Here is a list of the philanthropies and charities where we donated this Giving Tuesday, after another messy year of the Dumpster administration:
Texas Hold ‘Em is usually what people mean when they think of poker now-a-days. After the last poker night I attended, I thought of a variant of Texas Hold ‘Em inspired by the card shopping in Dominion that adds more reveals of partial information to the game, while keeping things essentially Texas Hold ‘Em -like.
- Give each player at the table three pips or markers unique to the player. Each player could have three pawns of the same but unique color, or three glass stones, or coins, or whatever. One of the three pips should sit in front of the player’s seat for the entire game, so it is easy to identify which player is which color (e.g. “Ben is the green pips”).
- Play your hand of Texas Hold ‘Em as usual, until after the betting round following the flop. At this point, each player can make a five card hand with their pocket cards and the flop.
- Flip up the turn (fourth) card. At this point players conduct a betting round for the “purchase” of the card. Importantly, folding in the turn card’s betting round does not knock the player out of the hand. Folding just means the player is not allowed to use the turn in their final hand. Sticking around until the pseudo-showdown of this betting round means the player is allowed to use the turn card in their final hand. A player indicates that they have made it to the turn card’s showdown, and therefore may use the turn card in their final hand, by placing one of their three pips on the card.
All money bet in the turn card’s betting round is placed in the communal pot, as usual. To keep things simple, players should probably not be allowed to go “all in” on the turn card’s betting round.
- Flip up the river (fifth) card, and do a second purchase betting round just like the round done for the turn card. Again only players who make it to the river card’s showdown may use the river in their final hands.
- When all players have access to five to seven cards to make their final hands, do one final betting round. This final betting round reverts to the usual rules, where folding means dropping out of the hand.
Like seemingly everyone who works on the buy side, I have been reading the Zuckerman book about Jim Simons of Renaissance. The book spends a lot of time with the big personalities who have worked at Renaissance over the years. However there are some mathematical and technology hints:
Jim Simons’s academic field is geometric invariants in algebraic geometry.
Renaissance Technology worked with hidden Markov models, fit using the Baum-Welch algorithm. This algorithm has a Bayes update step, and a backward & forward process that feels like backprop. They also used high-dimensional kernel regression.
Henry Laufer worked with (vector) embeddings, very early. He also pushed for a single cross-asset and cross-asset-class model, so they could use all the cleaned “pricing” (market) data. They included assets with known bad data, but assets that nonetheless looked like existing assets in the model. This is maybe what we would call clustering, now-a-days. Everyone had access to the source code, even the administrative staff at first.
They tempted academics by working just one day per week, to see if they found trading interesting. They explicitly avoided trying to find economic sensibility for their strategies, but still followed a “scientific” method.
René Carmona imputed market data, which seems controversial.
Jim Simons invested in private companies alongside the systematic trading, especially in technology companies. This is probably because of the Nasdaq bubble.
They used a simple day-of-week seasonality model, at least for their futures trading.
They provided liquidity when “locals” de-risk, being in the “insurance business”.
They had a betting algorithm around the probability of moves in futures, not used for stocks at first. This was presented as opposed to statistical arbitrage with a factor model.
Their stock transaction cost model was the “secret weapon”. It was self-correcting, by “searching for buy-or-sell orders to nudge the portfolio back”. This increased their holding period to two days, on average. The strategy had very low capacity at first, however. In general they were not the best at trading, but at “estimating the cost of a trade”.
Around the time of the Nasdaq bubble bursting, they were trading 8,000 stocks. However this strategy was only 10% of the business. The futures strategy was still the mainstay, which was probably their chartist model.
Their use of basket options were 1) a tax dodge, but also 2) a way to cap downside, 3) isolate risk, and 4) increase leverage.
The internal Medallion fund is short-term, capped at $5b capital with all external clients eventually bought-out. The maximum capital is difficult to reconcile with Jim Simons’s compensation motivation, so it probably reflects limited capacity of the strategy, which means it trades in less liquid, smaller stocks and futures. In 2002 they were running 12x leverage in Medallion ($5b capital, $60b exposure given options).
