Friday, August 31, 2007

Financial Market Books (Some good but not so light reading)

In light of the current financial market and the end of the summer I have decided to make some reading recommendations. While these books are not light reading they are very interesting and I have read several of them more than once. One is an expensive reference book but I want to reference it. I own all of these books in hardcover but most if not all are available it well priced, large print paperback versions.

The books are listed in historical order.

  1. Liars Poker - Michael Lewis - I first read this book when I got a job offer from Salomon Brothers in the Spring of 1990. While the book is a little dated since Salomon Brothers no longer exists as a standalone company (it is now part of Citigroup) it does describe the creation of the mortgage securities products that are currently in the news today. Michael Lewis was gone from Solly by the time I got there so it does not cronicle the 1991 Treasury Scandal that lead to the Formation of Long-Term Capital Management. This is the first book by author Michael Lewis and is probably one of his best.
  2. When Genius Failed (The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management) - Roger Lowenstein - After the 1991 Treasury Scandal at Salomon Brothers John Merriweather was forced out of his role at Solly. He moved up to Greenwich Connecticutt and started a hedge fund called Long-Term Capital Management with several Salomon Brothers traders and quants (including two soon to be Noble Prize winners). Prior to 1998 LTCM was a darling in the finacial world. They were on the cover of BusinessWeek and were subject of many articles in other publications. In 1998 they were involved in the near meltdown of the Global Financial Markets. Author Roger Lowenstein does a great job of telling LTCM's story. (Mr. Lowenstein has also written a very good biography of Warren Buffet)
  3. F.I.A.S.C.O - Frank Partnoy - This book was recommended to me by my Reuters' sales rep when I was at NationsBank. Author Frank Partnoy tells the inside story of the Derivatives group at Morgan Stanley during the early 1990s. While this is not a technical book the reader will come away with a good knowledge of the world of derivatives.
  4. The Smartest Guys in the Room - Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind - This book was made into a movie. However, the big screen does not do the book a lot of justice. Authers McLean and Elkind tell the story of the rise and fall of Enron. While Enron had its roots in the relatively slow pace Energy business it eventually became a trading operation similar to Salomon Brothers and Goldman Sachs. In fact one of its former traders was the highest paid person in America last year.
  5. My Life as a Quant (Reflections on Physics and Finance) - Emanuel Derman - This book was recommended to me by Author Derman writes about getting a PHd, working at Bell Labs and then finding his way to Wall Street. While Dr. Derman and I have never met before I was surprised to find that we had some common ground. Dr. Derman worked in the same Department that I worked in at Bell Labs and we both went from Bell Labs to Wall Street. While Dr. Derman spent most of his time at Goldman Sachs he was at Salomon Brothers during the same time I was there as well. I found this book to be fascinating read but could be challenging in some sections since some of concepts are explained in great detail.
  6. Origins of the Crash (The Great Bubble and its Undoing) - Roger Lowenstein - This is another book by Mr. Lowenstein. This book tells the story of Wall Steet and sums up the points made in the other book recommendations. I bought this book while I was travelling and I found it to be a quick read. If you want to get some historical reference to the current financial market crisis this might be the one book to read.
  7. Infectious Greed (How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Markets) - Frank Partnoy - Another book by F.I.A.S.C.O. author Frank Partnoy. Mr. Partnoy tells the story of Wall Street through the scandals of the last 3 decades starting out with Andy Kreiger from Salomon Brothers. This book is good read but I have to say it took a while to complete. I think it is because the last half of the book covered material that I had already read about or lived through. However, much of the first half covered material that was before I joined Salomon Brothers so I found it very interesting.
  8. The Handbook of Fixed Income Securities - Frank J. Fabozzi and T. Dessa Fabozzi - This book is the reference book and is definitely not light reading. My version is probably over 10 years old and needs updating. However, I used to use the book to look up things that I did not understand when I read about it in the Wall Street journal or was mentioned in CNBC. This is definitely not a book for everyone and I probably would not have my own copy had it not been the textbook for a class I took in the early 90s.

