The last of the idealists has gone

Time has gone by so quickly that I didn’t realised that Randy Pausch had left us. He did actually in July- so quite some time has passed. But I just wanted to remind that this guy was trying to make a – small- difference and for the effort I believe he deserved respect. He was an idealist to the end. When asked what last message he would give to his readers he said: ” In lieu of flowers, use the money to increase your life insurance if you have kids”. He might have had in mind his own but that was still a selfless remark.

I am sorry he’s gone. We need more people like him. I am truly sorry for his family.

Randy Pausch- the living paradox

Dr Randy Pausch is creating a stir on the internet. He’s a 47 year old professor at Carneggie Mellon and was diagnosed last August with pancreatic cancer. He was then given 3 to 6 months to live. Being a father of 3 children under 10, Mr Pausch must have taken the news hard. Coming from an ingeneering background he thought of how he was going to resolve this – which he obviously couldn’t- so he tried to make the best of it. So what do you do when you think you have about a hundred days left to live? You try to make it worthwhile- that’s the dignified way to go. I know a few others who would have done something completely different – like trying to have fun- but that’s not what Mr Pausch is about.
So there is this tradition at Carneggie Mellon where professors who are about to retire give their last lecture. Mr Pausch used his right to give it and it was broadly broadcast on the internet. He was at first praised for his lucidity, his courage and his dignity. He encouraged people to follow their dreams and tried to give an example of how to achieve this. The lecture was officially aimed at his students and at his children, but it became open to the rest of the world. And then – you know the saying: Man plans, God laughs. And that’s what happened. The plan backfired.
Dr Pausch looks like the healthiest person on earth. Although clinically he is dying, in the facts, he’s still there. His sudden notoriety has propulsed him on the scene- you can even have a glimpse on the internet of him doing push-ups in front of Oprah and a large audience, something he is condemned to do again and again like a bad scenario in front of the cameras. And these repetitions – plus the publication of a book called ” The last lecture ” suddenly becomes an indecent commercial for a narcissic agony. And the lash out begins, followed by the accusations of milking it to the last degree. You have here all the ingredients to create collective fury when it all started with the best intentions. It is easy to see why: Mr Pausch is a good looking guy, with the sort of funny haircut that you can suppose he wore all his life since he was 12 or 16. His beautiful wife and lovely children seem to come straight of a Disney story. He has achieved a great career and has many friends who are ready to support him. He’s trying to do the right thing, like probably he has been doing all his life. In one word: he has it all. Dying the is the catch, but if you think about it one minute, it is going to happen to all of us and we are not all making a big deal out of it. We could- after all, not all of us have the time to get prepared and ready for it. So he remains a lucky guy throughout the end.
But then the paradox begins. He is dying, right, but in this world of instant information, he doesn’t drop dead once he has finished his lecture. So people feel cheated and are demanding explanations, which he has to answer to- radios in hand and defenses all out. The poor guy gets trapped by his own snare. So now he’s out there trying to get his point through and wasting precious time, instead of laying on his living-room floor and playing with his kids.
I have no judgements to pass on this one. Mr Pausch forgot one thing- that some events such as birth, marriage and funeral are best kept private. It is in our culture. He probably tried to overcome his fears by trying to pass on what he had learned in his short life. Making a book out of it was a simple way to perpetuating the message and maybe even to assure a little income for his family once he had disappeared. It may be seen as cynical when I believe it was just desesperate. The plan was genuine but hadn’t been thought through- for one good reason: nobody will shoot an ambulance. But Mr Pausch didn’t look ill enough- and that was the paradox.
Were he dead now we’d say ” rest in peace”. I don’t mean ” piece”- and nobody else should.
That was my lecture of the day.

To all the people who read my blog….

