The Education of A Speculator

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The Book of the Week is “The Education of A Speculator” by Victor Niederhoffer, published in 1997.

Born in 1943 in Brooklyn in New York City, the author sorted “market advisers and investment newsletter writers” into eight different categories, providing a brief description of their behaviors or personality traits. He classified himself as “The Other World Person” because he ignored the overpaid noisemakers and distractions of conventional media outlets that purported to convey information on which securities to buy, sell, or avoid.

The author’s two data sources for his commodities, currency trading and investing ideas consisted of the National Enquirer and his research results from testing all kinds of variables in statistics-calculations of past securities-market data using software. No other sources.

The mid-1990’s saw great advances in statistics software modeling that could process scads and scads of data; hence, market players could erroneously use past performance of investment vehicles faster than ever before for predictive purposes to help themselves and others lose their money faster than ever before. And those advances might have played a part in the scandals and financial crashes that have occurred with alarmingly increasing frequency in the last thirty years. Big Tech’s and Big Media’s incestuous oligopolies (fraught with political donations) just keep getting more hegemonic, so that power and money keep feeding on themselves ad infinitum. Globalization is yet another wrench in the works.

At the book’s writing, global trade had been maturing for decades, but capitalism was still in its infancy in many territories of the world; particularly in ones that were becoming politically democratic again, or for the first time in their histories. Many European countries were in the process of adopting cooperation rather than competition in their financial and economic dealings. A large proportion of them even voted to use one currency among them. The United States kept to itself, but more and more people around the world were starting to trade or invest in foreign securities, currencies and governmental financial entities, so chain reactions occurred more and more.

The Federal Reserve (aka Fed) has always been a major influence on America’s financial markets. The author contended that the Fed was just as clueless as the rest of the country about what effects its making of rate-adjustments would have on the nation’s economy. It is currently just as clueless. But its announcements are made with such confidence and arrogance, that a large number of their listeners are brainwashed into believing they are receiving valuable information.

The incumbents– known names pre-Internet–became the most influential voices in the financial sphere. The wiliest ones use propaganda techniques to paper over their wrong predictions. They never apologize for the losses stemming from their pronouncements. The walls of the author’s business office were lined with portraits of ones who had disastrous losses.

To be fair, the author himself told various anecdotes of his own failures. In 1992, he bought IBM stock for his own kids. That was an embarrassing mistake. He learned to cut his losses at a certain level of the total money he reinvested. And, he didn’t let his greed get out of control when he was winning.

The author was a champion squash player. One similarity between squash and speculating is externalities–opponents’ actions determine players’ actions in the game. So, for instance, in ten-pin bowling, there are no externalities. In squash, there are. In one college finals-match, the author moved his body in a way that tricked his opponent into thinking the ball was going to go in a certain direction, but it went the opposite way. Traders and investors play similar tricks in their communications in the financial markets. Conditions change rapidly so even the market propagandists’ winning streaks don’t last long.

The reason is:

First, independent thinkers make observations or find obscure data that works in making them money. Then software detects their trading tricks. So word gets around, and everyone else jumps on the bandwagon so that the advantage is lost.

Human beings want so badly— to believe they can predict the future, and love to fantasize about getting rich quick– that they tend to look for patterns and order where none exist. The author did provide one vast generalization that might be valuable, though. His statistical analysis between the years 1870 and 1995 inclusive showed that years ending in the digit 5 were good years, and those ending in 7 were bad, for the American stock markets. He didn’t speculate as to why.

However, politics is one major mover of markets, and the collective mood of the United States specifically, might be a bit more upbeat in years when political uncertainty is at a minimum. Presidents and other politicians begin or continue their terms during years ending in 5. The public might be unclear about their future policy directions, or weary of them by the years that end in 7.

Anyway, read the book to learn a boatload more about the author’s philosophy, his trials, tribulations and triumphs in the markets, his research results and comparisons between financial markets and: ecology, games and sports.

