Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book forty: Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

The cover states this tale is about a Wall Street revolt. And it is. One person with a higher moral compass and greater ethical standards found a few others with the same. They uncovered the truth behind high-frequency trading, and then sought to create a platform on which investors and sellers could meet and trade without anyone gaming the system.

What a tale.

I'll admit, I still don't have a firm grasp of how it all went down. There are Russian programmers, dudes laying pipe for cables, the biggest Wall Street firms, and a host of other characters. They took a system, computerized it, and then, like the slots in Las Vegas, rigged the system so they could reap the profits and minimize the risk only to themselves. And no one really wanted to do anything about it because, hey, when you're having the most fun at the party, why turn the lights on.

After finishing, I suggested to Darr that we move our retirement fund to the Royal Bank of Canada because the guys working there really are nicer up there. They believe in the system working fairly for all participants, not just the high-frequency traders. To their credit, those guys admitted the value of high-frequency traders. They recognized the place HFTs could have in the system, but they also realized the need for a system that allowed them to play without letting them have an advantage that created an unfair playing field for everyone else. (They were essentially legally ripping off the very investors they were working for. Tsk, tsk.)
The Puzzle Masters* spent days working through the many order types. All of them had one thing in common: They were designed to create an edge for HFT at the expense of investors…"[With] every rock we turned over, we found a disadvantage for the person who was actually there to trade." Their purpose was to hardwire into the exchange's brain the interests of high-frequency traders–at the expense of everyone who wasn't a high-frequency trader.     -pg 171
"Electronic front-running"–seeing an investor trying to do something in one place and racing him to the next…"Rebate arbritage"–using the new complexity to game the seizing of whatever kickback the exchange offered without actually providing the liquidity that the kickback was presumably meant to entice…"Slow market arbitrage"…occurred when a high-frequency trader was able to see the price of a stock change on one exchange, and pick off the orders sitting on other exchanges, before the exchanges were able to react…All three predatory strategies depend on speed.     -pg 172
By the summer of 2013, the world's financial markets were designed to maximize the number of collisions between ordinary investors and high-frequency traders–at the expense of ordinary investors, and for the benefit of high-frequency traders, exchanges, Wall Street banks, and online brokerage firms.     -pg 179
[Re: Dark pool arbitrage] IEX had build an exchange to eliminate the possibility of predatory trading–to prevent investors from being treated as prey…Almost magically, the banks had generated the  need for financial intermediation–to compensate for their own unwillingness to do the job honestly.     -pg 229 

40 down plus 12 to go.

*Puzzle Masters were the ones hired to design a system so that traders using it would be safe from the unscrupulous actions of HFTs. (Again, noting that not all HFT behavior was untoward.) In doing so, they figured out the ways in which HFTs stalked their prey, and were able to diagram the predatory tools used.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book thirty-nine: Kenny & the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi

This book is one excellent read.

Rumor has it there is a dragon on the hill so Kenny sets off to find it*. What he gets is a distinguished, non-threatening creature who quickly becomes his best friend. (Because who doesn't want to be friends with a dragon, am I right?) But there's a problem. The townsfolk believe they are in danger. The king brings the best knight out of retirement to take care of the problem. Will Kenny be able to save the dragon? Will the townsfolk realize the error of their beliefs?

39 down plus 13 to go.

*With his parent's support, no less, because in this book parents value fostering independence and exploration in their kids regardless of risk, unlike our society today. Tsk, tsk, current society.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Kid Day

Hen came up with the idea of Kid Day. Kid Day is a day when the kid gets to decide what he wants us to do and we are required to say yes to the majority, if not all, of the requests. Which sort of seems like every day to me but the not saying no bit is new. I turn down a ton of Hen's requests.

Anyway, our Kid Day started with a bike ride.

Here's a pic of our route:
14.6 miles

  1. Breakfast at Pine State Biscuits
  2. Ride over the Hawthorne Bridge
  3. Brief stop at Bill Naito Legacy Fountain (mama fell and needed to stop a little bleeding)
  4. Rock climbing at the Japanese Memorial Plaza
  5. Say hi to the Mounted Police horses
  6. Stop at Posh Boutique to check out toy selection (not very good for the 6+ crowd)
  7. Browse much better toy selection at Child's Play (one toy is purchased)
  8. Hit Salt & Straw (Hen has Chocolate with Gooey Brownies, I get Honey Lavender)
  9. Flat tire fix at 21st Avenue Bicycles (thanks to papa for the assist)
  10. Tiny amount of water play at Tanner Springs Park
  11. Say bye to the horses
  12. Ride over the lower deck of the Steel Bridge
  13. Bike along the Eastside Esplanade
  14. Finish our ride on the Springwater Corridor
Phew. We made it. 

