Monday, August 30, 2010

Camping and Traveling With A Tent vs. Trailer And A Six Dollar Upgrade in Iowa

Two years ago, I set out across the country with my teardrop trailer, "trailie."  The past two years I have been traveling with my tent.  I receive questions asking which is better to travel with, a tent or a trailer.  As with everything, it's all about how you prefer to travel and what comfort level you are able to tolerate.

For me, I find it much easier to travel longer distances in a tent and I am one that doesn't get the "planner of the year" award. For that fact, a tent is much more versatile.  I can change direction at any time without reservations since some campsites will more likely take a solo camper with a tent as opposed to a trailer. I can make a uturn in the middle of the road if I see something I want to take a photograph of, and it takes the same amount of time to set up my tent as it does my trailer at a site.

Of course, I don't get all of the luxuries that a trailer brings, but in some cases...I can "upgrade" to a trailer site and get a better view.  Case in point...a week or so ago I camped in Iowa by taking an exit that I assumed would have camping facilities since there was a lake.  Both my map and handy camping application on my iphone told me otherwise, but I thought I would give it a try anyway.

Lucky for Max and I, there was a wonderful campground with plenty of availability.  When I checked in, I told the woman at the gate that I was camping in my tent and she immediately gave me directions to the "camping hill."  I took a swing by the hill to find an open field of grass with a few pegs in the ground marking "spaces" for people to set up their tent.  Each site was a hike from the parking lot and there were already a few families camped out by their rented plots of land.  They talked to each other as if they were at each end of a football field and music blaring to match.  Kids were running around all over the place and in the corner of the open field there was a solo man in a chair, staring at Max and I walking around to find a spot.

I went back to the station and asked if there were any other sites for the night.  At that point, she told me that I could select any site I wanted but would have to pay the full trailer price.  It was $12 for the "open field, good luck being rested" plot of land or a quiet spot on the lake for a mere $6 more.  It wasn't hard for me to make up my mind.  I chose the upgrade!  Max and I decided to live large for the night with our lake front property rental!

I thought about writing down the top reasons to camp with a tent or trailer, but here might be a better way to make a decision.  If you agree with most of the five qualities in either of these two categories, your decision has been made.

I should travel with a tent:
You don't mind sleeping an inch from the ground
You like hearing the noises of nature (and people) all night and all day
You like to live on the edge and sleep just a thin barrier away from people and wildlife
You like to save money in gas
You don't mind if it's too cold or too hot

I should travel with a trailer or RV
You want a comfortable even temperature and a secure shell to sleep in
You don't mind the cost of gas
You want the comforts of home
You want privacy and the option to hide from the world
You don't mind that you aren't allowed on all roads

Sunday, August 29, 2010

SP500 RVS 2.0 back to 1983...

This is a example of the historical equity returns for the SWING implementation of RVS on the Large SP Contract SP500 futures market first trade 1983, $1,000,000 allocation average trade size is $250,000. (0% profit reinvestment).

This is the first time that I have run this RVS version 2.0 model on data this far back...not bad...for nearly 30 years of Fed and government manipulated bubble blowing markets.

Musings With Amy In Columbus, Ohio

Amy and I have been online friends for a few years now.  I am not sure how we stumbled upon each other, but she sure does bring a smile to my face.  She writes a very witty blog under the title, "Amy Musings" that talks about her life and stories of her everyday adventures.

She has always been kind to me so I thought I would stop by to meet her in person for the first time.  She's always commented on the photos I take of Max so I think she may have been a little bit more excited to meet Max.

As soon as I arrived, it was as if I went to visit a pal I haven't seen in a long time.  She just moved into a new house so she gave us the grand tour over a cup of tea.  Max had a great time playing with her dog, Maggie and I felt right at home listening to her stories and meeting her husband and children.  We took the dogs for a long walk around the neighborhood and saw several deer on the lawn of a house that almost looked as if they had the popular lawn ornaments that I've seen across the state.  At the house, Max enjoyed watching her pet gerbils and perhaps mistook them for lunch.  He really didn't know what do make of them.  I think he wanted to be friends.

I am so glad I came to visit.  We headed off to an amazing breakfast place in the morning and then we were on our way.  It was a short visit, but one I won't forget.  Thank you for having us, Amy! You can become a fan of her blog on facebook by clicking HERE.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturated Fat, Glycemic Index and Insulin Sensitivity: More Evidence

Insulin is a hormone that drives glucose and other nutrients from the bloodstream into cells, among other things. A loss of sensitivity to the insulin signal, called insulin resistance, is a core feature of modern metabolic dysfunction and can lead to type II diabetes and other health problems. Insulin resistance affects a large percentage of people in affluent nations, in fact the majority of people in some places. What causes insulin resistance? Researchers have been trying to figure this out for decades.*

Since saturated fat is blamed for everything from cardiovascular disease to diabetes, it's no surprise that a number of controlled trials have asked if saturated fat feeding causes insulin resistance when compared to other fats. From the way the evidence is sometimes portrayed, you might think it does. However, a careful review of the literature reveals that this position is exaggerated, to put it mildly (1).

