One of the more romantic reasons why intelligent/talented people get so depressed maybe consists of them asking questions like "Why is there so much sadness in the world", which presents itself like a sword of Damocles as an intractable problem to be solved, cured or debated away.

until perhaps you realize that depression is in no way correlated to intelligence or talent, simply that they had a more eloquent way of putting it across other than "sian", which is why they make such appealing case studies.

take, for example, nirvana's "all apologies"


do you remember annette benning in american beauty? playing carolyn burnham. kick-ass real estate agent extroadinaire.

i am considering how wise it is to be rhapsodic about the state of the property market now given that a. i've yet to find a house and b. i'm really pretty inexperienced. but forgive me, considering i've spent quite some time on it, and i've managed to go around exploring islington, hackney, london bridge, lambeth, bermondsey etc.

you can tell because i've learnt how to judge real estate agents by how much of an asshole they are. take today for example. i was driven around by a nice blue-eyed boy (really!) with blonde hair. fumbled with the keys, didn't know where any of the addresses was, but really polite. puts on his seat belt. wore his suit out in the summer heat. now, i've been looking for houses myself. and unfortunately that has turned me into a bit of an arsehole too. i just kept thinking "this boy won't survive long in this business" and the clincher came when he couldn't park his mini. a fucking mini. and he was really really nice but i just didn't feel compelled to like or make any decisions. i enjoyed talking to him, and learnt that he'd been in the business for 2 and a half months. already he was starting to hate the 12 hour days and disgruntled house seeking assholes. which is why the theory that investment bankers are paid more because they work longer hours is of course economic fallacy 101. these people eat sandwiches between clients but i can't blame them after all time really is fucking money to them.

compare this with typical hard-bitten real estate agent. absolutely hates the job, but does it cause he pays the bills. one which i spoke to lost his previous job but is earning tons more now. he will typically go from saccharine enthusiasm to acerbic sarcasm as the session goes along. "this is what they call an easy let mate." "oh... i'd like to see you get better for 250." "do what you want mate, it's cool man, not a problem, i'm telling you that tons of people will be on this flat, maybe you don't understand cause you haven't had a house you really like taken away from you." go on, work the fear. that's what it takes to sell houses. that you won't get one because there are 30,000 other students looking and you'll end up sleeping on the streets. work it deep man, twist the knife, and maybe i'll give in. and then they call you the next day asking if you still want the "easy let." then the bitch in me awakens and say "no thanks, and i hope you sell the flat quickly." but they've worked their way up the food chain, and are used to taking pain. i'm innocent newbie look for flat for the first time meat to be devoured, and they probably test their crap unsaleable flats out on me. "like it?" it seems like the wonderful flats you see online are "all taken" by the time you call, so don't be mislead by them. yes, advertised �230 at clerkenwell, but then they tell you you'd be a fool to try for �230 at clerkenwell when you start looking.

to the economist, the rental market is rather asymmetric. the agent has most of the information about the other variables, he is the one that can draw up the demand schedule, and the supply, and the landlord and tenant are left grasping air. one more disadvantage of the tenant is the "lemons" problem, see "the market for lemons" by akerlof, to understand the implications of asymmetric information on the markets.

i do feel that as a tenant though, you can get a good deal. many flats are crap, or are fantastically furnished, but because they violate the rule of "location, location, location", their valuation gets massacred. these flats are a steal, if you're flexible. you hold all the cards, you get to bargain till the landlord starts crying and goes "take it, before nobody does!" to stay in covent garden, bloomsbury, you are paying for agglomeration externalities. you may not even need them, depending on how you view a house at. to be honest, a nice suburby area like islington is fantastic if you ask me, lots of groceries around.

yeah. so there i was. i wondered if it was right to be aspire to be an asshole, to walk around most days with my cock hanging out. like yeah man, i'm a fucking Adult, nobody fucks with me. it can get to your head, especially when you're thinking everyone's out to screw you. add that to a bit of conventional economics (don't give to beggars, it distorts their incentive to earn) and you've graduated with BSc. dickhead, all ready to swing (literally) into the adult world. and the marxist that was once in you died a horrible death. take all those che guevara shirts and paste fcuk over them.

