Friday, October 29, 2010

Driving In Circles

At least it looks that way from the map.  I am planning, or at least pointing in a direction I want to go next so I decided to map out where I've been the past three years.  It's a very low-tech mapping process, but it gave me an idea of where I've been and where I would like to visit next.

The route with the Blue arrows is the one I took in 2008, Purple for 2009 and this year is in Red.  I've covered most of the states but noticed a big hole in the Midwest.  Not that I avoided Arkansas, Oklahoma or Kansas, it's just that I didn't head in that direction for some reason.  I am currently in the New England area and as you can see, I've covered a lot of ground here.  The fall season is just amazing!  It's exactly what you see in all of the magazines depicting fall, except you get to wake up and see all of the beautiful color wherever you go each day.  I love it.

Soon I will be headed South.  A lot of people ask me what my route is or where I am planning to go next.  Fact is, I don't really know.  I try to think of a general area to head to but sometimes I will hear of something, or get a feeling which will make me change direction.  I feel some of the best moments on this journey were the ones where I wasn't planning and was a bit off course.  Some might call it being lost. I like to think of it as exploring a new area where I vaguely know exactly where I am.

Life is more interesting that way.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BINGO At The Knights Of Columbus

I think the extent of Bingo Hall advertising is word of mouth or a sign near the street saying "BINGO" with the date and time.  If I am lucky, I will drive by an area with a sign and it will happen to be the same day so I could go that night.  However, it doesn't always happen that way.

I looked online for some Bingo halls and sometimes, you never know what you will get.  As it turned out, I learned my lesson by going to what seemed to be a bingo night turned out to be a men's only member club where they haven't had a bingo game in years.  I know this since I certainly stood out when I arrived.  Since there wasn't a game, I politely asked if I could enter and take a few pictures and I was politely declined. 

I didn't give up the search for a legitimate bingo night in the area.  I found the Knights of Columbus hall in Norwood and it was a welcome sight.  Everyone there was nice to me and allowed me to take their photograph.  Only a few people declined and I respected that.  This woman on the left had just one number remaining before Bingo.  I think we all know the feeling.

Since there was more than one room of bingo play, each ball was carefully placed in front of a video camera so it could be displayed on televisions throughout each hall.  As far as a noise level, it was as if you stepped into a library.  There is no messing around here, this is serious business. People are there to play and everyone had their game face on.  I also enjoy seeing all of the personal lucky charms, tokens, photographs, candy and the like scattered about their personal playing space.

I look forward to more.  You can see more photographs of my personal project, "BINGO Culture" on my photography website at

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

MOBA The Museum Of Bad Art In Dedham, Massachusetts

The other day I had my mind set on catching a train into Boston to walk around the city and take pictures of what I came across.  I even had it on my goal list! As you might have read with my update blog, I was standing on the wrong tracks, on the wrong side so ultimately, I watched the train come and go.

Since that was the last train for a while, I decided to do something different.  I took out my handy Roadside America iphone app and came across an attraction called the Museum of Bad Art.  Perfect, I thought!

I followed the directions from the app and it took me to an old movie theatre in town.  As I walked in, there was a man standing there with a puzzled look on his face. I suspect since it was in the middle of the day and there weren't any movies showing for a long time.  I asked him where the museum was.  He said, "museum?" I said, "um..yes, the one with the bad art..."  He smiled and said, "oh, it's down there...enjoy!"

I looked across the hall and there was a small hallway with steps leading to what seemed like a basement.  Turns out it was also the way to the restrooms.  The museum was actually in the hallway in the basement to the restrooms.

I looked around and saw several paintings scattered about.  I felt a little sad thinking that works of art that people worked so hard at was shown in a museum specifically dedicated to bad art.  However, my mind changed a bit when I read the statement on the wall.  It read, "Welcome to the Museum of Bad Art, a unique institutaion occupying a niche previously ignored in the international community of art collection, preservation and interpretation.  MOBA exists to celebrate the labor of artists whose work would be displayed and appreciated in no other forum."

It went on to say, "The majority of art in the collection has been purchased at yard sales, second-hand stores, and thrift shops.  Some pieces were donated by the artists, and others were rescued from inevitable destruction after being entered as detritus into a solid-waste disposal system.  The principal is that it must have been created by someone seriously attempting to make an artistic statement, but something has gone horribly awry in either its concept or execution."

