Laurel Kenner on Substack: Nobody Asked Me, But…



nobody asked me but supreme court chief John Roberts always seems to compromise in decisions to keep face with the popular man and always votes in a way that furthers the Court. (I don't know anything about the law except that it doesn't function well)

nobody asked me but the nite moves in markets are ideally suited to prevent a person who needs sleep 4 hours a day to extricate good profitable positions that should be held with impunity.

nobody asked me but the new appointees of the new administration make me think of a G&S or Moliere play . Stay close to your desk and never go to sea and you may wind up a head of the Queen's navy, especially the DA's who refuse to arrest anyone.

Vic's twitter feed



Received a nice intro note from new spec Mr Ani Sachdev, and it elicits important advice I have for all specs. its not advanced calculus or Bayesian stats or higher. the most important is Finite Mathematics and Differential Equations.

my differential equations book is Differential Equations by Shepley Ross and my discrete math book is Discrete Mathematics with Combinatorics. both are highly recommend but they're both 20 years old. amazing how they've both held up.

Vic's twitter feed



Your vehicle sooner-or-later will get stuck in the sand. It happens to everyone who drives far enough off-pavement. There are many solutions. This best technique is from three decades of driving off-road in sedans and having unstuck them or others at least a hundred times.

I call it the LONG COME-ALONG. The only equipment you always carry is a $35 lightweight come-along and 70’ of strong rope. The beauty of this method is that washes of sand that you cross are lined with anchors of trees or creosotes no more than 70’ apart.

It goes like this. Your vehicle is stuck in the sand up to its hubs. You attach the rope to an anchor which is a tree or around the base of a creosote. You hook the come-along to the rope free end and its cable to the car. Now you rachet the car out without a sweat. I repeat, without the sweat of all other methods. Note that the come-along cable around its spindle is about 8’, so for every 8’ the car moves you must shorten the anchor rope and rewind the cable to inch the car out.

All other systems require a high jack, shovel, traction pads, water to wet the sand, air compressor, winch, or a helper vehicle.

A nifty option can inch you across the Sahara like an Egyptian. Carry your own pipe anchor and come-along. You will also need a heavy hammer to drive the 4’-pipe into the ground, plus a high-jack to jack it out and relocate it.

If you travel a regular route that has a sandy stretch, pound in a permanent deadman anchor at either side of the sand. 6’ fence posts 4’ into the ground work fine. This is how I used to go to and from town for many years on the other side of the Chocolate Mountains.

All the other methods I’ve heard of or tried are toilsome and may give you a heart attack in the summer. Of course, instead, you may pay a standard $750 for an off-road tow.

With the LONG COME-ALONG you may quickly extract others who will tip to cover your original cost of equipment. As usual, the less technical the environment the less technical the solutions to getting around.



a good elementary lesson on combining forecasts as we had. the norm seems to be to average them with equal weights:

Combining forecasts
J. Scott Armstrong
University of Pennsylvania, armstrong@wharton.upenn.edu

Vic's twitter feed



Nils Poertner recommends:

Amazing Grace: Autobiography of a Survivor, written by Grace Halloran

Inspirational book - and it is based on a true story - about a mother who managed to heal her child's eye condition (retina pigmentosa) - and her own one via the use of light (therapy). And this was against all odds.

We live in a world where medical doctor (also financial analysts btw) have all figured it out - it seems - yet life is more surprising at times. The incredible thing with miracles is that they happen….



Kora Reddy points us to courses offered by Aswath Damodaran:

My regular Stern classes start in a couple of weeks, with links below. You are welcome to follow along, for free and no credit:

Corp Finance

Valuation (MBA)

Valuation (UG)



More books

January 3, 2022 | Leave a Comment

books i have been reading or listening to that i recommend highly:

1. The Princeton Guide to Ecology

2. The Princeton Guide to Evolution

3. The Life And Time of Giuseppe Vedi

4. The Life and Time of Gilbert and Sullivan

5. The Life and Time of Johannes Brahms

6. Branch Rickey

7. 100 Statistical Tests

8. An Illlustrated Guide to Theoretical Ecology

9. Mathematics in Action

10. Master and Commander

11. The Life and Operas of Verdi

12. The Long Ships

13. Americana

14. The Hunt for Red October

15. How Inovation Works

16. Life and Works of Mozart

17. every nite i listen again to The Time It Never Rained and Good Old Boys by Elmer Kelton (these keep me from brooding on all the mistakes I've made and put me to sleep)

Vic's twitter feed



A reader writes:

Time's Arrow by Martin Amis, is a novel which plays on topsy turvyness - everything being upside down, time is moving backwards, what is good is bad and vice versa. E.g, the pimp dishing out cash to the prostitute, doctors killing patients, and garbage men adding more trash into the bin.

In our hyper-rationale world- of cartesian thinking - those novels tease the reader and stretch imagination. Saw pics of overflowing trash bins in NYC - so at least one of the examples could be true today?

Laurence Glazier writes:

Thanks for the reference, I didn't know of this book. I have read some of his earlier, more frivolous books, and also some of his father's, Kingsley Amis. I love time-bending themes, but might find this one harrowing.

