Thursday, 30 September 2010

Freshers' Week Remembered

The Times had a feature last Saturday in which various writers shared their memories of Freshers' Week. Giles Coren suffers from severe hubris and will not join any society or be involved in any student event. Jeanette Winterton talks of the racism, sexism and snobbery of the Oxford Dons in the late 1970s (and doesn't really mention Freshers' week at all). Someone writes about their love of drama fostered by university and the many friends they made while at Manchester. Mary Beard writes a nice piece on starting classics at Cambridge in the early 1970s.

What are my abiding memories?

The overriding thing for me was that I had thought that Uni would be a clean start in comparison with my home town. Like many teenagers, I had felt that I didn't really fit in, and I had very much thought that at Uni I could make a fresh start. But it took less than a week for it to be become apparent that this wasn't going to happen. And it would be another half-dozen years at least before I really gained much insight into this.

I found my first few weeks at Uni really quite distressing. Everyone seemed to make new friends so easily while I didn't. The result? I changed degrees at the end of the first term and threw myself into my course. I attended 3 or 4 music concerts per week. I did experience much of the culture that London offers. But I made no lasting friends - and it is quite sad to read the writers in The Times as they talk of the many long-lasting friendships they made at University.

Emma is back from Africa

An early morning drive to Heathrow to meet Emma - back from Africa after more than four weeks away. Her trip has gone very well it seems. I was less sure about this trip than the Asian trip she went on previously, but it seems I was entirely wrong. This was a much-more touristy trip, with very little contact with the local population. It was mainly spent away from the cities and was dominated by viewing animals, camping and long drives.

Highlights including viewings of all the major animals that people want to see, plus a swing over the Victoria Falls - something that Emma is vowing never to do again.

Emma spent most of the rest of the day sorting out her 1,400 photos - we have a show in the afternoon and I am very impressed by it all.

For the next few weeks Emma's main priority is sorting out accomodation for herself and her three friends prior to starting work in November. I have a slight worry that this will prove harder toi do than Emma and her friends imagine - but we'll see how it all goes

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Back listening to the Velvet Underground

Post reading the Edie Sedgewick book, I have run through a sequence of related material. First up, the really bizarre film Ciao Manhattan, Sedgewick's last movie. The write-up in her biography indicated that this was a very strange film indeed - highly exploitative of Sedgewick in her final decline. And it has to be said that this is a very appropriate description. It is a strange mish-mash of what looks like several films, in which, in a somewhat self-referential manner, Sedgewick seems to play an actress playing Edie Sedgewick. She is clearly well passed her best, indeed it is hard to say it is the same person who was at the Factory just five years earlier.

I would have never guess that this was Edie Sedgewick

A very wasted Sedgewick, playing an actress playing Sedgewick - with a large picture of Sedgewick on the wall behind her
Then on to the Sienna Miller movie, Factory Girl. This has mixed reviews, though I rather enjoyed it. True it is not a deep psychological profile, but it is factually fairly accurate. The actor who plays Andy Warhol is pretty good I thought

Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgewick

Then onto a Warhol film, Vinyl. This appears briefly in Factory Girl, and is a fairly typical Warhol film. The single camera angle, little or no script. I though Gerard Malanga was good in it. Edie just sits to the right throughout - not doing much

A brief search reveals that I can't find Victor Bokris's book on Warhol that I had intended to read next, so instead I have moved onto his book on the Velvet Underground, Uptight. I have been trying to remember when I first heard the Velvet Underground. I remember that the first time I came across them was in the NME Encyclopedia of Rock Music which was my constant guide in the late 1970s as I became more and more obsessed with music. I think the first track of their's I heard was "Run, Run, Run" on either John Peel or the Friday Rock Show. I bought the first album and White Light, White Heat when I was 16 with some of my earliest pay packets from working at the restaurant

I have all the Velvet's albums now of course and have decided to have a serious re-listen over the next few days. So today I am listening to the 5cd Peel Slowly and See, then moving onto the Quine Tapes Bootleg set from a few years back.
The Velvet Underground, with dancers Gerard Malanga and Edie Sedgewick (yes, really the girl above)

On Youtube there is the following extraordinary clip of the Velvets playing Venus in Furs with Malanga and Sedgewick. Dramatic stuff - to think this was the mid-sixties!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Two documentaries

In the past couple of days I have finally got round to wathcing two documentaries that I saved from Sky Arts. First up, American Grindhouse, a documentary about various sub-genres of exploitation movies. This featured some quite incredible clips of various movies, virtually all of which I hadn't heard of, of course - grindhouse not really being a UK phenomena

Surprisingly perhaps, I was able to find loads of AG films available to download - classics such as Blood Feast, Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS, Psych-out (with Jack Nicholson), various biker movies and women prison movies, including the classics The Big Bird cage and The Big Doll House. Finally, the extremely odd Beach Party from 1963

If nothing else, as one interviewee says, they certainly had some great movie posters

My second documentary was Warhol's Factory. For the past few days I have been reading Nat Finkelstein and David Dalton's Edie Factory Girl which I acquired from the £2 remainder shop in Oxford last weekend. It is years since I read Victor Bokris's excellent biography of Andy Warhol and first came across Edie Sedgewick - apparently she was once considered for the Nico role in the Velvet Underground!