It was an interesting tour.  For more information, visit their website HERE.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Quick Update

I apologize for my lack of posting lately, I have released a batch of new systems as well as implemented new trade server infrastructure in Switzerland.

I would like to update you regarding the posture for the systems. The daily short that I posted previously was covered @1159.50. The weekly RVS models have continued to add short contracts to their existing positions which have been building. So, the systems are now weekly short, ES, NQ, TF, EURO, YM and long the DX (Dollar). The average win for the weekly systems on the ES contract is over 100 points and can be significantly higher. Given the extended conditions in the markets and the posture of all these systems on the short side...I believe this is a fairly compelling risk for the bulls here given the downside consensus and also supports my view that the markets will be 20+% lower by the end of the year.

Update On My 39 Goals For My 39th Year List

I don't believe in "bucket lists."  When someone says that they have an activity on their bucket list, that means that they would love to do it but don't really want to plan it or push themselves to do what it takes to accomplish the goal.  Because really, there is no guarantee that we will live long enough to have the time to do all it is we would like to do if there isn't some sort of planning involved.  To me, a bucket list is the to do list that never gets completed and will die with you.  Because most of the time, it's in your head anyway and not written down.

There is something to writing your goals down.  I didn't want to at first, but once I did, I felt accountable to complete them.  On top of that, I posted them here on the blog so every now and then I will get reminders asking where I stand on certain goals.

If you have a blog or facebook, I would challenge you to post your goals to hold yourself accountable for them.  You will be amazed on how people will help you achieve them or push you to get them done. Even if that doesn't happen, they will be top of mind and for some of my goals, I did them without thinking.

Keep a mixture of goals that you can do in a day and some that would take some planning.  That way, you won't be discouraged if each goal is a tremendous feat.

So as you now know, I wrote down and posted 39 goals on January 5th that I wanted to accomplish during my 39th year on this earth.  I blogged about each accomplishment for a while when I completed a goal but for some reason, I stopped doing that. I thought I would post a brief status on where I stand on each of the goals I set out to accomplish this year.

39 things I will do for my 39th year in this world:

-Read 5 books from beginning to end without skipping ahead
This might sound easy, but I have a hard time focusing on reading a book.  My mind tends to wander a bit but there've been a few books that kept my focus and I would recommend both.   I have completed "When things fall apart" by Pema Chodron and "Leave the Light On" by Jennifer Storm.  "When things fall apart" was handed to me to borrow from a friend and I picked up "Leave the light on" at a book store in Proviencetown.  I loved them both!  I love stories of addiction and recovery and books on how to be a better person.  I prefer Non-Fiction over Fiction.

- Win one photo contest
I haven't won a photo contest, but I was fortunate enough to be chosen for a few juried art shows this year.  Once at MOPLA and the other at a juried art show at the 1650 Gallery in Los Angeles.  I have found that a big key to winning a contest is actually entering one.  

- Go skiing at least once this season
Um...not yet.

- Take a picture of Max in the snow
Completed! On the drive to Yosemite, we saw snow and I remembered my goal so I placed him on the snow mound to take a shot.  I didn't get the best picture and he didn't have the best time but, CHECK! Goal completed.

- Go to a tattoo show
Not yet - However I love tattoo art and photograph it wherever I see it.

- Publish a travel article
Looking back...I am not sure why I wrote this goal.  I have been traveling and away from my home since June and have been blogging about my experiences so I could technically say that each time I post is a published travel article.

- Sleep on a strangers couch
Completed! I have a few examples for this one and only one was an actually couch.  I met 4 people for the first time face to face so far on this trip.  Deb and Kim in Canada, Lauren in Montana and Amy in Ohio.  With these visits I slept in an Airstream, a couch and the floor.  

- Skinny dip in the ocean
Um, no but jumped in the ocean off the coast Maine in October.  That's even more challenging, right?

- Try indoor skydiving
Not yet

- Complete my house project with 5 shots together in a custom frame
I visited the Race Point ranger station again in Ptown this year, but didn't document it like I did the following year.  I still plan to group these shots together.

