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7th October 2016

11:38am: Well, that made for an interesting morning.

Polemic Paine describes the hilarity that ensued:
It’s the small hours of London Friday morning for me and the reasons for GBP's freediving world record attempt haven’t yet been formulated. Now I'm afraid that if you started reading this expecting me to tell you what is going on in GBP, then sorry, I don't know. But having worked in FX for a good chunk of my life I can have a good guess at what is now going on in the banks.

First, every salesperson is struggling to call all their clients who had 'call levels’ at zones never expected to be hit, whilst trying to fill orders in systems at levels that they think they can get away with. Oh, hang on, no they can’t do that anymore as they need audit trails. So, they will all be huddled around spot desks arguing over whose order was hit at what. Said spot dealers will be shouting a lot and staring at an automated blotter that is slowly dripping in a queue of trades that their antiquated order and back office system in some far off distant place on the planet is trying to process. Basically, there will be a lot of ‘WHAT THE FUCK IS MY POSITION.. ARRRGH ‘ going on.

Meanwhile, clients will be calling in demanding to know why their stops were done 7% below current market and why no one called them. Because if they had been called they would have bought it back at 8% below current markets because they are all retrospective geniuses.

Managers will be trying to recite the rules of engagement for filling stops but can’t find them so call compliance. However, compliance is asleep because they are mostly based in Head Office and that isn’t in the Antipodes, apart from the Antipodean banks whose compliance officers will be teaching some course to the catering staff on how not to deal with Yemeni banks.

By now the dealing systems will be catching up with what's going on and the spot traders now fit into two categories:-

Group 1 who look at their position screens and see a vast profit who split into groups 'A' and ‘B'. 'A' stays very quiet knowing that sales will want some of the profit if they see how much it is and ‘B' who stand up and declare themselves as trading Gods.

Meanwhile Group 2, on seeing vast losses, immediately write emails to every manager under the sun blaming their staggering losses on system latency and the ridiculous guaranteed stop levels that sales made them undertake. If they are lucky management will swerve the losses into a contingency book, but if they are unlucky and the bank was thinking of replacing them with a 'Raspberry Pi’ algorithm, they will be out of the door by close of Friday.

But back to sales. Those that are still on the phone are quoting the reason for the fall on anything that they feel everyone else is saying because no one has a real clue. They will probably repeat what JPMChase or Goldman say as they reckon that the guys there are cleverer than them and more likely to know. So, clients will currently be being told that it is due to- "Barriers being hit at 1.25, 1.20 , and 1.15" and if they can't even manage that will say "Stop losses”, which is a great generalised term that demands no justification. But some foolish folk will have done a Bloomberg News search for GBP and decided that it is due to the news that fracking had been allowed in North West England. Which is of course rubbish, because we all know that it happened because Diane Abbott was made the shadow Home Secretary.

By now very senior management will have come down to the dealing room. Bearing in mind this is out of London time zone, the senior managers involved will have absolutely no idea whatsoever about Sterling so will ask questions to frantic spot and sales folks along the lines of "Has Brexit been announced?" or "is this is a big move?" The frustrated dealing staff will have to tread a thin line with them, alternating between wanting to tell them to piss off and ingratiating themselves with them as, with the size of the losses they can see, they may well be up before them the following morning.

4th October 2016

7:00pm: Citymapper begins covering Moscow.
My favorite public transport app, Citymapper, added coverage of Moscow today.

After a brief bit of testing and poking at it on my Android device my only complaint so far is that while they have integrated metro, bus, trolleybus, tram, elektrichka, and even bikeshare data, they apparently have not included the Aeroexpress rail services to the three major airports.

Attention digitalemur. :)

28th September 2016

6:17pm: André Spicer on "How organisations enshrine collective stupidity and employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door":
We found many ways that all kinds of organisations positively encouraged intelligent people not to fully use their intelligence. There were rules and routines that prompted them to focus energies on complying with bureaucracy instead of doing their jobs.
Now I want to read his book.

