Happy Hanukkah

It is 8th-night candle-lighting time here in Boston. Happy Hanukkah to those who are “practicing Jew-craft” as Trump administration appointees would presumably say.

Speaking of hate, check out the pictures below where some haters broke into the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and installed an 8′-high menorah “artwork” intended to make Judaism seem incredibly lame by comparison with Christianity (see the museum’s magnificent tree). To add insult to injury, the menorah was fully lit prior to the holiday’s beginning.


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

#1 issue top traders want to fix in 2017 on our prop desk

It’s the end of the year, and time for trading business plans for 2017 from the traders on our desk.

When viewing the trading plans of our best traders the issue that repeats the most to fix in 2017 is……..

Waiting for the setup!

These are highly profitable traders, and even some seven-figure traders.

These are experienced traders who have shown a history of success and consistency of edge in different market environments.

Repeatedly the issue most top traders on our desk struggle with is forcing trades.

There can be a fine line in some cases from seeing the trade then putting on size and forcing the trade. Read more […]
SMB Capital – Trading Education

Bob Fano and Jay Forrester

Two MIT pioneers in computer science died in 2016. Jay Forrester pushed forward big computers for Big Government, including the military, and core memory.  Bob Fano started the computer science lab at MIT. Both were 98.

I knew Fano and attended his memorial service, organized by pedagogical superhero (at least to me) Hal Abelson. Consistent with The Son Also Rises, Fano was born to a successful Jewish family in Italy: dad was a “prominent mathematician and pioneer of finite geometry” while his brother Ugo and cousin Giulio Racah were “established physicists.” Fano escaped anti-Jewish policies in 1939 by emigrating to the U.S. where he got a bachelor’s degree in 1941 and then worked for the Radiation Laboratory, which worked on military technologies such as RADAR and LORAN.

Check out this video, likely from 1964, where Fano talks about the potential for time-sharing computing. He opens by saying that a computer terminal could aid people in almost any cognitive area. He anticipates the open-source movement at 4:30. At 8:30 he talks about “hundreds” of people using a single mainframe. Is it fair to say that Fano anticipated our modern world of desktop PCs? In 1990 the answer would have been “no.” The mainframe had been miniaturized to desktop size and the number of terminals was 1. Today, however, I think that we are pretty much doing what Fano expected. The desktop PC is a higher-quality terminal than what Fano is shown using, but essentially it is a terminal to Amazon’s, Google’s, or Facebook’s “mainframe.” (See also this comparatively recent video where Fano shares his memories.)

The memorial gathering is available as a videoBob Kahn, co-developer of TCP/IP, speaks in the middle, Fernando Corbato, co-developer of the modern operating system (MULTICS was the spiritual ancestor of today’s ubiquitous (unfortunately!) Unix/GNU/Linux). Ed Fredkin said that the idea of time-sharing originated with John McCarthy, also the developer of the One True Religion. MIT pushed him out. Caltech wouldn’t taken him in. Stanford apparently saw the merits of his idea and gave him a full professorship.

The best tribute is towards the end of the gathering. David Liu, a professor from Taiwan, gave the speech that anyone would wish to hear as a post-death fly-on-the-wall. If you need to talk about a departed colleague I recommend using Liu’s talk as a model.

Nearly all of the older crowd were super-nice folks and certainly Fano was one of the nicest people that I ever met in Academia. I’m wondering if it is partly because of the infinite funding for the lab that was described. These researchers didn’t have to compete with each other for research grants.

In an era where women are ostentatiously celebrated for trivial achievements in STEM, speakers recalled Mildred Dresselhaus, who became head of the EE side of MIT’s EECS department in 1971. (Dresselhaus, in the 1960s, laid the foundations for everything that is hyped today under the “nanotechnology” rubric.) Fano had three daughters. Dismayed by the pointless exercises put forward by the Massachusetts public schools, Fano taught the girls math in the context of physics.  All three of them ended up having technical careers, e.g., one of them recently retired from an engineering job at General Motors.

Management tip from Corbato: Fano wouldn’t allow anyone to get money from the computer science lab and work remotely (i.e., across the street on the main MIT campus). You had to have a primary office in the rented 545 Technology Square office building to receive funding. Al Vezza attributed the physical combination of mathematicians and computer nerds for advances such as RSA cryptography.

What happens when MIT PhDs in computer science try to use an Apple Macintosh computer to play a video? You get unrelated music simultaneously layered on the video soundtrack until a quorum of 8 nerds is assembled in front of the Mac.

How has the world changed since Fano’s day? Academic computer science is much more dispersed, with high-quality departments all over the country and the world.  Industrial computer science, however, seems more concentrated. At least in the U.S., if you’re not in Silicon Valley you’re probably not part of the big trend.

I’m not sure if it is massive population growth, economic growth, or a fall in the cost of transportation, but the cost of beachfront property has apparently gone up quite a bit. Fano’s daughter Linda talked about the family purchasing land in Chatham (Cape Cod), right on the beach and with a dock for the 31′ power boat, and then building a house. That’s a $ 2.5-4 million project today, not likely to be affordable on an MIT salary, even full professor pay (about $ 186,000 per year in 2014).

Any good life lessons here? Fano stayed fit by exercising. We saw photos of him skiing at age 80+ on Mt. Wachusett. When he wasn’t coming into MIT anymore, Fano stopped paying Massachusetts state income tax by moving to Naples, Florida.  Watching the speakers struggle with memory issues was sobering. We don’t have a lot of time so we should probably be careful about how we use it.

That said… Happy New Year’s Eve to all readers and I hope that 2016 contained more gains than losses.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Last Trading Day ES

Well, this is it, everyone. The end of 2016, a year packed with surprises. Our final trading day will obviously be quite thin on volume (and even thinner on news), but looking at the ES on an intraday basis, it looks prone to some more weakness today, particularly if that red line at 2252.75 holds. […]
Slope of Hope

Goodbye to 2016

It’s been an interesting year on equities this year, with plenty of thrills and spills, and with some extremely dull periods where volatility almost vanished. Not the easiest year to trade, but generally something interesting happening, even if that was only a record-challenging period of very little volatility like the one we saw in the […]
Slope of Hope