Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gaming the System

I have a surefire way to beat the computer at chess - I make very convaluted moves that eats away at the computer's clock and then i win on time. (granted this strategy only works if you play timed games - I play with sigma chess.

This sort of win never feels satisfying. It feels like I cheated, like my win was not really a win. However, it is a win. I am using the computer's strength (reliance on search algorithms) against it. Were I playing a human, these moves would probably signal amaturish play and I would be swiftly beaten as my opponent changes gears and uses a different strategy (the strategy that defeats idiosyncratic chess players).

Winning is not a matter of degree it is a binary attribute. Either you win or you dont. You can have a better win. We may talk about perhaps a better win, a more elegant win, or a win with more points or something like that - but really these are just language games. You either win or you lose - everything else is superfluous to winning-ness. Winning is achieving something over another person according to certain rules.

So are there winners in life? In this I always think of Alan Watts - life is not a game where to goal is to get from a to b, but a dance or a symphony - and a dance or symphony really has no goal other to experience it. Winning only makes sense in a situation where there are rules - does life have rules? Life is just about existence.

I have been thinking about this idea of winningness in regards to one of the options strategies I trade. I have a few strategies that I use in different market conditions, but let me talk about one strategy where I trade various mean reverting stocks and try and anticipate pin action (pin action describes where the stock will end on options expriy day so that the most option holders to lose money). My algorithms are generally good at anticipating the pin, however they are bad at market timing (which means i have to deal with market to market loses sometimes until options expiry day which reduces my buying power)

In any case - I often feel like 'I win' when I successfully guess the pin and make money on my options (and dont have to deal with mark to market losses anymore) But is this really a win? For example, let me use aapl (which I dont use for my options strategy anymore but I used to) if I sell an aapl put (aapl is at 250) - 250 for $7 and my algorithm thinks the pin will be 250 than that $7 will go to $0 theoretically or probably $1.50. I will make $5.50. However in that time aapl may go down to 240 - that put will go up 10 bucks and I will carry a mark to market loss of $10. Now do I buy back the put as it goes down (for a loss) and then sell it again when it bottoms out (for more money)? Do I average in more puts when the cost goes up? Sometimes it pays to close out for a small loss and then get back in at a better price. Does this mean you lose?

Or for example - say if aapl 260 calls are $6. You can sell them and if aapl hangs out at 250 for a few days or even goes down, those may go down to $4. Should you buy them back then, as aapl will probably shoot back up above 250. and those calls may go to $7 (mark to market loses again). My pin algorithm says aapl will go to 250 so they will end up being probably 1.00, but you will have to deal with the mark to market losses

In any case - a win is not necessarily just picking the correct pin. The correct pin is like the perfect chess game. A noble ambition -but you dont need it to win, and it may end up hurting your game.

Monday, May 24, 2010


It has been a while since my last blog post. I have written a few blog post drafts that I have not published. The problem with writing blog post drafts is that they quickly become irrelevant to the writer. Blogging for my is a spontaneous activity. I suppose for professional bloggers/writers/journalists this is not true. But for me, blogging is more akin to journaling. And once the inspiration is lost for an entry it is difficult to go back and find that initial spark of enthusiasm.

In the past few weeks I have found it difficult to focus - and this makes it difficult to have cogent thoughts to blog about - or interesting ways to relate my experiences through blogging.

I have attempted different things to get myself out of this rut.
First I attempted to read different types of books: magical realism (Little Big), difficult great fiction (Ulysses), Conspiracy fiction (the secret history of the world), philosophical aphorisms (life & flowers), science (the outer reaches of life), music (one of the grimoire books), books on option pricing, inspirational books (pema) . I could not get involved in any of them - I just could not lock in to the other person's description of reality or non reality.

Then I attempted to play games: nintendo DS (the attorney game), scribblenaughts, zelda. Nothing can focus. I did however become obsessed with playing chess. Sadly, I found myself holding my breath while playing chess - that cant be relaxing.

Even while doing bikram yoga - exercise so exhausting i cant think of anything else - I cant focus. Even while writing this post - I lost focus and started a chess game which reduced the oxygen flow to my brain.

Perhaps I just need more chocolate

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shakespeare & Film

I am attempting to go read all of shakespeare's plays in chronological order. I am at the beginning of the beginning - Henry VI Pt 1. I think I may have read this in my freshman humanities class - (is this one of the ones with falstaff). When writing films, I have started telling paul that our scripts have too many characters for a low budget film. (I think we had 23 in our last film) This probably betrays my lack of vision, but luckily Paul ignores me and I lack conviction and so we continue to write for too many characters. So does Shakespeare!

Granted it is really not fare to compare plays with films, but in many ways i am not quiet sure why. The most obvious reason is first, in theater there has to be more obvious action to direct the viewer's attention. How do we direct action? Dialogue. Our attention is directed towards the character talking and attends to what that character is doing. Here the playwright holds sway (which is probably the playwright rather than the director is the prestige position in theater.

In film we can manipulate the visual field. We can use a close up or a zoom or a dolly to direct the view towards a particular action - AND we dont have to use dialogue as a signal. We can just use visual cues. So here we have the director as opposed to the writer holding the prestige position, because it is the nuance of the acting and the location of the shots that tell the audience what to pay attention to - dialogue is not less important - but it is not the only tool in the tool chest.

In film we dont need as many characters. Props become characters, environments become characters - I wonder what it would be to film Henry VI pt 1 and turn some characters into 'filmic characters.'

It seems this blog post ended up at a completely different place than I had anticipated when I started, I was going to talk about how shakespeare differentiates his characters with dialogue - but i like this subject matter better.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ecstatic Literature

I did not know which blog post to write - so I am writing one about an idea I was thinking about in Greece.
What is ecstatic literature?

I am convinced I stole this expression from some place, but a quick google only revealed some links to ecstatic poetry.
By ecstatic literature I mean a mode of storytelling where the goal is not necessarily to tell a story but to arouse a certain emotional & visceral response in the reader. This does seem more akin to poetry - poetry is an attempt to transcend language with language - to express some unexpressible sentiment or feeling (because language is limited and in every day speech cannot cause us to have such emotional responses.

These sorts of reactions are perhaps more common in film and perhaps the performing arts since they use a wider range of media and in many instances media that is not open to interpretation. When I watch a moving film, the director has selected the particular angle or close up I should view, the attitude of the actor, the music - the audience is there to receive the film not to engage or interpret the film. Reading is primarily an act of interpretation - it does not engage with one of the 5 senses. Watching a film is an act of sense-perception - we dont need interpretation to understand what we saw (unless it is symbolic performance art)

I am no thinking that it is perhaps the element of time that makes these forms more emotionally stirring than a novel which is not bound by time but can be read/re read/pondered upon by the reader. There is one book that is read, and another book that is the dialogue between the reader and the writer in the reader's mind.

Back to ecstatic literature. I was reading the colossus of maroussi by Henry Miller (an author I dont like at all). But this novel is unlike anything I have read in recent memory (except The Fan Man). The florid language, which I normally deplore, transported me to a state beyond that of communicating a story. It made me see the power of literature - which sounds a bit banal - but it is true. Perhaps contemporary literature can do better than roman a clef and magical realism - perhaps we can inject some poetry into the prose and awaken ourselves from dogmatic slumber.