surface is basic. Specifically, what is accomplished by toting around hydrogen?

I will save time. If there's something to be gained, it's not substantial. Compared to a combustion engine, a fuel cell is more energy efficient. It's more energy efficient.

However, hydrogen is not economically efficient. If the objective is to compete with electricity, I doubt hydrogen could ever be a cost competitor anytime soon.

In many ways, hydrogen and electricity are similar. One is about protons, and the other is about electrons. Both are secondary fuels. Both are manufactured from primary fuels. Most important, both require vast investments in infrastructure to be useful.

They differ economically. The electric infrastructure is already built. Electricity already has a comprehensive infrastructure in place. It was developed incrementally over several decades. It cost hundreds of billions of dollars to build and more to maintain.

The hydrogen infrastructure does not exist. As a redundant fuel, to compete with electricity economically, any hydrogen infrastructure would be scaled, vast and costly.

As Western utilities move towards natural gas as their primary source of fuel, electric cars store natural gas' energy in their batteries. FCEVs store the same energy in hydrogen tanks. Why not deploy natural gas vehicles (NGVs)? You'd save several energy conversions.

TL;DR:

Approximate energy densities MJ/L:

Coal:        34-43
Diesel:        36
Gasoline     34
Fat:             34
LNG:           22
Wood:         13
H2 (comp):    9

Jun

27

 The scenic Georgian mountain town Kazbegi is less than 10km to the Russian border. One afternoon we decided to bicycles there. After about 3km there was a tunnel of about 2km long. It's dark inside and we could see barely the light at the other end. As we entered, there were some cars with lights so we could see the way. But when the last car of the group passed us nearly 300m inside, it became pitch dark looking forward.

I tried to ride forward but felt something very strange. I had a hard time controlling the bike. For less than 20 seconds, I brake but then felt my hands and one knee on the ground and the bike lying down. I don't know why and how i fell but instinct told me to stand up quickly because vehicles can arrive very soon. So I did that and pulled the bike up and started walking back toward the light. My wife was ok as she stopped very early trying to call me. I was not much hurt except some scratch on the knee. I think i was very lucky.

But anyhow, the point I want to make is that I couldn't control the bike in the dark. It started fishtailing, if that is the right word, or swinging from side to side much like the front tire was flat. Now thinking about it, without sight my mind had to rely on other senses that are much slower than vision, so the control was out of sync.

Perhaps there is a lesson here for trading. The reason market swings up and down is that the market participants trade in the dark. They rely on senses that are much lagged behind. So even when the market fell, traders don't know why and how it fell.

So a better vision is indispensable.

Jun

27

According to the CDC, the U.S. population's growth rate is undergoing a dramatic decline.

The teenage birth rate - which, in the past, has been the leading indicator for overall population change - has fallen in half.

In 2007 births per 1000 females aged 15-19 in 2007 were 41.5; for 2015 the number was 22.3.

Jun

27

 You will be discriminated against in Slab City or any other outlaw town if you are:

•    Educated

•    Don't drink alcohol or do drugs

•    Display no broken teeth or knife wounds

•    Have no tattoos

•    Never been in jail

•    Have no one to vouch for you

•    Lack anecdotal evidence in story telling

•    Are not on food stamps or SSI

•    Do not wolf your food from past hunger

•    Are not an anarchist

•    Use your true name

If you are uneducated, have a drug habit, show tattoos and knife wounds, like to party, steal and tell stories of the road, have a prison record, know someone who will vouch for you, use an alias and dislike authority, you are welcomed in Slab City.

Jun

22

 One failing of modern medicine is that tests, which control future diagnoses and treatments across the board, are generally conducted on a small sampling from cities of people who are victims of 'diseases of civilization' from smog, bad water, & processed foods. healthy people are rarely tested, so our medical system is full of holes. Responses vary from group to group and individual to individual. Lewis Thomas, famous for Lives of a Cell, provides a more professional explanation in Dr. Thomas's ass-kicking autobiography The Youngest Science: Notes of a Medicine Watcher.

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Jun

22

 Back in September 2015, GS introduced their first active beta ETF to much fanfare, including the fact that the management fee significantly undercut competing products.  Time enough for a reality check. Total Return Since Inception:

GSLC: 25.93%

SPY: 30.02%

Annualized equivalents:

GSLC: 14.82%

SPY 17.04%

[Note: results from 9/30/2015 to 05/31/2017]

Hernan Avella writes: 

It looks like the same can't be said abut Blair Hull ETF (HTUS). It seems to be accomplishing it's goal, beating SPY since inception and with less volatility. I haven't looked under the hood of fees, distributions, taxes. But superficially looks good.

Rishi Singh writes: 

The return/sharpe are meaningless for a sample size of a year, espeically as the fund (according to prospectus) is balanced quarterly. I would want to see tracking error of live results vs their backtest. Also - I don't think people would buy this ETF expecting a return > than SPY every year, but for the correlation benefit. Again, what's the backtested corr, vs live and tracking error?

Russ Sears writes: 

I would respectfully disagree that "return/Sharpe are meaningless for a sample size of a year" because if they have had 4 quarters, it should give someone watching an idea of how stable each part is compared to S&P, and idea of its volatility. The returns/Sharpe may not tell one much but the individual data points of 4 quarter returns and volatility/correlation the picture has become clearer. While I would agree that it may not be enough to make a statistically significant conclusion, I would not even use a fund for diversification/correlation if the volatility/correlations to standard benchmarks are not somewhat stable. And the poor start does not bode well for the fund's strategy's alpha's consistentcy.

Further, if you had invested say $100 million of some institutions funds in the fund with a benchmark of S&P arguing a $2.6 million under-performance would not be something I would want to defend too rigorously or try to initiate the fund.

Jun

22

 A few thoughts:

The spread of software into just about everything (combined with miniaturization of the hardware on which that software runs) is a major change in how the built world works, and how we interact with that world.

Quantum computing, if it comes to pass, will have a big impact (e.g., everything that's currently secret via cryptography would come out into the open).

Semi-related is blockchain: it's essentially an immutable, fully transparent version of double-entry bookkeeping (another major change from the 1300s), but applying to all data, not just finance. This will upend practices like auditing.

Retail stores have existed for centuries, but they might be going away for most goods - that seems significant.

The relentless advance of automation will change the nature of many jobs, or eliminate them entirely.

As video games and the like become ever more realistic, some people seem to be giving up on work entirely.

Jun

22

 A few years back, it seemed like Carnival couldn't get out of its own way, and one person opined that maybe there was some form of employee espionage at work.

It seems that the disease has spread to United. It's having a true annus horribilus:

"United passengers left terrified and injured after turbulence on US flight"

Jun

22

 Does anyone shop at Staples anymore? Doesn't Staples own Office Depot and Office Max? Is this another reason to buy AMZN because of the fact that Custer's band of soldiers over at Staples(and most other retail) is circling the wagons before the inevitable?