A reader adds:

inversion theme - also a link to mkts? novice trader: fundamentals first, then price action, whereas more seasoned trader can see the implicit -and more nuances, eg. house price stocks moved up in 2009, then housing boom in the US etc for yrs to come etc. or spiritually - one can find a few other things ….Castaneda /Gurdjieff - on topsy turvy ness of human perception.

Andrew Aiken writes:

Philip K.Dick’s novel, Counter-Clock World, was published in 1967. By a quirk of physics, time in this future is running backward. In this world, people disgorge whole food, greet with “Good-bye” and part with “Hello”, pregnancy ends with copulation, libraries busily eradicate books, and the dead come back to life in the world’s cemeteries. Because libraries control the availability of knowledge, they have absolute power. Even militaries and police are terrified of the libraries. A departed cult leader, whose following has continued to flourish after his death, comes back to life, with devastating implications.

Nils Poertner responds:

yeah, a number of authors of the previous centuries probably could not take it anymore with society's linear attending to the world and wrote books like these. Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass is another one. some are more light hearted and fun to read than others. good for stimulation of novice traders.

Laurence Glazier comments:

Music is interesting here, as whatever I write is heard linearly, even though I sometimes create it as a non-linear fractal structure. It nonetheless works.

Wondering where the Gurdjieff Work comes in re Time’s Arrow? Phillip K Dick was certainly an extraordinary individual.

A reader responds:

Music is about vibration and energy - and more harmonious energy is good for us and vice versa. We constantly rec and send energy even if we don't think so. I'm not huge into Gurdjieff or Castaneda - only know a few bits about this topsy turvyness in perceptions and tend to concur. Would not interest others here perhaps anyway. Will have a look at Philip K Dick.

Penny Brown writes:

I loved Martin Amis's last "novel" - put it in quotes because it's more of a memoir - Inside Story which chronicles some of his early relationships and the death of his closest friend, Christopher Hitchens, and his literary father, Saul Bellow.

Laurel Kenner enthuses:

Androids DO Dream of Electric Sheep! Reading ALL Dick’s books.

Zubin Al Genubi writes:

I've read pretty much every Michael Connelly book.

Laurel Kenner adds:

I have read all of Michael Connelly, William Gibson, Alexander McCall Smith, John Grisham, John D. MacDonald, Walter Mosley, Eric Ambler, Martha Wells, Earl Derr Biggers, Robert Graves, Gene Wolfe, T.S. Eliot, George MacDonald, and Phillip K. Dick. I recommend Epictetus, Publius, Shelley, Keats, James Burnham, and Curtis Yarvin on Substack. Merry Christmas to all Specs.

Ashton Tate writes:

P.D. Ouspensky, a student of Gurdjieff wrote the novel, Strange Life of Ivan Osokin. It can relate to markets as the story tells of a man who meets a genie who is willing to grant him any wish. The man (Ivan Osokin) wishes to be able to go back in time and replay certain pivotal moments in his life with the caveat that when replaying these events he is aware of the things he did the first time in these instances so that he doesn't mess up again. The genie grants him his wish but assures him that even though he may know what not to do in replaying these scenarios, he will still make the same faulty decision anyways, to which he does, again and again. There is a rumor that this book was used as inspiration for the movie Groundhog Day.

Jeffery Rollert responds:

That idea came from Sartre, in Les Jeux Sont Fait (The Die/Dice Are Cast), and should be required reading by all.

Laurence Glazier adds:

Keith Pearson has written several light-hearted, but well-constructed novels on this theme.

Ouspensky believed in a theory of recurrence, in which lifetimes could be repeated. I don’t think that was connected to Gurdjieff’s teaching, though in Beelzebub’s Tales he suggests that themes in history repeat.

Penny Brown offers:

My greatest literary experience this year was listening to the 1862 classic, Oblomov, which came as a free addition in the Plus Catalogue (Audible). The narrator, Stephen Rudnicki, has a beautiful resonant voice and adds just the right amount of ironic inflection.

"Oblomovism" or "Oblomovshchina" is a term has made it into the vernacular as representing all the negative qualities of romantic inaction.

Kim Zussman replies:

Do you mean the qualities of an inactive lazy indolent being? The sentient women I have known would not consider such inambition very romantic.

Larry Williams adds:

Laurel did you read this one: A Friendship: The Letters of Dan Rowan and John D. MacDonald 1967-1974. Like you I read every novel he wrote.

Laurel Kenner replies:

Thanks for the tip, Larry. If you believe, as I do, that politics are not on a right-left spectrum but are more like an elliptical orbit with totalitarianism at the nadir and freedom at the apex, read Thomas Pynchon, With a salt shaker handy.

One additional recommendation: Louis-Vincent Gave published Avoiding the Punch in August, and I think it's the best book of the year. Chair and I had the pleasure of dining with him and his brilliant father, Charles, at the lamented Four Seasons restaurant and found them kindred spirits.