Burn Rate

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The Book of the Week is “Burn Rate, Launching A Startup and Losing My Mind” by Andy Dunn, published in 2022. Born in February 1979 in the United States, the author won the lottery in that he had family and friends who knew him well enough to recognize that, given his personality, his behavior was anomalous. He was doubly lucky that not only did he get mental-health treatment before he ended up in jail (well, at least on one occasion) or in the cemetery, but also, he could (with assistance from others) afford it.

“… for many, even a ‘chill’ drug like marijuana can stimulate a manic episode.” The author got to college still unaware that bipolar disorder (aka manic-depressive illness) ran in his family; his grandmother had had it. People who actually have the condition suffer under a Damocles sword their whole lives, as their mental state goes through unpredictable cycles, even with medication. Of course, stress exacerbates the highs and lows. The medication has side effects that are meant to dull the emotions, so bipolar patients don’t experience and enjoy life as much as people whose brain chemicals are more stable than theirs.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), while in college, the author was ingesting alcohol and controlled substances such as ecstasy, magic mushrooms and marijuana on a daily basis, and taking the (radical) acne medication Accutane. Somehow, he graduated anyway, and got his MBA at Stanford. He explained that the professors there educated students in entrepreneurship, if they wanted to go that route. The author did.

After years of interesting ups and downs, in 2016, the author– a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs (who had last been World Series winners in 1908)– was afforded the opportunity to see game 7 of the World Series in Cleveland. But first, he had to rush to JFK airport from the streets in the East 50’s in Manhattan, beginning an hour before his plane took off, to get there. His cab driver did 90 MPH. Sympathetic people at the airport made way for him when they heard about his situation.

Read the book to learn of the author’s other trials and tribulations, triumphs and defeats. Speaking of defeats…

This is the song Hillary Clinton is singing now.

IN POST-CLINTON TIME

sung to the tune of “Sunny Afternoon” (Official Audio) with apologies to the Kinks.

My opponents BEAT me the last two times.
Deplorables and BERnie were unkind.
I SOREly miss the Situation Room.
And though I CAN-not be in charge,
I’m not locked up, I’m still at-large.
All I WANT’S in-the Situation Room.

Save me, save me, save me
from bad publicity.
I’ve got lots of enemies.
It’s a VAST right-wing conspiracy.

And I love to hobnob with elites,
brag about my political feats.
I SOREly miss the Situation Room,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time.

Donald Trump’s ruined my rep.
He’s in his safehouse doing ’24 prep,
spewing the usUAL blather and cruelty.
Now I’m here online,
doing the grass-roots, make-work grind.
I SOREly miss the Situation Room.

Help me, help me, help me
revive my ca-reer.
Well, give my Party money
to get me out of here.

‘Cause I love to hobnob with elites,
brag about my political feats.
I sorely miss the Situation Room,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time.

Ah, save me, save me, save me
from bad publicity.
I’ve got lots of enemies.
It’s a VAST right-wing conspiracy.

And I love to hobnob with elites,
brag about my political feats.
I SOREly miss the Situation Room,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time,
in post-Clinton time.

Extreme – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Extreme, My Autobiography” by Sharon Osbourne with Penelope Dening, published in 2005.

Born in October 1952 in the United Kingdom, Osbourne grew up in a dysfunctional family. In this volume, she revealed how her father– Don Arden– a music-industry executive got away with committing an excessive number of financial crimes. Basically, he never signed legally-binding contracts, but had his daughter and other members of his entourage sign them, so when it hit the fan, they were on the hook, not him. His contacts in high places did his bidding until his bullying and contentiousness wore thin and they abandoned him.

Arden bribed a U.S. senator to help Osbourne acquire a green card. She thus became a permanent resident of America and got a Social Security number so that he could commit tax evasion. Of course, he also hid his assets in offshore bank accounts, which the United States cannot outlaw. Her formal education ended when she quit high school in her sophomore year. So her limitations led her to join the family business. In her early twenties, she was so flattered that her father trusted her with important documents that she happily signed everything put in front of her.

Osbourne met her future husband Ozzy in the late 1970’s. He was the lead singer of the rock band, Black Sabbath. “The music business in those days was a boys’ club, fueled by cocaine and sexual favors. These were the days of payola and Mafia involvement…” But Osbourne would sooner get violent with the boys than give in to their advances or threats.