Now that the summer is over I need to find some new books to read. I have not found anything that I have been the interested in but the current Mortgage - Real Estate - Credit market might generate a new list of books.

More Boston Pictures (The last ones for a while)

I finished up in Boston this past week. It was kind of unexpected. We had a deliverable due at the end of the week so Monday was my only day to explore. I stayed at a downtown hotel this week (Hyatt Regency Boston). This meant that my exploritory walks started from a different point.
I found my way through Boston Commons and then into the Public gardens. Once I got to the other side of the gardens I realized that I had been in the same neighborhood but I had walked from Cambridge but turned around just one block before I got the the Public Garden entrance.

The guy with the dog almost got hit by the Boston Duck Tour truck. Even the driver was yelling at him the dog walker never got off his phone. I am not sure he even realized how close he came to becoming a angel.

I saw a fixie rider run into the back of a car in front of the John Hancock building after I took the picture. I heard the bump and I looked over in time to see the rider slide over the roof of the car. He appeared to be OK and continued on his way after checking his wheels.

There is a Dane Cook movie being filmed in Boston.

Some more Fixed/Single Speed Pictures.

I had dinner on Wednesday evening at the Boston Harvard Club. It is located on the 38th floor of 1 Federal. One of those unique experiences.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I was back in Boston this past week

After a two day trip to Charlotte, NC and a couple of days off I was back in Boston for the usual Monday through Thursday Consultant Travel week. While I packed my camera I never took it with me when I ventured out in the evening. As a result I did not getting any pictures of bikes. Always seem to see some nice bikes when I do not have my camera. I found a couple of new streets that seemed to be prime Fixie areas. I even saw a bike based on the frame that I had my eye on at Cambridge Bicycles. I walked by a group of guys that were gathered around a Specialized Langster Boston that had changed out the stock brake levers and retaped the handle bars.

I also found the First Act Guitar Studio which is only a couple of blocks from the Berklee School of Music. For a company that makes mass produced instruments for Wal-Mart they do have some cool custom guitars that are priced right. Not sure I would give up my Les Paul Custom for one but they might make a nice second guitar. Of course I have not been doing a lot of guitar playing since I bought the Langster.

I stayed at the Cambridge Hyatt for the 3rd time. This time they gave me a 12 floor room facing the Charles River with a huge balcony. The weather on Monday was not that great but I was exhausted by the time I got to the hotel. I am not sure if I went very far. I think I just did a workout in the gym and ordered room service. The pictures below are from my balcony.

On my ride last Saturday I did bring my camera but there were not a lot of opportunities for taking pictures since I do not like to stop. However, I had stop on the Sea Bright - Rumson Bridge to adjust my water bottles so I decided to take out my camera and takes some pictures.

This is a party on the Rumson, NJ side of the river. My takes around the front of this property and the first guests were starting to arrive. It was a great day to be hanging out on the river. Not sure what the celebration was but I think it may have been a wedding.

The boat above was moored on the Sea Bright side of the river. Usually the big yachts are on the Rumson side. This thing is huge. I think it is much bigger than the house it is parked next to.

The picture above is from the bridge but is looking south to Monmouth Beach and Long Branch.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Friday Afternoon Ride turns into an Adventure

I will never take off on a ride again without checking the weather conditions. (I wish I had brought my camera)

I was on vacation for 3 days this past week. I got a 40 mile ride in on Wednesday but I was not able to ride on Thursday since I had to drive up to the Adirondack High Peaks Area to pickup my daughter from Southwoods Camp. The trip is about 4.5 hours each way and it was decided that we would do the whole trip in one day. This meant getting on the road by 5 AM in the morning. We were back home by 6:30 PM but I was too tired to even think about getting on the bike.

It has been busy at work and I decided that I would work for 1/2 a day on Friday to get some stuff completed from the trip to Charlotte on Monday and Tuesday. By the time I get everything done and ran the days errands it was about 2 PM before I could get ready to take a ride.

