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  1. Manoj Narang and Haim Bodek "debate" HFT and Flash Boys
    Tuesday, April 08, 2014
  2. What happened to Malaysian flight MH370?
    Tuesday, April 01, 2014
  3. What is up with American presidents bowing to foreign heads of state??
    Wednesday, October 23, 2013
  4. Movie is done - Albert's Adventures Part 1
    Saturday, August 31, 2013
  5. Did Glenn Greenwald pull a fast one on NSA and GCHQ?
    Sunday, August 25, 2013
  6. My new IPhone 4S
    Wednesday, February 13, 2013
  7. Thich Nhat Hanh
    Sunday, October 28, 2012
  8. Intuit
    Thursday, October 18, 2012
  9. Smelling a rose
    Monday, October 08, 2012
  10. The magic is gone; it's so sad
    Friday, September 07, 2012

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    4/11/2012
  2. MjrTom on Spanking
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Albert's Blog

Manoj Narang and Haim Bodek "debate" HFT and Flash Boys

This video in which Manoj Narang and “HFT critic” Haim Bodek take turns promoting HFT and bashing Michael Lewis is pretty amazing. Haim Bodek is an “HFT critic” in the same way that Jimmy Savile is a “pedophile critic.” With Haim singing backup “The entire US stock market is not rigged;” “All of this is old news,” Manoj repeatedly shits out steaming turds which lay stinking on the studio floor. Everyone admires these turds and wonders at his amazing ability to produce gold bars out of his ass. For example, blaming Reg NMS for the tricks that HFT operators use to steal from suckers,

“There’s a very very simple fix to reg NMS that would cure virtually all the ills of the market that people complain about. Things like quote stuffing would disappear. Things like exotic order types like Hide not Slide orders,
they would have no purpose anymore… Endless fragmentation of the market would go away…”

…More bullshit…Order Protection Rule…regulators created a loophole… bullshit…

“That (Reg NMS) created an unlevel playing field (tilted AGAINST the HFT operators). All of these exotic order types that have come up since then are an attempt to ameliorate that and to limit that activity.”

Both Haim and host Rhonda Schaffler smile and nod as they admire this turd. No criticism is uttered. None. Nobody says a word as he weaves a golden curtain out of pure shit.

“They (HFT Operators) have had … a very positive effect on the market in the sense that things like quote stuffing have largely gone away.”

Where is the pushback to this amazing claim? Isn’t anyone going to say anything like “But… HFT operators invented quote stuffing!” Crickets chirp as Manoj continues to sell turds for $1297 per ounce. He goes on to claim that quote stuffing (which has largely gone away now) was never done on purpose; it was just a mistake!

(Quote stuffing) “was an INADVERTENT ERRONEOUS activity that arose naturally from the behavior of how algorithms work.”

Wha…? I’m starting to wonder whether I know what an algorithm is. Are algorithms plucked from mysterious trees in the Amazon jungle, and they just work the way they work, and nobody knows why? Are they grown in caves in a special region of France, and they just have these natural behaviors that nobody can control? Stupid me, I thought that algorithms were invented by humans to perform specific operations in response to specific inputs. Amazingly, Haim and Rhonda sit there smiling and nodding as these massive stinking turds pile up on the studio floor.

Eventually Haim jumps in with some criticism, “I’m very happy with a lot of things Manoj says!” “Lewis was irresponsible.” “Manoj’s firm Tradeworx has commercial solutions.”

What a great debate! I look forward to the next “Wealth Strategies” debate on Reuters TV, regarding pedophilia, starring pedophile critics Jimmy Savile and Robert H. Richards IV, and David Thorstad.

For contrast, here is a real debate in which they accidentally let Michael Lewis have the mike, and he proceeds to mop the floor with Manoj and his HFT-promoting bullshit.

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/katsuyama-narang-lewis-debate-speed-trading-~tZW9uHxRPm4Un24I0pyTg.html

For more about HFT please see this and this.

What happened to Malaysian flight MH370?

I've been following the story of Malaysian flight MH370 with some skepticism; the official story not only doesn't make a lot of sense, but appears to be false. It's not obvious what happened, but it seems clear that the plane did not just disappear without a trace. 

Why do I doubt the official story? There are a few reasons. One is that the officials telling us the story are stonewalling. For example, The Straits Times (which claims to be the most widely read newspaper in Singapore) published an article Wednesday March 26th which reports that Malaysian officials told relatives of the missing about "sealed evidence that cannot be made public." The article claims that the sealed evidence includes "air traffic control radio transcript, radar data and airport security recordings."