28th August 2016

9:02am: Matt Levine, describing banks in a way I think is generalizable to other large organizations:
It strikes me as a mistake to view banks as unitary entities that either internalize or externalize risk. A bank is not a group of managers and shareholders and creditors who get together and decide jointly and sensibly how much risk they each should take (and how much they can offload onto the rest of the economy). A bank is a system of different groups -- managers and employees and shareholders and creditors and regulators -- who sit around separately deciding how much risk they can offload onto each other, without the others noticing. "The rest of the economy" is just another outlet for that risk.

22nd July 2016

11:29am: Donald Trump has just completed his hostile takeover of the Republican party.

We'll see what he does with it now.

11th July 2016

4:40pm: PSA: Pokémon Go's Google Account access.
TechCrunch reports Pokémon Go sometimes silently gains full access to your Google account.

This behavior is mostly being reported on iOS, but has also been found on Android. It does not happen on all phone/OS combinations. No pattern has yet been reported.

It's probably best to sign up using a Pokémon Trainer account. The servers are currently slammed, so this is difficult. Another option is to create a Google Account dedicated to Pokémon and use it for nothing else.

30th June 2016


Now that Boris Johnson has withdrawn from the race for Prime Minister, he's free to become Trump's Vice Presidential pick. #BoJo

It won't happen, of course. Those two egos are much too big for one ticket. It's pretty much the opposite of ticket balancing: two rich brash loudmouths from New York, one from Queens and one from Manhattan. Finally, putting those two hairdos together? Probably cause some tonsorial black hole, if the egos didn't.

(There are many articles about how Johnson's claims he'll renounce his American citizenship, but not one confirming he actually has. See this comment. Until it's a matter of public record I think we can file that with all his other questionable statements.)

29th May 2016

10:40pm: Someone has reported my Facebook account.
I figured this would happen at some point. I suspect someone who isn't one of my friends, but someone who either saw one of my public posts or saw a comment of mine somewhere.

I am irritated, particularly at the person who reported me, whoever they are. This was not, however, unexpected.

I have a number of options at this point, but I may not be back on Facebook for a while.
5:48pm: Allahpundit:
Speaking of Trump and Senate Republicans, here’s Mitch McConnell reassuring CBS News that American institutions are too solid to let President Trump get away with doing anything he wants in office. Why he thinks that, I haven’t the slightest idea. Public faith in government institutions, including and especially Congress, lies in ruins. There’s clearly a hearty appetite on both sides of the aisle for a “strong” executive who’ll impose his will even when the legislature won’t go along. Congress has been reduced to filing lawsuits to check Obama even though they’re supposed to be an equal branch. Given how quick Republican pols have been the past few weeks to roll over for Trump on the theory that Hillary Clinton and her party are worse, there’s no reason to think a Republican House or Senate would put up much of a fight once President Trump started indulging his inner caudillo. Meanwhile, Trump would have an open seat on the Supreme Court and many lower-court vacancies which he could fill with judges who take a, shall we say, forgiving view of executive power. America’s constitutional firewall against power-hungry presidents is weaker than ever, and if you listen to Trump for five minutes there’s every reason to think he’d be more eager than most pols to see how much power he could carry through the firewall in the name of Making America Great Again. And if he tries, rest assured that Mitch McConnell will be back on the Sunday shows, spinning for him all the way.

28th May 2016

9:13pm: "I've still got sand in my shoes..."

Not sure how so much sand gets in to them considering I never took my shoes or socks off. But there it is.

27th May 2016

11:25pm: The Sanders-Trump debate, which is never going to happen.
Charles Pierce wasn't too optimistic, but it turns out the first paragraph of his piece yesterday on the proposed Sanders-Trump debate turned out to be right on the money:
I am going to be a cockeyed optimist and believe, for the moment anyway, that Bernie Sanders "accepted" He, Trump's invitation to a debate prior to the California presidential primaries on June 7 purely as a shrewd political maneuver. I will believe, for the moment anyway, that Sanders "accepted" knowing full well that He, Trump has the roar of a lion and the heart of a chicken, and that He, Trump will find some convoluted reason to back out of the confrontation. Perhaps it might even be right before the debate goes on the air, thereby making He, Trump look evermore the fool, and giving Sanders a couple of hours of free airtime to state his case. Great move there, Spassky!
Today, Trump backed out:
Donald Trump will not participate in a debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee said Friday.