They sought out astronomers because of their understanding of low signal-to-noise problems. Their named “Déjà Vu” strategy seems like a pairs or cointegration strategy.
Their strategy gets a 50.75% hit rate.
Why write this book now? Jim Simons is nearing the end of his life, of course. Could also be an apology for the Mercers getting Trump elected.
They at least use the terminology of risk factors and baskets: “RenTec decrypts them [inefficiencies]. We find them across time, across risk factors, across sectors and industries.”
The author uses strange terminology, suggesting that Zuckerman has actually not talked with many quants. For example, “trenders” for momentum style traders, and “data hunters” instead of “data scientists”.
Also the anecdote about Magerman unleashing “a computer virus that was infecting Renaissance’s computers” is clearly bullshit, and in a way that makes me doubt the author’s understanding of technology in general.
(1 out of 5 stars)
If you were to draw-up a list of the saddest fashions, affectations, ill-placed culinary passions, and grande cooking mistakes of the last few years, I think Al’s Place would solidly tick Every. Single. Box. This place is a living, breathing, performative satire of what fine dining should be.
First the place has no air conditioning and a single, beleaguered bathroom. I stood in line waiting to wash my hands, sweating from the warm San Francisco evening, and swapped places with a pregnant woman behind me who was certainly in more dire straits.
Clearly someone has pretenses of being a DJ, since they blare music so loudly that I could not hear anyone at my table a couple feet away. This was the recurring leitmotif of our dinner, and the main reason every one of us was hurrying through our mains and skipping dessert to just get out. Our first server was replaced by someone manager-ish, but they nonetheless misheard part of our order and just straight-up missed one of our wine requests. Each time we caught the attention of a new server, food runner, or host, we adulted and asked that the music be turned down. Call me crazy, but sometimes I go to a restaurant to get to know my companions better, as well as eat some neckbeard / topknot’s confusion cuisine. One of the servers eventually said the loud music was just the “vibe” of the restaurant, and we literally laughed out loud. At one point the woman at the table next to me leaned over, closely, to commiserate about the music. Most of the people in my row of table seats were physically leaning forward to yell. The place was so loud that when we asked for bowls for our shared soup, we were told they had heard us say we did not want them. And so on. The music itself? The usual quirky and dated garbage from the 90s, with a whiff of the post-ironic.
Their menu is a complete mess. First of all, they are too lazy to time the meal correctly and plate their dishes. Al’s Place calls this “family-style” or something, but its just cynical. Compounding this, neither of our two servers could actually tell us how much food to order for our party size, because there was no relationship between the section of the menu and the amount of food that ends up in front of you. There was some myth-making about “chef” wanting to treat proteins as a side, because they think this a comment on steak houses. But note that a real steak house can serve a plate of hot food umm, hot. Eventually we were able to map which lines on the menu were tastes, starters, mains, and sides, but to get this done meant literally taking out a piece of paper and a pen. I wish I was kidding: While negotiating with our servers about Lana Del Lame in background, we wrote our own translation of the Al’s Place menu, from hipsteraunt to English. After delivering an incorrect item with no explanation of what it was, they told us we should not have taken a bite before telling them it was wrong. How else were we supposed to find out what it was?!
The food is… fine. Their french fries were undercooked and soggy, but boy were they salty! Or should I say “brined.” The smoky mayonnaise alongside was too sweet and tasted like a dessert. Marlowe’s fries were better a decade ago. The Al’s Place lettuces were meant to be eaten by hand — see my queuing up for the bathroom sink, above — and for some reason had a bland avocado mousse streaked underneath. Can we please stop putting sauces under the food, to trick wraithy Instagrammers from LA into actually eating a sauce? The Progress does the reversed-salad-thing better. The chickpeas and harissa had some refrigerator burn to the legumes. The cold chickpea salad at Hey Day is better. The Al’s Place bean soup was overseasoned and was a bad seasonal choice to have on the menu during hot weather. But hey, they’ll put kimchee in it so you can think it’s exotic. Or something. The minestrone at any one of a dozen Italian joints in North Beach is better. The Al’s smoked brisket needed to have its fat better trimmed, and ended up tasting more lukewarm St. Patrick’s Day-corned-beef than cozy passover seder.