Another problem with the official story is that it keeps changing. The most recent change occurred yesterday (March 31st) when Malaysia's civil aviation department said the last words spoken by one of the pilots were "Good night Malaysian three seven zero". They had previously said that the last words were "All right, good night." This may not seem like a huge difference, but according to "pilots and aviation experts", "All right, good night" is not a standard thing for an airline pilot to say, whereas "Good night Malaysian three seven zero" is exactly the standard thing that they would say. Even if mistakes were made, why did it take 23 days to correct this mistake? This is only the latest change; this Yahoo News article is one of many in the mainstream press that mentions contradictory statements made by Malaysian officials.

The third problem with the official story is that it doesn't fit the facts. They claim that the pilot shut off the communication systems, and the transponder, and that somehow the plane managed to evade the overlapping military and commercial radar systems of Malaysia, Thailand and surrounding countries for hundreds or thousands of miles as it traveled off course. Numerous mainstream articles have debated and meditated upon various scenarios in which the wily captain could have flown below 5000 feet, or memorized the capabilities and waveforms of various countries' radar systems, or played other tricks to evade radar. This is unlikely but not impossible. It is conceivable that a talented pilot armed with detailed information about radar systems could have evaded the 19th century technology of radar. None of these mainstream stories have discussed ways that the pilot could have evaded the United States' infrared satellite imaging system. It is well known that spy satellites have a resolution of a few centimeters or less, and that they can track a fist-sized object anywhere on Earth. Some mainstream articles attempt to minimize this capability by claiming that the US operates less than 10 spy satellites and that they only cover small areas of the earth, but other apparently knowledgeable sources claim that the US operates hundreds of spy satellites.

Not so well-known is the fact that infrared imaging is used to watch for missile launches, and to track planes. The engines on a Boeing 777-200ER put out a lot of heat, the exhaust is approximately 850 degrees Celsius. The United States' SBIRS infrared satellite system is capable of tracking planes (and much smaller objects such as missiles). A system that can detect and track a missile launch anywhere on Earth will certainly be able to track a commercial jetliner. It is indisputable that the US military knows exactly what happened to flight MH370.

Although the official story appears false, until recently I didn't have any leads to follow, so I didn't do any investigation beyond reading news and opinions on various websites and blogs. The situation changed when a story came out claiming that Philip Wood, one of the American passengers on the plane, sent a photo and text message from his IPhone after the plane went missing, claiming that he was being held prisoner. This story claims that the Exif data on the photo proves that the message is really from Philip Wood, and that it came from Diego Garcia, a military base near the Maldives. This article claims that the message and photo were originally posted on 4chan, which would most likely indicate that it is a hoax. When I interviewed people who knew Phil (see below) they had not seen the "photo" story but believed that his first contact would have been his girlfriend Sarah. This 50-year-old IBM manager is not the typical 4chan poster, and the claim that he posted on 4chan instead of contacting his girlfriend or another relative does not seem credible. 

Some writers claim that Exif data is easy to modify. This article discusses various methods for modifying Exif data. Others say that modifications can easily be detected and that this particular photo was not modified, but these claims were not backed up by evidence, and after searching diligently I did not find any information explaining how to determine whether Exif data on a photo has been modified. If anyone knows how to detect modified Exif data, please speak up in the comments.

Another story claims that Phil Wood never existed. I searched for him on LinkedIn and found his profile here. I picked 3 of his "Endorsements" at random and messaged them through LinkedIn. I asked all three to call me to talk about Philip Wood. All three called me, and two told similar stories about Phil. I did not intend to contact any of his relatives, but one of the people I contacted was an in-law who had spoken with him two days before MH370 went missing. Another had been his mentor at IBM for many years, and had heard from him two weeks before the flight. The third asked me to email questions, and has not replied yet, but we may hear from him in an update. If Phil Wood doesn't exist, someone has performed significant work to fake his existence, complete with 184 LinkedIn contacts all prepared to answer questions about him (with matching stories). I am declaring the "Phil Wood never existed" story debunked.