I was also able to find Warhol's Vinyl for download. I'm pretty sure there was a recent movie about Edie Sedgewick, I just can't remember what it was.
Addendum - turns out the recent film is called Factory Girl with Sienna Miller in the lead role

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Winona Ryder - back in the news

For the first time in ages, Winona Ryder is back in the news - at least to the extent of reading the top of Yahoo's trending list. These have been sparse times for us card-carrying members of the Winona Ryder fan club. In fact, apart from the recent Star Trek role, I haven't seen a film with her in since Alien's Resurrection.

As good an excuse as any to look for pictures of Winona

Apparently a very recent picture of her - she is now nearly in her forties. Can it really be nearly 25 years since Heathers first brought her to my attention?

Looking very fit and healthy!

One of my favorite Winona pictures - very sexy in my view

I have this t-shirt, bought when Winona was on trial - on the rare occasion I still wear it, it still gets comments!

Perhaps my favorite Winona picture - the cover of a US magazine years ago

Monday, 20 September 2010

Week three of trading begins & current music

Hunting round other spread betting sites, I have come across Worldspreads and their claim that for ten markets they are willing to quote prices with no spreads attached. We estimate that spreads will consume about one-third of our gross profit, so the idea of lower spreads is hugely significant for us. Searching their website, I discover that it only applies to one type of account but we seem to meet the criteria for this. Also, three markets that we either trade or plan to trade are including in the ten. So I have applied for an account and we'll wait and see. I can't help thinking that there must be a very significant catch somewhere in this

We are now just about ready to trade multi-systems on each market. So from Monday, it will be two systems for crude oil and euro-$, and one for US equities. We might also be ready to add the DAX equity future if I can finish the research in time

Then I stumbled across a supplement with the Independent on Spread Betting which featured the chief executive of Worldspreads claiming that punters will take advantage of the zero spreads but then also trade other things with them at normal spreads - he could be right about this. It has certainly attracted our attention

Also in the last few days I have rediscovered the music of SPK - now there was a band to be reckoned with. I saw them once at the ICA and they nearly burnt the place down.

Typical SPK live scene
Sinan - briefly the singer with SPK and someone I rather fancied at the time

And also PJ Harvey, who I haven't listened to for a while. I have been enjoying youtube clips of her at the Reading Festival where she wore her amazing boots, mini skirt and bra outfit.

One of the sexiest photos of anyone ever in my view

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Our first really good trading day

After a week or so in which we have generally lost small amounts of money, we have finally had a decent winning day. All three markets made lots and we have eliminated half the small loss we had incurred.

Having said that the systems were now frozen for the next couple of weeks, I have been working on one or two other ideas and one of these was rolled out today (and did really well, making about half the day's profits). The new innovation is another counter-trend system, but one that trades less than the current systems, makes a very high percentages of winning trades (>75%), but has the occasional big losing trade (when a really strong trend gets underway). It seems to blend well with the other systems as well. So that was rolled out this morning and we are both pretty happy with how to trade it.

It was actually me trading for most of the day. This should have meant that I had a quiet morning so I'd be reasonably fresh to take on the trading shift from 2:30 to 9:00. But inevitably I ended up working on stuff in the morning.

So Jerome collected his kids in the afternoon from school and then took them to Ikea in search of one of those chairs that you kneel on and which are really good for your back. He then proceeded to lose one of his children in Ikea and when he eventually found him, he had managed to lose the other's coat. Nonetheless, even after this trauma, he was willing to take over the last hour of trading as I started to wilt.

And some other good news - the final block of initial capital has been arranged and should arrive this week. Then I can open the proper accounting books and we can start to build the trading size. I do have to do some thinking about where the un-margined cash is held though. At present we are trading about one-fifth of full size as we hammer out the day's routines, etc. I would like to be full-sized in perhaps a month's time. Then a day like today will make over £2000 and an average week maybe twice that.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Last night, our chosen movie was The Disappearance of Alice Creed, a low budget English film starring Gemma Arterton, who seems to be everywhere at the moment, what with The Prince of Persia (where Emma thinks she is great as the fiesty princess) and Tamara Drewe, which I am very keen to see having re-read the "graphic novel" recently.