We only passed on one of our tastes of wine, so an actual professional was involved in their wine list at some point. They had no beers on draught, which is weak in a drinking town like SF. Also there is no hard liquor license, so your cocktails will be those sweet sherry & vermouth-heavy shims instead of a before-dinner classic like a Manhattan.
Al’s Place joins Hakkasan and The Progress as the two dinners that have me doubting the Michelin guide’s star ratings. The Michelin guide used to be insulated from silly trends and dopey culinary tricks, but they are clearly lowering their standards to appeal to teh youths. Al’s Place is also in that rarified competition of least bang for the buck, alongside the stunningly overrated and overpriced Hashiri.
Avoid Al’s Place like the plague. There are many San Francisco restaurants that do the quirky, opinionated, idiosyncratic faux-casual thing better.
(2 out of 5 stars)
Excellent dimsum with just enough cross-cultural elements of comfort food to be playful and interesting. That said, the entire front of the house at Moongate should be scrapped and re-hired.
First the godawful seating: We lucked-out and were able to insist on real chairs instead of the cheap, dopey, upholstered, 70s-garbage-couches in the center of the room. I felt sorry for another customer who was limited in mobility but was still expected to perch in these trainwrecks for her meal. I do not even want to think about fire safety in a place like this.
The cocktails were cloyingly sweet, under-diluted, and served too warm. They have the usual hipster quirky ingredients (e.g. celery), but the bartenders here need to go back to basics: A cocktail is not a sugar bomb to cover up the taste of liquor, but a by-definition spirit-forward balance between high-quality base liquors and a few complementary flavors. Any of a giant list of San Francisco bars do the cocktail thing right: Third Rail, Trick Dog, Cockscomb, Bix. If the techbro-ette wearing a fedora indoors sends back her martini because it is “too strong,” then you are doing it right. We also made the mistake of ordering a red by the glass, which was an overpriced mess, barely a five ounce pour and served too warm. It had no nose, no legs, no body, and no personality.
The service, oh good-God-the-service: Anonymous, underfed, morose hipsters slouching through the motions, in a poseur’s mid-century modern fever dream of an enjoyable night. The servers clearly want this place to feel like the space age 70s, but it just comes across as hilarious and desperate, like a Lana Del Rey video on xanax. Stop trying to be quirky and cute, and start paying attention to the details. What would make your customers enjoy themselves more? What would service from the actual 70s have been like?
As someone who flirts with the hospitality industry, I actually find handwashing morbidly fascinating. The CDC has officially changed its stance on the temperature you should use for washing, saying cold water is similarly effective, while being more carbon friendly. The study that underlies this change is called “Handwashing Water Temperature Effects on the Reduction of Resident and Transient (Serratia marcescens) Flora when using Bland Soap,” published in 2001 by Barry Michaels et al. The study seemed flawed to me, so I asked someone I respect who is a practicing American MD with two specialties, internal medicine and interventional radiology. He knows about washing hands.
Four whole people were sampled! Dumb bad or good luck could bolster or refute this “study.” Having said this, I could believe it. But this did not account for the water temperature effects on soap, just bacteria. Soap work based on micelles [an aggregate of molecules in a colloidal solution]. And micelles have to contact a hydrophobic and hydrophilic item to work. Hard and soft water differences with soap and its temperature come to mind. I am a bottom line physiology thinker here: When molecules move faster, there is more effect from the movement. Why does the body innately increase its temperature when infected? And why serratia [a bacteria responsible for hospital infections] of all choices!?
I am going to stick with hot water hand washing, for now.
Here is a list of the philanthropies and charities where we donated this December 31st, after a messy year of the Dumpster administration:
My paranoia level on this project is about a seven out of ten, where one on the scale would be a trusting grandma and ten is well-informed tinhat.
Lately I have been wanting one of the genetic testing startups to process my spit, to confirm my profound, stunning whiteness. Though regardless of how many data sharing agreements and EULAs they sign, I do not trust any entity with my genetic details, government or private. An old friend who works in human genetics briefly tried to mellow my concerns, but after a cocktail-or-two revised his stance with “yeah, I guess they could do nasty things with your insurance premiums.” So I set out to get a genetic test done anonymously. This is far from easy, but very doable.