The glycemic index, a measure of how much a specific carbohydrate food raises blood sugar, is another common concept in the diet-health literature. On the surface, it makes sense: if excess blood sugar is harmful, then foods that increase blood sugar should be harmful. Despite evidence from observational studies, controlled trials as long as 1.5 years have shown that the glycemic index does not influence insulin sensitivity or body fatness (2, 3, 4). The observational studies may be confounded by the fact that white flour and sugar are the two main high-glycemic foods in most Western diets. Most industrially processed carbohydrate foods also have a high glycemic index, but that doesn't imply that their high glycemic index is the reason they're harmful.

All of this is easy for me to accept, because I'm familiar with examples of traditional cultures eating absurd amounts of saturated fat and/or high-glycemic carbohydrate, and not developing metabolic disease (5, 6, 7). I believe the key is that their food is not industrially processed (along with exercise, sunlight exposure, and probably other factors).

A large new study just published in the American Journal of Clinical nutrition has taken the evidence to a new level (8). At 6 months and 720 participants, it was both the largest and one of the longest studies to address the question. Participants were assigned to one of the following diets:
  1. High saturated fat, high glycemic index
  2. High monounsaturated fat, high glycemic index
  3. High monounsaturated fat, low glycemic index
  4. Low fat, high glycemic index
  5. Low fat, low glycemic index
Compliance to the diets was pretty good. From the nature of the study design, I suspect the authors were expecting participants on diet #1 to fare the worst. They were eating a deadly combination of saturated fat and high glycemic carbohydrate! Well to their dismay, there were no differences in insulin sensitivity between groups at 6 months. Blood pressure also didn't differ between groups, although the low-fat groups lost more weight than the monounsaturated fat groups. The investigators didn't attempt to determine whether the weight loss was fat, lean mass or both. The low-fat groups also saw an increase in the microalbumin:creatinine ratio compared to other groups, indicating a possible deterioration of kidney function.

In my opinion, the literature as a whole consistently shows that if saturated fat or high glycemic carbohydrate influence insulin sensitivity, they do so on a very long timescale, as no effect is detectable in controlled trails of fairly long duration. While it is possible that the controlled trials just didn't last long enough to detect an effect, I think it's more likely that both factors are irrelevant.

Fats were provided by the industrial manufacturer Unilever, and were incorporated into margarines, which I'm sure were just lovely to eat. Carbohydrate was also provided, including "bread, pasta, rice, and cereals." In other words, all participants were eating industrial food. I think these types of investigations may be limited by reductionist thinking. I prefer studies like Dr. Staffan Lindeberg's paleolithic diet trials (9, 10, 11). The key difference? They focus mostly on diet quality, not calories or specific nutrients. And they have shown that quality is king!

* Excess body fat is almost certainly a major cause. When fat mass increases beyond a certain point, particularly abdominal fat, the fat tissue typically becomes inflamed. Inflamed fat tissue secretes factors which reduce whole-body insulin sensitivity (12, 13). The big question is: what caused the fat gain?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Do as they promoting the bullish view again...suprise

James Altucher has to be one of the least thoughtful and insightful media guys out there, apparently he thinks he's a PM (Portfolio Manager) too...I guess he will go the way of Insana, Kudlow and Cramer...PM in the past tense - promoter in the present...Just watch this drivel and be-careful not to pay too much attention.

Adventures In Illinois

After I participated in the bike ride, there was much more fun to be had on my visit in Illinois.  I went to a local farmers market, watched the band "the pimps" perform, went to a concert on the grass at a winery and I photographed a senior portrait photo shoot with my friend Adriane's son, Jake.

I do appreciate it when my friends don't mind me showing up at the last minute to crash their plans and tag along for the adventure.  I tend to plan mostly day by day so I don't really know where I will end up and where I will be at any given time.  Lucky for me (not sure about Adriane), it was a weekend full of activities.

I had a great time doing a photo shoot with Jake. He chose the place to go which is a good thing since I had no idea where I was.  He plays the classical cello and wanted to include that in his shoot since it shows a part of who he is.  When I photograph people, I give very little direction on what I want them to do so they can look as natural as possible.  Being in front of a camera is a very vulnerable place to be for some people.  Jake didn't mind it at all and he wasn't concerned about how it looked or where he stood.  He was easy and went with the flow.  We didn't stay out for long as the clouds were looming in the distance.  Once we were finished, we walked along the highway back to the car.  He held his cello and I was following him with my camera in tow.  We must have looked like we needed help or at least looked like we were lost since a bus came by and stopped in the middle of the street to open the door and asked us if we needed a ride. We graciously declined.