I was the only customer in my local Staples today. The store was empty and this was at 2:30 after the grain close, normally a busy time when I go there. They were staffed very light with a girl running the front end and register, the general manager on the floor, and one guy on the floor stocking and waiting on customers. And this was after their lunch break according to the guy on the floor when queried as to why the light staff. Looks like they have a pretty tight payroll with no hours to spare and the guy said that he was full time and cut back to 32 hours. Yet they have help wanted in the window. The store was badly in the weeds, and the shelves showed the empty spaces of out of stocks. In fact, they were out of what I stopped in there for and said it would take a couple of days. I was tempted to order it off of AMZN for tomorrow's delivery in front of the manager who tried to find what I needed. He knows retailers like Staples are dinosaurs and times are a changing. Why make him feel worse by rubbing it in? The poor guy looked beleaguered, like everyone in retail is. Working in retail has to be the shittiest existence in the world. It is top down management, everyone is responsible for making their numbers, yet nobody is making their numbers. There seems to be money everywhere, but none in their shop. The despair shows in many of the faces in every retail place you go….hours are being cut with the same work, quotas, and numbers as before, in fact more from less. It's gotta be hell for the workers getting ripped by their bosses, those bosses in turn are getting ripped up by their bosses, and on and on all the way to the top banana.

Face it, we're all getting spoiled online, and discovering that driving to places to buy something, go shopping is a waste of time. How much more enjoyable is life if one can substitute a round of golf, tennis, surfing, museums, music, rather than the drudge of shopping and dealing with surly staff? How uplifting to be liberated from shopping which is equivalent to the period 90 years ago when the average middle class housewife got a washing machine and was liberated from the hours and hours a day doing laundry by hand.

Jun

22

Changes in prevailing direction in market with respect to time period H, such that H > t, often occur as period t has elements with increasing number of lows and increasing number of highs; often ranges decline, as the median price trajectory tilts over, volume decreases (very related to range decreases). The market is in a thixotropic state, where the market making viscous forces are the dominant presence. Sudden change in trading volume (and log changes in trading volume have a negative serial correlation, so such a thing is more likely than usual) perturb the system to a more inertially dominated market than before. Or: volatility contracts and expectations are harder to hit, and traders sideline, while the few voters left who think they have worthwhile wager battle it out.

Jun

22

 Can you mount a factual argument in support of the Paris agreement? Can you explain the fossil fuel industry's support of it?

All I have heard is (a) empty platitudes: "USA leaving is bad for the world", usually from people that fly private jets– and (b) extreme coercion in support of a deal whose stated outcome is to spend a lot of money and accomplish very little.

Fossil fuel industry support is likely explained by promotion of methane hydrates - an opportunity that Japan is pursuing with vigor. I personally am less enthusiastic about an undersea landslide enveloping us in a gigaton methane plume, however.

Consider too that the net impact of increasing EPA emissions standards has been to increase global emissions as industry is forced offshore to China with a grid that is several multiples dirtier than the US, and with 8,000 miles of round trip shipping added on. A disaster for the environment. Emissions targets in the Paris agreement perform a similar function.

The UN's green climate fund does not preclude investment in coal-fired plants, and green group's have already condemned their plans.In general I am skeptical that shipping boatloads of cash to unaccountable bureaucrats will fix anything. A feeling that is not assisted by knowledge that the UN's WHO spends more on travel (including first class flights) than it spends on Aids and Malaria.

Climate change is a problem that can only be solved by the invention and industrialisation of technology. I'm putting my money where my mouth is - I'm substantially overweight Tesla and am privately invested in promising battery and solar tech R&D. Deregulation of the energy grid, as voted for in Nevada, will provide room for these technologies to be adopted. Dismantling the petrodollar would help too.

Jun

22

 We owe our modern misconception of optimism/pessimism to Voltaire, who in the interest of satire, oversimplified the schools of thought greatly.

It's possible to be an optimist in the sense of being a judicious risk-seeker, of seeing opportunity everywhere, while being an anthropological pessimist.

The judicious risk-seeker assesses the probabilities and is unreserved and aggressive, not assuming the worst.

The anthropological pessimist is a philosophical conservative, not in the modern political sense, but in the sense of Oakeshott:

"To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss."

People too often think that schools of thought are in contention, instead of being potentially syncretic. The post-Marxist Leszek Kolakowski articulated one type of syncretism brilliantly: "As for the great and powerful International which I mentioned at the outset–it will never exist, because it cannot promise people that they will be happy."

Jun

22

A visit to a nyc public park just opened in a West Side neighborhood brings bak many resonances. This is the Gertrude Ederle park . She was first to swim the English channel in 1926 and was cal coolidge's best American girl. The park was 10 years in construction and once held a 1920's type swimming pool which has been remodeled. As I was passing by doing my dailyjob, I heard 100 kids playing . As I passed one shouted in the midst of pushing 3 other kids " Its already settled. Its already settled. Your own man said we were rite ". The park is quite decrepit and I doubt whether they still have a Greek solarium in it so typical of the one patronized by former Chicago community organizers before they reached the Beltway.

Jun

22

“In the next 30 years, the world’s pain will be much greater than its happiness,” Ma said at an entrepreneurial conference in Zhengzhou, China. “Social conflicts over the next 30 years will hugely impact every industry.”

“Machines should only do what humans cannot,” Ma said, adding “only in this way can we have the opportunities to keep machines as working partners with humans, rather than as replacements.”

“Fifteen years ago I gave speeches 200 or 300 times reminding everyone the internet will impact all industries, but people didn’t listen because I was nobody," he said.

"people should prepare for decades of social upheaval and pain as the internet disrupts the global economy."

Jun

22

 An old high school friend (who reads and has commented on DS) recently told me that he is burned out in his career and wants to trade FX for a living. Apparently he knows 2 people that make a living trading through one of those shops. I gave him more than several reasons why he should consider taking a pass on this new career, but he's going to a 4 hour seminar to learn why FX trading is the way to go. He is willing to invest $10K in this venture. My immediate comment when hearing about his limited bank roll was that he would need to generate an extraordinary return on his money just to make a living and that would be near impossible. I ask the list for some guidance….questions he should ask the FX broker, questions he should ask himself. I've tried to talk him out of this, but he is still considering taking the plunge. What are your thoughts about someone 60 years old, quitting his job and trading FX on a $10K bankroll. I know my thoughts, but ask the list to add some of their own.

Generally speaking, when casual acquaintances ask me this question, I tell them that they will do better going to Vegas….at least when one blows through the $10K bankroll, they might get a few comps….the mistress of the market will just take one's money without even a thank you kiss in return.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

Cue Marcel Proust: We remember the stories of our lives but there is very little of the past that our nervous systems actually keeps in the present.

One of the lucky and tough survivors of the torpedoing of a merchant ship sinking in WW II described the part of the whole thing that stayed longest in his active memory.

It was the voices of the barely 20 year old seamen in their Mae West's calling for their mothers.