When I left the house it was sunny with some clouds. It was hot but not as hot as it had been a couple of hours earlier. I usually begin everyone of my rides the same way. I zigzag through Holmdel and then cut over to Marlboro. I usually take Conover Road south to Colts Neck. From Colts Neck I usually have several options that I take depending on how much time I have and how far I want to go.

As I was riding through Marlboro I notice that the clouds were starting to look kind of threating but I still thought I had plenty of time. Since I do not like to turn around I decided I would make my way over to Colts Neck and I could then shoot home and finish up with a 15 to 20 mile ride. With one eye on the clouds and another eye on the lookout for potential shelter should the storm hit quicker than I expected I continued on my way. As I approach the turn that would take me back home it appeared that clouds had dissolved and it was back to sunny skies with some clouds. Since I was on vacation and it was still early I decided to keep riding and I mentally created a route map in my head. I was going to head down through Shrewsbury into Little Silver through Oceanport to Monmouth Beach back to Sea Bright and through Rumson, Fairhaven, Red Bank and Middletown before coming back to Holmdel.

I should have bailed and headed home but that just would not have been me. As I was riding from Tinton Falls to Shrewsbury I looked north and that is when I saw the reason for the moment of nice weather in Colts Neck. A large storm front to the North had sucked all the energy and was gathering up strength. At this point I knew there was no way I was going to be able to make it home before the storm hit because I would have had to ride right into it. I decided to stay on my course in try to make it to one of the towns before it hit.

I heard my first crack of thunder when I got to the main intersection in Shrewsbury. At this point I was thinking of my options. There is a bike shop on Rt 35 but I knew that there were some stores in Little Silver with overhangs that would provide cover. I probably should have gone with the bike shop because I could have done some shopping but I went for Little Silver. Once I got to the NJ Transit/Crossing I knew I did not have much time (I probably should have stopped at the station because I could have taken the train home but the idea did not cross my mind at this point) so I ran the red light and pick up the pace so I could get into the main part of Little Silver.

Once in Little Silver I spotted the Walgreens with the big overhang so I decided to take shelter here. Just as I got under cover all hell broke loose. This storm had everything. Strong winds, heavy rain, ground striking lightning, flash flooding and of course hail. Just about everything that should scare and unprotected cyclist.

It was just after 4 PM when I got to Walgreens. I had already gone about 24 miles and the shortest route back home would be about 7 miles. I figured that I would simply wait it out. I figured it was a summer storm and it would pass quickly. Of course since Monmouth county is bordered by two large bodies of water (The Raritan Bay to the North and the Atlantic Ocean to the East) storms can be unpredictable.

The storm raged for the next 45 minutes. Just when I thought it was starting to slow down it would all of sudden pick up strength and continue. Finally the sun started to come out and the rain stopped. I decided that would stay put of a little bit while I waited for the flooding to go down and the roads to dry up a little. There was a Carvel next to the Walgreens so I decided to get a vanilla cone while I waited.

I waited around until 5:30 PM. While I was waiting a Little Silver Police Officer showed up in his SUV. He spent most of the time chasing cars out of the fire zones. He was not writing tickets but was giving warnings. I am not sure if he was keeping an eye on me as well since he circled around several times. I kept expecting him to stop and ask what I was doing but he never did. However, he should be used to cyclists coming through town. Since there is a steady flow of cyclists through Little Silver all weekend long and I doubt I am the first one to have to take shelter at the Walgreens.

It looked like the storm had passed and I decided to continue along my original route down to Monmouth Beach. At first the roads were still a little wet but the big puddles were gone. The wind had not broken any tree limbs so the roads were clear. It was now a little cool but the sun was shining and I expected it was going to be a nice ride.

The ride was uneventful until I got through Red Bank and turn on Hubbard to make my way home. (Hubbard is one of those roads that changes names at every intersection. It eventually becomes Laurel Ave in Holmdel. I live off of Laurel Ave.) I noticed that the skies were once again becoming threating and for the second time today I realized that a storm forming in the north had given me a false sense of security. I decided to pick up the pace and get home since the only shelter that I knew about at this point was my own garage. However, I had ride directly into the storm in order to get home.