the way i've written it though, is unfair. most people simply don't want to end up on the short end of the stick, and the motives of capitalism are in fact noble. i just felt like that esp when i was at sainsbury's and they were scanning my groceries. i always give my weakest smile to checkout girls, and i'm always reminded of "fast car" by Tracy Chapman (bless her bleeding heart). I always think they're dreaming, would rather be colouring in vowels, or running of with a guy to some tropical island when they've saved enough. well this girl smiles back. good she's human. so i strengthen my smile. oh made someone's day didn't you, don't it make you feel better. it takes you a bit sometimes to remember that they are human. for example, the foxton's receptionist had a lovebite. someone had an enjoyable night last night i imagine. probably explains why she was the happiest person i met today. scanning groceries is the fucking most mind-numbing thing ever. well, so is screwing in the 105th screw of the right front wheel in ford's production line. so why should i EVER be entitled to a job that i like. fuck just pay me to clock in 12 hours and i'll FUCK OFF and do something i really like. i don't see why people should expect more, and most of the time they don't. some people do, and the key to making it is not to accept that you have to do this shit and run a business or a larger organization where at least things aren't that mundane. people have the opportunity to progress, no one is keeping you as a checkout girl. i can't help thinking though that things aren't that simple. maybe with new technology checkout girls won't be necessary. and that's good (one less boring job in the world). but yet again it's bad (one less job in the world). economically it's good (at least you're not unproductively using labour). i like small convenience stores for example, but something tells me (maybe it's economic intuition) that life would be better and cheaper if everything was sold in tescos and sainsbury's but i just don't want that to happen, but i think someday it will, and nobody will mind.

i think it was just a particularly hot day where i was a bit pissed off. especially when you can't reconcile lalaland to reality. just one of those days where i think i don't have a god given right to be where i am, nor to get a flat for less than 250 quid. a humbler day.

in a world where logic works... i can go back now and use ito's lemma...


for my betting friends

hi there. world cup season's over, so maybe all of you are taking a break from bookie busting.

with knowledge of probability and the strong law of large numbers, i personally don't find it that attractive to gamble anymore. however, this is not to say there is no money to be made in the short run! after all, gamblers are risk lovers, and the utility you get from winning is much higher than that which you have prepared to lose.

and i was preparing to sleep thinking of what i'd learnt over the past few weeks so i've decided to write a few pointers for my brothers out there. it's still pretty sketchy and i will flesh it out over the coming weeks.

lesson 1: risk neutral probabilities.

Let's assume that a bookie doesn't set arbitrary prices. He looks at the total volume of bets coming in and then he prices accordingly, i.e., prices are set by demand for a certain bet on the market.

This means that the market has already priced implicitly it's expected probabilities that each state will occur. let us take the simplest case, asian handicap, where there are two states in the future: eat ball win, or give ball win. we will consider half ball first, and we will take actual probabilities. data is taken from ladbrokes.com

Example: Arsenal (-1.5) 1.94 vs Aston Villa(+1.5) 1.9

let's play around with the numbers.
with probability p, arsenal clears, with probability (1-p), aston villa clears.
sum of probabilities has to = 1. let's see if we can figure out the bookie's spread.

ok. in a fair bet, we should have the following two equations.
1.94p = 1
1.90(1-p) = 1, where 1 is the initial outlay of the bettor.
solving, we get p = 0.515, (1-p) = 0.4736. p+1-p not equal to 1.

what should be the fair price to play the game? clearly one in which the risk-neutral probabilities (implicit in prices quoted) sum to 1, as in real life. call this price x.

1.94p =x, 1.9(1-p) = x => x/1.94 + x/1.9 = 1

solving, x = 0.959. you are charged �1 for a 95.9 pence game. bookie's spread = 4.28%

let's try another game, man utd (-1.5) 1.92 vs fulham (+1.5) 1.92

this is simpler, 2x/1.92 = 1. x= 0.96, charged �1 for a 96 pence game, spread = 4.167..%

lastly, chelsea (-1.5) 1.88 and man city (+1.5) 1.96

x/1.88 + x/1.96 = 1, x= 95.9 pence. bookie's spread = 4.28% Again! for a different set of prices.

let's try two conjectures:

the closer the prices quoted (by the market), the less premium a bookie has to quote.
this is because demand for both sides is likely to be more symmetric, thus the likelihood of an extreme payoff in one direction is less.

conversely, the more asymmetric the prices, the higher the spread, to compensate for risk.

therefore, a three-state game should have a higher spread as it should have higher variation.