First start with the basics: Confirm the price of the test, including any tax or shipping of the spit-kit back & forth. Recently the 23andMe ancestry test was about $100, to which you might add $35 for extras. Go pull this money out of an ATM in cash. Then stop by your neighborhood pharmacy and buy a debit gift card. Just stating the obvious, but do not buy the gift card with a personal credit card, since you want no digital connection between your actual identity and the payment.
Next find a public computer where you can browse the Internet. It has gotten more difficult to find traditional Internet cafes in big cities, since public wifi is everywhere… Dressing well and asking to use a fancy hotel’s business center is pretty easy. Do not use your computer at work or your machine at home. Not even with your browser in porn mode, nor using the awesome Brave project. A Tor setup might work, or a burner phone with a decent mobile browser. Though make sure you buy that burner phone with cash.
On your public computer, create a throwaway email account. Nowadays, Yandex is your best choice without requiring an SMS validation code. Obviously you want to use invented contact information on the email account.
Sign up for the genetic testing service with the new email account, and pay for the spit-kit with your gift card.
Next is the most delicate part of this whole process: You will need a mailing address to receive the package, but an address not tied directly to your identity. Maybe a doorman building, a large office where you know the people in the mail room, or the like. Find a mailing address shared by a bunch of people, and use this address “care of,” to ship the spit-kit.
If you want to spend any remaining credit on your gift card, make sure to drain exactly the remaining balance and do any top-up with cash. Do not top-up a gift card transaction with your personal credit or debit card.
Now after the package arrives, you may need to associate the kit with your particular genetic testing account. This typically means entering a barcode number into their website. Make sure to use that public computer (again) for doing this association. I believe genetic testing company fulfillment services do not automatically associate spit-kits, to leave the startup the option of quickly handing out a zillion kits, as conference swag.
Spit in your kit, and drop the package in a public mailbox.
In a month or two, your results should be ready. Stop by a public computer for a third time to download the reports and print them. Maybe scan those PDFs at home, and pitch the burner phone. Viola: Very nearly fully anonymous genetic testing!
Breaking this anonymity would probably require security video analysis, or a very compromised public computer. At that point, all bets are off since you are at the level of a three letter agency, and you have bigger concerns than which part of Europe your ancestors crawled on first.
Menu notes from dinner at Sons & Daughters in San Francisco on October 20th, 2017.
- Aperitif was a glass of Cava
- Taste was a leek and beluga caviar tartlet (crunchy)
- Glass sphere w/ celery broth, dehydrated okra seeds, chestnut puree, and hipster bacon
- Salad of abalone & cabbage, w/ black garlic puree & mild pistachio butter
- Broccoli rabe, radish, tomatillo salsa (very off, chemically flavor)
- Delicata squash roasted & pureed, linguini of Granny Smith apples, shaved dehydrated foie gras
- Very al dente purple barley w/ lobster mushrooms & dark roasted mushroom broth (barely there tarragon)
- Bavette steak (yawn) stuffed w/ truffles & salsify a few ways
- Set “Japanese cheesecake” of Big Rock Blue w/ quince (awful, sent it back)
- Limequat ice cream, buckwheat honey, fennel meringue
- Sous vide sesame cake w/ dehydrated buttermilk sprinkles, agastache greens, frozen carrot puree
- Bookended meal w/ a chocolate & honey sphere tartlet
NLP analysis done on a dataset of about 8,000 transcripts of Dumpster (as in “Trump’s a Dumpster-fire”) back to 2007. Unfortunately there are no trends that obviously jump out. He has probably been keeping to book more closely than generally expected, at least in these prepared interviews.
Here are three early transcripts: “xx00133” from Showbiz Tonight (CNN in 2006), “xx00598” from Your World with Neil Cavuto (Fox in 2009), and “xx00911” from Nightline (ABC in 2009):
How has the implied grade-level and complexity of Dumpster’s speaking changed over time?
How has his information content changed over time (empirical bag-of-words entropy)?
If I assume the distant past is the benchmark for Dumpster authorship, does the recent speaker seems like the same person? (This is function word distribution.)