- Sell or donate everything in my garage
Before I left, I donated all of my work clothes and suits to a non profit group called "Clothes the Deal."  There are others such as "Dress for Success."  I would recommend doing this if you have nice quality dress clothes to donate to a good cause.  I still have work to do in the garage when I return.

- Host a dinner party
Since I haven't been home, this will have to wait.

- Take an art class
I look forward to doing this soon

- Wear a dress and go somewhere fancy
Um, no not yet.

- Spend a weekend without a phone, without texting, watching tv, or any kind of human contact
As much as I've wanted to do this, I haven't as of yet.  There have been times where I didn't have cell reception, but there were other campers around so I don't think it counts.

- Watch a local play production
Completed!  I went to see "Caberet" in Boston.  Wonderful.  No photographs allowed.

- Go to Mexico
Not yet.

- Run in a 5k race
Not yet.

- Go to a music festival
Not yet.

- Rent my home and live next to the water somewhere
Completed!  I've been renting my house the entire time I've been gone and this is one of the reasons I am able to do what I do.  It just happened to turn out that I was able to stay in a beautiful home on Bailey Island, Maine because of two very generous people, Adam and Susan.

- Spend time on an island
Yes.  See above. :)

- Take pictures underwater
I finally pulled out my one time use waterproof camera and took a few pics.  Since it's film, I will have to wait and see how it turns out.

- Win the lottery (you never know...)
I, no.

- Volunteer
Not yet

- View a live show taping (preferably Oprah before she leaves)
Not Yet

- Write a book review
I'm not sure why I put this as a goal, but I did.  Once I finish my five books, I will post a review on one of them.

- Surf again
Not yet

- Ride on a train
I planned to take the train into Boston a few weeks ago but as it turned out, I was waiting on the wrong side and on the wrong tracks.  So, I saw the train I was supposed to ride on.  Instead, I visited the Museum of Bad Art.

- Take a long road trip (I think this is becoming a habit)
Currently in progress.

Last but not least...these are goals I completed at the beginning of the year that I've already blogged about.  You can click on them to see the blog. 
-Have my photographs displayed in a cafe'
- Bake a cake
- Take Max out on a camping trip with "trailie"

- Visit the Salton Sea

Since these were written, I have had many other small goals that I've completed and some that am thinking about putting on a list for next year.  

I wouldn't call it a goal but one of the biggest decisions I've made for my life was living it without alcohol.  It's been over eighteen months now and it has been the best gift I've given myself.  It's not an easy road by any means, in fact it can be painful.  I have to say that my life has changed dramatically for the better because of it.  For those of you searching and wondering if you can live your life without it, you can.  You might lose friends, invitations, weight, and headaches but what you will gain is so much more valuable and precious...a meaningful life.

What are you going to do with yours?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Obesity and the Brain

Nature Genetics just published a paper that caught my interest (1). Investigators reviewed the studies that have attempted to determine associations between genetic variants and common obesity (as judged by body mass index or BMI). In other words, they looked for "genes" that are suspected to make people fat.

There are a number of gene variants that associate with an increased or decreased risk of obesity. These fall into two categories: rare single-gene mutations that cause dramatic obesity, and common variants that are estimated to have a very small impact on body fatness. The former category cannot account for common obesity because it is far too rare, and the latter probably cannot account for it either because it has too little impact*. Genetics can't explain the fact that there were half as many obese people in the US 40 years ago. Here's a wise quote from the obesity researcher Dr. David L. Katz, quoted from an interview about the study (2):
Let us by all means study our genes, and their associations with our various shapes and sizes... But let's not let it distract us from the fact that our genes have not changed to account for the modern advent of epidemic obesity -- our environments and lifestyles have.
Exactly. So I don't usually pay much attention to "obesity genes", although I do think genetics contributes to how a body reacts to an unnatural diet/lifestyle. However, the first part of his statement is important too. Studying these types of associations can give us insights into the biological mechanisms of obesity when we ask the question "what do these genes do?" The processes these genes participate in should be the same processes that are most important in regulating fat mass.

So, what do the genes do? Of those that have a known function, nearly all of them act in the brain, and most act in known body fat regulation circuits in the hypothalamus (a brain region). The brain is the master regulator of body fat mass. It's also the master regulator of nearly all large-scale homeostatic systems in the body, including the endocrine (hormone) system. Now you know why I study the neurobiology of obesity.

