Aug

28

 Left to right: GM Nigel Davies, Dr. Phil McDonnell, Prof. Gordon Haave

This year's Spec Party had a different feel than other years', a more mature, more focused, a more comfortable, intimate feel. We had specs from all around the world: India, Ireland, Scandinavia, Zurich, France, Italy, London, Hawaii, California, Nevada, Tennessee, Georgia, Delaware. A truly remarkable international diverse experience. The depth of knowledge, expertise, and perspective was simply mind boggling. Though there were fewer, the group was more intense, more hardcore quantitatively philosophically naturalistic in the Niederhoffer/Kenner tradition.

We spoke of survival of volatility, diversity, adversity, ecologies, as we strolled from jungle environment to desert environments at the Haught Conservatory Greenhouse at the New York Botanical gardens bringing to mind the radical and swift regime changes and the necessary adaptations in nature and the markets.

We rode out to Shea Stadium to see the Mets play Florida. Baseball has so many parallels to the market. The long periods of hard effort with no score. The long innings of playing from behind, the maximum effort required while in a losing position. The rapid reversals as the Mets lost the game to a home run in the bottom of the 8th. All lessons valuable to the specs who braved adverse windy wet conditions, an anomaly in an otherwise sunny, warm, beautiful New York summer.

We went back in time to the 60s and 70s in a nostalgic trip out to quaint Coney Island, near Brighton Beach where Victor grew up, per the stories from Ed Spec. We swam in the ocean, discussed waves, rode the Ferris wheel and had a wonderful day in the sun. I had a very nice discussion about India with Sushil Kedia, and a lengthy discussion about chess, strategy, and markets with Grandmaster Davies on the way back.

The Dinner at Delmonico's was the highlight of the weekend, with a great collection of specs celebrating with Victor and Laurel in the tradition of the giants from the history of Wall Street. I can imagine that years in the future a Wall Street legend will tell of how Niederhoffer threw lavish parties and took over the whole restaurant for his friends. The food was delicious and the tap dancing and Hula from the traveling Von Sogis of Hawaii added to the fun of the evening. Among the likes of David Wren-Hardin, Bill Egan, Chris Cooper, Dan Grossman, Andy Moe, Tim Humbert, Easan Katir, John Floyd were fascinating discussions about cutting edge microstructural theories, fundamental considerations in currencies, statistical chemistry and the drug industry, and the creation of unintended toxins. But the evening was just starting; next was the Tim Melvin pub crawl to the usual midtown Irish bar where many a very tall trading tale was retold with flourish and where Melvin was characteristically seen in the arms of three beautiful blondes at once. James Goldcamp was heard to have had a really good time.

The weekend ended up with a serious and quite profound and relevant discussion of current market conditions at the Rose Garden in Central Park under beautiful blue skies and cool weather, with raccoons scurrying in the lush green arbors as Victor and Laurel espoused their theory of the markets as the mechanism that mediates between government and the the populace, and the need of the financial ecology to support its overhead and extract the maximum amount from the weak, causing not only the obvious capital allocation but also buffering the power of government to protect the needs of the populace through price and capital demands. It is a novel theory that I have never heard discussed anywhere else. The market itself is the mechanism that effects large scale-social and political change through changes in incentives, attitudes and demand, and is more than merely shuffling money. Understanding the markets as a social and political driver can lead to long term trading strategies and keep the trader on the right course.

New York was vibrant, alive, clean, young, safe, friendly. New York has a noticeably disproportionate number of young people, and slim attractive young women dressed nicely compared to other areas, something Galton himself was known to count. Even Dr. Zussman noticed this anomaly. At many clubs and bars large groups of attractive women attended, and late at night there were more women out and about than men. The taxi drivers, restaurateurs, hoteliers, and people about town, subway riders, citizens, restaurant-goers, theater-goers, were all courteous, friendly, intent and focused on discharging their social obligations and expectations. I saw no antisocial behavior, no arguments, no outbursts of anger, almost no vagrancy or homelessness. The subways were clean, very clean, well lit, and uncrowded. Even the traffic had less hornblowing and argumentation. To me, who grew up in the bad era of the 70s in the city, a real low point when the city was on the verge of bankruptcy and crime and vagrancy were rampant, it was a remarkable and enjoyable weekend in a magic kingdom.

For these wonderful and life-changing experiences and lessons in life and markets, available in no other forum, and for the creation of this unique, international, eclectic, esoteric, erudite group, and for their huge contribution of expense and time in the midst of tumultuous market conditions, we have the true genius, generosity and broad thinking of Victor and Laurel to thank. I extend my heartfelt thanks and love to them both for a truly wonderful weekend I will cherish my whole life.

Ken Smith writes:

Glad the Specs had a pleasurable weekend. I couldn't be in New York. It's a 6,000 mile round trip for me. Anyway, I do not talk sports, don't care about politics, played golf only once in my life, can't remember who the current boxing champ is, have forgotten books I've read, don't remember any poetry, can't read music or play an instrument, have no bragging to do since I never got anywhere, can't remember names of people I meet for as long as even five seconds, hate chit chat, small talk, and big talk, and daydream during conversations, all of which makes me a poor guest at a dinner table.


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  1. Gene on September 2, 2007 5:19 pm

    Wow this sounds like a blast. How do you become one of the ‘cool kids’? (A question I’ve been asking my whole life heh).

    Ken - it’s much easier to be social when you’re with people you can identify with. I’m fairly introverted myself (I prefer trading screens) but people can actually be interesting sometimes.

    Gene

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