Jeff's friend seems to be another believer in the age-old faith that Mommy is still out there somewhere and will magically save us from the hardships of shipwreck. 

Bud Conrad writes: 

Read the opening personal story of Education of a Speculator for an example of how hard the high leverage can become. You could quote me as saying: "I wouldn't trade forex without a $300,000 portfolio." This kind of desperation often accompanies market reversals. For forex I don't know what the change will be, but I would warn your friend in the strongest terms.

anonymous writes: 

I think risk of ruin is too high if you're under 100k bankroll. With 10k there is leverage needed to make a living, but with a 100k you can survive a couple bad streaks. 

Jim Lackey writes: 

Good afternoon, Chair, Brothers, ladies and gentlemen. Interesting post, I just caught a young man screen watching. It's the stare of hope. If one would focus enough the prices would go our way. I was asking him if he wanted to buy the truck or not. He cursed and I knew it was about something online. I said what is going on dude? He said "look at this. " He motioned me to look at his screen. It was forex quotes, I said, what is your position?. "Long the Euro and they said it is going up because….". I asked who are they and why would they tell you and what is their position? He looked up and………., huh? First off one must start with individual stocks 2-1 only. Secondly they always know and I was always the last to know. Huh? Do you want the truck or not? He looked back at the screen and said "but the Euro….." If he bought the truck I would have given him a few good books. I'm sticking with trading cars and trucks. It is not a very profitable business margin wise. It is a lot of physical work. I am in excellent physical shape. I can sleep at night. I'm not sure if it is a permanent disability, but I have lost my ability to take risk in the financial markets. However, I would never discourage anyone from speculating for a living. Buy them a cup of coffee and after an hour see if they would read the good books. Specs are honorable and benefit society in ways that I did not comprehend until years after I hung up the racing helmets.

Larry Williams writes: 

While I've already agreed with the majority comment on the subject let me add this…

A few years back I got a letter at Christmas time from a guy who wrote basically saying, "Larry I bought your trading course I actually went to the blood bank and saw blood to buy it. I raise some capital while I was learning started trading now here I am in Vail Colorado. I'm a single father my kids are with me I'm living in a house beyond my wildest expectation, all because of learning to trade etc., etc."

Of course I replied that it had nothing to do with me was his success and good fortune but nonetheless this was a wake-up call in lesson for me it's hard to tell people know don't do this because this letter was not an exception have had others, not as extreme, but in a similar vein. Clearly there been other people who have lost money, some probably even shirts or shorts.

This is a hard-core to stop somebody so what I personally do is let them see the doors open but also all the dragons and monstrous just beyond the door. Full disclosure, brutal disclosure then if they want to pick up the craft they can.

I know you don't build good athletes by telling them they can't do something you have to encourage them so this trader, want to be trader need some encouragement.

Jim Lackey adds: 

This is what happens in forex too: Cascading margin calls for so many and who was holding the other side after everyone was forced out of their positions? GDAX affiliates? GDAX?

A side point: a few million worth and the price is crushed. Small market. Any medium sized player can own the price action in that arena…

https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2017/06/22/ethereum-price-crash-10-cents-gdax-exchange-after-multimillion-dollar-trade.html 

Jun

19

 The Liddell Hart theory–i.e. a war of movement can avoid the costs of frontal assault–has been almost entirely discounted by modern studies of what actually happened in WW II. If the Great War was so much bloodier than WW II for the British and Americans (but not for the Russians and Germans), it was not because of any change in tactics or strategy but because the Anglo-American forces spent so much less time at the sharp end. When you compare killed, wounded and missing per day of direct combat, the WW II battles (the Bulge, to take one, which is still and is likely to always be the bloodiest battle in American history) are no less "massive showdowns" than Western front struggles in the Great War and just as awful. The casualty rates are the same.

Hart's hope that tanks could produce battles of movement was not proven true; as soon as the opposing forces learned to use them, the anti-tank guns created their own stalemate. Kursk became a mechanized meatgrinder equal to Verdun.

The military analogy that comes to mind for the Bezinator's successful campaign is Curtis LeMay's firebombing of Japan. With its massive capacities for warehousing and delivery and the logistic coordination that allows customer orders to be processed without interruption, Amazon has done an incendiary bombing of its competitor's profit margins.

Andrew Goodwin writes: 

I have read Liddell Hart and Clausewitz. The losses on a frontal assault were too high in land campaigns.

Napoleon did the indirect attack in a formulaic way by a mock frontal assault covered by a horse screen on one wing ending in a back side cutoff of the supply line of the enemy. The maps of his campaigns are well seen through the book called "The Campaigns of Napoleon" written by David G. Chandler.

This approach appears to create a panic in the enemy lines. The method to defend against this has developed considerably since then. You have to think about how they worked a way to defend against the elephant charge.

If you leave corridors open, the elephants will look for less resistance and charge through the gaps you create. Then you can cut them off from behind.

The one who figured out how to use this in more modern warfare was Von Manstein. He created passes and then encircled from the rear. How this is done today with air and sea and land combat is not of my reading yet.

Stefan Jovanovich replies: 

Er, not quite. Neither von Manstein nor Napoleon ever doubted his own genius, but we can't take them at their face value. Von Manstein managed to be consistently blind to any possibilities that the Soviets might also use their brains. His great triumph - Kharkov - came between two disasters that were far more consequential - Stalingrad and Kursk.

Napoleon's genius came almost entirely from his ability to move his cannon quickly to the point of attack. In the set piece battles for which he is justly famous, that allowed him to bring massive firepower to bear and then follow it up with attacks in column by infantry that were classically "frontal" - most of the time the infantry did not even discharge their muskets but marched forward in a phalanx of bayonets. In the wars that he lost, his cannons were useless; in Russia because of the mud (the same factor that lost him his chances at Waterloo), in Spain and Portugal because of impossible terrain.

Nelson followed largely the same tactics, with the same success. His ships attacked in column, not line, and in direct frontal assaults.

The actual record of the use of elephants is that they look impressive but are - like the massive artillery guns the Germans loved - not worth the trouble. Alexander refused to use them; and Hannibal discarded them (they probably ate them) long before Cannae.

Jun

19

 A great video to watch: Hitchens on Orwell.

Christopher Hitchens talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about George Orwell. Drawing on his book Why Orwell Matters, Hitchens talks about Orwell's opposition to imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism, his moral courage, and his devotion to language. Along the way, Hitchens makes the case for why Orwell matters.

Jun

19

 Memory preservation is an area apparently in need of further research, but the recent statement highlighted below by one in the field is surprising to read.

1. "Working memory and distractions were the subjects of the second speaker, Fiona McNab, a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow at the University of York (UK). McNab explained that working memory is important for decision making, reasoning, language, and mathematical processing. She said there was no scientific evidence to show current brain training games could improve working memory; while games might improve the performance of a specific task intrinsic to the game, they do not have a transfer effect to other tasks. Instead, McNab highlighted the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging and behavioural studies to explore working memory and distraction. She also referred to the Great Brain Experiment, an app that allows users to play games to test their memories and provide data for neuroscience research."