* The authors estimated that "together, the 32 confirmed BMI loci explained 1.45% of the inter-individual variation in BMI." In other words, even if you were unlucky enough to inherit the 'fat' version of all 32 genes, which is exceedingly unlikely, you would only have a slightly higher risk of obesity than the general population.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Max At The Beach

When I decide to go somewhere, Max usually gives me his input to let me know that he would like to go to a place where there's a beach.  I think the beach is his favorite place to be, next to a dog park.  Last year, we went to several dog parks in different states which was always an adventure.  He especially loved the dog parks in Albuquerque and Provincetown.  His favorite beaches on his journey has been Orange Beach in Alabama and the Cape Cod National Seashore.  Each one goes on for miles and if he's lucky, if it's allowed, and there isn't anyone around, he gets to be off leash.

These photographs are from a day at the beach in Cape Cod.  It was an especially windy day but Max didn't mind even though he was low to the ground with the sand blowing in his face.  He's on to me with the camera, though.  Each time I get it out to take a photograph, he usually looks the other way.

We will be heading to the Southeast part of the country soon.  I know that Max will have "beach" on his places to go but I am still up in the air about the specific destination.  Is there a place that we shouldn't miss?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Handmade iphone Photography Photo Art Boxes

I tend to get bored easily.  I am not one of the many people that can grab a book and sit on a beach and read all day.  I am excited to report that I have read two more books from beginning to end to complete my, "5 books from start to finish" goal this year.

Another goal of mine that wasn't on the list was to put together art boxes from the photographs I've been taking with my iphone on this journey.  I am happy to say that I completed this goal.  Sometimes I get ideas in my head that I have to follow through and complete before I obsess too much about them.  This project was one of those ideas.

Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE to take photographs with the other cameras I have and will continue to upload portraits, events and landscapes to my photography site, but there is something about the iphone hipstamatic app that I just love.

I had these 4x4 photographs printed on archival paper and I mounted them on 4x4 wood blocks after I hand sanded them and applied primer  with several coats of paint in either black or white.  After I mounted the photograph on the finished block, I then applied several layers of non toxic clear matte finish to give the boxes a nice texture and durability.  I am pleased on how they turned out.

Since these are my first round of boxes, I have them up for sale on etsy in my shop that you can see here:

Each box is signed on the back and I also put where the photograph was taken.  Many of the photographs are featured in an iphone photography slide show I put together that you can view HERE.

I will continue to write about my travels but wanted to mention what I've been up to.  I look forward to sharing more photographs of my adventures here soon.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Asset = Liability, Good = Bad, Wrong = Right, QE = Deflation, Up = Down

Well, here we a world where what thing look like is not necessarily what they, the market is very difficult - it is unable to trend as opening prices and close prices are a virtually identical everyday, we get almost no intra-day direction - just volatility and chop. Moves are generally coming overnight and then chop most of the day.

We have overshot logical and normal resistance levels such as my 1.272 levels at which I look for reversals and gone parabolic. I know that this has been a very frustrating market for people to trade. What is even more frustrating is that the market has actually not moved much either in the last 30 feels like it has made a much bigger move than it actually has. Though on indexes like the Russell and Nasdaq we have had supstantial moves. The market as a whole has not however. Below is a snap shot of a month of trading for the that time all the candles are heavily overlapped and we have risen roughly 30 points...that's a little more than one or two good trading days for the SP...and all this while the largest QE effort in history (not to mention deception) has been in full swing. Impressive, Very Impressive, indeed. Below is a snapshot of those 30ish points:

So, I likely will post some charts later as to what my systems are doing with this market. Currently, daily and weekly systems are short. Weekly's and some daily's added short contracts on Friday, so they are short ES, TF, EMD, EURO and NQ. Also, weekly systems are now long the dollar.

Several interesting points regarding this market. The volatility indexes directly diverged and are not confirming the momentum in the markets - nor is breadth or many other secondary indicators I watch. The reality is that everyone and their brother is now looking bullish over the longer-term and thinks that QE will kill the dollar and create hyper inflation. All I hear about is discussion of "Inflation". You can see what I am talking about by reviewing my post "Some Objectivity" and "Coordinated Deception" regarding David Tepper's CNBS appearance.You can see what has happened to his arguments is the Appaloosa Portfolio and below is a list of holdings.