Tha main comment I had read about this movie was that it was a brave performance by Arterton - afterall she is tied naked to a bed with a ballgag in her mouth early on in the film. Indeed I read an interview with her when the movie first came out talking about this very fact. But any suggestion that her performance has an sort of erotic undertone is completely incorrect. The film is a little odd with two really surprising moves that rather took Linda and myself by surprise - the shock when she finds out that she knows one of the kidnappers and the shock when it turns out that the two male leads are gay and were lovers in jail.

But overall we rather enjoyed it. Arterton is very good, though I doubt we would have guessed it was her if we hadn't known beforehand. Indeed all three members of the cast are pretty good - yes, it only has three cast members, only two indoor locations and hardly any outdoor shots - this really is low budget!

Not sure we would have recognised Gemma Arterton

She does have very nice legs!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Plans for our "naughty" weekend away

In a few weeks time we have a short and we hope rather naughty break planned in Wales. Much planning is going into this and we are hoping to have quite an experience! Among the many plans we have is that we are going to play a role playing game of "model-photographer" with Linda choosing some racy outfits and me (hopefully) producing some very naughty photos

As part of this plan, we are both looking separately at an adult toys website where we will both be buying something for the trip. The item that has most caught my attention is something called a "force orgasm tower" to which one may attach one's slave, position one's favorite vibrator in the "handy holder", switch it on and leave your slave to "enjoy themselves". Apparently, the item breaks down into a convenient form for transport, but at £332m it is a touch pricey I thought. I do rather like the idea of this though. I wonder how Linda would react!

There is a rather racy photo on the website of a young lady apparently enjoying this apparatus. I briefly copied it here but have now decided it is too racy

Another choice, and somewhat similar is the "Doggy-style sex-machine". I was rather struck by the rather attractive young lady who is demonstrating this on the website. I wonder if she was a regular model hired for the session and was then presented with this? This kit is £550 however.

Finally, and far more in my price range is a remote controlled vibrator. I rather like the idea of going down to dinner one evening with Linda dressed up but alway wearing this. Of the three items reviewed so far, this is defintely the most likely choice!

Friday, 10 September 2010

First full week of trading with Jerome

Even though I had done quite a lot of practice trading, this has been a huge learning experience for us both. Indeed I am quite shocked about the huge number of issues we have come across and which we have made numerous little changes to our routines. I had thought we were in good shape a week ago, but so much needs to be addressed - much of it the sort of thing you only discover when you actually start

Jerome is coming up for the day tomorrow and we have a huge list of points to address - 26 at the current count. One or two are now perhaps academic, and one or two are not high priorities, but most of the other issues are urgent. Most importantly, we are simplifying some of what we do. I tend to be a constant tweaker and I really have to stoo doing this. So I have vowed that whatever the systems that we agree precisely on this weekend, that I wont make any changes to them in the the next two weeks. Some of the changes I made this week were poorly thought out and resulted in loses we needn't have made. So it is back to basics - the raw system that I've had in place since June. No bells and whistles, just the raw result

So one thing I am rather thankful for is that we started small. We haven't made a profit this week, indeed we have a medium sized loss. Nothing out of the ordinary but at least half the loss reflected the failure to stick to the raw systems. So hopefully we will simplify things this week and get going properly next week

Monday, 6 September 2010

Week one of trading starts here

It is Labor Day in the USA and markets will be quiet. After much thought, I had reached the conclusion that this could be quite good for us. Maybe markets would gently ebb and flow all day enabling us to take 10 or 15 points all day long.

Sadly it was not like that at all. Markets were deathly quiet, staying in tightly bound ranges all day (often as low as five points for hours on end). When they did move, it was a sharp spike move up-down or down-up, which again doesn't suit us. So not a good day. The one bright spot is that our slippage for the 47 trades we did was negligible. Maybe 2.5 points in total. If this is representative of the real figures, then things will be better than we thought by some way. Indeed, the actual result could be 35% better than I expect - now that would be something.

So it is not all doom and gloom on day one of our trading adventure

Camille visits Spiral Jetty

A couple of years ago, daughter Emma and I ran a yoga retreat at the Chateau de Rodie in the Quercy region of south-west France. This was a property that could have held many guests and so I persuaded one of my yoga teachers, Camille, to come and stay with us - bringing her mum and dad, and baby Ina. She really is a great yoga teacher - somewhere I even have a 30 minute video of Emma and myself being taught by Camille. Wonder where that is?

Now it seems she has moved to Utah - not sure why - and she has been to visit Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, one of the great land art works and something I am desperate to see one day (that and Walter de Maria's Lightning Field)

A stunning photo - and it seems Camille is pregnant again

Another fine photo - I am greatly impressed

Friday, 3 September 2010

What we've learnt in just the last two days . . .