2. There is certainly an interesting history to the idea of memory improvement though. Pelaminism was a popular subject in Victorian England.

Jun

19

I was talking to a gentleman who is a classic pessimist and here is what I wrote to him:

You are such a pessimist. I'm glad I don't suffer from your disease. I'm an unbridled optimist for the earth, and for the uplifting progression of mankind. Do you realize that mankind is headed for a bull market in "mankind." It will be a multi-century bull market. This is evidenced by things like reduced total worldwide extreme poverty by 90% since 1950. We're getting more peaceful too, with many less getting killed in any conflict than at any other time. Hunger is down significantly, life expectancy overall is way up. Childhood deaths are a fraction of what they were in 1950, and real per capita income of the planet is up 85% since 1950. Worldwide literacy rates have never been higher. Our technology will increase by a million percent in the next 300 years. There's so much to be optimistic for and mankind will most certainly benefit from this new golden age. Incidentally, everything good for humanity, like reducing poverty, disease, early deaths, wars, famines etc has been done by optimistic people. The exponential increase of science and technology is solely because of optimists. The optimists of the world are responsible for every great achievement of mankind, from the Magna Carta to penicillin to landing on the moon. Nothing has of note has ever been done by pessimists. Pessimists add no value to anything as they are too busy waiting for the sky to fall, the market to crash, and the bankers to take the lint out of your pocket. How can one positively add to the human condition when one is huddled up in a defensive mode crying about how whatever cabal, what boogeyman is trying to bankrupt you and eat your children in some blood ritual.

I really feel sorry for those who's emotions are not on solid ground. One suspects that it's all the bad news one is inundated with 24/7(if it bleeds it leads), and the large segment of the population that cannot think for themselves. Most people can't, hence the popularity of the different outlets like Fox and MSNBC that tell their disciples how and what to think. If one can think for one's self none of this bad "news" is going to be a make any difference, certainly not in one's day to day life. Anyways, what poses as news these days is mostly editorial. It goes without saying that I prefer facts and figures to news/editorial. The facts are strongly indicating that we're in the initial stages of a grand movement, a total upward trajectory for the human race. A market equivalent is that right now we're the S&P 500 and we're priced at 72 points and getting ready to rally. And a reality of the present stock market is that some of this optimism is priced in, as it should be.

Jun

18

 How much bad news was there last week with the market refusing to go down?

If 1 millionth as much good news came and the market didn't go up, every commentator would be saying the market is in the worst shape ever because no good news will budge it. But not the reverse.

There must be consternation and frowns at the marbled corridors of the Governors. They tried so hard to knock it down.

Reminds me of the Union Club on fifth avenue in the 1950s where the members sat at the windows looking down at fifth avenue and frowned at the women wearing mini skirts et al.

Ralph Vince writes: 

It reminds me of when I was an adolescent, and work was at Cleveland's food terminal, and the old kraut I worked for set starting time at 5 am sharp.

The endless ghetto lay between the job and my bed and the only way there was with my thumb. The jungle would always be hopping at that hour, kids out riding their bikes, etc. I would go through there like a ghost, and disregard any danger, trying only to be ready for it.

This market is identical, and calls for absolutely the same, exact, unflinching mindset. The same exact thing.

Jun

18

There's something lethal in this exchange between the NY Times and the humorous chair.  "We've certainly noticed that the stock market is up over the last year. That usually shows up in financial conditions indexes." The hate, the umbrage, the distress from both the questioner and the answerer is almost palpable.

Jun

18

This is a great SI article on a 45 year old's quest to hit a home run. Lots of practice required.

Jun

15

As I've mentioned before, I am not a very good peer-to-peer lender.

Lending Club says that my account (adjusted for loans that are in default, late, etc.) is now worth 3.9% more than it was when I opened it in early 2016 and that my annualized return has been 2.87%, much lower than what they claim to be typical, which is >5%.

Stats on my loans are given below. I give the number of loans for each rating category from A to E, along with the number of "bad" loans in each category.

I define "bad" to be either "in grace period", "late 16-30 days", "late 31-120 days", or "charged off".

Occasionally you'll hear someone claim that you should just lend to the highest interest rate borrowers because the bad loans are relatively independent of rating. That was totally false in my case. I had literally zero bad loans in the "A" category, and only a reasonable 5% of my B loans were "bad". Meanwhile about 13% of my C and loans went bad, and 27% of my E and F loans went bad. "E and F" borrowers probably overlap a lot with "Ebay merchants" in my opinion!!!

Of course, when a loan goes bad, it's typically not a 100% loss, but believe me, it's pretty bad.

In retrospect I would have done much better by sticking to A and B loans, or even just A loans.

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Stefanie Harvey writes: 

I have been playing on Lending Club for 5 years. I now choose all the loans I fund rather than "index"

- I only choose "A" loans
- Borrowers must have 2 years of employment and a credit score higher than 730
- I exclude any loan for "medical" or "relocation"
- My return is around 5%

Great discussion; Jeff thanks for posting that article (and agree - poorly edited book excerpts!)

I have done over 1000 loans and the A loans default at just under 2%. I lost more the first year I invested when I tried mixing risk. 

anonymous writes: 

Very interesting, thank you.

Maybe the whole idea of the D, E, and F loans with interest rates >20% is just a broken model. It's hard to see how those can have a good outcome for several reasons:

–If you're really strapped for cash, are you even going to be *able* to pay off the 20% loan, when the interest itself is so staggering?

–If you're really strapped for cash, are you even going to be *willing* to pay off the 20% loan, given that there's no collateral? Surely you'll pay on anything else first–mortgage, student loan, whatever. And your credit rating can't go much lower than it already is.

Seems like maybe the whole model — charge a higher rate to compensate for the higher risk of default–might be broken because of a Heisenberg effect–the rate itself affects the default rate.

Regarding loan selection, I read elsewhere some stats purporting to show that, counter-intuitively, one of the best credit risks is people who borrow to pay for a wedding.

Conversely, borrowing to "start a business" turned out to be a bad credit risk. The easy explanation was that such people would soon be quitting their steady-paying jobs.

anonymous writes: 

It brings to mind the payday loan business and makes one think that productive research could be done in that area, with the usual caveats.

Jun

15

Finally something useful and not hateful from the fraternity paper.

"In the Hunt for New Antibiotics, Scientists Hit Pay Dirt" by Jenna Gallegos

Bill Ray writes:

Until fairly recently, the direct was a great place to find antibiotics. Streptomycin, which was the first treatment for TB (and which showed that randomized trials had a place in clinical research) was discovered in direct, as was erythromycin, I think. There have been many others, as well.

Soil can be fertile in lots of ways.

Andy Aiken writes: 

I heard someone recently mention colloidal silver as a natural antibiotic with zero side effects. Zero collateral effects, except turning blue. Also, probably zero effect on melanoma and other conditions that colloidial silver is supposedly used to treat.

