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Odd Things

1. Calming Down. I was working frantically the last month finishing a first draft of a book I’m working on, and finally submitted it. When I finished, I couldn’t find a way to calm down; even when I didn’t have to, I couldn’t tear myself away from the keyboard, trying to learn Illustrator, doing anything but relaxing. There must be a better way.

2. Flash Crash. I heard a talk tonight by Andrew Kirilenko at the Columbia-Courant NYQF seminar on how the CFTC investigated the Flash Crash. The bottom line seems to be that it wouldn’t happen if there weren’t electronic algorithmic trading. Different types of traders operate at different frequencies; when liquidity temporarily disappears, the high frequency guys all try to sell to each other; prices keep dropping at every pass of the hot potato; there is insufficient time for the fundamental guys to come in and buy something that has become cheap. There is no time for the different time scales to equilibrate when things get out of whack.

One of the suggested cures is trading halts, but that seems wrong to me. That’s like saying: go as fast as you like, and when an accident starts to happen, put on the brakes. Much better to have everyone go slower. There’s no earthly need for capital markets to execute in milliseconds. Build in some friction, a random time delay, a tax on transactions. Put all the tax payments in a pool and share it among the participants.

3. Nobels. Mario Vargas Llosa is OK.

4. Dr#!d. I can’t wait to dump it and get an iPhone, a day whose approach finally seems to be rumored to be near yet again. Meanwhile it’s jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today.

5. Pina Bausch’s Vollmond at BAM: She’s terrific but unfortunately dead. It’s very good but a bit long. The first half would have been enough.

6.…. When it gives you an answer, it always surprises you with the thoughtful view of data. Put your Christian name in and see when it was most popular. Or simply do some Mathematica stuff. Or type ‘helix’ or ‘jews’ or ‘muslims’ or ‘Cape Town’.

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