It is not obvious what happened here. The information I got from Phil's LinkedIn contacts neither supports nor disproves the official story, but it raises serious questions with the "photo" story. At this point I see no credible evidence that the "photo" story is true, and it appears to be a hoax. We have a clearly false official story, a debunked conspiracy theory, and another discredited conspiracy theory. The only obvious conclusion is that we have no idea what happened to MH370. Will we ever know?


What is up with American presidents bowing to foreign heads of state??

Our last two presidents, G.W. Bush and Barack Obama, have exhibited a remarkable habit of bowing to foreign heads of state, including leaders of countries unfriendly toward the US. We know that presidential behavior is scripted and that nothing they do is without meaning. What does this recent bowing trend mean? Obama apologists say that he is just being polite, and that every head of state does it, but that does not appear to be true. Some other US presidents have made a practice of bowing; Eisenhower is a frequently cited example, Reagan bowed to Queen Elizabeth, Nixon bowed to Emperor Hirohito of Japan and Chairman Mao of China, and Clinton bowed to Emperor Akihito of Japan but others apparently never did, for example Google searches for "Kennedy bowing" or "Kennedy bows" come up with nothing, and I can't find any evidence that Poppy Bush ever bowed to a living person, although he took some heat for bowing to the coffin of Emperor Hirohito at his funeral. Jimmy Carter, despite his wimpy reputation, does not appear to have ever bowed during his presidency, nor did famously clumsy Gerald Ford. The interesting thing about these bows is that they are clearly not (as defenders claim) mutual expressions of respect between heads of state. In all of them, the American president bows while the other head of state stands ramrod-straight and looks down at him. All of these bows clearly express submission by the US president to the foreign head of state while the foreign leader expresses dominance by standing up straight and looking down at our bowing president (or up in the case of Queen Elizabeth who is 5'4").

Outside the US it is not easy to find examples of  heads of state bowing to other heads of state. It is said that the presidents of Australia and Canada (and other "subject" nations) bow to the queen of England based on their historical relationship but I was not able to find any recent photos or news stories describing such bows. It is extremely easy to find examples of heads of state meeting, shaking hands, etc., without bowing. Why do some US presidents bow? I don't have an answer for this but it is clearly not a normal practice among heads of state, and Obama and Bush seem to be huge fans of it. Here are some photos of Obama and G.W. Bush bowing to various heads of state:

Obama bowing:

Japanese Emperor Akihito:



Saudi Arabian King Abdullah:



Chinese President Hu Jintao:



British Monarch Queen Elizabeth:



Ukranian President Viktor Yushchenko:



Mexican President Felipe Calderon:



Bush bowing:

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah:



Catholic Pope Benedict XVI:



Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao



For contrast, here are photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin greeting some of the same heads of state. I'm not a fan of Putin, but his body language clearly expresses dominance or at least equal status. He does not bow; he looks them right in the eye. A Google search for "Putin bowing" does not bring up any images of him bowing.

Japanese Emperor Akihito:


Saudi Arabian King Abdullah:


Chinese President Hu Jintao:



Here's a Russian website with numerous pictures of Putin greeting foreign heads of state. He is not bowing to anyone. Putin is nothing special; it is similarly difficult to find pictures of other heads of state bowing. Even in Asian countries where bowing is a custom, the heads of state do not bow.

It is obviously not customary for heads of state to bow to each other, and it appears to be extremely rare, even when a "subject" relationship exists, but our last two US presidents have bowed repeatedly. What does this mean?

Movie is done - Albert's Adventures Part 1

My movie is done and I have it posted on YouTube. I've been working on this for a few months, and I still have some configuration work to do, adding tags and so on, but I'm pretty happy with the movie. This is the story of my eviction after my landlord was foreclosed. As I fought the eviction I realized that my neighborhood was being destroyed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae as they took over foreclosed rental homes and evicted the tenants, and then left the houses empty. This appears to be happening throughout the US, and this movie documents my and my neighbors' struggle to save our homes, and to figure out what they are doing and why. Please watch and then leave a comment to tell me what you think.


Did Glenn Greenwald pull a fast one on NSA and GCHQ?

The news has been dominated for days by the story of British authorities' ham-fisted detention and interrogation of Glenn Greenwald's husband David Miranda as he returned to his native Brazil from Berlin, Germany where he was meeting with Greenwald's co-journalist Laura Poitras. According to the official story confirmed by Glenn, David was ferrying documents between Greenwald and Poitras because they don't feel safe communicating electronically. He was detained for hours and all of his electronic recording devices were stolen. According to anonymous NSA sources, the NSA has no clue what Snowden took and the Miranda affair may have been a desperate attempt to find out.