Vancomycin, Erythromycin, Penicillin, etc are all the purified form of natural antibiotics produced by fungi. Why consume silver, which has no nutritional function, when the best antibiotics use the ancient wisdom that playing in the dirt provides excellent immune protection?

Jun

15

Aside from an effort to sink the President, how does a hoped for increase in inflation above 2% help the economy and overwhelm the "data driven" of the past? Wow, all of old time economics where employment was related to the real rate is going out the window. I must throw all my 19th century economics books out.

Jun

15

The humorous chair and agrarian wild man both hoping for end of prosperity. One sees an albatross; the other notes with trepidation that the stock market is up

More a frenzied man of TV says "prez has become an albatross to the stock market": let us hope there are more albatross like him out there

The more prosperity we have, the better it is for everyman and the Prez, and the worse for cattle and prospects for camp kinsella policies

Here's the humorous chair on stock market…it's almost like she hates to see it up. and why not? the move prosperity.

@VicNiederhoffer on twitter

Jun

15

It was only after business men and women sent their children off to be thoroughly schooled in administration in the late 19th century that there were economics textbooks. Poor Jack Morgan never fully regained his father's respect after he came home from Harvard and told Dad what he had learned about banking from Charles Franklin Dunbar.

The beauty of the late 19th century in the United States was that its massive failures were awful but never frightening. For people who had endured the Civil War, the financial collapse of a third of the railroads in the U.S. was something to be gotten over; but not the end of the world. Sensible people bought and owned the bonds that the Morgans put their names on and understood that the money market was a fascinating place to go gambling but hardly the appropriate investment for themselves and the other people who were not speculators.

Morgan made only one public prediction about "the market" in his entire life; when asked what it would do, he laughed and said, "It will fluctuate." He knew that his customers would accept fluctuations precisely because they were owners, not traders. That is why his bonds could be paying 4.5% when offers of 15% were failing to draw sufficient call money to carry a position through from Saturday afternoon to Monday's open.

The present portents of an inverted yield curve are supposedly warnings about recession and inflation. What they might be instead is a signal from the Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve that the central bank is no longer willing to be the Treasury's bitch - i.e. the customer of first resort - now that the ECB really needs a friend. Ms. Yellen can either help the ECB pretend that European sovereign debt is never ever going to be a problem or allow Secretary Mnuchin to roll over his inherited overdraft at bargain rates. For those who believe in the global future of globalism, that is hardly a choice; the Euro must be saved by being discounted freely just as Bagehot commanded. (Oh, wait, he was talking about domestic borrowers, wasn't he - since FX did not allow for any discounting until the Austrians decided that they wanted a Balkan War of their own.)

anonymous writes: 

I show that the curve is still in up trend-bullish. Am I missing something (as I usually am)? 

Jun

14

 Amazon hits 1000 and FANG pulls back. Already commentators at Barron's, CNBC and TheStreet.com are talking about a topping out of growth stocks and a shift to value stocks…

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Talking strictly random digits: both AMZN and GOOGL exceeded 1000 right before reversing; AAPL and FB both reversed from 156 area.

Andy Aiken writes: 

I didn't call it a reversal. I called it a pullback.

The morons in the media are quick to call every pullback in a bull run a reversal or a popped bubble.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Yet other morons may be paying 1000, like there is nothing else to do with 1000.

anonymous writes: 

Without resorting to invective by calling people morons, didn't Ableson have a similar denigrating mindset to yours when he wrote that people thinking the S&P was cheap at 400 were "intellectually challenged?" I think the word he used back then was idiot, but he still was a name caller. Wasn't the late Abelson the name he used on others that didn't share his wrong beliefs?

Jun

13

 Ken Burns' Vietnam series starts in September.

I wonder if Gen. Vang Pao's story will be part of it:

"Gen. Vang Pao, Laotian Who Aided U.S., Dies at 81"

Even before President Dwight D. Eisenhower's vow in 1960 that Laos must not fall to the Communists, the country was immersed in bloody conflict. Its importance grew immensely during the Vietnam War, when most of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the serpentine route that North Vietnam used to funnel supplies southward, ran through Laotian territory.

The United States wanted to interdict the supply route, rescue American pilots shot down over Laos and aid anti-Communist forces in a continuing civil war, but was hampered in doing so publicly because Laos was officially neutral, so the C.I.A. recruited General Vang Pao for the job. At the time, he held the highest rank ever achieved by a Hmong in the Royal Laotian Army, major general.

The Hmong are a tribe in the fog-shrouded mountains separating Laos from southern China, and they were natural allies for the C.I.A. because of their enmity toward Laotian lowlanders to the south, who dominated the Communist leadership.

General Vang Pao quickly organized 7,000 guerrillas, then steadily increased the force to 39,000, leading them in many successful battles, often against daunting odds. William Colby, C.I.A. director in the mid-1970s, called him "the biggest hero of the Vietnam War."

Lionel Rosenblatt, president emeritus of Refugees International, in an interview with The New York Times Magazine in 2008, put it more bluntly, saying General Vang Pao's Hmong were put "into this meat grinder, mostly to save U.S. soldiers from fighting and dying there."

When the C.I.A. approached him in 1960, he was already fighting Laotian Communists. The next year, he would also fight Communists from Vietnam after they had crossed the Laotian border. The Times in 1971 said that the C.I.A. did not command the general's army at any level, because his pride and temper would have never permitted it.

The general led troops into combat personally, suffered serious wounds and was known to declare: "If we die, we die together. Nobody will be left behind." About 35,000 Hmong died in battle.

General Vang Pao was also skilled at uniting the 18 clans of Hmong. One technique was to marry women from different tribes, as multiple marriages were permitted in Laos. He had to divorce all but one of his five wives when he went to the United States in 1975, settling on a ranch in Montana.

General Vang Pao lived more recently in Southern California and Minnesota, where many of the 200,000 Hmong that followed him to the United States or were born here live. His picture hangs in thousands of homes.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

The beauty of the New York Times is that they always get it wrong. Eisenhower's "vow" came in 1954, not 1960. There is even video.

I can guarantee that Burns et. cie. will get wrong the other unspoken part of Eisenhower's "domino" theory - the one that was communicated privately to the Soviets now that Stalin was dead: Indochina would be the last acceptance by the U.S. of territorial war by the Comintern. Spying, subversion - everything that Stalin had initiated as part of communism's "cold" war - would be accepted as part of the normal woofing between major power; but this would be the last "war of liberation". If the Soviets persisted in that policy, they risked bringing on their own nuclear destruction.

The Soviets knew Eisenhower was serious because Admiral Radford as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had asked for permission to use atomic bombs to rescue the French from Dien Bien Phu. Ike knew that the Soviets knew what his reply had been; the U.S. would not "defend" British, Dutch or French imperial possessions in Asia. As the British later learned over Suez, Eisenhower meant what he had said. The U.S. had not fought WW 2 to defend European empire.