In a statement, Trump slammed Sanders, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and the Democratic nominating process, and said that debating the Vermont senator would be "inappropriate." Sanders' camp, in turn, accused Trump of flip-flopping on a "clash of ideas."
To me it looks like a success for Sanders. Trump's bluff called. People should do that more often.

David Graham of the Atlantic was broadly disapproving of Sanders (which I disagree with), but ended with this (which I think is spot on):
Both Trump and Sanders are unpredictable, inconsistent debaters. It could have been a snooze, or it could have been a fracas. It would have been loud, and the Queens-Brooklyn accent showdown would have been tremendous.
What it would have sounded like is a debate in an old-time New York City mayoral race. Like the one they had when this song came out:
1:35pm: Shocked, shocked I am that there could be violations of the Fair Housing Act by Airbnb hosts.

Renting while black. It's a thing.

(Obviously, be careful of the comments.)
1:48am: Public Service Announcement: If you're one of the unfortunates driving this long weekend along the Northeast Corridor of North America between Boston and Washington, be aware that the Connecticut State Police appear to have gotten approval for their officers to work some serious overtime.

There was as usual a "Welcome to Pennsylvania" cruiser trap sitting in the center divider of I-83 at the border with Maryland, but for sheer number and activity, the Connecticut State Police were unmatched today.

I saw many speed traps, a number of motorists pulled over and interacting with officers, and at least one police cruiser in hot pursuit, nearly all of them on I-84. And I was in Connecticut for less than two hours.

In other exciting news, I saw a rollover in the median on I-78 in Western New Jersey as well as a tractor-trailer that apparently hit the car that had rolled over. Fortunately for me they were in the other direction, so I also got to see the miles-long tailback that resulted from the emergency response.

Stay safe out there.

23rd May 2016

11:13am: Previously unnoticed problem with my cheap Chinese phone: The GPS in it sucks. I heard "GPS signal lost" from Google Maps every couple of minutes on the drive up last night.

The location finding is good enough for a transit app, but clearly not good enough for auto navigation.

20th May 2016

6:19pm: One glass of the house white at dinner, and now I have a headache.


Dating “often feels like the worst, most precarious form of contemporary labor: an unpaid internship,” Moira Weigel writes.

I wanted to highlight this review of Moira Weigel's “Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating”, a history of dating and courtship rituals in America over the past century or so. Now I'm interested in the book. (The headline and the page URL didn't grab me so much, but writers are not normally responsible for those.)

18th May 2016

10:34pm: There’s Beauty In My ‘Girl Culture’

I love the whole "I'm performing this for me, not for you" point of this post.
2:39pm: There was a recent article in the Cranky Flyer discussing JetBlue's expansion of Mint to more routes. Mint is their premium cabin service, and the article discussed the effect this might have in raising their competitors' standards for premium class service within the United States, which is notably sub-standard compared to premium class service overseas, even from US carriers.

You can fly from Boston to San Francisco in JetBlue's premium cabin, which they call Mint, for $599 one way. Not bad, particularly if you're going at short notice and you're being forced to pay walk-up pricing anyway. Six hundred dollars is pretty good for a lie-flat seat, nice food, and a private suite if you're traveling with someone.

I compared this to my benchmark transcontinental premium class offering, which is on Cathay Pacific between New York JFK and Vancouver. It also offers a lie-flat seat in business class, but it's $2,935. (It's an international three-class aircraft, so it also has an even nicer lie-flat seat option in first class for $3,732.) So the JetBlue offering is a pretty good deal, for what it is.

I hope they're successful. I don't generally fly in the premium cabin, but that pricing is within reach for a splurge.

(I own no shares in JetBlue and have no interest in the airline other than as a satisfied customer.)

JetBlue's page on their premium class service.

Cathay Pacific's page on their business class service.
12:55pm: Also: I feel like I'm swimming upstream against Facebook's algorithms, because when I post something cute about Maurice Sendak's reply to a child's fan letter, I get literally dozens of likes, and when I post a well-researched article on the Koch brothers withdrawing from national races in 2016, I get...three.