we are also assuming that interest rate earned(foregone) by the bookie(bettor), is negligible, but this is hard to estimate unless i work inside the betting company. after all, you leave money in your account which accrues interest which lowers your payoff and increases theirs. but assuming it's a really short period of time it's negligible.

ok. i need more data, and maybe i will work on the ones with more states. until next time, remember, you lose 4.xx% of your bet on average! gamble wisely!


needed a weekend break

weapon of choice. volkswagen golf gti 2.0 Mark V. hatchbacks don't carry extra ass around. these slim, mean machines reach 60 mph in 6.9, 100kmh for the imperial-units-challenged. (just the other day girl asked me how hot 37 degrees was in fahrenheit, yes, it got that bad in the uk. i tried multiplying 37 by 9/5 and adding 32, but wait, there's a boyband called 98 degrees. and that's body temperature! and haha so i answered 98 degrees! the actual quoted to 3 d.p. is 98.6) yes they love talking about the weather here. i love how red the car is. according to a certain uncle charles , "handles like a tank", but it's size should be perfect zipping around the "just enough for two cars, or one and a half and a cyclist" back roads of the west country. after all, we're not talking about the autobahn or route 66, for which other choice models are perhaps more appropriate. i swear his skill in countryside driving is unparalleled for someone his age, the way he flashes the high beam on and off and takes it round the bend. unfortunately, we were only in a vw polo. but see, i'm realistic, and you people can dream about your maseratis and convertibles, i guess i'll have to settle for mean ol' hatchback. it's sgd 126,000 though, attainable but still not cheap. also, not much space in the car for much else but driving =).

zipped us from bristol to his house back in shepton mallet, quiet village in somerset. this though is bath, and the river avon. the springs there are actually warm. uncle charles is my friend zhenliang's uncle-in-law, who calls the west country home and who has at different times apparently been in the royal navy, british american tobacco and likes to regale me about tales of hong kong during the revolution and malaysia.

stonehenge is in wiltshire, a bit to the east... rolling hills give way to rolling plains, and the sarsens suddenly rise up from the downs.


" a thing of beauty is a joy forever" - keats

the sun was out today, the sky was completely blue, and more proud people graduated. lectures reached their absolute nadir today, and i swear that then the lecturer said "now that we're moving on to the next topic, it would be a good idea to wake up", he was referring to me.

so we were supposed to eat outside for lunch but we bumped into kelvin who'd skipped lecture and came all the way to lse to eat (whaa...?). watched the graduation video play to infinity and i actually caught adrian walking up. fabian's brother was here too. but we ended up sitting inside discussing paulo coelho. i personally think he's crapped, but to be fair some stuff was probably lost in translation but he's really just to zen and spaced out for me. also pretty boring.

you see yah as the italian guy went over how to miss someone in italian, i remembered:

in french, you say "elle me manque", for i miss her. now that is ten times more appropriate i feel, because it is her missing that is doing stuff to you. you are the object and she's the subject. "i miss her" is so totally bland and misses the point. who are you to miss her? so yeah stuff like that gets lost in translation.

so, what's in : sitting in patch of grass reading a novel. good thing about novels is that you can't finish it in a day. i love the tumult of world war 2, i love french writers, i love how they thought germans were just prussians re-enacting the franco-prussian war, and i love it when they say

"a thing of beauty is a guilt forever"


"trezeguet must be a really good footballer to hit the bar on purpose".

dad's response : "no, zidane was supposed to hit the bar on purpose with his penalty, but age withered his accuracy, and alas, he struck the underside of the bar instead. fearing that he had failed to execute the mafia's orders, he got himself sent off later, after materazzi had given him the signal, and threatened zidane's family. trezeguet, himself being an accomplished footballer, did what his captain couldn't."

did you know klinsmann told klose to turn his light on by using his football to slip the switch for practice? so you never know...

and there's a video of ronaldinho hitting the bar thrice, though we all know that's fake.
just checked blogpatrol and i saw the egyptian flag.
go alex! are you in alexandria?

god speed

do you remember those idealised replications of the 1950's in films? where there were hoover washing machines and a drawn ditzy blonde sitting atop them.

well, there's a hoover washing machine at my place. apparently now hoover is a division of whirlpool. but i like the way there is a space age bubble for you to peer into to check on your laundry from time to time.