Some chapter titles:
The Asch experiment we inhabit
CYA, the guiding principle of our time
Fighting for relevance [central banks]
Who will survive the unfolding Marxist clash?
Are US treasuries set to fall from heaven?



thank you to all my correspondents, happy new year. let us hope that the same regularities, drift greet us next year. there seems to be no negative correlation between the S&P moves in one year and the next. in other words the 27% gain this year is not abnormally bearish.

on the two occasions that the S&P dropped a little on dec 31 during the last 10 years, it was bullish for all the relevant subsequent periods. however, on the 6 occasions where the S&P was up big over the preceding 5 months, it was bullish for Jan but there was one big decline that occurred around May that brought the expectation down big.

Vic's twitter feed



For those who haven't read it, here’s a pdf of Robert L. Bacon’s book, Secrets of Professional Turf Betting. The book provides a banquet for a lifetime.

But first, it must be understood that while it is possible for ANY man or woman to get started with a lonely deuce or sawbuck and run it up to a handsome amount, it is at the same time impossible for EVERY man or woman to make a living at the races.

The careless, the inconsistent, the people who must be "in action" every minute, the stabbers at the moon, the followers of free public selectors, the people who go to the races "just for fun", the players who are ignorant of the principle of winning, the people who do not keep up to date with all the new ideas and trends — all such people must lose. That is true because every cent of the purse money, the jockey fees, the track upkeep and amortization, the trainer's living, the plater owner's living — and the profits of the consistent bet winners — all must come out of the money lost by the careless and uninformed public.



Many of the richest in the country have 2nd homes here in Hawaii. Each year I count how many private jets come in as a gauge of the economy. The place is packed to overflow full of big new G5's with custom paint jobs. All is good as might be expected at new ATH's. No DC8's with restrictions on Saudi's with Covid.

The place is crawling with tourists and not just the usual grossly obese. This year the crowd is younger and more stylin' with the nice braids and cool leisure suits and headphones and thong bikinis.

SP 5000 next year?

Allen Gillespie writes:

The most applicable economic question for private jets and politics right now are the "Green New Deal" policies. Wall Street loves a free money subsidy. Fundamentally, the Greens seek to raise the price of energy to encourage substitution and conservation while subsidizing their donors. If you disagree you get locked up so you are forced to conserve. Obviously, this creates the paradox of Progressives following regressive economic policies and fascist political policies with a little mix of Cultural Revolution.

It has been well established that oil price "shocks" as defined by a 10% move above 3-year average have preceded 11 of 12 US Recessions by an average of about 5 months. This Bernanke paper suggests if the Fed reacts to the shock, then their actions will account for 2/3 of the damage - Powell indicated in Nov the central bank will be reacting.

In 2018, we had such a breakout and the yield curve later inverted by May with a curve shape indicating that Nov 2019 would be the peak, and the curve straightened out late April 2020.

We had another such energy breakout this October. The yield curve has not inverted this time but it has flattened but I think people are now substituting MEGA cap stocks for bonds which is why the largest of the large outperformed despite the dismal long-term track record of buying the largest companies.

Mid and Small Cap stocks made 60 day lows in December, which would be the minimum objective necessary to discount a recession. If a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP, and stocks lead by 3-6 months, then a 60 day low would represent the potential mid-point. I think the trade in 2022 would be long small and mid-cap name and short MEGA caps if they have been used as bond proxies once the recession is discounted. That trade may have started on The Almanac's January effect by date of the Dec options expiration.

Nature of recession - I believe 2022 will bring a inflationary growth recession. We are at the low point on the demographic U (peak Baby Boom 1957/1958 - low Gen-X birth year 1972/1973) (life cycle spending peak Age 50) - and millennials well into workforce. The exist of the Boomers and China production unreliability are driving up labor costs and goods costs likely in a structural way.

The Fed is reacting to the inflation data, but the 10-year realized inflation rate is 1.82% and the short-term numbers are much higher, so while they will move in the direction of tightening, at the end, we will likely still be left in a negative real interest rate environment. Once they blink, probably in late 2022 because of politics, crypto might have the biggest move yet unless Americans are able to completely roll the fascists.



From Human Error, by James Reason:

People often have an overwhelming tendency to verify generalisations rather than falsify them: this is a fundamental attribution error.

Whatever governs general proneness to everyday slips and lapses also appears to contribute to stress because certain styles of cognitive management can lead to both absent-mindedness and to the inappropriate matching of coping strategies to stressful situations.

Predictable potential for error is the inappropriate acceptance of readily available but irrelevant patterns.

Humans, if given a choice, would prefer to act as context-specific pattern recognizers rather than attempting to calculate or optimize.

Nils Poertner agrees:

so true. chess for kids = excellent - they learn to falsify a "winning path" by looking at all possible defenses of opponents. so many good projects now everywhere -eg St Louis Chess club for kids etc - also see Ben Finegold.

Duncan Coker offers:

Read an interesting book called Scatterbrain by Henning Beck. Humans makes tons of mistakes especially in repetitive, mundane tasks or difficult calculations. Computers do that way better. What the brain is quite good at is forming ideas based on connections, patterns, correlations, and intuition. We are also very good at adaptation and learning from mistakes. AI will be much better and grinding through terabytes of data. But human brains better at separating the wheat from the chaff and making sense of it all.


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