Read the book to learn many more details about the lives of Osbourne and her family, trials, tribulations and triumphs.

Open Skies – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Open Skies, My Life as Afghanistan’s First Female Pilot” by Niloofar Rahmani with Adam Sikes, published in 2021.

Born in December 1991 in Afghanistan, the author deserves major bragging rights. For, she possessed the courage to serve as a liberated female role model (given her culture) by risking her own life and her family members’ lives in serving her beloved homeland. She joined the air force in December 2010. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index) this was at a time when the Americans and NATO were running the show.

The Taliban and other devout Muslims were less than thrilled that she was the first Afghan female ever to learn to fly a fixed-wing aircraft. Pursuant to the Koran, a female’s priorities were: submissive girlhood, wifehood, motherhood, and womanhood (and usually, the first three were forced on females simultaneously), and taking care of a household; only then, might she work outside the home if her oldest living male relative allowed her to.

The author spent her early childhood in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Anomalously, but fortunately for her, both of her parents believed in educating her and her siblings (mostly sisters), and encouraging them to pursue the career of their choice. The family eventually moved to Kabul. Unsurprisingly, the author’s career choice provoked angry reactions from the male-dominated air force and males in her country. The most fanatical ones began to smear, spy on, and threaten her and her family.

Nevertheless, the author’s parents martyred themselves in so many ways for their children’s futures. Her father continued to encourage the author to keep flying, even when her family was under siege and suffering many hardships due to her focusing on her dream job.

A barbaric incident that occurred in March 2015 was just one indicator that in Afghanistan, the tide was turning toward the dark side yet again: a huge flash-mob of outraged, radical Muslim men tortured and killed a devout Muslim woman wrongly accused of burning the Koran.

The victim was set upon because a mullah (a credible, influential religious leader) was her accuser. Just a few of the vicious untruths spread about her were that she was a prostitute, a blasphemer of Islam, and was an agitator sent by the Americans (perceived as the evil occupiers). The author herself was subjected to roughly equivalent, ugly utterances.

Read the book to learn how the author cheated death in this wordy, redundant yet suspenseful volume.

The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree / The Last Nomad

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The first Book of the Week is “The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree, How I Fought to Save Myself, My Sister, and Thousands of Girls Worldwide” by Nice Leng’ete, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the following is still an all-too-common scenario in a poor village in Kenya: “… it is unlikely she will finish her education [meaning– graduating what would be equivalent to grammar school in the United States]. Her father married her [off when she was] young to get a dowry. Her husband wants her home to work and raise the children.” She is fifteen years old and already has two babies.

The author’s passion is to replace the tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) practiced by certain Kenyan tribes, with Alternative Rites of Passage. For, the culturally entrenched FGM is one major reason females in her society have been so sheltered, limited and resigned to their fate for so long.

The author grew up in a Maasai village in Kenya, near the Tanzanian border. When she was about five years old, her mother took her to witness a FGM ceremony in her community. Maasai culture dictated that when girls showed signs of puberty, they underwent the ceremony. “The cut” (of the clitoris) was extremely painful, and the presence of complications such as infection or hemorrhage could lead to chronic medical problems or even death. There were no drugs administered.

But the cut, even in the absence of physical complications, signaled the next steps of arranged marriage, childbearing and servitude for the rest of a girl’s life, usually beginning in her early teen years. Even when a girl’s mother wanted to honor her daughter’s wish to finish school and have a different lifestyle, she had no power to persuade her husband or any other male relatives to allow that to happen. The males ruled the roost.

Read the book to learn how the author escaped her almost certain dismal fate, and how she is helping other females to do the same, without their having to endure all the traumas she did.

The second Book of the Week is “The Last Nomad, Coming of Age in the Somali Desert, by Shugri Said Salh, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s Muslim family was somewhat anomalous, in that her father was a multi-lingual scholar who believed in education for both genders, and her grandmother was an authoritative figure. The author was born around 1974. Her culture also still practiced female genital mutilation.

