Monday, 28 February 2011

Everest - Beyond the Limit. TV show

As part of my fitness motivation I have been thinking about mountain climbing for the first time in a while. If I ever do want to do a "big climb", I do need to get in betrter shape. So this Sunday I went to the gym for 75 mins and had a much better time than previous. I didn't feel so rushed, and so could do some proper work. I ached a great deal this morning, so some good was done

I have then come across a Discovery Channel show on climbing Everest - a bit like Deadliest Catch in that it is a multi-part, reality TV show following a particular climbing season with one of the commercial climbing firms on Everest. It has to be said that I don't approve of Sherpas fixing lines all the way from the North Col to the summit and then amateur climbers dragging themselves up the ropes to the top. with sherpa assistance.

This has also prompted me to look through the current KE Adventures brochure and I am attracted to loads of trips, including Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Pyrennees, Peak Lenin, Mera and Island, and a huge route to K2. So now I have a few possible targets for when I am fitter

"The kids grow up" documentary

Friday, 25 February 2011

Emma and Linda's "Fitness Fiesta" and brownie making

Emma arrived back in Oxford around 9:00 last night after a regular day's work and a relatively slow journey back on the coach. Linda and I had been in an Irish pub where Linda has a couple of very big glasses of wine and gets a little tipsy, and where she buys a really poor drawing of me done by some guy in the pub. We have pizza out and then home via the garage to buy Phish Food - perhaps this isn't going to be a de-tox weekend afterall. Emma seems in very good spirits and was saying how happy she is generally at the moment.

So Linda and Emma are away for a few days at a fitness weekend in Nuneaton. I have a couple of days here on my own. My small contribution to their weekend is to make a tray of chocolate brownies this morning using the Jamie recipe in his 30 minute meals book. Surprisingly perhaps, they came out really well and the addition of pecan nuts on top and cherries within particularly good.

For the rest of the day I worked on the daily pack spreadsheet that we'll use from Monday and continued to follow the markets in real time. I would have really liked to have spoken to Jerome for an hour or so today but he is away with the kids and I haven't heard from him.

Spare time is mainly spent reading Jim Curran's book on K2

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Mountain Climbing theme

In Blackwells with Emma the other week, we bought a couple of books that were marked "3 for 2" but she struggled to find a third, so I choose Graham Bowley's No Way Down about the 2008 K2 disaster. Reading this the last fews days has re-kindled my enjoyment of mountain climbing books.

A few days ago I began sorting out the old TV recordings in the cupboard downstairs and have come across loads of climbing videos, including Jim Curran's excellent K2 Triumph and Tragedy. That has always been one of my favourite climbing films, but I have decided to re-read his book first. The multiple deaths in 1986 occur at camp 4 on the picture below. In 2008, they occur because the serac marked above the Bottleneck collapses and takes out the fixed ropes - hence "no way down"

It has been some years since I have been on this theme though i occasionally buy Trail Magazine and sometimes Adventure. I also still receive each year the brochure for KE Adventures. I have noticed they are running a 28 day trek which goes to K2 Base Camp. But I am so unfit at the moment, that such a trip would be out of the question. I mentioned the possibility of such a trip to Linda but she got cross that I could be thinking about such a thing when I should be thinking about the trading instead.
It seems ages since I went on those two winter mountaineering courses in Scotland - scene of my greatest climbing accident when I tumbled around 100 metres down a long snow slope when I caught a crampon on my trousers. I managed a regulation ice axe stop on that occasion but the others in my group were still amazed that I survived wholly unscathed. On that trip I took a day off the course later in the week and while on a walk through a forest saw the only golden eagle I have ever seen.
My climbing ambition had always been to climb Mera peak, a 6,300m Trekking peak in Nepal and the highest it is possible to get to without any advanced climbing skills. I have thought about maybe looking at doing that in 2013 when I will be 50. I suspect that if I leave it much later, my chance will have passed.

Latest Trading developments & some wild markets

We are now getting ready for the new systems to come online from next Monday. It has taken something like four weeks to complete this process and has been a major intellectual effort. I am beginning to feel the effect of the constant 12 hour days, weekends included.

Our major problem remains the estimation of worst case drawdown. Though we have lots of data available, we are not encountering many losing days. Of course I can estimate the loss from the standard deviation of the returns, even though we have few actual losing days. But this is a somewhat suspect approach. Our system's worse days tend to be fairly flat, while the main source of variance is upwards. This is clearly a good feature, but does make downside risk hard to assess. If we really believed the stats are correct, we could trade in quite big size. But for the moment we just need to be careful.

But one good thing in the last couple of days is that one of our markets has gone through a really wild phase. As North African nations tremble and tumble, oil is really wild. Earlier today, it experienced a 285 pts range in just 10 mins, which is higher than most day's total range. The trading systems worked fine through the day - indeed they did really well. But this has also blown out the statistics somewhat, also due to the inclusion of upside volatility. As a result, I have been reading up on various statistical methods that I could use instead of variance and standard deviation - things like semi-deviation and stats like the "Sortino ratio". But this has not been that successful so far.

