On January 22 I took my older daughter to the allergist for a checkup; she's been having allergy shots for about a year. Prior to seeing the doctor (a cursory exam where he mostly talked about his real-estate taxes, essentially the same conversation as last year. I didn't have the heart to tell him I have it even worse than he does) a nurse did a test using a device that I'd never seen before called a Peak Flow meter. It's used to test the airways of asthmatics. My daughter isn't an asthmatic but they test everyone.

A Peak Flow meter is a small tube that you blow into after taking a deep breath. My daughter registered about 350 somethings. Curious, I decided to try it as well. I took a huge breath, thinking that there would be some resistance and blew hard - and to no one's surprise, with a result of about 550 somethings, I am quite the blowhard. Interesting, there's almost no resistance at all. The nurse told me that the idea is to measure the volume of air that comes out, not how hard you can blow.

So naturally on a slow day like today (Friday) when I watch the Brownian motion of numbers and screen-wigglies up and down, my mind began to wander and I thought about the Peak Flow test and how we've been having a situation where lately there's no resistance at all to blowing through one peak after another. Almost like blowing into the Peak Flow meter.

Spec Listers often talk about the market mistress (if you Google "market mistress," the only direct hits seem to be the Daily Spec blog), and I for one have an anthropomorphic view of the market organism as well. However my personal visualization is of a character, a group mind, that's definitely manic depressive, often paranoid, and certainly schizophrenic. Not a nice thing to say about a lady. Or a fellow, for that matter.

Maybe today he or she was catching its breath? Maybe she can only take a deep breath and blow a 550 a certain number of times; then she has to take a day off? I was glad that he did. Maybe she was taking the day off to think about what to do next. How to confound those who are trying to foretell, the bulls who are looking for a nice neat 10.00% pullback to some recognizable moving average, or Fibonacci retracement so that they can load up again on stocks, or the bears who predict that mortgage derivatives have already bankrupted a bunch of hedge funds and banks last week due to Thiotimoline contamination, and we should all buy gold.

I have no idea. Maybe that's the best approach as I can't be wrong that way. Nobody knows what will happen Monday at 9:30 EST. I could guess. But I'd probably be wrong. There's a signpost up ahead. It's a 4-way stop. Four cars (interesting that the character for the '4' key is a '$') waiting to see who will go first. Each one edges out a little bit to see what the other guy will do. If they figure it out, it's orderly. If they don't, it's a crash.

Now I have to take off my thinking cap and get ready to watch Bill Maher insult President Bush on HBO.


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