The sprawling family’s tribe was nomadic– they herded camels and goats, and seasonally migrated around the desert in Somalia, looking for water. Their religion allowed polygamy among the men. The author’s father’s biological children numbered 23 among 7 wives, 5 of whom he divorced; the author’s mother gave birth to 10 children before she passed away of malaria when the the author was six years old.

In 1988, Somalia’s government and tribes devolved into civil war. “Killing, looting, destruction, and chaos was now our norm.” The people had a complicated system of relationships in which they took care of their own family and tribe, and if their brains were poisoned by war, they became hostile to all others.

The author’s sister possessed a key survival skill– thorough knowledge of her family’s lineage so that, when questioned, she knew which tribal name to utter to quell sociopathic, armed-and-dangerous child-soldiers in the streets. When the family finally fled Mogadishu in 1991, their black-market connections allowed them to obtain provisions that kept them alive– fuel for a truck, food and ammunition. However, they braved many other life-threatening dangers, including atrocities (committed by people), harm from lions, poisonous snakes and baboons, disease and dehydration; not to mention lice and scabies.

The author and several relatives were able to cross the border and stay in Kenya temporarily. Even so, law enforcement officers in Nairobi were corrupt– arresting refugees and hitting them up for bribes just before they knew the refugees were due to legally leave the country.

Read the book to learn much, much more about the author’s checkered story.

Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds

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The Book of the Week is “Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds, A Refugee’s Search for Home” by Mondiant Dogon with Jenna Krajeski, published in 2021.

Born in February 1992, the author began his childhood on a cattle ranch in Bikenke, a village in Rwanda. His family was of the Bagogwe tribe, a subcategory of Tutsi. His ancestors had migrated between Rwanda and Zaire (aka Congo; the author was unclear as to which current country– “Democratic Republic of Congo” or “Republic of the Congo”– he and his family lived in and when; so the area will hereinafter be referred to as Congo.).

In the mid-1990’s, the genocide in Rwanda forced the family to flee their Congo home mostly on foot with little more than the clothes on their backs. They had previously lived harmoniously side-by-side with their Hutu neighbors in the Congo. But contagious hatred reared its ugly head. The family hid in a cave, at a school, in the woods and other places prior to trying to stay alive at less dangerous places (i.e., refugee camps).

By spring 1996, the family had finally made its way to a refugee camp in Rwanda, where the Red Cross provided humanitarian assistance. The author and others lived in a tent city on grounds formed by the eruption of the volcano, Nyiragongo. A refugee was shot by a sniper, so the UN moved them to another camp, guarded by the Rwandan Patriotic Army. That did not end well either, as child-soldiers in the terrorist group called Interahamwe killed hundreds of Tutsis with machetes.

In the next several years, the refugees were moved from one camp to another, as life-threatening dangers (mostly from human violence) presented themselves around every corner. They nearly starved to death many, many times, and suffered from malnutrition all the time.

Nevertheless, the author, at eight years old, was finally able to start first grade at school. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), there were no: chalkboard, desks, pens and books. He passionately took to learning, anyway. At recess time, he and his friends also played soccer with a makeshift ball– made with whatever material was at hand. The refugees continued to eat only tiny portions of beans and corn every two or three days.

In 2001, Kabila, the new dictator of the Democratic Republic of Congo, wanted to give the (false) impression that peace had been restored in his country, so he had officials from Kivu go to the region’s refugee camps, including those in Rwanda, and propagandize that refugees could come home and live as they had prior to the unrest.

However, unaware of the full extent of Congo’s then-civil war, the author, his brother and father endured a stressful, multi-day journey via on foot and bus to see whether conditions were sufficiently safe for their family to return to their pre-war property. They were unable to reach their home, but in a village many miles away, the father found work from a Hutu employer who showed no tribal hatreds. For a change. The author resumed attending school and achieved fluency in Swahili, giving him a survival skill when he was confronted by haters. Bullets flew around outside the school from all different rebel groups in Kivu.

Read the book to learn: of the numerous times the author cheated death; the many hardships he suffered; and how he parlayed his passion for school into various positive developments, including receiving recognition from a philanthropist who helped him rise above discrimination against his refugee status.