But it had fought WW 2 and Korea to defend Europeans' and East Asians' rights to "self-determination". That is the part of the story that the Democrats never ever seem to understand even though the policy itself goes back to Woodrow Wilson - the one thing the man got right.
 

Jun

11

Happy father's day to all the fathers who read our site. The fathers who are on this list are very benevolent and competent as far as I know. If I had one thing to impart as the father of 7, I would say teach the kids at an early age about the idea that has the world in its grip, and put all their assets in spiders or a comparable zero rake equity fund. And let them know that their own situation and the world will get better.

Jun

11

He sees a case against Prez but the 30,000 emails deleted, smashed computers, emoluments to foundation contributors were not enough for a reasonable prosecutor to consider a case against cattle.

"Bharara 'Absolutely' Sees Enough Evidence for Case Against Trump"

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

The monopoly on prosecution is another part of the American legal structure that has no support in either canon or common law. It is based on sovereign presumption and preemption; to a horrible extent, allowing a district or U.S. attorney the discretion to decide whether or not someone should do the time for their crime is a product of the desires of the early New England emigrants to North America. They wanted to establish a Congregationalist theocracy. They succeeded. Now, of course, we have the high priests throw the Federal Criminal Code instead of scripture at the apostates; but the outcomes are entirely the same. None of us is without sin, and we are all guilty of something; our actual freedom is almost entirely a matter of having not yet pissed off someone in authority who thinks we are a ham sandwich in human form.

19th century Americans understood this in their bones. That is why The Scarlet Letter was the first blockbuster novel in U.S. publishing history. I know we are all supposed to prefer Melville's tract; but I think the public got it right. It remains the best single work of fiction ever written by an American.

Jun

11

Whenever the conversation turns to the health care system, and the question becomes, "Well, what would you do?", I always say that whenever prices are rising rapidly and you think they shouldn't be, then look for 1. constraints on supply, and 2. subsidized demand. Root out those two problems first, and then allow economic liberty some time to sort the situation out, and then look to see if there are externalities that need to be addressed or common goals that aren't being met.

Jun

10

Interesting hypotheses from Mr. Kedia reminiscent of the self serving tautological contrived promiscuous hypotheses of the behavioral science Nobelists. That's why we test such things. My tests indicate business as usual. The test from the 12 observations, 11 in 2000 and 1, three Wednesdays ago show continuations of previous marching order will be apt.

Jun

10

 Does a single day large drop past 4 sigma imply:

a. short term horizon bulls are mostly all stopped out and supply curve at higher levels is all gone into the stops?

b. short term horizon bears have become fatter and at further dips, if they come, there will be a stronger demand curve nibbling in?

c. effects of one market over another, a.k.a. the pulley effect, should be ignored or such large drop in one segment of the market, Nasdaq in this case on Friday, has its Pascal's law effects on the bigger wider board N days later?

d. Such large massive one day drops in one specific market are an isolated event only or a yellow canary inside the coal mine?

Jun

7

 The Chair and Collab wrote in Practical Speculation that the frequency of home runs in baseball goes up and down with public sentiment on the economy. Contrary to the upside-down man's persistent gloom, baseballs are flying out of parks at the highest rate ever.

In 2017 to date, 14.2% of all hits in major league baseball have been home runs, a larger percentage than last year's record 13.3%.

Exhaustive statistical analysis has led to a change in technique. The following paragraphs are quoted from The Washington Post, "The statistical revelation that has MLB hitters bombing more home runs than the steroid era", June 1, 2017:

In 2015 the league introduced Statcast, a "state-of-the-art tracking technology capable of measuring previously unquantifiable aspects of the game," giving teams, scouts and players access to detailed data which is used to make the physics of hitting a lot clearer.

The biggest change brought about by the Statcast data is illustrating the importance of an uppercut swing that results more often in fly balls and line drives rather than groundballs. According to MLB's Statcast data, the average launch angle in 2015, the first year data is available, was 10 degrees. That has jumped to 10.8 degrees in 2016 and 10.9 degrees in 2017, causing the frequency of extra-base hits, also known as isolation percentage (ISO), to spike to .165 in 2017, which is closing in on the record mark set in 2000 (.167).

Jun

6

 The standard academic introductions to economics spend no time discussing the invention of credit. They usually have the conventional summaries about the uses of money - store of value, et. al. - but there is literally nothing about the invention of promises to do and to pay. In one way, that is completely understandable. People live their economic lives in a world of futures; they measure even their savings by what the hoards will earn; evn in Rousseau's world of pure nature, financial promises would be made. Given those facts, it makes sense that economic textbooks do not spend any time discussing the invention of credit; IOUs have always been part of human interaction itself.

But, if credit's origins do not need to be part of the history of economics, surely the invention of legal tender deserves at least some small attention. Coinage is usually given at least a few paragraphs, but there are rarely any discussions of how the law came to be the method that defined what would be the financial unit of account. Hayek, at the very end of his life, complained that money had been literally hijacked by the state, that people should be free to use whatever money they choose. Even his theoretical opponents agree; current "mainstream" economic theory begins with the assumption that there is no need to give state money any special legal status; in the natural world of credit people can buy and sell using whatever coinage they want, as the success of BitCoin has proven. And yet, the IRS insists on being paid only in dollars, by check or credit card or wire transfer. (One of the wonderful ironies of the current age is that actual money - currency printed by the Treasury for the Federal Reserve Bank - is NOT an acceptable means of tax payment.)

Legal tender - officially enforced money - only exists because some exchanges are not and never have been voluntary. Hayek's assumption that money developed as a means of payment to clear private debts is bad history. The archaeological record shows that the earliest money coinages survive from the Greek city states that traded with one another in the Aegean Sea in the 7th century B.C.E. The first known coin, the Lydian Lion, (formed from electrum - a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver) can be dated to 610-600 B.C.E. It was minted by the tyrant Alyattes in Sardis. Every money hoard discovered by archaeologists in that region has been found in sites that were government treasuries, not private merchants. The German historical school's standard story (the one used by all the textbooks) is that people invented money as a "store of value". No. Tyrants, monarchs, emperors and - eventually - democracies all created money as a means of collecting taxes.

Why? Well, for one thing, the governments could do what the people who control governments always want them to do - keep crooked books and fiddle with the tax rates and preferences . The taxpayers would have to use drachmas, and the state would define what a drachma was. The standard historical theory for "inflation" is that when people with the power of the state stretched their credit beyond its limit, the state would increase its "money supply" by changing what a drachma was. The more realistic assumption is that coinage as legal tender was manipulated from the moment of its invention. Tyrants did not have to wait around to discover that they could "manage" their economies by "tightening" and "loosening" public credit. Even the U.S. Constitution takes it for granted that the Federal government will charge a fee for making its own money. Needless to say, this "money" thing caught on. Within two centuries every part of the Mediterranean world had its official money.