I've been an enthusiastic reader of Glenn's site for years, and although I agree with some of the criticisms that have been raised regarding his and the Guardian's handling of the documents and related stories, I can claim with great confidence that Glenn is no idiot. This is not a man who acts without thinking, especially when the stakes are high.

Under the circumstances, I'm pretty surprised to see that nobody is questioning the official story. Is it reasonable to believe that Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras (with help from Edward Snowden and access to the considerable resources of the Guardian) couldn't figure out a way to communicate securely? Maybe it is, or maybe it isn't. Is it reasonable to believe that they would use Glenn's husband as a go-between to physically transfer documents? That's a bigger leap of faith, because he could have used someone not associated with him, and for several reasons it seems like a smart guy like him would have. Within days of Manning getting 35 years for angering the US government, would you send your wife or husband on an airplane with stolen top secret documents? Or would you send someone you don't care so much about, or maybe someone who is not well-known to be associated with you? Let's answer "Maybe" to all of those and then ask the big one. Why did he have to pass through Heathrow Airport? Is there no direct flight from Germany to Brazil? Looking at a map I see that Heathrow is somewhat of a detour. Are there no direct flights from Berlin to Rio? Based on a 30-second search, maybe not. But KLM has a flight that goes through Amsterdam, and Lufthansa has a direct flight from Hamburg to Rio. Double the 900-euro price for the nonstop flight, and add 500 euros for the Amsterdam layover. Can the Guardian not afford it? This piece of the puzzle does not fit.

I suspect that the Keystone Kops at NSA and GCHQ have been played for fools once again. Miranda was probably carrying encrypted copies of the Declaration of Independence. This entire story is most likely a very successful publicity stunt by Greenwald. I have to stop typing now because I am helpless with laughter.

My new IPhone 4S

I had an IPhone 4, and yesterday Apple swapped it out for an IPhone 4S. They did this because I had complained continuously (calling twice per day on average and going to the Apple store repeatedly) for four months, about the trouble with my IPhone 4. The 4S fixed the problem.

The problem I had was a simple one. When I was talking to someone, at random intervals, they couldn't hear me, for a random time (from a few seconds to a few minutes). I could hear them, and I would be talking, but they couldn't hear me. They would be saying "Hello...  Are you there?" and I would be yelling "Hello... Can you hear me?" and eventually either they would hang up, or my phone would start working again.

At first I didn't realize that the problem had started after I upgraded from IOS 5 to IOS 6. I called Apple repeatedly and they walked me through endless lists of diagnostic steps but we couldn't fix the problem. Eventually they sent me to the Apple store to swap out my phone for a new one, but that didn't fix the problem. I swapped it out again; no luck. On the third swap, they told me to not restore my apps, because one of my apps might be causing the problem. I followed this advice and used my new IPhone 4 for a week or two as a new phone, and it worked fine. I realized that the problem must have been caused by my apps.

After a week or two, I plugged my IPhone into my computer, and the computer offered to upgrade it from IOS 5 to IOS 6. I agreed, and immediately after the upgrade I made a phone call and experienced the problem. At this point I realized that IOS 6 must be causing the problem. I had not installed any of my apps, just upgraded to IOS 6 on a new phone, and then the problem started. I called Apple and told them the good news. I asked them to help me downgrade back to IOS 5, and they told me that downgrading wasn't possible, and that I was mistaken about IOS 6 causing the problem. They told me that IOS 6 couldn't possibly cause that type of problem, and they started asking me to perform more lists of diagnostic steps. They started treating me with that "child having tantrum" attitude that Apple takes whenever a customer disagrees with their diagnosis, and when I asked for a supervisor I was transferred to a "Senior Support Specialist" who was obviously reading from a script which did not include canned responses for a customer who has figured out that IOS 6 has caused his IPhone 4 to break. They even made me call ATT twice to have my account "reprovisioned." The ATT rep both times told us that there was nothing wrong with the account and that it did not need to be reprovisioned, but they did it anyway, and it didn't fix the problem. After several more frustrating experiences with Apple Support, I googled "iphone 4 ios 6" and found thousands of results with forum posts, magazine articles and blog posts reporting trouble with the IPhone 4 after upgrading to IOS 6. I did some more research and testing and found that, when the problem occurred on my phone, my CPU was maxed out. Apparently the IPhone 4 CPU is not fast enough to run IOS 6.