The following day, we drove out to a local winery to enjoy a picnic and concert on the grass.  It turned out to be a beautiful evening and there were surprisingly about a thousand people who decided to do the same thing on the grass.  I wandered around with my camera to snap photographs of some of the activities that evening.

After a whirlwind of weekend fun, it was time to leave and head on our way.  Thank you for the slice of Bloomington, Illinois Adriane!  Max and I look forward to our next visit!

To see more of my portraits from the road, click HERE.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

SSO 34 RVS 2.0 covers great shorts

Photographs Published In Airstream Life Magazine Fall 2010 Issue

I wanted to take a pause on my travel blog adventures to mention what a thrill and honor it is to have a few of my photographs printed in the newest issue of Airstream Life magazine!

As you might have guessed, I love Airstreams.  I joined the Silver Sisters at a rally back in March and took a few photographs of the ladies having a great time together at lake San Antonio, California.  I wrote to Airstream about this wonderful group of women and their "unofficial" club and now they get to share their story with all of the readers of Airstream life in an article about the Silver Sisters written by Becky Blaton. I was even able to get in the magazine with a strategic timed group photograph. I was just keeping Holly (the yellow lab) company while we huddled together in the below normal, extremely cold temperatures in California last March.

I am thankful to the editor of Airstream Life, Rich Luhr for the opportunity to be the official photographer the first annual Alumapalooza event held in Jackson Center, Ohio last June and for publishing a few of those photographs in the newest issue of the magazine (to view current issue online click HERE).  It was a wonderful event to be a part of and I enjoyed meeting and getting to know all of the proud Airstream owners!  Some of whom I keep in touch with and will get the chance to visit with on the road...stay tuned!  Don't miss out on next year's Alumapalooza event!  You can click on their official event page to see what it's all about and register HERE.

If you want to get a flavor of what happened last June, I put together a little slide show of my photographs from the event that you can view HERE . I look forward to more Airstream adventures and owning my very own Airstream trailer someday.

The department of Treasury is hard at work...

A Treasury Department inspector general reported in June that, out of 2.6 million applicants for federal mortgage relief, 14,000 "home buyers" wrongly received tax credits and that in fact, 1,300 of them were living in prison at the time of filing, including 241 serving life sentences. Sixty-seven of the 14,000 received tax credits for the same house, and 87 more potentially fraudulent tax-credit applications were filed by Internal Revenue Service employees. 
It is common knowledge that American corporations avoid taxes by running U.S. profits through offshore "tax havens" like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, but a May Bloomberg Business Week investigation traced the specific steps that the pharmaceutical company Forest Labs takes to short the U.S. Treasury. Although Forest's anti-depressant Lexapro is sold only in the U.S., the company's patent is held by an Irish subsidiary (and since 2005, shared with a Bermuda subsidiary in a tax-code hocus-pocus that insiders call the "Double Irish"), which allows the vast majority of the $2 billion Forest earns a year on Lexapro to be taxed at Ireland's low rate (and at Bermuda's rate of zero). Bloomberg estimates that the U.S. Treasury loses at least $60 billion annually by corporations' "transfer pricing" -- enough to pay for the entire Department of Homeland Security for a year.
So, what should we infer from the above? IRS employees have an reasonable probability of being corrupt and corruption allows large American companies to get around the rules of the US. The reality is that we need a simple tax system that can be stated on one or two pages and we need legislative bills that are not filled with 2,000 pages of special interest elements by corrupt our current administration and most of the Legistlature, who never read them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The manipulators are at it again...welcome to the next bubble

In the past bubbles have been blown by regulated schemes that are designed to encourage mal-investment, speculation, alternate realities and ultimately wealth transfer. The theory is always that there is a completely new way to ignore a problem, that previous practicality was old fashioned and not reasonable relative to the "new" alternative.

Everyone in America needed to have house, because it was a new paradigm. Under both Clinton and Bush, the financial elite used every regulatory mechanism to force feed Americans real estate and legalized nearly any scheme that would allow the concepts to funnel money to Wall Street and make the inflationary debt money expansion scheme to look like a reasonable idea.

So far, this fine administration has also come out with one scheme after the other. This is not that different from most of the administrations in recent history. However, Obama has topped the list with his crazy Wall Street support, financial and regulatory schemes. 

Clearly, politicians either deliberately seek to mis-underestimate, misunderstand and mis-market schemes that are not good for their constituents but rather quite good for their buddies. The stimulus, FRE and FNM guarantees, bailout of JPMorgan, Goldlman Tax, AIG and other big banks and the absolutely disastrous healthcare plan are examples of deliberate deceptions that are not designed to benefit the people but the special interests and the subversive agenda. Ohh, I forgot to add Cap and Trade (and Tax), that's another Obama and Gore biggie.