As Hayek so beautifully points out, free human exchange creates its own systems that work even though they defy logic. When confronted with the demand for tax payments in "money", people did what they always do - they started trading. The money market was born. As every black market in the world confirms, there is the official price for currency and then there is the market price. If you owed tax to Necho II, you could save some of its cost through arbitrage among the coins minted by Aegina, Samos and Miletus. (The Egyptian Pharaohs used all 3 as their official money.)

The academics have it backwards. "Money" was never a store of value and never the primary mechanism through which human exchange developed. It was how the state paid for and exercised its own power through war.

Jun

6

 The J.P. Morgan test applies for both customers and employees: you should only deal with people whose character you trust. Every successful business I have owned (including the one I still own) applied those rules; in every failed one I thought that exceptions should continue to be made.

I have never been shrewd enough to be able to judge the character of people until I have dealt with them. So, for me, until experience has proven otherwise, I deal on the assumption that others will be honest. (There is also a good deal of evidence from applications of game theory that this Tit for Tat approach has actual rewards, provided that the game is one of repeated encounters, each with limited risk.)

But, once you have seen someone cheat, there is no excuse for continuing to deal with them. Every significant business failure I have had started with my telling myself that a lie did not matter. That meant, of course, that the dishonest had already begun to compound itself; I had lied to myself and others by letting the dishonest person skate.

Jun

6

 August is the hottest month in my home state of Montana so I went to Intellicast to see how the temperature has risen since Global Warming began.

The hottest August temp recorded was in 1934 at a smoking 107.

Looking at each day of the month none of the hottest days ever recorded were in this century. One has to go back to 1988 to get a record setting day.

So I thought maybe GW is not heating up the summer months but at least the cold months should be showing a warming effect so I looked at January. What I found was the coldest January was 1930 with -39 below.

Highest temp ever seen in a January was 1897. The average hi has been 37, average low 13.

Again I looked at each day of the month to see when the coldest and warmest ones were to be found expecting to see warming in this century. There it was! 2 days out of the 31 were record setters, 1/24 and 25 with 64 and 59. I had to go back to 1992 to find the next record setting days.

From this limited data it I hard pressed to see any warming trend. Suggest other try it on their home towns etc. We did the same thing for US Virgin Islands and again you have to go way back to get the hottest days.

David Lillienfeld writes:

The discussions on this site about global warming remind me of the discussions about cigarette smoking and lung cancer. One of the early arguments from the Tobacco Institute, that domicile of wise, impartial men, was that cigarette smokers didn't die only of lung cancer—there were other diseases that they died from, and at higher rates. All true, but not particularly relevant.

Then there was the TI's argument that most cigarette smokers didn't even die of cancer. Also true. Also irrelevant.

Then there was the argument that there were other reasons, like psychological factors, that led those with a predilection to lung cancer to smoke. Well, there actually is, but it's too small to explain the relationship.

Then there was the argument the TI made that lung cancer among cigarette smokers was the result of occupational exposures to carcinogens. Also true. But cigarette smoking has a stronger, some might opine much stronger, relationship to lung cancer than the occupationally-related cases. And in some cases, like asbestos, there is an interaction between smoking and occupational carcinogens.

The TI was successful, to a point, in constantly changing the focus of the discussion.

I could go on.

While any scientific hypothesis should account for observed phenomena, one must be careful in how one phrases the hypothesis. Let's be clear about what we are talking about, since I sense in these discussions (and I think this is round ninety-one or so) are often about more than one hypothesis.

Just an observation.

anonymous writes:

Increased CO2 is measurable, and more a function of our numbers than our behavior.

What is enigmatic is the expected temperature increase is not manifest in recent decades.

Why? Not an ideological answer to "Why?" But actual, scientific (repeatable by experiment) why. If the stakes really ARE so high then why be ignorant about this? The answer may buttress the AGW debate (in which case, we must periodically cull our numbers so that aggregate CO2 output is sustainable, for those who have he stomach for such) or it may not.

But blindly arguing either side from a standpoint of ignorance is only done to support one's interest.

Jun

6

 I just wrote this two minute primer on Bitcoin and Blockchain.

We are at $2,500 but potentially a long way to go still. The must read that explains the fundamentals of a blockchain and bitcoin is still the original white paper.

The breakthrough is the ability to transfer ownership of a digital good without a trusted third party - this was not possible before bitcoin. The implication is that cash can for the first time become digital without an intermediary like a bank, visa, paypal etc. Much of the nomenclature is borrowed from mining. The miners in a competitive process keep the network secure and is rewarded by transaction fees as well as a block reward, currently 12.5 bitcoins per block - on average every 10 minutes. The block reward is cut in half in about every 4 years. There will never be more than 21 million bitcoins. Bitcoin can be seen as digital gold - limited supply, hard coded the protocol, no cost of storage and transferable as easy as an email, Gold 2.0. The bull case of bitcoin is that it is arguably 'better' than gold, and gold's 'market cap' is around 10 trillion, which would equal around $500,000 vs. the current price of around 2,500 per bitcoin.

Each block in bitcoin is capped in size to 1MB, this has meant that transaction fees recently gone up dramatically as the blocks are getting full and is now averaging some $3. There has been a big scaling debate in the space for a couple of years now that hasn't been resolved yet. Barry Silbert of Digital Currency Group is right now building consensus around a promising scaling solution. It if becomes a reality, one could expect the price of bitcoin to experience a relief rally.

As for investing, most trading are done on dedicated exchanges such as GDAX, Bitstamp, OKCoin etc. The Winklevoss ETF was rejected by the SEC earlier this year, currently that is being reviewed for a final decision but there are not big hopes. Interestingly, CME Group launched an index last year and rumor has it they might look into launching futures on Bitcoin. The most liquid listed asset is currently two ETNs listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange by xbtprovider. Their combined assets are around $80M. They have seen some institutional buying as well.

The price currently seems to be driven by Japan, Korea, maybe India. Seen quite high premiums in those markets recently.

Other blockchains:

Every major bank is currently researching blockchains as it has the potential for instant and secure settlements in combination with the fear of being disrupted by nimble fintech startups. I think they are slowly realizing that if you create a private blockchain without a token which is required for the consensus mechanism in an open blockchain such as bitcoin, you are essentially just creating a shared, inefficient database; nothing revolutionary. The point with blockchain is precisely that you're able to do away with the trusted 'third party'. The biggest bank project is called R3: and is run by more than 70 financial institutions. They announced earlier this year that they in fact is not building a blockchain. I think this blockchain hype much driven by consultants preying on banks scared of being disrupted will slowly die down.

The open blockchain currently with the most promise besides Bitcoin is Ethereum. The transactions in Ethereum is much more flexible than Bitcoin, which gives rise to the possibility of trustless 'smart contracts' - programmable money. These contracts will execute according to the code, ie code becomes law. I can imagine asset management type of apps, financial derivatives, decentralized autonomous organizations (the most famous was called the DAO, and had a funding of $150M, see ) all built on top of Ethereum. If the "killer app' for Bitcoin is digital gold, the current killer app for Ethereum is tokens and so called ICOs, this is a really good introduction by a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, Balaji S. Srinivasan.