At this point I realized that Apple had not been acting in good faith. It appears to be well-known that IOS 6 does not work correctly on an IPhone 4, but Apple played stupid for months and jerked me around with diagnostic tests that they should have known were a waste of time. The call center reps I spoke with may have been unaware of the problem, but that was because Apple did not inform them about this well-known issue. This was mid-January, and I quickly found that knowing the root cause of the problem was not as helpful as I had expected. Apple continued to jerk me around for a month. Finally I went to the Apple store again and insisted that they do something to fix the problem. I talked to the manager and repeated at least 20 times "I just want the problem fixed. I just want my phone to work." By now it was mid-February. The manager made some suggestions which I rejected; trying yet another IPhone 4 (but now they couldn't give me one with IOS 5, they only had phones with IOS 6);  purchasing an IPhone 5 (yes, they really did suggest this). After I complained that refusing to let me downgrade to a working OS and then suggesting that I fix the problem by spending hundreds of dollars on new hardware seemed like extortion, the manager offered to replace my IPhone 4 with an IPhone 4S which has a faster CPU, and I agreed to try that. I got the IPhone 4S yesterday and have been using it all day, and the problem appears to be fixed. I restored all of my apps and it still works fine.

I don't want to seem ungrateful; I do appreciate Apple swapping out my IPhone 4 for a 4S, but overall I find their behavior bizarre and outrageous. I called them in October to report a well-known problem, and they played stupid for 3 months, then when I finally figured out what was causing the problem and told them, they still played dumb for another month, and then replaced my phone with a faster one, without ever admitting what had caused the problem.

The thing that really pisses me off is that, based on my last conversation with the Apple supervisor who was handling my case, I am 99% certain that Apple intends to continue encouraging IPhone 4 users to upgrade to IOS 6, and to treat customers who experience this problem the same way they treated me. They will continue to refuse to allow downgrades, leaving IPhone 4 users trapped with a broken phone, and they will continue to use the problem to force customers to purchase new hardware, while only greasing the loudest squeaking wheels. I will not be buying any more Apple products.

If you have an IPhone4 on IOS5, I recommend against upgrading. If you have already upgraded your IPhone4 to IOS6, please post your experience in the comments.

Thich Nhat Hanh

This guy is so cool; I totally like him!

Mindfulness

Intuit

Some have asked why I stopped writing about Intuit, and stopped updating my Facebook page, and I have to confess that I just got bored with it. I was sitting here in my chair typing on the computer, working on my Facebook page, and I looked out the window, and the sun was shining out there, and it was a beautiful day, and I got up from the computer and went out into the garden and haven't touched Facebook since. I am still mad at Intuit for stealing my benefits, and I want to tell you the funny story about the secret meeting and how I ruined it, but I spent most of the day looking into a computer screen at work, and I am done for today.

Smelling a rose

I was at home tonight after work, and I was listening to music and making some food, and I happened to walk into the living room past a vase on the piano in which some roses from my garden are drying. I stopped and smelled the roses, and they smelled so nice that I stopped thinking and just experienced the joy of the moment. I felt so grateful and so happy that I couldn't imagine anything better than being in my house with my friends' art on the walls, listening to music that I like, smelling roses from my garden, and it seemed like time stopped for a minute, or maybe just ceased to exist, and I was energized by a wave of, um, energy. The smell of the roses entered my mind and turned into a kind of rose-scented clarity where I saw and knew all and accepted it and I realized that this is what I wanted, and what I worked so hard all my life to get, and if I would just take the time to stop thinking and enjoy it, I could feel like this all the time.

Feeling grateful is a trick that I use to make life better. I learned this trick years ago from the Reiki principles, and it works. At first I had to practice it, but now it just happens. Gratitude is a very happy feeling. It is hard to be grateful and unhappy at the same time. Gratitude is also a powerful source of energy.

What is this energy that I get from plants and other people, or from the smell of a rose, or from gratitude? I'm feeling it more as I learn more, but I still need to know more. I started an Aikido class last month, and for the first time I see it being taken for granted. They talk about energy as if it were light or sound, and they use it, and even though I don't understand what I'm doing yet, I use it too and I feel it more every day.

The magic is gone; it's so sad

Democratic convention lacking 2008 magic.

It's so sad