Hen chose to watch an episode of Pokemon and is now playing with the grandson of our neighbors upstairs. I'm ready for a nap.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

First Official Lemonade Stand

Organic lemons $3.99 a bag
3/4 cup sugar

The kids and I were very careful during lemonade production. The counters were wiped down with a disinfectant, our hands were washed (multiple times), the containers were cleaned before use, and the kids created hairnets out of the netting the lemons came in to keep errant hairs from falling in the juice.

We then spent a few minutes creating signs for our stand. Hen made the Lemonade sign, Avery made the Free and #becausefutbol* signs.

We had a pretty good turnout, I think. There were several people so accustomed to paying they completely missed that it was free. But the majority who stopped donated money. We made sure those folks who weren't carrying cash on them knew it was for free and were delighted when they enjoyed a cup on us. 

Comments included: 

"I love it. Real sugar. That's great."
"Wow. This is really good."
"Did you guys make this?"
"Can I have a bit more?"

The kids were great at getting the attention of the passersby and convincing them to come over. They referred to those heading in our direction as "walkers," which, for the uninitiated, are what the folks call the zombies in The Walking Dead. That was good for more than many laughs, for sure. "More walkers are coming!" (hee hee)

When all was said and done, we helped quench the thirst of lots of people and received $14.50 in donations, which we'll give to either the Oregon Humane Society or Heifer International.

Of course, there were pictures…
Get the flash player here:

*Doesn't make any sense but made me happy to see. Methinks I loves me some soccer.

Shrinky dinks, SHRINKY DINKS!

Hen has discoverd Pokemon and Shrinky Dinks and is having a fantastic time making Shrinky Dink versions of his favorite characters. We are currently waiting on an order of extra Shrinky Dink material to make more.
Ash Ketchum, pokeball, Dragonair, Pikachu, Sandshrew, Snivy, and Sewaddle. (I think.)

For Avery, who very much loves Frozen, I traced an Olaf. We added a hole towards the top, and once it was colored and shrunk, we made it into a piece of jewelry.

Knitting: Children's Circlet (crown)

Miss Avery requested a knitted crown and I was lucky to find this free pattern called Circlet by Dani Sunshine. It was a super easy pattern once I learned how to MB*.

*Make bobble - k1, k1tbl, k1, k1tbl, k1 (all into 1 st), turn work, slip 1, knit 4, pass the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th st over the first st on right hand needle (1 st remains). 

Friday, July 11, 2014

New saying from the wee one

Hen's a funny kid. Lately, he's taken to say "knew it!" whenever you point something out or try to explain something. For instance,

Me: The sun sets in the west.

Hen: Knew it!

I don't know why but this makes me chuckle. He was born, he didn't know anything, he hardly knew anything, and now we've reached the stage where he knows it already.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Return to Frog Lake

We Oregonians are a lucky bunch to be able to drive to such a beautiful place and have a majestic mountain as our backdrop. 
Frog Lake, Mt. Hood - Mia, Hen, Elliot, & Alice

Book thirty-eight: Tempting Fate by Jane Green

A fast, easy, predictable read. It had one of those "Lucky Titles" tags so I grabbed it the last time we were at the library.

I met my best friend for brunch a few days ago and when I saw her I recommended it right away. When she said something similar to, "Oh, it's really good?" I couldn't quite say yes, but I do think she will enjoy it.

The premise - the main character is a woman in her 40s who, after years of caring for her family (husband and two girls) and being a homemaker, has a night out with friends that forever changes her life. She meets a younger man, and he makes her feel wanted and alive. Even though she deeply loves her life and husband, she starts up a dangerous friendship with this man. (You can probably see where this is going.)

If I were still using my book rating system of yore, this book would fall squarely in the 4 category.
4 = Any text purchased at airport travel shops that I can finish by the time my trip is over even though I’ve only opened up the book while on the plane. Books of this nature include formulaic pulp fiction by John Grisham, Dean R. Koontz, Danielle Steele, and Jackie Collins. (To be fair, I haven’t read Danielle Steele since the tenth grade.)

38 down plus 14 to go. Woohoo!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Fourth of July barbecue

Old school fireworks

My brother's ribs, beef and pork

Hen watching the fireworks

One of many

Kids enjoying the festivities

To view the whole album, click here.

Homemade root beer

Hen's homemade $10 root beer is delicious!

Recipe Corner: Cashew Butter

I saw this recipe and decided, you know, since I have a food processor, why not?

Hen and I picked up raw whole cashews at Trader Joe's and the morning of Independence Day we got right to work. My nut stages during processing didn't seem to quite line up with the ones listed at The Healthy Foodie but our result was the same - warm, creamy, delicious cashew nut butter. The process does work the food processor pretty hard so we took several breaks to make sure we didn't burn up the motor.

2 cups raw whole cashews
½ tsp vanilla powder
½ tsp salt

Combine all the ingredients in the food processor bowl. Turn it on and process until the nut oils are released. Continue to process until nut butter is nice and smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed. Be sure to stop for breaks as the process takes nearly half an hour to complete.

Enjoy. It is really good on a piece of toast in the morning with a cup of tea. Mmmmm...