I have discussed this issue before and its clearly a fraudulent scheme. There is no way to accurately measure or manage the tradable credits and the related products that will popup within cap and trade plan. There are lots of ways to distort and misuse the credits however and of course, the executives at JPM and Goldman Tax and Gore and Company will get quite a nice bonus for many years to come. I imagine Obama will have a corner office at any of these companies or many of them when he's out. There is no question about it, Obama (and most of the legislature too) is corrupt and his idea of "change that you can believe in" is more like "change only a few especially interested rich guys get to believe in". The rest of us have to pay for the fumblings if one wants to generously call them that. I am deeply disturbed by this president. Cap and Trade is a great example of the very same arguments applied to CDO, CMO, CDS crisis all over again. This is an example of legally regulated and created fraud and deception aimed at encouraging complacency and a false sense of security just like the FDIC, FHLN and Fed...and that has not been pretty so will get a lot worse.

Any wonder how we got fractional reserve banking to be to the point that there are NO longer real requirements for collateral from the banks and turned into a derivatives based ponzi money creation scheme?

This video is a good commentary on Cap and Trade and I thought it would be good to add to this post.

Taking My Cruiser, "Rusty" For A Spin In Illinois

Don't get me wrong, I don't just drive around the country with my rusted cruiser bungee corded to the back of my car just to make my ride look stylish, sometimes I actually get on it and take it for a ride.  More specifically, two times I have taken it off for a spin.

Today was one of those days.

I drove to Illionis to visit my friend, Adrianne.  I am usually last minute on planning things so I told her not to worry about her plans and that I would tag along and do whatever she already had plans to do.  On this particular day, it was the weekly meeting of the Bloomington Women's cycling club for their evening ride.  I warned Adrianne that I only had a cruiser, flip flops, no helmet, no fancy bicycle clothes and only one speed for the ride.  She assured me that this was a "fun ride" for all levels.

When I arrived at the shop, I met the ladies and some looked at me and said, "awww, you're not going to join us this evening?" (as I wore flip flops and walking shorts). When I pointed to my cruiser they looked at it and paused to think of the correct words instead of the, "are you kidding me" that most likely went through their head.  I even joked that I found it on the corner with a "Free" sign attached to it and one woman nodded her head and said, "oh, that makes sense. "

I didn't mind.  I just wanted to go along for the ride and take pictures along the way.  It was a fun ride until I couldn't see the group anymore.  Every now and then someone would fall behind so I could keep tabs on the direction we were headed.  As long as I knew the direction we were going, I was fine.  I just had my camera phone in hand the entire way to snap these photographs as I was riding along.  I had a good time seeing the back roads of Illinios and snapping pics as I passed by.

The ride ended with a welcomed snack assortment and social hour at the Bloomington Bicycle shop.  I am so glad I was able to join these wonderful ladies on their weekly ride.  If you live in the area, ride a bike (anything you have will do) and are a woman, this is a great social group to join!

I can't wait to see what else the weekend has in store in Bloomington, Illinois!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Road Trip Scavenger Hunt - Your Help Needed

The other day I was arranging things in my car when I noticed a group of young runners taking a jog down the street.  I thought to myself, "ah, look at them enjoying the day...what a bunch of nice kids."  I turned back to my car and noticed in the corner of my eye that they didn't continue down the street but turned and started jogging my way.  I immediately thought to myself, "uh oh, they better not ask for directions because I have no idea where I am."

One of the young men approached me as the others stayed back.  He looked at me and said, "would you mind arm wrestling me for a scavenger hunt we are completing."  "Yes, of course!" I said.  As I was arm wrestling him (I didn't know it was just the "posing" of arm wrestling he wanted) he said, "oh boy, you are actually doing it."

Once that was over, I took their group photograph and they went on their way, jogging with not an ounce of fat on their bodies and their entire life ahead of them.  Sigh.... oh yeah, what was I saying?

So, what a fun idea a scavenger hunt would be!  I decided at that moment that I wanted to do one too!  I enlisted the help of some facebook friends and would love to know what YOUR challenges are!  I am going to choose the top 10 ideas and complete each one on this trip and post photographs along the way of completing these challenges.  If I choose your challenge, I will also mention your name (if you would like).

To get your creative juices started, here are some ideas thus far...

Photograph with a small town Mayor
A cartwheel next to a state line sign
A photograph of a drag queen smoking a cigarette
A picture of a 4 corners crossroads from all directions
A picture with a high school team mascot
A Photo of a fortune teller
A photo of me in a roller derby outfit
Photographs of a dragon tattoo, on top of a ferris wheel, a family of triplets
A photo of someone doing something really challenging right before they do it
Wearing a hard hat, pumping gas for a stranger, playing leap frog, driving a truck
A pic of my tent next to a round haybale, pic of a bride and groom with max

What is YOUR challenge?

