Monthly Archives: April 2007

Commentful review – track blog comments


If you enjoy leaving comments on other people’s blogs and would like to be able to track future responses from other readers, you might find this free service from Commentful pretty handy.

It’s extremely simply to use. Whenever you want to be updated on new comments on a blog post, you simply click on an installed bookmarklet, or right click the mouse button and select ‘add to Commentful’. This adds the page to your Commentful repository, which will then inform you when new comments have been made. The real joy is that your commentful home page is also available as an RSS feed so you can use it to bring comments into your RSS reader. That’s how I use it, and it works a treat. Hope you find this useful.


Greg Norman teaches trading


This is a delayed post. When it appears on the site, I should be half way around a golf course (probably knee deep in sand, or hacking my way through the rough).

Just yesterday, I pulled this old book off my shelf, hoping to get some juicy tips on my golf swing. It turns out that many of Greg Norman’s lessons apply well to trading:

Part V: Managing Yourself And Your Game
Lesson #79: Know Thyself

At the end of each season, I take a pencil and paper and make a brutally honest appraisal of the state of my game. If you’re serious about wanting to improve your play, you should do the same thing.

Divide your game into driving, fairway woods, long irons, middle irons, short irons, wedge play, bunker play, chipping, putting, and trouble play….

This exercise in honesty will do two things for you. Number one, it will instill you with a feeling of confidence in the areas of your game that are relatively sound. Even if you already have that confidence, the exercise of actually writing a low number next to your strengths will reinforce the feeling. Secondly, by coldly and candidly recognizing your weaknesses you’ll be taking the first step toward strengthening them. From this point, you can establish a game-improvement agenda for the next season – lessons, drills, golf school, a practice programme, etc. Whateverit may be, it should focus on these acknowledged weak points of your game.

Part V: Managing Yourself And Your Game
Lesson #100: Shake It Off

We all love golf, but it doesn’t always love us back. No one knows better than I the strange fates that can befall you…

What I’ve learned over the past several years is that there are certain things about golf you can’t control. You lose more often than you win – and if you’re a weekend player, you probably make more bad shots than good ones.

Shake them off. Step aside for a moment, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and do your damnedest to forget what has happened. There’s no room on the golf course for anger or self-pity. The sooner you regain your composure and determination, the sooner your best shots will return.

Wise words from Greg Norman, aka ‘The Shark’, whose ‘100 Instant Golf Lessons’ can be found in their entirety on his excellent web-site (that’s one less book I need to keep hold of).

Greg Norman teaches trading

 “Everyone makes an ego mistake once in a while, but only a foolish player does it often. Such a golfer bases his shots not on wise course management but on self-delusion and wishful thinking. When he runs into trouble, he typically reacts badly. He can’t accept his own incompetence, so he attempts a recovery shot that’s usually beyond his reach. This frustrated, desperate demeanor only leads him into worse trouble.”

Week 25 trading results

Bad times, me thinks. My account fell by 5.4%, taking the balance to a few hundred pounds below the £12k mark. I attribute the decline to three factors: a failure of my strategy to deliver the goods, ongoing expenses, and a minor slip up in discipline. Because of the latter, I am giving myself a score of 7 out of 10 for following my road-map.

Negative weeks are part and parcel of the game, but when I am faced with a sizable weekly loss, it makes me consider the futility of trading with a low base of capital. I’m carrying on for now because my trading activity seems to have a positive expectancy in gross terms, but ongoing expenses mean I have have to run pretty fast just to stay still. Thus, I continue to seek work elsewhere and am devoting a portion of my time to other projects.

I am also introducing a point of ruin at £9k. If my equity falls to this level, I will cease trading.

Buddha, Bees and the Giant Hornet Queen (and Nicholas Taleb)

Bees, Hornets and the Markets 

‘Buddha, Bees and the Giant Hornet Queen’ is the title of a fascinating documentary that aired on Wednesday evening, on BBC 2 . The programme followed the life of a Japanese Giant Hornet Queen as she established a hornet colony; the colony went on to launch a military style attack on a bee-hive kept by commercial bee keepers. Over the course of a few hours, around 30,000 honey-bees were massacred by a mere handful of hornet soldiers. It wasn’t a battle, but a killing field. And why was the carnage so one-sided? The bees in question were western honey-bees, introduced by the bee-keepers because they have much higher honey production than domestic honey bees. However, because these bees had never been exposed to such a predator before, they were totally defenceless when attacked.  