Jerome has been working hard on the details of trade execution and has discovered one or two interesting things already. First of all, he placed around 40 actual trades, getting 38 trades more or less exactly on the expected fill. But in 2 cases, his fills were out by a cumulative 25 points, which is pretty poor. This revealed that his orders were taking a long time to reach the broker, and the price had moved by more than the broker's filter, so were rejected - by a "long time", we mean about 7 seconds.

This prompted a long series of tests of Jerome's computer equipment eventually involving the need to investigate the computer's registry. This is always a slightly nerve-wracking thing to do, but revealed, with the aid of a utility, that there were a number of registry problems. Fixing these and re-testing with the broker suggested that the time delay had been cut to less than 0.2 seconds. That might mean that we get filled more or less exactly in line with the market.

One of my "key variables" that still needs adequate testing is trading "slippage" - the difference between what we think we should get for a trade price and what we actually get. For modelling purposes I have assumed this is at least -25 points per day. But Jerome seems to think it should be lower than this, maybe even less than 10. A 15 pt gain on slippage would be excellent news. In about two week's time I should know the actual number to high accuracy.

Then Jerome discovered a method to load our trade size into pre-set deal tickets and to have these displayed all the time. Previously we had been pondering on the occasions when several trades are supposed to be done simulaneously and had assumed that they could take 30-45 seconds to actually fill say, three trades. But the pre-set display might cut this to as low as 5 secs to do 3 trades, so a major possible source of slippage might not apply.

Finally, my own research has suggested that we should only use the wide stop methodology rather than more complex methods that we have been looking at over the past few weeks. Each market still requires one more key variable to be set, but we have initial estimates which should be ok until the research is finished on this point.

Friday's economic data gave a good case study again in what we should be doing. We were the right way round in 2 markets as the news hit, wrong in 1 and neutral in the 4th. So good gains in a few seconds. But if we had been wrong, no stop strategy that we have looked at would have done better than the single, "big stop" idea.

We then discovered that Monday is actually a US holiday so trading will be lower than normal This could be a good thing, so maybe we will just trade as normal and see what happens.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Jerome's first trading day - the joys of ipod shuffle

Jerome has set up a "test" account at our brokers where he can trade in tiny size while we sort out the day-to-day mechanics of trade recognition, execution, follow up, etc. So today, at 6:45 a.m, he placed the first four trades he had identified and set about trading the entire day in line with our chosen methodology. By the time we stop at 9:00pm, we have learnt an incredible amount. Generally Jerome was able to identify the trades and execute them - maybe just two cases where things didn't go exactly to plan, which is not bad for day one.

All day we had an instant messenger programme running so Jerome could ask questions as the day progressed, and tell me what trades he had done. This could be what we do most days. Meanwhile I tidied the study, which, as the dissertation work progressed, has become increasingly chaotic.

For the duration of the day we both have our ipods on shuffle and chat about what each of us has heard during the day. I was pleasantly surprised by this way of listening. Several songs I didn't know, some I knew well and haven't heard for years, some I was tempted to jump over. Highlight for me - a track I'd never heard before by someone called Daniel Lentz from a CD called "On the Leopard Alter".

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Not a student any more!

I am sort-of officially not a student anymore.

One last check through my dissertation first thing this morning, then a careful print out of two copies and a version in Word format. Around 8:00 I am off to London to deliver it. In chill out mood now it is finished and so reading Posy Simmond's Tamara Drewe on the coach up. This is coming out as a film in a week or so and is being heavily advertised. Stars the lovely Gemma Arterton in the lead role it seems.

Gemma Arterton as Tamara Drewe

I was at LSE around 11:00 having gone shopping at Camisa's Deli in Soho on the way down. Strange to think that I have been shopping at this deli since 1981.
Then, with no further ado, it is time to drop everything off with Tom in the Philosophy Department office and by 11:30, that is it. Technically I am a student still until the results come out in December. But it feels like that is it
Haircut at the LSE barbers, then a walk to the National Gallery to see the show about fake paintings. There is a rather stunning Japanese girl walking round the exhibition ahead of me. I was reminded of a book I read years ago called something like All the Girls. It was a "travel" book in which the author travelled the world bedding girls in each country he visited. I remember thinking once that this would be a trip worth doing - and an interesting cultural experience too! Would any nationality be really hard - maybe Innuit?

But I am actually keen to get home and catch up with Jerome about our planned approach to starting trading. We have two practice days this week and then go live on Monday (though in small size). This remains a tremendously exciting thing to be starting. So I am home around 5:00 and we have a chat for an hour or so. Then I set to work on next version of the trading schedules.
Recurring computer problems over the past few weeks have been put off as I finished my dissertation (written on a different computer). Tonight I may have fixed the main problem by deleting my existing anti-virus software and loading a different one. Fingers crossed.
A "celebratory" meal tonight of M&S chicken tikka masala which I don't enjoy