Tony Robbins Video...I think he did a good job

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Insurance, insurance, insurance...the scam of our age

Many economic realities have been masked by the illusion of safety and protection...we need health insurance, life insurance, portfolio insurance, credit insurance, pet insurance, municipal bond insurance, liability insurance, default insurance, insurance on life insurance, market insurance, derived insurance, money market insurance, FDIC insurance, insurance on insurance (reinsurance), options on securities, options on derivatives of securities and we need it all to somehow lower the cost and risk of anything that we are considering doing or procuring.

The reality of life is that there are no free exchanges and as Warren Buffett demonstrated with his testimony regarding the ratings agencies, ratings insurance is not free either. Moody's is a schlock outfit with the intelligence of a worm or its got motivations of a snake and the ethics of an ant. If Buffett is willing to scam us with ratings and make excuses for it, what about all the other insurances he is involved with? How about all those "put" insurance contracts he wrote on the SP500 and other indexes? Are they a scam or viable? Can he actually deliver on them and does the money exist?

What about all the insurance that banks are promoting? It was just a few years ago that Lehman Brothers and almost every other investment bank was offering risk free portfolios. As it went: 'We will guarantee that you will get "X" return above "Y" and you can't lose more than "Z" on your investment'...funny how they all ended at ZERO! Most of those portfolios collapsed during the crash in 2008 and the covenants were breached. I am aware of quite a few Europeans who wanted 100% sure things who got 100% sure things - losses!

The idea of evading risk while targeting gains is the quintessential reason that people invest in hedge-funds...but isn't this a play on leverage made viable by others forms of insurance? "Why not trade leveraged short and long or better yet trade derivatives and arb anything we can get out hands on". The words "into a disaster" are the conveniently missing from that equation. But that would ruin the marketing wouldn't it.

The problem in this world is that so many people want something to be something that its not. If you are a male looking for a girl, a transvestite or mannequin should not make a viable proxy...but in the current version of reality, we are willing to entertain any proxy as long as its, accepted, popular or "doctrine". 

If we can further obfuscate a situation by insuring against any unwanted side effects, we can get rid of the problem entirely. The issue with this, is that most risk is not realistically insurable, it just transforms into another risk, usually a worse one...and in reality its cheaper not to insure and instead plan and manage appropriately. The funny thing about "risk" is that it becomes contagious in both directions. One more dangerous than the other.

Insurance is scam of both Wall Street and of Washington. Medicare, Obamacare, Social Security, FDIC, FHA, FHLN, FRE, FNM and the Fed are all examples of failed confidence games/insurance scams that end up ripping off investors and taxpayers and similarly the clients of their plans. The fact is, that when we get so sophisticated that we have to insure and we can obfuscate everything...the activity has almost always been the mask of massive fraud for hundreds of years...but these frauds have always ended the same way...the losers who issue the plans get massive bonuses and the people who buy them get ripped off when they blow up...and someone else get the bill.

There is no such thing as free lunch, yet we as a society these days, are always looking for a free one...we try to pretend that there is a way that someone else can be responsible for OUR problems. That argument does not hold water and I am personally tired of it.

Nearly every-time we take on some credit or leverage, we buy, are required to buy or need to rationalize the risk by buying some sort of insurance. So, how this seems to work, is that whenever we commit to pay some interest on something, we need to pay more interest to someone else. That's a lot of interest and its parasitic when all is said and done. Ironically, it has made us more vulnerable rather than secure. That did not work with AIG, MBIA or Ambac and CDO and other structured products without exceptional efforts by government. Will it work with Goldman Tax and JP Morgan now that these companies essentially buying and selling insurance? Don't bet on it. The feeling of being safe, while it may be nice, is artificial and fosters complacency rather than solid/proactive business decisions and does not offer a foundation on which success can be built!

No serious and productive person relies on someone else to bail them out when they do not produce, nor should they expect someone else to produce for them... it is an organic process. Living and succeeding are based on balance...not ignorance or obfuscation. Things do not get better when you ignore them...nor do they get better when you pretend they are something else. What we have been doing as a society is pretending that money as, illusion, doctrine or debt is ok. That government lies are ok, insurance as a proxy for solvency is ok and that money is real when someone is willing to insure it.

This is why the financial system is not just a place to win or lose...its a representation of the values of society as a whole. Those values are very compromised. They are unrealistic and inappropriate. They are endorsed by the president and his henchmen, but that will not make them successful...and therein lies the problem. At some point "crap" smells like "crap", looks like "crap" and finally when the secret sauce is gone... it is "crap" and can not be called anything else.

Most massive collpases in history have been related to the idea that somehow we can insure against them and somehow use alchemy to turn something worthless (or worse) into "gold". It has never worked, and now, in my opinion, the insurance parasite and the financial ponzi scheme that is built on it is trying to play its trump card...insunace.

