Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Regulating Electronic Trades

I've been reading (The Atlantic) some (WSJ) analysis (Nanex) of the May 6th "flash-crash".

There is increasing evidence that the events of May 6th is an emergent symptom of either simple automated trading gone wrong, or the more sinister case of traders abusing the speed of the market by flooding it with bogus queries.

New milli-second resolution analys of trades are showing that some entity/entities are flooding the market with quotes to buy or sell and cancelling them within the second. Sometimes upto 7000/second. This looks to me like some kind of co-ordinated DoS attack on the market to destabilise or delay other automated trading systems and take advantage of the chaos. This is particularly troubling:

For example, on Aug. 17, from the start of stock trading at 9:30 a.m. until just after 9:51, there were, on average, 38 orders every second to buy or sell shares of Abbott Labs through the New York Stock Exchange, according to Nanex.

Then, in the span of one second, 10,704 orders hit Abbott and in the next second, another 5,483. And all but 14 of those combined orders were canceled within one second, according to data from Nanex.

Sounds like a classic DoS to me.Also (from the same source):

For example, on Feb. 18, trading volume on the Nasdaq exchange totaled about 1.247 billion shares, according to data compiled by T3 Capital Management, a New York hedge fund. However, over the course of the same day traders submitted offers to buy or sell stock for roughly 89.704 billion shares. In other words, only 1% of the orders posted on Nasdaq actually traded.

Clearly there needs to be a non-trivial cost associated with each quote - this is similar to the email spam problem. You can brute force a system quite happily if the per event cost is zero or nill. This type of market manipulation will continue until either the market fails (only to repeat the same mistake in future, I'm sure) or it's regulated.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


The telephone was an aberation in human development. It was a 70 year or so period where for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else’s life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone’s living room and start shouting. it was never okay. It’s less okay now. Telephone calls are rude. They are interruptive. Technology has solved this brief aberration in human behavior. We have a thing now called THE TEXT MESSAGE. It is magical, non-intrusive, optional, and, just like human speech originally was meant to be, is turn based and two way. You talk. I talk next. Then you talk. And we do it when it’s convenient for both of us.

From rickwebb's tumblrmajig

Monday, January 18, 2010

Obsessed Much?

I heard about a Perth DJ called Pogo recently. He's not just a DJ in the "traditional" sense. He also remixes video - particularly from movies. His work reminds me of The Avalanches, Röyksop and Air.

In the last week, I've become obsessed with his song called Upular - a remix of the Pixar movie Up. A few screenshots:

Here is the video:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Food (and drink) Tour of Europe

Better late than never, right? Almost exactly 1 year after we got back to Sydney, I've got around to posting some of our favourite meals and drinks in Europe.

Best Pizza - Da Michele in Napoli. The best pizza in the town that created pizza. They only have margherita and marinara on the menu. A big (around 40cm) pizza only costs 4 euro. It's hard to believe that something so simple can taste so good. No pizza has ever been the same since Da Michele.

Best Gelato - Perche no! in Firenze. We were on a mission to find the best authentic gelato since we landed in Italy. After trying countless places we arrived at Perche no! after being recommended by our walking tour guide. The gelato here is divine. It is made fresh every day based on what is available at the markets. The fruit sorbets are light and taste just like you are eating the fruit. The yoghurt, vanilla and ricotta are amazing. However the star of the show is the pistachio. It really tastes like you are eating pistachios. As with Da Michele no gelato has been the same since.

Best Pasta and Trattoria - Trattoria Mario in Firenze. Mario is a Florentine institution. Located right next to the produce market it serves simple meals (plus a legendary Florentine steak) at very reasonable prices. It doesn't seem to have changed much despite being included in every guide book under the sun. You get squeezed into any available spot and you can usually make friends with your fellow diners over lunch. Their ragù alla bolognese is amazing.

Best Coffee - Torrefazione Costarica in Venezia. This little shop specialises in Costarican coffee. They aren't a cafe as such, mostly they seem to sell coffee in bulk. You can still ask for a coffee though - and it's worth it. Specially at only 70 Euro cents. I only tried their espresso - simply the most perfect espresso I've ever had.

Best Beer - Wheat beer from Hausbrauerei Feierling in Freiburg. Our friend Sara introduced us to this beer from a small organic brewery in the middle of Freiburg. Nothing better than sitting in the beer garden across the road from the brewery with this brilliant wheat beer.

Best Pho - Pho Mui in Paris, Avenue d'Ivry. We tried a lot of Viet places in Paris - most restaurants are a mix of Chinese/Thai/Viet. However this place only does Pho and does it very, very well.