Once I got to the Red Hill Road intersection I got a view like I had never seen before. It was like there were 3 storms all coming together at once. There was one huge cloud that was just sparking lightning. I was hoping that it was further away than it looked but I still had about 2 mile to do. I ran the ride light and I rode down the last hill. The roads were still dry because it had not started to rain yet so I could move quickly. The rain started just as I got to Laurel Avenue. I turned into my neighborhood just as the storm hit. My glasses had fogged up and I was praying that the lightning would not hit me. I also wanted make sure I did not lay the bike down on the pavement.

Finally I made it to my garage. I fumbled with the remote but I eventually got in. I was wet but not as bad as I could have been.

I ended up riding 45 miles for the day. Not a bad ride but not as enjoyable as it could have been. Thanks to the storm today is a sunny cloudless day in the 60s. I am looking forward to a ride today. I have already checked the weather report!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fixies/Single Speeders in Charlotte, North Carolina

I went to Charlotte, North Carolina this past Sunday evening for a business trip. I spent Monday and Tuesday in meetings around downtown. I did not really expect to see very many messengers but on my way to my first meeting I saw one. I do not remember them when I lived there but I supposed I did not really notice back then.

Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Mom took part in the Auburn Great Race

I asked my mom to be a guest blogger. Here is her contribution.
(I added some pictures from past Great Races.)

I will try to step up to the table that my son set. I did the Great Race in Auburn NY this past Sunday. Our team did the short race which consited of a 5K run, 10 mile bike and a 2 mile canoe. For you experienced and young sports people this may not sound long but our team age average is 67. I feel at least we were there.

When I was asked to do this and I went to the web site and they gave the average age as 37.5 I knew we were in a little deep. We decided to just go for the t-shirt. We actually came out at 240 place which was not to bad. It was a very well run race and very enjoyable day. The weather was a little hot but the surroundings were great.

I saw all sorts of bikes and since I am not up on all the newest details I was very interested in all the varieties of bikes that were out there. Since I am also very interested in clothes I loved all the colors and different shoes etc that
were worn. I would definitely do this race again when I am even older....

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Langster Seattle and a Bad Travel Day

I keep thinking the the 2008 Langster Seattle might be my bike for 2008. While I am not a fan of the stock handle bars they have started to grow on me lately. If I get a another 52 I should be able share the bike with my daughter who never uses the gears on her bike anyways. The fenders and the toe clips would make it a great commuter. So far the only 2008 Langster I have seen is the Boston Version at Back Bay Bicycles in Boston. If I decide to go this route I will have to order it. I might even add some lights as well and make it a real commuter. However, ski season is just around the corner and that may take all of my spare change.

I flew back to New Jersey from Boston on Friday (yesterday). It was the trip from hell. I was originally planning on flying home on Thursday evening but there was an early Friday morning meeting that I decided to stick around and support. I wanted to get home since I knew that my dog (Fluffy) was going to be alone in the house while I was travelling. While she is really good it is just not fair to leave her alone for a long period of time.

My original flight was at 2:15 PM but I decided to get to the airport (Boston's Logan) early and see if I could catch an earlier flight. I left the office at about 10:45 AM and I got to the airport around 11 AM. All of the flights were delayed and the next available flight was the 1:20 PM which was now delayed until 2:20 PM. I decided to get on the earlier flight. As I was sitting in the gate area I noticed that the flight was now schedule to leave at 1:53 PM so I thought that things were going to go my way. Unfortunately I was completely wrong.

I got on the flight at about 1:30 PM. The complete loading finished at about 1:50 PM but 2 PM came and went and we had not moved back from the gate. The captain finally told us that we had been delayed until after 2:15. Soon the captain came back and told us that we were now delayed until after 4 PM but he was working on getting it moved up. Eventually he told us that he had recieved a release from Air Traffic Controll (ATC) but Newark Liberty had suspended all flights coming in or leaving due to weather conditions.