clearly this doesn't have the industrial efficiency of bankside's ones, it takes an hour 48 minutes for the same load. still, even back home i could never peer into my laundry. the water fills up slowly, ominously, before it runs off like a hamster wheel. 1400 rpm, it says, it doesn't look that quick.

oh, you don't really need a tesco's and sainsbury's near your place. a good off-license with a shopkeeper who knows where everything is is sufficient.

it was also commencement today. we were unceremoniously dumped into the old theatre. selena remarked "i can't believe they can choose to wear anything". well, they can, and they looked pretty cool in whatever they were wearing underneath plus their mortar hats. i was also trying to see if i could distinguish classes of people based on how they knotted their tie. it's a happy occasion, on par with watching the seniors graduate from ocs only this time the torture begins after commencement and not before=) i'm glad i won't be graduating soon. wai lam and mingwei were busy snapping away. good luck to the graduating couple. caught a few other people too.

so i finished this letter yesterday. you see i used to love writing. so it came as somewhat as a surprise that it took me so long to get off my butt. and when i finished it i couldn't stand the fact that i had to hand it over to some impersonal bloke at royal mail, get collected at 2 in the afternoon and sent to a sorting room at mt pleasant before being dispatched to the relevant corner of the globe. i've been to a parcel sorting place before, at dhl, because the student fare meant i had to lug the whole jumbo box there myself. i remember myself being impressed by the sorting line and told myself that this was what men are made for. (i'm speaking figuratively, forgive me ladies).

god speed the courier. at least airmail wasn't the adventure it was many years before. well... you've sent so many letters, how many of them have not reached the recipient? oh err wait, i recall those letter-napping incidents all those years ago...=)

no, i don't think it's easy to be as emotionally naked again. but i think the other extreme won't work. i, can, after all, just talk about zidane and materazzi and flowers and other objects to avoid drawing attention to myself. or, do enough calculus or something, where there are right and wrong answers. it isn't so important to be understood, or that what you've written is the appropriate length, because it's not an academic essay, it is writing to pass the time.

in the end, sensitivity can't be switched on and off like a tap. you do need time to get in the mood of things. there are more and more moments where i am simply brusque, and you need to stop that. compassion is in short supply.

always need to remember what it was like to lose, what it's like to be unwanted, what it's like to be weak and not be ashamed of it.


on a more positive note. some of you may be wondering what i've been up to. i've just finished the valuation part of the finance course, and i'm now onto corporate finance. finance is interesting from an economists point of view. but other than that it's really boring. why?

ok, i must confess i find things like calculating earnings before interest and taxes, balancing assets and liabilities, etc boring. not to say there is no value in doing them, i think it's only interesting if you're already a practitioner in the field. so if i were an accountant, i'm sure i'd find accounting interesting, because you're more well placed to understand the problems and challenges. which is just that there's probably no way i'll become an accountant, and i don't know how to study for something that i'm only going to do in the future. i prefer learning on the job.

but from an academic point of view, finance is where markets are most efficient. transactions costs are minimal, there is almost perfect competition, and it makes it generally mathematically tractable and easy to prove results. well, if you look at the number of nobel prizes in economics awarded in this field, there's markowitz, sharpe, modigliani, miller, scholes, merton to name a few. it's a popular field. and if you went through the markowitz-miller paper for example, it's amazing how simple it is, and how restrictive the assumptions are. but that's the way the field works, start from perfection and go into reality because reality is always harder. almost the opposite of what we try to achieve everyday!

even then it's not very interesting, capital structure and everything. except when it comes to valuation. especially options and derivatives. because then you're on shaky ground, the math is different, there's brownian motion which has a lot of interesting properties and it almost makes you want to be a physicist. (i want to be a physicist!) it is one of the simplest random processes.


actually, this is not very good, maybe i will soon scan in some processes and what they look like when simulated using Brownian motion, they look very similar to say stock market graphs. But of course the eye deceives, because they simply look similar, but there are actually minute differences due to the frequency of large standard-deviation processes. By the way, Brownian motion is my official suggested name for Brown University's dance club (if there is one). hmm. let's see. whether you scale it up or down infinitely, a brownian pattern still looks like a brownian pattern. it's a fractal. it's actually continuous (with probability one, which doesn't mean it's ALWAYS continuous, but just that as it goes to infinity (Event A occurring)/(Total Events) approaches 1). It will eventually hit every single real number. Once it hits a real number, it will then hit it again infinitely often. And it's graph with time has dimension (3/2).