My main trading-related reading remains Steenbarger's Enhancing Trader Performance. Progress on this has been slow but the book is excellent. Jerome is currently reading the prop-trading book I sent him about SMB trading.

On the other hand, I have also had a look at a book that promised much but has turned out to be completely absurd - Carr's Micro-Trend Trading. To get some feel of this absurdity, about page 80 it digresses into a discussion of how one should tithe 10% of your trading earnings. Apparently some passages from the Old testament prophet Malachi explain why this will result in your becoming even richer.

Much comment on the recent documentary about the financial crisis, Inside Job, which has just been issued in the UK. I have downloaded a copy and plan to watch it this weekend, along with a Discovery channel series about climbing Everest and some rugby.

As I write this I am listening to a superb live recording of Neil Young from 2009. A "greatest hits" type set. Most enjoyable.

Cool pictures from the Linda Rasche website of trading set ups. I am slowly working towards a 5 screen set up.

But perhaps what you really need is 16 screens

Mogwai in Oxford

It is half-term week and Linda has decided to accompany me to another concert after the success of seeing Hawkwind before Christmas. Tonight it is Mogwai at the Regal in Oxford. They are one of the few bands that I have bought pretty much all their records as they have come out. Their new album was released this week, but for the last two weeks I have been listening to a live concert recording of them in London to a small audience prior to this main tour getting going.

As expected, a show made up of lots of repetitive musical structures played at various volumes. Such a musical structure always reminds me of 1970s King Crimson. I have no idea why it is so effective, but bits of the show were quite magical, even though they didn't play 2 Right, my favourite track from the live show I downloaded.

Linda is left with ringing ears. No sure if the music was to her taste, but at least it was a rare evening out. I was reminded the other day about a show I saw back in 1987, Swans at the Town and Country Club in London. I didn't take Linda to that one - boy was that loud.

"Five balding 40 year olds from Scotland" according to one of the reviews I read of the Hoxton show. Is that a bad thing?

Friday, 18 February 2011

Getting back to normal

Slowly things are getting back to something like normal. But one never really knows what the alsting effects of the recent events could be.

I have been throwing myself in trading work developments - working 12 hours oplus per day till dropping off to sleep exhausted mid-to-late evening. Waking up at 4:30a.m. or so, I am having a constant run of great ideas - or so it seems

Reading has mainly been a 700 page sociological account of sex in Japan, Nicholas Bornoff's Pink Samurai (the author died recently and i was reminded about this book by his obituary in the paper), Patti Smith's excellent Just Kids, and Kristin Hersh's very odd autobiography, Paradoxical Undressing - the last two of which I bought with the Waterstone token I got for Christmas

Music is mainly the wew cds by Mogwai, PJ Harvey and Swans. I am most impressed with PJ Harvey's latest. Not sure I am that keen on the newest incarnation of Swans as it doesn't feature Jarboe, who I always took to be vitally important to the mature Swan's sound.
For me, the perfect Swans lineup
Swans in 1997 - the last tour. The Swans are Dead double cd is a superb live album. The versions of "Lavender" and "Blood Promise" are stupendous
For some years around 2000 I corresponded with Jarboe, as she had available other live recordings of Swans and was slowly developing her own solo material. Anhedoniac remains a really disturbing recording. As a result, I have loads of signed Jarboe stuff, rare recordings, etc.

A recent photo from her website - A artist well-worth supporting in my view. And still a very striking looking person!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

A really bad few days. . . .

The last few days has seen us go through one of the worst periods we have ever endured - worse even than the last fews days of my dad's life back in 2006

On the one hand, it was very unlucky that the event occured. On the other hand, it was very lucky that given that the event occured, things did not tuern out considerably worse than they did.

That is all that perhaps need be said at the moment.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Bjork - some live recordings

A live concert on Sky Arts from the recent tour, reminds me of how great a performer Bjork is, and how genuinely odd she is. I am constantly surprised that she has managed to retain an audience. But she is one of the few people who I look forward to hearing new material from.

I am pondering of celebrating my 50th birthday in 2013 by visiting Iceland! Midnight sun in June of course. Perhaps a camping trip to the wilds of the interior??

Trading psychology - enhancing performance

The last few days I have become somewhat obsessed with the question of elite performance. I have been of the view that Jerome hasn't been pulling his weight, not doing all that is necessary if we are going to succeed in our endeavour. I have been pondering on going ahead without him and have been generally berating him for the mistake that occur and the general feeling that he needs to work much harder.

This has largely been inspired by the book One Good Trade that I have been reading the last few weeks, an insight into the world of prop trading firms. This has emphasized the things they look for in prop traders and we don't measure up at the moment.

Jerome's response to the recent criticism has been positive. He has a much better feel for how much work I am currently doing and there has been some improvement in his own work ethic. i will send him this book soon
As recommended by Bellafiore, I have recently purchased Brett Steenbarger's Enhancing Trader Performance and that has set me off into more rages about our poor processes. Things have got to improve over the coming months

Full of insights into elite performance in all fields