Domestic honey bees form a bee-ball to kill the hornet

In contrast, a local bee-keeping monk kept a hive of domestic honey bees, and when a soldier hornet came knocking on this hive, the bees knew the drill. They patiently waited for the hornet to enter the hive and then attacked, smothering the hornet in a bee ball (see picture), and literally cooking the hornet to death.

Watching this made me think about evolution and the importance of not thinking I can trade market x just because I can trade market y. Each market has its own personality, its own traps, it’s own gifts.

Is Nicholas Taleb an orchid? 

Earlier in the programme, the Buddhist monk showed how he attracted the domestic honey-bees. He simply placed a certain species of orchid next to an empty hive box. Instead of producing a sweet smelling pollen, this orchid employed an altogether different strategy. The plant had evolved to produce the scent of the giant hornet. This led to a large scale attack by the domestic honey-bees, who unwittingly played their role in spreading the pollen. The plant looked worse for wear after the attack but it’s objective had been met. And the bees, when they tired of attacking the plant, found respite in the nearby hive box, which they then started using as a home.

This led me to draw another parallel, this time to Nicholas Taleb. Taleb’s new book, ‘The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable’ , is being discussed at great length by the media and in the blogosphere. Some reviewers think it is a rambling non-sense, that its 400 pages are used to pad out just one central idea, and that it contains many poor examples. Taleb’s reputation as an intellectual but arrogant author also comes in to play. However, there are also several good reviews by other prominent writers.

I haven’t had contact with Taleb or his book, and I have no opinion on either, but I am amazed at how many words (pollen) are being devoted to the new book in new and old media alike. Like the orchid, Taleb seems to have niche. His personality seems to be very strong, and his work creates both critics and followers alike. This is perfect for Taleb, because the diverse opinion generates discussion. I am also led to wonder whether some people will buy his book expecting to disagree with him, with a view of being able to tell others why and where he is wrong. For Taleb, and for his books sales, it’s all effective pollen spreading.

Water part II

More watery insights, this time from Bruce Lee:

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it into a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

And an interesting piece of dialogue from Enter the Dragon:

Teacher (Shaolin Master-Mr. Lee’s Teacher): What is the highest technique you hope to achieve?
Student (Character-Mr. Lee): To have no technique.
Teacher: Very good. What are your thoughts when facing an opponent?
Student: There is no opponent.
Teacher: And, why is that?
Student: Because the word “I” does not exist.
Teacher: So..continue
Student: A good fight should be: Like a small play–but played seriously. A good martial artist does not become tense–but ready. Not thinking–yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expand–I contract. When he contracts–I expand. And when there is an opportunity..I do not hit..”it” hits all by itself.
Teacher: Now, you must remember. The enemy has only has images and illusions, behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image and you will break the enemy. The “it” that you refer to is a powerful weapon, easily misused by the martial artist who deserts his vows.


I continue to draw insights from the unlikeliest of places: 

Because our patio is on a slight downward angle, when we water the potted plants the water runs down to the drain. The journey the water takes to get there is an interesting one. The objective is to obey the natural law of gravity and to flow on a downward path. However, the water doesn’t follow a straight line. Because there is limited pressure (due to the angle of the patio and the quantity of water), the paths of least resistance are dictated, in large part, by the lumpy surface of the paving, and the cracks and dirt the water encounters along the way. Because of these obstacles and because of the nature of water, the flow divides into separate trickles, each with it’s own, unique path. Some trickles meet too much resistance and fail and dry up. Does the water try harder to make these paths ‘work’? No, of course not. The natural laws dictate a path of least resistance, and only the successful channels are reinforced with more flow. The water is not ‘trying’, it just ‘is’, but we can learn from it.