The reality is the if you refer to my "Ending Well" post...we have breached the primary trend line and Bernake and his accomplices have proven once and for all that they will stop at nothing to prop up inflation assets as the expense of the economy and individual Americans no matter how risky the strategy is.So the stage is now set for the worst case scenario which I was hoping would not happen. So, the downside risk/targets for the markets are much greater accordingly. Trust me, this issue is not lost on businesses and investors who now know that they will have less demand from the consumer combined with higher overall costs if Bernake's plans were to work. I can assure you that if someone were to attempt to do financial mediation for me personally and the result was less income, higher expenses and the small potential that some of my assets would rise in value due to inflation, I would not think very highly of that person. Bernake is an amature and a failure. Please also read (A dog with fleas, Insurance ...scam of our age...)

Now on to the next subject. If QE is really in full swing will it create money? My answer is no. What QE creates is levitating or rising inflation asset prices, in this case nearly ubiquitously for banks and very large corporations and no one else. That money has a very interesting way of vanishing as soon as the mystery buyer is no longer there with a bid. QE would have the potential to create money "IF" it were to create true inflation by influencing the risk taking of individuals and small business. That would have been much easier to do ironically than to prop up banks - and by the way, it would have also resulted in much more support for the banks. But QE is not for individuals its for cronies. The reality is that QE is creating deflation - massive deflation because it is creating more debt and risk on the part of already insolvent and unstable enterprises. There is NO velocity of money and QE will not do one thing to create any. Just like Obama's 500,000 a month job projection that the he and his administration were pumping early in the year...QE will never make it will never happen. In fact, the opposite will happen. Expectation is for inflation or hyper inflation but we will likely get D-E-F-L-A-T-I-O-N and much higher real interest rates! This is what this post is about. Now, the masses and equally the guys with the bazookas think that things will happen that defy reality and that an imaginary outcome can be projected on reality...this will likely be, once again, a sore disappointment. However, I am sure that there will those who will be nicely enriched.

Most of the time in my life when I looked for the answers where I thought they were or followed the crowd, I got exactly what I deserved - nothing, or better, less than nothing. The reality is that if you expect the obvious, you all to often, end up pushing the same stone up the same hill as everyone else...the results are obvious only not to you while you are pushing that stone. One of the things that people are doing now is fearing change overall. I know Obama was supposed to be change, but we can see how that has turned out...more of the same. People are fearing allowing failure for fail. They fear those results rather than allowing things to rejuvenate by being based on a constructive foundational premise. The reality is that I see many people still touting the concept that an asset is valuable and that a wrong can be made right. I think it would be much better to think differently rather than trying to project an outcome based on past experience.

While failures are a primary instigator for innovation. One must first accept the failure and then move on to build an organic and foundational reaction. One must be willing to accept that a premise or expectation may have been 180 degrees off course. That is where we are today - 180 degrees off. This is, ofcouse, because when one looks at the world, there are assumptions that are made that have very little to do with reality. These assumptions are usually colored dramatically by our projections of expected outcomes.

For example, it is easy to expect a dessert to be "good" when you are eating it and looks and tastes well. Yes, its a nice finish to a meal. However, several hours later if you are worshiping a porcelain throne...that same desert seems pretty bad. While we entertain one side of an expected outcome we often are reticent to pay too much attention to the less desirable one that's lurking.

What is ironic about this is that for many years people have played this kind of charade by investing in "ASSETS" that are really liabilities. A house is a liability not an asset. A car, a commodity, a collaboration, a business, a stock, a marriage are capable, with just one slight change in polarity, of transforming from things which you want and view as positive to things that you don't want and that view as negatives and wish you never had.

For example, basic materials companies, well if Apple computer keeps selling computers and people need to maintain, build, expand or renovate facilities that they currently use, obviously companies that own copper, aluminum or steel mines and production will have assets that are required to keep society going. This is a such a fundamental argument that its is incontrovertible. In this case, steel is an asset, aluminum is an asset, copper is an asset and the facilities to mine them, produce them and deliver them are assets. However, as soon as the demand for new materials is reduced, people will rely on existing supply and prices will drop. It has happened many times that core Basic Materials companies have gone bust because the reality is a Mine is not an asset its a liability. When the prices drop below the cost of maintaining that liability, the reality is that insolvency can blow up the strongest basic materials company or emerging markets economy faster than any expectation could envision.