Americanized / The Dilbert Future – BONUS POST

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The first Bonus Book of the Week is “Americanized, Rebel Without A Green Card” by Sara Saedi, originally published in 2018.

According to this slim volume (which appeared credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s family had a difficult time getting permission to live permanently in the United States, after fleeing the Iranian Revolution in the early 1980’s.

The author, born in 1980, provided a host of details on her family’s immigration ordeal, and her own life’s trials and tribulations (mostly First-World problems). Incidentally, she unwittingly wrote a line that would have subjected her to cancel-culture [In 1992]:

“…I’d personally reached peak frustration levels at our country’s complex and seemingly arbitrary immigration laws. I wanted to get on the first flight to Washington, DC, and storm the Capitol, but I didn’t, because any form of criminal activity would get me deported.”

Read the book to learn more.

The second Bonus Book of the Week is “The Dilbert Future, Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century” by Scott Adams, published in 1997.

The author discussed his predictions, obviously at the book’s writing. One of them was particularly accurate:

“As dense as they [the children] might be, they will eventually notice that adults have spent all the money, spread disease, and turned the planet into a smoky, filthy ball of death. We’re raising an entire generation of dumb, pissed-off kids who know where the handguns are kept.”

(!!!)

Read the book to learn more of the author’s insights.

My Father and I

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The Book of the Week is “My Father and I” by Camelia Sadat, published in 1985.

Born in July 1949, the author grew up in a distant suburb of Cairo, but possessed nostalgia for her father’s home village– Mit Abul-Kum, in the Nile delta. Her father was Anwar Sadat, whose mother was half Egyptian and half Sudanese, and whose father had eight wives; only the last two wives bore thirteen children between them. Anwar was the second oldest child of his father’s seventh wife.

Born in late 1918, Anwar’s young adulthood was typical of Muslim men of his generation who were headed for a political career. He chose his alliances and enemies pursuant to his future leadership role in mind. During WWII, he allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group desirous of replacing Egypt’s monarchy of King Farouk, with an independent Muslim theocracy. The British supported the king. During and after the war, Anwar did stints in jail for his pro-Axis, pro-Egyptian-independence activities. Further, he was discharged dishonorably from the Egyptian army.

By the late 1940’s, Anwar had two wives and two babies. The younger of the latter was Camelia. However, Anwar’s first marriage ended in divorce shortly thereafter. At thirty, he began his second marriage with his nineteen year-old bride. In 1950, he resumed his military career. He was appointed by Gamal Nasser to lead the group fighting for sovereignty for Egypt– the Free Officers’ Organization.

Anwar moved quickly up the political ranks. In July 1952, he and his cronies ousted King Farouk. In December 1953, he helped found a revolutionary newspaper, working in the communications (translation: propaganda) department of Egypt’s government. The very next year, he was named Minister of State. In 1956, Egypt saw the end of British occupation.

Camelia was a headstrong, independent child. When she was twelve, a marriage was arranged for her. The groom was 29. Unfortunately for them, a quiet, serious wedding reception (which was uncustomary) was the order of the day because Egypt was breaking its diplomatic ties with Syria.

Initially, Camelia accepted her fate as an obedient housewife (which was required by the Quran, and was the culture in Egypt). But after a couple of years, she became emotionally exhausted by the bossiness and physical abuse of her especially insecure husband. Camelia told her uncle about her marital problems, and reprimanded the husband. However, Anwar found out and told Camelia that a wife should obey her husband.

In the 1960’s, unrest in Yemen led to difficult geopolitical jockeying among Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and of course, the United States. In December 1970, Anwar was elected president of Egypt, at which time, it was on the outs with America. In 1971, he foiled a coup attempt against him. Egypt wasn’t diplomatically benefiting from Soviet financial aid, either, as the Soviets’ reputation for aggression made the U.S.S.R. an isolated state in the industrialized world.

Anwar was best known for his willingness to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel’s leader Menachem Begin, through an intermediary, America’s president Jimmy Carter. Read the book to learn many more details of his and his daughter’s life and career, and a bit of Egyptian history.