Best Creme Brulee - Patisserie Gerard Mulot in Paris. We were walking towards Jardain du Luxembourg and saw this beautiful pastry shop packed full of people. They had an amazing window display and we knew we had to try a creme brulee. We got a couple and headed to the gardens. Best. Creme. Brulee. Ever.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Planes, Trains, Automobiles AND Ferries

I feel like I HAVE to blog about our travel over the last two days - our trip from Crete in southern Greece to Napoli in southern Italy. It all started when we discovered that the ferry service from Hania in Crete to Gythio in the Pelloponese was cancelled. So we thought we'd go to Athens and take a bus to Nafplio - but it turned out that there was no accommodation available in the town at all. So fed up with Greece we decided to skip the rest of the country and head to Italy.

Our journey started at 5:30 am on the 16th of June. We woke up and took a taxi to Hania airport. After some delays we got a flight at about 7:30 from Hania to Athens. From Athens airport we took the local train to a town just outside Corinth. After a couple of hours there we took an old, decrepit train to Patras that got us into town at about 3pm.

So there in one day we covered planes, trains and automobiles!

From Patras we got a ticket on the overnight Ferry to Bari in Italy. After yet more running around we managed to work out how to check in (it wasn't easy) and got on the Ferry (Superfast I, 200m long and 25kts top speed). We got a private cabin with beds. I must say that we were both very impressed with the Ferry. It was clean, new and well designed.

After a quick dinner we went to sleep and woke up on the coast of Italy! Now that's the way travel!

From the ferry station in Bari we made our way to Bari Central Station, where we just missed the train to Naples. So we had to start another long journey. First a slow train to Taranto, which is an industrial town to the south of Bari. After spending some time in Bari we caught a bus to Napoli - which took about 4 hours and stopped at every little village along the way.

So there you have it. A shortened version of our journey from Hania to Napoli over 48 hours.

Euro 2009 Update 2 - Greece

So a look back on Greece. From my travels in 2004 Greece turned out to be one of my favourite destinations, so my expectations were high. To say that I was left feeling down is a bit of an understatement.

I was expecting Greece to be much better post Olympics - and it was in a sense. The metro in Athens was great, as was the new pedistrian districts of places like Heraklion and Patras. But the same old problems were still there, and it seems worse than before. Everything is in chaos - be it the traffic, the trains, the planes or the buses. Most places we visted didn't really know what whas going on and the staff were untrained and unhelpful.

One of the biggest dissapointment was the food. I remembered some really good meals in Hania and Gythio from 2004, and it was not to be. We had one good meal in Hania at Tamam - but almost every other place we tried was a dissapointment. Not that we just picked a place and went - we almost always went to places which were recommended by guidebooks or had good reviews in travel mags/newspapers. A meal costing 20 euros per person without drinks should be at a decent standard - but we almost always were dissapointed.

Also if I ever needed evidence that the Meditteranean was being overfished it is in the price and quality of seafood in Greece. It is expensive and terrible! The best fish we got was a baked red snapper (quite nice) - but it was 19 euro each and the fish was TINY! Anything that size would have to be thrown back in Sydney.

Perhaps a lot of the mismatch in expectations is that the last time we visited in April/May and this time we were there in June. The crowds are terrible and everything is terribly overpriced.

My only recommendation for Greece would be to go well outside the main seasons and avoid the popular places like the plague. Santorini was terrible. We couldn't even get any accommodation in Nafplio. The ferries are full and the prices are high. There are lots of nice places off the beaten track - but you really need your own car to get there.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Euro 2009 Update 1

Just a quickie - as my wireless access is dodgy.

So we're 6 days into the trip and it's mostly going well. We are currently in Santorini enjoying the view and the heat (did I mention the heat? It's hot!).

Started off by spending 4 days in Athens - more than necessary I would have thought - but it was quite good, actually. My last visit to Athens in 2004 left me thinking that I'd never come back, but I enjoyed it quite a lot this time. A lot of the city has been cleaned up for the 2004 Olympics - the Metro for example. We also stayed in Plaka this time, it's very touristy but nice. A lot nicer than Omonia, where we stayed before.

One thing that really shits me about Greece so far is that the anti-smoking laws haven't really caught on. Or if they have, people ignore then. They smoke EVERYWHERE, indoors, outdoors.. we've seen women nursing babies chain smoking through the whole time! Our ferry trip to Santorini was a 9 hour ordeal trying to find a place where we could escape the smoke!

Anyways, Santorini is as nice as always - except for the first hotel we stayed at. It is built right next to the only major road on the island, without any sound proofing! After 2 sleepless nights we left the place and moved to a much better hotel. That was 100 euros down the drain. Last time we allow a travel agent to book accomodation for us.

OK battery almost dead that's all for now.

Next stop is Crete.