(I didn't post the Sendak post here only because it was a repost from someone else on my Facebook feed. If there's interest, I'll repost here.)

Edit: I have evidence that people thought that Koch brothers post was interesting because of the traffic it got on LiveJournal. Again, it's hard to tease out what is audience and what is algorithm, but on LJ I don't have to guess what an algorithm is doing to my posting visibility.
12:47pm: There's a piece in the Wall Street Journal about left-leaning and right-leaning Facebook feeds. I think it's flawed and I'm not linking to it.

I grant that Facebook is showing us what we want to see, but I don't believe that their one-dimensional model is truly reflective of what we get to see.

I have a lot of left-leaning friends. I get a lot of Sanders vs. Clinton ranting, mostly from crazy people my friends are apparently connected to somehow. I consider them noisy and annoying. But their existence makes it clear to me that there are multiple left-leaning feeds.

Similarly, there are multiple feeds on the right. Looking at the WSJ red feed I see nothing from us ‪#‎NeverTrump‬ people, which to me points to the problem with a one-dimensional analysis of Facebook's algorithms. (Or, donning tinfoil, it may mean that the WSJ is in the tank for Trump.)

Facebook has not yet presented me with pro-Trump articles, though I get my share of anti-Trump articles from a conservative viewpoint in my feed. This is after all what Facebook thinks I like, and they're right.

All this is to say that my own experience tells me that in fact Facebook's feed algorithms are much more nuanced than a one-dimensional analysis can show.

I have friends who have said they like being able to see a red-shifted feed. I endorse that. But it's not really something I miss from Facebook, because I already have RedState, the National Review, and The American Conservative in my normal political reading.

16th May 2016

2:53pm: Long and informative piece on the Koch brothers pulling back from this year's presidential race.
Koch allies say the brothers took tremendous interest in Bernie Sanders’ unlikely success — particularly his resonance with young voters who represent the future of the electorate — and drew stark conclusions about their own efforts. “Dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into elections doesn’t persuade enough people to achieve lasting change,” one Koch confidante says. “To achieve lasting change, the effort has to begin much earlier.”

14th May 2016

6:27pm: Followup to my most recent post. I've found the weasel words buried in the WMATA's SafeTrack plan (pdf) regarding all "extended hours", including late-night service on weekends: "Will reevaluate once system is in state of good repair".

Those are not the words of a transit operator committed to restoring late-night services.

You might get late-night Metrorail service back someday. But my guess is that you'll probably have to fight for it.
4:27am: WMATA and MBTA late-night closures
Because our cities think bar and restaurant workers should take ride-sharing services, Washington DC joins Boston in ending late-night weekend service.

Unlike other nearby cities whose transit authorities provide overnight bus services when their rail transit stops, there are no replacement buses for this closure.

(Don't even talk to me about New York. They're clearly out of our league.)
Current Mood: angry

6th May 2016

4:48pm: And now for the other UK election everyone's been anxiously awaiting results from!
The fix is in. The ship will be named the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

As a consolation prize, the ship's submersible drone will be called the Boaty McBoatface.

It's a Yellow Submarine! But nobody lives on it.
12:42am: Ben Howe, on Red State:

"I’ve been beating the drum of #NeverTrump everywhere I go the last several days and have been fortunate enough to have some networks offering me the air-time to do it. Interestingly, many on the right side of the aisle keep “warning” me that I’m being used by the lefty media who wishes to co-opt my message to fulfill their own dirty narratives.

"The problem with that warning is that I’m in full agreement with the dirty narrative being described.

"For the first time in my career, I am completely aligned with the talking points of the left on the GOP presidential nominee. He is a dangerous sociopath who uses xenophobic & racist dog whistles to stoke fear in masses of uninformed voters so that he can get to Washington and use the power of the pen to push billions of dollars to corporations as he cuts deals behind the scenes that benefit the most powerful and corrupt people in the world.

"Yes, we’ve actually nominated someone that sounds like he was created in a lab by Michael Moore."
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