Ironically, insurance is the most expensive ever at a time when it can be least afforded...and this applies to most products...including the ridiculous Obamacare venture. The only products for which insurance is affordable, are the ones the Fed is protecting...(remember  Maiden Lane assets (I mean liabilities)) owned by it or the banks that are on the "favorite list".

The jig is up, derivatives will lose leverage,  insurance will lose relevance, and with the collapse in leverage, the money supply will contract way further than the 40% contraction it has made over the last year. Asset values will have to adjust to real values that are not representations of viability due to insurance backing them or credit available to purchase them.

Its a sad story...but insurance is a parasite and creates huge opportunities for malfeasance while contributing little to negative value to society at best. Ironically, banks as regulated by the fed, and the central banks themselves are not storehouses of our money or value, but they are manipulators of insurance trying to use legal camouflage to sell us something we don't need.

Thoughts and things

The systems covered shorts on Thursday and are setup for a rebound bounce. As I indicated in my post regarding the GM IPO, this IPO needs to go and the idea that the market will "lose a bid" easily is best to be considered with skepticism. By all indications, if the RVS model setups look well, and I personally think that they do, we should see follow through on the upside, possibly enough to get people to forget about those Hindenburg Omen thingy's. It intriguing that when there is a Dow Theory confirmation in either direction the market usually reverses as everyone seems to take the popular position and has to go through some pain first. It should therefore, not be surprising to see the same thing happen with all the negative confirmations occurring over the last weeks. I think that this short setup will be a dynamic trade and therefore, I do want to reiterate the danger in the markets here. I will keep you posted as to what things are looking like. Other than this trade starting to setup there is not to much going on in the markets except for the continued de-correlation of accepted arb trades and the correlation of everything else caused by continued money volume contraction via bankruptcy, fear and de-leveraging. If the market were to totally fall out of bed without this bounce I am expecting that would be VERY negative indeed...and I would also like to be in the trade in a big way...which I am not now.

Last week, we had a very successful release for me and also an achievement that I was not expecting...I have recently completed a large effort to build an array of spline based calculations into my models to assist with dynamic trade allocation, entry methods and many other capabilities. I applied these calculations to the allocation trigger methods as an initial step to implementation and the results were, well, shocking: 100% winning trades Long and Short in the ES since inception on a position basis. The funny thing about this, is that none of the trading decisions changed at all, only the risk assignments and entry methods. Therefore, all the trades that have triggered this year in live trading are still in the model but the model now achieves a much better average position price and that new capability pushes the complete historical trading for the ES to 100% wins for 10 years+. The SPY, SP large contract are in the 98+% level since inception. I have posted a chart below that shows a brief performance summary for the ES contract. This is a live system and is set to trigger live trades as per the new release last week. On a trade for trade analysis, the win rate is 87.5%. This means that the individual entries that are marked with the red lines are calculated as losses even though the over all trade is a profit.

I will be showing a video shortly demonstrating the curve-fit risk for the over all enhancements to the RVS systems, which is extremely low, as the same system shown below, trades many other non-correlated instruments, ETF's and futures with no model changes at all with 90+% winning trades and very consistent equity curves.

I went out on Friday, stayed out a little too late and celebrated, so I had a slow weekend. In any case, I did hear some great Jazz. This pianist Mike Gerber is resident in Miami and is a tremendous talent. He is blind and not insignificantly losing his hearing...which makes him all the more amazing. I heard him play with his trio...the guest drummer was a 16 year old named Nick Neuberg. This kid is going places in the Jazz world. Its really interesting to see these guys interact, explore and learn. Its also a testament to a different type of learning that the creative world brings versus the academic one. We can blame the academic one for our current financial crisis and the adoption of Keynesianism. I think that there are significant parallels to the way that creative thinking works and the concept of how free markets work. Currently, we do not have the right framework for markets because the basis of our thinking as a society is so foundation-ally dishonest and distorted - we also do not have free markets which should not be surprising given the basis. We need to establish that more and that's why I want to spend more time with musicians and working with kids to help them to get more experience with dynamic learning and problem solving via the arts.

I had the chance to hang out with Mike after he played and he is learning as much now as he was when he was a kid. I think everyone needs that in their lives more...when you look at Nick in the video on this post...its just amazing to me that he is so young and able to hold his own with heavyweight talents like Mike Gerber, Ira Sullivan and Jamie Osley.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Meeting Halfway - Visiting Kristiana Spaulding And Osa On The Road In South Dakota

It's always nice to have another traveling friend on the road the same time you are on the road, especially when you cross paths on the way.  I was lucky enough to be able to coordinate a visit with Kristiana on her way heading West, while I am currently headed East.