This is another take on the token space by Chris Dixon also Andreessen Horowitz. As an example the BAT, an Ethereum based token earlier this week raised $37M in 30 seconds.Even though Ethereum is attracting some real money it is still experimental in nature, still very much evolving, buggs are still found, their consensus algorithm is untested at this stage, the native token ether might not be a store of value as the inflation is not capped as Bitcoin's is. The project is much more centralized vs Bitcoin.

There are many other blockchains, one example is Zcash that uses zero knowledge cryptography to protect the privacy of transactions. This discussion with Nick Szabo and Naval Ravikant is really good– two of the absolute brightest minds in the space.

Resources:

Bitcoin stats

Crypto market caps

Bitcoin price

General info

Ethereum

Industry research

Jun

6

How I got out of Florida condos at the top:

1) The tennis pro at the building became a realtor.
2) The fellow who installed my window treatments became a realtor.
3) Hurricane season was approaching.
4) A "ballerina" I knew quite well told me to delay selling my condo until she could take the newly instituted 5 day cram course to get a realtor license for which there was a several month waiting list.

This week I heard from a fashion model eagerly desirous of entering the coin market who had opened up accounts at several shops and was mad because they had a waiting period for her buying of various coins.

The conventions on coin presentations were oversold and standing room only.

Sad I can't hand out a statistical answer to document the froth, but there are many.

1) Control of more than 50% of the coins potentially weakens the security.
2) The leaked ability of the hackers to enter any computer in multiple ways retrospectively.
3) The advent of access to quantum cloud computers by corporations in beta (which means govts have had access longer)
4) The untested nature of the post-quantum algos.
5) The need for the governments to track and tax money flows.
6) The investigation powers newly needed to stop ransom attacks requiring payment of coins to "anonymous" wallets.

Andy Aiken writes: 

Possibly some lessons are:

Techies, anarchocapitalist utopians, Chinese elites, even ordinary people desire a currency not controlled by the state, that offers privacy and security without requiring armed guards for a big gold stash.

The financial technology and payment processing systems for USD, Euro, etc are antiquated and slow, decades behind what is feasible and in reach, struggling under a mountain of regulation.

A currency is what people use to pay for things. When the European banking system was in shambles after WW II, people paid for food with cigarettes. Scrip has been used many times throughout history.

Getting financing for a company by working with bankers is an expensive, frustrating experience.  Business founders will find a way to cut the middlemen out of the game if they don’t add value.
 
The cryptocurrency mkt is definitely frothy. As with the dot com bubble, most of the coins & firms will fail.  Some will go on to be the future Amazons. These human needs are in search of a solution even if all of cryptocurrency goes to zero tomorrow.

Orson Terrill writes: 

Same here, starting about 2 weeks ago, yet again, people are asking me about bitcoin. This has usually coincided with near term top, and has been true since 2012. Same for stocks.

anonymous writes: 

I do some consulting in this area, and last week I had a few calls (one from a PE firm) come in asking me for a general overview of the competitive crypto landscape, including who mines, what the pecking order of coins is (in terms of best, most used, etc.) and so on; stuff that could pretty easily be found on the web, by haunting Reddit, etc.

Froth indeed.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

Thanks to Andy Aiken, I have been able to get some sense of how Bitcoin actually trades. Also thanks to him, I learned - yet again - the most important lesson about trading: you can't claim to understand a market if you don't actually trade it.

I don't trade Bitcoin and have absolutely no idea what will happen to the markets for it. But, it does seem to me that the participants in the markets for cryptocurrencies - whether long or short - are making one assumption that is simply not proven by the evidence.

Bitcoin is not a currency. Neither, for that matter, are ounces of gold. These days a currency is an IOU that

(1) is accepted as a credit for deposit by the banks that are willing to use that currency as a unit of account; (2) is accepted as final payment for taxes and legal judgments; and (3) is the face denomination for the government debts that are accepted as officially-sanctioned reserves for financial institutions

That Bitcoin is not a legal tender has not mattered in the slightest as far as the traders in Bitcoin are concerned.

In the days when money was coin, there was a long history of unofficial credits being actively traded and readily exchanged and even accepted for deposit. The Virginia lawyers who most closely followed Washington as President (Jefferson, Madison) were infuriated by the speculation they saw in New York over the debts that were to be redeemable in the country's new money. They were themselves active speculators, as Washington had been; but their gambles and savings were in warrants and other paper claims on the Western lands. When the people who support and believe in Bitcoin argue that the digital claims they have bought or mined are as "real" than as the digits that represent the vast bulk of people's dollar/pound/Euro/yen/renminbi "money" (sic), they are absolutely right. Bitcoins and dollars are both simply collective promises that what is represented has the value of scarcity and is not counterfeit, and they both have to be taken on faith.

There is only one problem. Governments, as Hamilton demonstrated, have a serious interest in having their official fictions take precedence. The risk of any Bitcoin "bubble" is that, in the name of the protection of official legal tender, unofficial digits may find themselves being investigated for their risks of "fraud". Government can always be relied on to investigate others for having committed the very sins that the government wants to preserve for its own spiritual authority. 

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Centrals may investigate and outlaw whatever they wish - but since they've encouraged the vastness of the internet, it's impossible for them to replace the cork. Eventually, they'll be adapters of a protocol.

anonymous writes: 

And that is exactly the point.

With crypto there are no groups of individuals painstakingly crafting bills in basements OR shadowy dictators buying eight figure currency printing machines from manufacturing facilities in Bavaria or Switzerland. Even if governments manage to cripple or persecute the Bitcoiners - (who? miners? users? developers? writers? consultants?) - there are as I type this 735 existing crypto issues, over 100 crypto assets, and thousands of tokens trading in nearly 4000 markets of varying mechanisms and liquidity around the world. Far more important than that, each day tens of thousands of new minds are brought into the crypto sphere, some of whom are brilliant programmers both (a) eager to outdo the best of what is currently available, and (b) eager to get rich. There is no, absolutely no, putting the proverbial genie back in the equally-proverbial bottle.

Jun

2

Moderate Drinking Does Not Appear to Prevent Heart Attacks

An analysis of 45 studies of relationships between heart attacks and alcohol consumption reports that the studies that associated moderate drinking with reduced heart attack rates are flawed (Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, May 2017;78(3):375-386). To show that moderate drinking is associated with heart attack prevention, researchers must show that non-drinkers have more heart attacks than moderate drinkers. The problem is that in most of the studies, the non-drinking group includes a high number of people who have been told that they need to stop drinking because they:

* have liver, heart, lung or kidney disease

* are diabetic

* are alcoholic

* have had heart attacks

* have any of the many other reasons that alcohol can harm them.

Once the researchers remove people who have stopped drinking alcohol for critical health reasons from their non-drinking groups, the drinkers show no advantage over the non-drinkers. Long-term studies that have followed people into their later years have shown no advantage from moderate drinking.

Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, May 2017;78(3):394-403

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