but of course, we start small, and we are still using the binomial method to model. but makes you realize how much there is to know! and 3 more weeks just focused solely on different valuation models, (although how much you really need to know is clearly not that important). they have nice names for them like martingales. and it is nice to know finally some asian mathematicians


well i apologise if i bored you. but clearly i must find it interesting to subject myself to this.

oh hah i think my dad was surprised with my results. i'm not the kind of guy who thinks he could have done better anyway. i always take and grab whatever i have. but yeah, time to slack off and be complacent in year 2. these things only ever work for me once every 2 years. i'm cyclical like that.

i will now scutter off and try to finish a novel. "suite francaise" by irene nemirovsky. french emigre jew type... european novels are always so nicely written and can keep you awake until 4! but it's rare to find a good novel nowadays. there are 3 more parts to this novel, for the unprepared, but they are as yet unpublished.

yes! back to my normal length again.


oh it's the family honour now i see. the godfather, ala siciliana. well, bravo. 10 points for cojones.

Check this out: Materazzi: "Zidane is my hero and I have always admired him a lot."

OMG are you shitting me?
according to my dad, the final was fixed, just like the whole serie a is. zidane was bribed to headbutt materazzi. trezeguet missed because he plays for juventus and wishes to avoid getting shot by the italian mafia. or is it just the ongoing rumour in singapore?
the french were pioneers in so much, especially aviation.

every time you stick on "par avion" it's worth noting many french aviators died setting up mail routes.

and "mayday" is an english translation of "m'aider", which is "help me!"

passed by a falun gong protestor today outside the chinese embassy. after reading so much jung chang, although i am skeptical about the whole issue i must confess china is a big country. it is impossible to know exactly what is going on. cut to images of silent crying. it's like the other day i was wondering if my neighbour was a wife-beater. or he could just be desperately needing to pee.

i think i need a dog. i wish i knew the breeds. the black one downstairs is always milling about me.

also, old man with suitcase. looks like he's fainting. why is nobody around reacting?

compassion is becoming a scarcer commodity these days.
i think i am turning bulimic.

i stared at my greasy noodles today and despite not having had breakfast i couldn't finish it. in fact, i felt like throwing up.

and when it comes to dinner time, i prepare large servings of variations of ravioli and tortellini drowned in some variation of pesto (tomato pesto, normal green-herbish pesto) or siciliana sauce and eat it straight from the pot. i then have large servings of ice cream.

i think i have a problem. i think i am sick.



i thought the way the french compressed the field yesterday was amazing. while watching the match and expecting france to win i wanted to hold up the example of how you change a game by moving your two central midfielders 15 metres up the pitch. managers do make a difference. there!

alas. i wasn't the only one screaming "what the fuck!" last night.


i came back home today at night and i just felt that i was somehow making my way back to coronation road. it was that peaceful feeling of walking through a quiet neighbourhood at night with the streets lighted by amber aureoles of sodium lamps.

and when i returned to masefield court there was a rose blooming in the garden. the old granny in charge of it did win the "bloom islington" award after all. it is not that big a deal to live in a quiet place, it is really all pretty quaint.

and there's nothing like a deep red rose to gather all those thoughts together. thank you granny!


3.00 pm. Before the match

Innocent high school girl in shrill voice: "Go Bjorkman!"
Voice of reason (similarly aged male compatriot) : "You kidding? That other guy hasn't dropped a set yet all tournament."

One set later.

Genial old woman : "How's the swedish guy doing"
(Everyone turns around sheepishly, as if too embarassed to answer)
Me : "Not too well I'm afraid." Decided to add a qualifier. "He is playing the best guy in the world after all."
OW: "Oh it's just that I used to come from Sweden so I am really hoping he will do well. Well, win or lose, it's great anyway that he gets this far."

According to the commentators he was "possibly the best player who ever lived." A bit of an exaggeration. But where I usually love underdogs, I always love more Federer spanking everyone into submission. Yes, I'm a little ManUtd ohmyteamissogreatandthatmakesmebetterthanyou moment. I am safely in London, watching Wimbledon. So sad I had to leave Singapore so soon been not updating because otherwise it'd be the same emo shit over and over.

bonds are sexy bonds are sexy bonds are sexy bonds are sexy repeat until true.

and so federer will wrap up the match faster than i can finish my tutorial. oh look there he just broke serve again. ok time for badminton. need a good spanking.