We decided to meet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at their beautiful Motel 6.  She didn't have one of her 5 Airstream trailers with her and was traveling without camping equipment so it was a nice break for Max and I to stay in a luxurious hotel (for us anyway).

I haven't seen her since Alumnapalooza so we had a lot of catching up to do.  It was a first time visit with Max and her dog, Osa and they did so well together!  Kristiana and I have become close friends ever since I decided to meet up with the Silver Sisters last March.  The silver sisters are a group of women that meet twice a year camping with their Airstream, or in my silver teardrop trailer.  It's a weekend of ditching the husband and kids (if you have them) to bond with other women with a common love for Airstreams or as the sisters say, "all things shiny."

If you are a woman, in the Southwest area and have a silver trailer, you should join the unofficial group! They have meet ups on the Air Forums and you can see what they are up to by clicking HERE.  It's a confusing site so don't be upset if you don't get it right away. Their next gathering is in September.

Anyway, I am so happy that I was able to meet up with Kristiana on my travels.  The last two photographs are from Alumnapalooza when I did a photo shoot with her. She designs beautiful jewelry (I wear my bird necklace every day on this journey) that you can purchase HERE.

Max and I are refreshed from our visit and on the road again headed East...

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Badlands

I've driven by this National Park the last few years on the road and this time I decided to stop for a night.  I am so glad I did.  Even though it's off of  boring highway 90, it's like you stumbled upon a different world.  When I first looked at the rock formations, it reminded me of those glass jars you could buy at tourist shops with layers of pastel colored sand in them.  Or, you might have made those yourself at some point to decorate your stylish room.

The mountains and rock formations are beautiful.  Max and I set up camp at a lovely site that gave us plenty of room to stretch out.  The weather was perfect, scenery was beautiful.  We even slept with the "windows" on the tent open in order to see the sunrise.  It didn't disappoint.

This site is one of the more relaxing and beautiful sights I've been to so far.  Voices in this small campsite carry and lucky for us, most campers realized that and kept it down.  If you visit, know that the sites don't have hook ups and there aren't fires allowed.  What they do have is a beautiful view and a sky that seems to go on for miles.

If you are traveling cross country and need a break from the highway, this is the best you can ask for in the middle of South Dakota.

I am glad I took the time to take a break off of the highway to see this beautiful park.

We know the market was once a market now its the market on QE...

Slow motion destruction...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tropical Plant Fats: Coconut Oil, Part II

Heart Disease: Animal Studies

Although humans aren't rats, animal studies are useful because they can be tightly controlled and experiments can last for a significant portion of an animal's lifespan. It's essentially impossible to do a tightly controlled 20-year feeding study in humans.

The first paper I'd like to discuss come from the lab of Dr. Thankappan Rajamohan at the university of Kerala (1). Investigators fed three groups of rats different diets:
  1. Sunflower oil plus added cholesterol
  2. Copra oil, a coconut oil pressed from dried coconuts, plus added cholesterol
  3. Freshly pressed virgin coconut oil, plus added cholesterol
Diets 1 and 2 resulted in similar lipids, while diet 3 resulted in lower LDL and higher HDL. A second study also showed that diet 3 resulted in lower oxidized LDL, a dominant heart disease risk factor (2). Overall, these papers showed that freshly pressed virgin coconut oil, with its full complement of "minor constituents"*, partially protects rats against the harmful effects of cholesterol overfeeding. These are the only papers I could find on the cardiovascular effects of unrefined coconut oil in animals!

Although unrefined coconut oil appears to be superior, even refined coconut oil isn't as bad as it's made out to be. For example, compared to refined olive oil, refined coconut oil protects against atherosclerosis (hardening and thickening of the arteries) in a mouse model of coronary heart disease (LDL receptor knockout). In the same paper, coconut oil caused more atherosclerosis in a different mouse model (ApoE knockout) (3). So the vascular effects of coconut oil depend in part on the animals' genetic background.

In general, I've found that the data are extremely variable from one study to the next, with no consistent trend showing refined coconut oil to be protective or harmful relative to refined monounsaturated fats (like olive oil) (4). In some cases, polyunsaturated oils cause less atherosclerosis than coconut oil in the context of an extreme high-cholesterol diet because they sometimes lead to blood lipid levels that are up to 50% lower. However, even this isn't consistent across experiments. Keep in mind that atherosclerosis is only one factor in heart attack risk.

What happens if you feed coconut oil to animals without adding cholesterol, and without giving them genetic mutations that promote atherosclerosis? Again, the data are contradictory. In rabbits, one investigator showed that serum cholesterol increases transiently, returning to baseline after about 6 months, and atherosclerosis does not ensue (5). A different investigator showed that coconut oil feeding results in lower blood lipid oxidation than sunflower oil (6). Yet a study from the 1980s showed that in the context of a terrible diet composition (40% sugar, isolated casein, fat, vitamins and minerals), refined coconut oil causes elevated blood lipids and atherosclerosis (7). This is almost certainly because overall diet quality influences the response to dietary fats in rabbits, as it does in other mammals.

