June 22nd, 2010



Thus begins Clifford Asness's research project with the advice of Eugene Fama, adherent of the efficient market hypothesis and presumptive skeptic of momentum in security prices. It's one of many tales from the trading floor, the seminar room, and the card table that make up Scott Patterson's The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It. Book Review No. 13 recommends The Quants as a readable, careful, intuitive explanation of some of the strategies, machinations, and personality quirks that led to multiple financial bubbles. A casual reader might infer that Wall Street is indeed a casino, as some of the quants (jargon for mathematically sophisticated arbitrage-seekers) developed some of their skills understanding games of chance, including roulette, blackjack and poker. Along the way they killed all the fun in a trading-house game called Liars Poker, in which traders attempt to estimate the frequency a digit occurs on yuppie food stamps held by the players, to the discomfiture of the frat-boy jerks who thought they understood asset trading. It is important, however, for the reader to understand the difference between a casino that manufactures risk, and an asset market that values it. Casino games are subject to the laws of large numbers in ways that asset prices are not. Nassim Taleb and Benoit Mandelbrot make cameo appearances, and the explanations of their insights in Quants is instructive. The quants, however, were slow learners. The book suggests that portfolio insurance, one mathematical breakthrough, preceded and might have precipitated the October 1987 price crash; value at risk analysis, another breakthrough, led to the failure of Long Term Capital Management in 1998, and Mr Patterson suggests new quantitative tricks led to errors in the valuation of mortgage-backed securities. He concludes with a warning that the quants are still at work on more exotic financial products, although whether they have revised their reliance on the law of large numbers remains to be seen.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

An Update (now with fixed HTML!)

It just occurred to me that I signed on for the 50-book a year challenge, and actually kept up with it via a notepad file on my computer, but never gave anything regarding an update. So here's what I've been reading. I have most of these, so if you see anything you're interested in, toss me out an e-mail and if I still have the book (or it wasn't borrowed) I'll send it off.

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Now reading:
After Sunset - Stephen King
The Shock Doctrine - Naomi Klein
Media in the Age of Marketization - Graham Murdock and Janet Wasko

I've decided to include books for courses, but only if I enjoyed the books. I was going to write a blurb for Small Favour from Jim Butcher, but I realized that if I reveal anything, and I mean anything, and it'll produce a spoiler for someone who's only just started the first book. So I'm going to write about After Sunset. In the introduction, King talks about the anxiety of going back to an old writing style after years of being away from it, and about the state of the American short story. I'm not quite finished the book yet, but from the few short stories I've read thus far, I don't think King has much to worry about. His grasp of the intrinsic formula of the short story hasn't faltered, and in fact, many aspects of his story and character construction have improved over the years. Granted, I'm a bit biased, as I have many strong childhood and teenage memories of reading early King, but years later, but I feel I'm safe in saying that King has improved with age rather than declined as some of his detractors have stated.
women, picasso, reading

12/50 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

     This book is a must read! I started it way back in March, then had to put it aside for awhile. You see, Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in a matter of months. This was too much to bear after my own diagnosis of ovarian cancer in April. After the shock and panic of my own life settled into a daily routine after about 2 months, I could handle Henrietta's tragic story once again. Her story is not only about her own disease but also about her family and about medicine. You see, her doctor took a sample of her cancer cells 60 years ago. Since then her cells have proved to be especially hardy, essentially immortal. Billions of dollars have been earned from these cells, but her family and her children lived in poverty. The author, Rebecca Skloot, has mastered reportage. She taught me  science, introduced me to Henrietta's family, and wove a provocative story. She made me question the doctor-patient relationship and what is moral and ethical is regards to tissue samples. She made me  ponder the capitalistic economy that drives the profits that drives medical research. Who owns  tissue? But most of all, Rebecca Skloot put me in the shoes of this family. Great read!!

7/5 stars
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    thoughtful thoughtful

BOOKS 21-24

BOOK 21: The Color of water by James McBride
A fantastic book about race and what makes us who we are

BOOK 22: Diamond dove by Adrian Hyland

An interesting book but not as good as I expected it to be.

Book 23: The boy who was raised as a dog by Bruce Perry

Absolutely fascinating book which I expected to be very depressing. Instead it was quite uplifting

BOOK 24: Sophies World by Jostein Gaarder
This book started so well but I was very disappointed in the ending. It just got sillier and sillier.
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Hermione and Snape

Book 7

7. Crisis by Robin Cook
Pages- 371
Genere- Mystery
Thoughts- This book is about dealing with medical malpractice and the courtroom proceedings. The problem I had was that the ending left you with quite a few loose ends. I liked the book, but I'm not sure if I really would recommend it unless you like reading Robin Cook. I would suggest some of Robin Cooks earlier works because they draw you in and tie up all the plots.

For the rest of the list go to my personal journal azabeth99
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    calm calm

Blockade Billy by Stephen King #17/50

This is a public service annoucement:

Don't waste your money on Stephen King's newly released book Blockade Billy.

I thought it was a slam dunk for me King plus baseball equals winner. Sadly this was not the case. I kept waiting for the story to take off, to add some sort of supernatural element, but it just limped along like the aging coach that told the story of a 1957 baseball player named Billy Blakely. Blakely was the last minute option when the big league Titans lost two catchers in one week.

As bad and disappointing of an ending that this story has, the second is even worse.  "Morality" tells the story of a young couple facing money problems. They long to get out of Jersey and move north to Conn. An unfinished yet promising book by the husband gives the couple hope of a bright future. Unfortunately with both working, he has little time for writing. Their problem is instantly solved when a former pastor, whom the woman has been helping recover from a stroke, offers 200k if the couple will help him satisfy a dark wish.

The story started with potential and then just got weird and frankly unbelievable.

If King's name didn't appear on the cover, I would have sworn these stories were written by a C level high school creative writing student.

King you owe me 6.99 and 47 minutes of my life back.


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Book 38: The Anastasia Syndrome and Other Stories - Mary Higgins Clark
Genre: Suspense
Plot: A collection of short stories.
My thoughts: The title story in this collection was AMAZING and blew me away. The others were pretty good. Maybe MHC might have missed her calling - short suspense stories.
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5).

38 / 50 books. 76% done!

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