I am not sure what time we actually took off but I think it was around 4:30 PM. Except for some turbulence the flight was uneventful. We did not even spend a lot of time circling so again I thought I was on the other side of things. However, when we got to our gate in Newark the Jetway was broken and we could not get off the plane. We had to wait for maintenance to come and fix it. This took almost 30 minutes. My bag was already off the plane and in baggage claim by the time I got there. I made my way to the Air Train to get to Parking Lot P3 to get my car. Unfortunately the Air Train was not running the attendent suggested I walk to the parking lot.

Unfortunately, the areas outside of the terminal buildings are not really pedestrian friendly and I made several wrong steps that put me on ramps to no where. Eventually I made it to my car and my EZ Pass work (for once) and I seemed to be on my way. The NJ Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway were not that bad considering that it was a Friday in the Summer. A couple of slow downs on the Turnpike and Parkway was jammed up after 117 so I decide to exit there rather than go down to 114.

At last I was home. I pushed the button for my garage door opener and the garage door only went up on one side. I parked my car in the driveway and went in to look. The counter weight cable had jumped off the pulley and was now wrapped around the garage door track. I made some calls to find a garage door repair company that will work on Saturday's since I have to flyout to Charlotte on Sunday evening.

So instead of taking a long ride on what is looking to be a great day I am waiting for a repair man to show up. I am hoping that it does not take to long and I can get a good late afternoon early evening ride in.

As much as I want to complain about my bad luck I have been trying to concentrate on the good things.

  1. I am not a coal miner
  2. Both my cars were on the outside of the garage when the door broke
  3. I eventually made it home on the same day I started travelling (this does not always happen)
  4. I would not have been able to ride on Friday anyways so I did not miss much there
  5. Staying over to be onsite for the meeting turned out to be the right decision
  6. I found a garage door repair man that will come out on Saturday
  7. I ran into an old co worker on the plane (he was sitting in First Class)

I have a busy week planned. I am flying to Charlotte, NC for 2 days and then I am driving to the Adirondacks to pick up my daughter at Southwoods Camp. I am taking 3 days of vacation. Hopefully I will get at least a short ride in each of the days. I am planning on going back to Boston on August 20.

My mom completed the running part of the Auburn Great Race on Sunday August 12. I have asked her to be a guest blogger and write about the race. I am holding out hope that my mom will come through. This blog is in need of some new writing and experiences.

Friday, August 3, 2007

More Boston Fixie and Single Speeders

The Jersey below is one that I bought this week in Boston. Back Bay Bicycles in located in the Back Bay section of Boston and is directly across the river from MIT. Not really a big single speed shop but they did have the new Langster Boston. The folks that work there seem nice even though the shop mechanic seemed kind of surly.

Boston is definitely a fixie/single speed town. Might be because of all the colleges. I walked over to the Harvard side of Cambridge this week and I found an independent bike shop just off of the MIT campus that is in tune with the whole fixie/single speed movement. I ended running into the woman that was from New Jersey and works at Back Bay Bicycles at the Cambridge shop. She and her boyfriend (at least I think it was her boyfriend) both ride fixie. Her boyfriend's ride is one of the bikes pictured below.

I saw a lot more bikes than I have been able to take pictures of. Some of the nicest ones escaped me. I even saw someone on the Harvard campus riding a Langster exactly like mine but with a bigger frame. For some reason the rider looked cooler than I feel I look when I ride mine. Not really sure why. Might be an age thing.

Enjoy the pictures below. As always feel free to post your comments.

Here is a langster that has been customized and is running fixie. This is not the one I saw on the Harvard campus. Also, my Langster is Copper/Black.

I took the picture above in Cambridge Bicycles.

The bike above was outside Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) in Harvard Square.

I had a closer shot of the bike above but I was not quick enough. It is a really nice bike. I do not think the rider is riding fixie.

Another picture from inside Cambridge Bicycles.