Heart Disease: Human Studies

It's one of the great tragedies of modern biomedical research that most studies focus on nutrients rather than foods. This phenomenon is called "nutritionism". Consequently, most of the studies on coconut oil used a refined version, because the investigators were most interested in the effect of specific fatty acids. The vitamins, polyphenols and other minor constituents of unrefined oils are eliminated because they are known to alter the biological effects of the fats themselves. Unfortunately, any findings that result from these experiments apply only to refined fats. This is the fallacy of the "X fatty acid does this and that" type statements-- they ignore the biological complexity of whole foods. They would probably be correct if you were drinking purified fatty acids from a beaker.

Generally, the short-term feeding studies using refined coconut oil show that it increases both LDL ("bad cholesterol") and HDL ("good cholesterol"), although there is so much variability between studies that it makes firm conclusions difficult to draw (8, 9). As I've written in the past, the ability of saturated fats to elevate LDL appears to be temporary; both human and certain animal studies show that it disappears on timescales of one year or longer (10, 11). That hasn't been shown specifically for coconut oil that I'm aware of, but it could be one of the reasons why traditional cultures eating high-coconut diets don't have elevated serum cholesterol.

Another marker of cardiovascular disease risk is lipoprotein (a), abbreviated Lp(a). This lipoprotein is a carrier for oxidized lipids in the blood, and it correlates with a higher risk of heart attack. Refined coconut oil appears to lower Lp(a), while refined sunflower oil increases it (12).

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any particularly informative studies on unrefined coconut oil in humans. The closest I found was a study from Brazil showing that coconut oil reduced abdominal obesity better than soybean oil in conjunction with a low-calorie diet, without increasing LDL (13). It would be nice to have more evidence in humans confirming what has been shown in rats that there's a big difference between unrefined and refined coconut oil.

Coconut Oil and Body Fat

In addition to the study mentioned above, a number of experiments in animals have shown that "medium-chain triglycerides", the predominant type of fat in coconut oil, lead to a lower body fat percentage than most other fats (14). These findings have been replicated numerous times in humans, although the results have not always been consistent (15). It's interesting to me that these very same medium-chain saturated fats that are being researched as a fat loss tool are also considered by mainstream diet-heart researchers to be among the most deadly fatty acids.

Coconut Oil and Cancer

Refined coconut oil produces less cancer than seed oils in experimental animals, probably because it's much lower in omega-6 polyunsaturated fat (16, 17). I haven't seen any data in humans.

The Bottom Line

There's very little known about the effect of unrefined coconut oil on animal and human health, however what is published appears to be positive, and is broadly consistent with the health of traditional cultures eating unrefined coconut foods. The data on refined coconut oil are conflicting and frustrating to sort through. The effects of refined coconut oil seem to depend highly on dietary context and genetic background. In my opinion, virgin coconut oil can be part of a healthy diet, and may even have health benefits in some contexts.

* Substances other than the fat itself, e.g. vitamin E and polyphenols. These are removed during oil refining.

Yellowstone National Park

I love Yellowstone.  It's my favorite National Park out of all of our wonderful parks across the USA.  There is something about this park that I love.  It could be the wildlife or the breath taking views at every corner.  This year, I entered the park from the West Entrance and that completes all four corners for me.  I have been at all entrances to the park and have been on every road the past three years.

I think the feeling I have when I am at the park is the same as playing the lottery.  When you get a ticket, you think about winning and everything you will do with the money if you win.  The excitement of being a winner and your number being chosen that it's almost worth the dollar you spend on the piece of paper to get those feelings.  The same holds true at the park, except the winning lottery ticket is seeing wildlife.  If you are lucky enough to see a bear, elk, buffalo, coyote or the other numerous wildlife at the park, you are a winner!  As I drive down the road, I always imaging something darting out or where the next pull out is so I can stop for a photograph.

This visit didn't disappoint.  I was lucky enough to see all of those animals (except a bear) inside of the park and even close enough to get some photographs.  Sure the scenery is beautiful but I was more focused on the buffalo.

When I arrived at the park, I was greeted with rain that turned into hail at one point.  It wasn't the best in camping situations but Max and I made due and snugged up in the sleeping bag together in 28 degree temperatures.  The following day was clear and we drove around the park to play the "are you going to see a wild animal today" lottery.  We won.

If you haven't been to Yellowstone, it's a must.  I have visited this park each year for the past three years and each time is breathtaking.  The only downfall is the crowds.  That is one thing to expect when you go visit in the summer.  The one tip I have about not being in the middle of massive amounts of people is to get up early and see the sights when everyone is still asleep.  You will be alone with the animals and the beauty.  At least for a little while.