This is where we are, we envision a need for humans to constantly expand, produce and multiply. Those expectations are rather silly when we think about them. People tend to expand and produce and multiply very well after they have consolidated and reset their expectations. That means that, we have the capability to contract, reduce and reuse much more than we think. If that is possible, its also possible for basic materials to drop below the prices of production...which would be gigantic shift in reality...and not necessarily a negative one.

As I see it we need to be prepared for the opposite of our social and governmental expectations or projections. The fed's and government's actions are creating a prime foundation for us to get exactly that. If QE actually increased the volume of money that would be called a success...but what if it were to drastically decrease it? I know that seems implausible because the Fed is printing supposedly new money. But its not new money - its new debt (debt money) and the collateral that is supposed to be propping it up has a funny way of collapsing when there are no more mystery QE is setting us up for the opposite of our most comfortable expectations.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An update on allocation...

I received a few emails over the last weeks from some hedge fund managers who seem to be close to blowing up, curious market participants and from some individuals asking about whether or not I am short. I want to answer a different question. The reality is that if it is necessary to ask someone regarding a position or trade then one is most likely looking for support or rationalization regarding a position and it likely over allocated. Without question the primary issue that I see for traders is over rationalization, allocation or concentration. The markets are not rational and nor are they very forgiving. 

I do not trade that way. Let me give you an example. If I trade a weekly strategy, I know that my average winning trade is going to be around 110 SP points, I also know that building a position may result in scaling into an average of 35 points but up to 80 points. The question how much I am going to risk not how much I am going to make. Additionally, the best risk management of all is NOT stops, its proper allocation. So, where I may trade a 15% allocation of risk capital in one system for a daily chart, I know that the average risk is 15 points and up to 45 points, therefore, I can trade for a 1.75% risk to 3% risk depending on how aggressive I am. If I am going to achieve that result with a weekly system I may have to trade at a 7% allocation. Trading just 7% of your money in one strategy may not seem like a lot, but the rabbit rarely wins the race. In the markets its about doing the opposite of what you think and want to do and doing the disciplined and practical thing. People are rarely practical about losing money and exceptionally rarely disciplined about it.But those are precisely the things that will make us successful. So we must think about our weaknesses and capitalize on them. My experience is that the market is about hitting base hits not home runs.

So, in response to whether I am short or not, I have Weekly systems that have built short positions in some major markets and now some dailies, however, I also trade intraday long and short across quite a few markets, so, its important not overreach. I am not short 50% of assets, probably more like 8% of assets right now. Keep in mind that the maximum avererage allocation percent I will take is around 20% and that generates a very hefty return. If the market rallies, intraday longs and shorts will be taken without regard to my opinion of the market or any long-term positions - they will  be taken as appropriate with strict risk rules. As a note, I regard a break of 1122.5 as a key confirmation of a larger short move.

I hope that answers the question and gets people asks some questions of themselves too...

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

I have always loved the cape and I still do.

I spent some time at the tip of the cape in a little community called Provincetown.  Each town on the cape has its own distinctive personality and charm and there is something special about every community you come across.  I didn't get to spend as much time here as I did last September, but it was special just the same.  There really is something for everyone on the cape.

Most of the days were rainy when I was visiting but I took advantage of the clear breaks when they came.  I took Max for a spin in his trailer, walked along the beach, went to the bark park, strolled around commercial street and soaked in the sights.  I didn't take as many photographs as I did last year, but these are a few taken with the three cameras I have with me.  I did pretty much the same as I did a year ago.

Sometimes I like to set the timer on my camera and jump around on the beach to entertain myself.  It's actually quite the workout and good for a few laughs when you watch people passing by staring at you.  I don't mind.

Other people didn't mind the weather and enjoyed a campfire on the beach even though it was windy and in the 50's.

It was also interesting to see new signs up that tell you the mileage from PTown to Long Beach, my home base.  Just in case you were wondering, it's 3,652 miles.

I look forward to sharing more adventures coming up within these 3,652 miles.