Jan

13

Ham RadioEver since I was a little kid, I've been fascinated by radio waves. I got my first short wave radio when I was about 10, and became a fully licensed Amateur (Ham) radio operator when I was in ninth grade. At roughly the same time, the market bug bit me. One of the first things I noticed about radio waves is that propagation occurs in cycles, strongly influenced by the sun. The sun has 14 year sunspot cycles that dictate peaks and valleys in propagation over the cycle. Heavy solar activity allows easy communication, worldwide, with minimal effort. The sun charges the ionosphere, and allows the waves hitting it to skip back to the earth's surface. When there's minimal solar activity, the high frequency amateur bands virtually close down, and are good only for short range communication (however, the background noise from outer space is always there). What always interested me was the patterns of the noise (some of which is left over from the Big Bang), and its repetitive nature. I found the noise to move in patterns that I could predict, and started to try to predict those patterns just as I did during my first feeble efforts at reading the tape. The strength and tone of the noise varies, and it is possible to listen and predict with accuracy what will happen next with the noise level. I then noticed that different times of the day had openings to various parts of the world, one minute you could be talking to Africa, the next minute Africa would fade out and be replaced by stations in South America. This effect was, and is, a daily pattern, much like the opening and closing of the worldwide markets. When I was around 16, I acquired an oscilloscope, and hooked it up to a receiver, and measured the background noise. Fiddling with the controls of the scope, I could get a display that looked very similar to a market chart. Sadly, I never got around to studying that further. Later on in my teens, as my trading progressed, I would compare the sun's effect on the radio waves to the behavior of the Fed on the market. At that time, I thought the Fed was G_d, and much like the sun, was the direct cause of everything. I didn't get too far with that comparison, decided not to waste time that could keep me otherwise occupied. I really liked observing the solar flares and storms, and heard my first big one when I was about 18 years old. During the first part of a solar flare, just as the first particles hit our ionosphere, the radio waves act very orderly, with great strength. They bounce all over the world, and kids with 100 milliwatt walkie talkies can even talk to kids with other walkie talkies all over the world. The radio waves are bouncing all over the globe with ease, and one could compare this with a roaring, overbought bull market. This condition lasts only for a few minutes, when all bedlam breaks loose. When the main body of the solar flare enters our earth, communication becomes overloaded, with crosstalk, interference, frequency shifts, and after a few minutes complete and utter silence silence — all evidence of human activity gone, just very loud background noise from the cosmos. Those solar storms can be compared to cataclysmic events in the markets. An experienced Ham operator can predict when a solar storm is about to approach just by the signal behavior, much as a good speculator can predict a big move in the market. Radio taught me a lot about speculating. When I tell my wife I'm going to play on my Ham radio, I spend 90-95% of the time just listening to what's out there. I fiddle with the tuner, and try to see what the ether is telling me. When I find an elusive station in a rare country that I want to talk to, I listen to him to see if he's even willing to talk to new stations. If he's willing, I call him, we chat, and the deal is done. Radio, much like speculating, involves a lot of listening.


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