The last few weeks I have received a few messages from the people who read my blog. Most of them are friends and family but a few of them are strangers. From the last category I have received skype messages but it turned out that the messages were delayed and I couldn’t answer back due to their privacy settings.
So this for all the people who read my blog:
Thank you. Thank you for the support, for the time you give me, for the attention and sometimes the criticism. I have come to realize that I have an audience – small but faithful – and I am touched. I also hope that I keep entertaining you and that you don’t take me seriously. I will also make the effort to update my entries more often.
Have a good time- and if possible, a good life.

Facebook, MySpace and other friendly sites…

I lately spent a few days in Switzerland where websites such as Facebook, Myspace, Youtube etc are known and hard of but not used. It turned out that it was difficult to explain what the utility of this sites was and what kind of people navigate on them. I had the excuse that my husband had put me in Facebook before he even asked me. The sad truth is that the only pals I can contact through it are the ones who live in the UK or who are a tad international. My friends/ acquaintances/ contacts in Switzerland, Italy, France and Germany are left behind.
Now I don’t have any justification for browsing Facebook, but I sometimes do. And I was delighted to find two friends whom I hadn’t seen one for 27 years and the other for 20. Truth is that my life went on, but from time to time I give a good clearance to my house. About a month ago I discovered a bunch of boxes that have been following me for quite a few years. I had never opened them so I decided it was time to get rid of their contents. As you can see, I am not exactly sentimental. But on this occasion. I discovered a few pictures and memorabilia from my teenage years. There were pictures I had done between 10 and 18 years old. Poems I had written. Short stories. Letters. I went through them all, one by one, throwing away bits and pieces of my past without a second thought. But then I saw the photos- old faces I had forgotten but whom at the time had been hugely important to me. Some I would never call back, such as my first serious ex-boy-friend, the first one to ask my hand or the one who went mental and started to harass me 5 years after I had left him. But the other guys and gals, that was something worth having a second glance at.
I found some of them. I had kept the habit through the years to send Christmas cards to the good old ones and give the odd phone call to a happy few every – more or less- every 3 to 5 years. But now I was digging deeper. I was expecting at best no answer at worst rejection, but I soon found out that curiosity is a powerful engine. Everybody answered cheerfully. I had not been that easily forgotten. It was nice to discover how this people I could only recall with pimples or smooth skin had turned out and what their choices during the long silence that had separated us had been. For some reason none of them expected me to have five children- by I wouldn’t have expected them to have them either. Divorces, marriages, teenage children, different careers- we reviewed it all. And then we faded into silence again for we didn’t have much in common anymore but there was no bitterness either. The door is left open- who knows, we might call back again within a decade or two, or even have a cup of tea when we are due to be around ( although for the ones who live in Ukraine and Australia, this might take some planning and a few more years).
I am very conscious that you have to have a diffuse tenderness for those human beings who have known you when you still were an awful brat and a selfish/ depressive/ ugly teenager. Then you see them again – and pictures lie- and you have now wrinkles and a pot belly. You have misssed the whole blossoming part – but you still recognize them and you’re very fond of them for all the dreams are still alive in your memory.
I have let go of the past and although I remember much, I don’t recall the same things as they do.

Of course you have the odd misadventure poking out from time to time. My husband got a message from his last ex-girlfriend, who technically was never his girlfriend , but still acts as such. By reading this sentence you just know that it is going to get complicated and likely – worse. He had no intention of rekindling the romance or even a pretence of friendship as she hadn’t been actually nice, or generous or anything that could have been even remotedly agreable. So he refused to allow the contact. A few days later another ex- girlfriend makes the same request- and it turns out to be that she’s the first ‘s best friend. The debate can then begins- what is this all about and is any of them even slightly grown up? ( We’re talking about women who are a few weeks away from their 30th birthday). The rejections seem to have stung as, next thing we know, an old schoolfriend calls to say she has received an email from one of them telling her the worst things about the broken liaison that happened 7 years ago and about which she had no clue, no interest and no part. I mean, come on on, get over it girl! My husband was rather philosophical about it – he simply stated that he had a knack for ex- girlfriends turning into psycho bitches from hell. But in simple words this is at best harrassment and at worst stalking and it may get this young lady in a lot of trouble if she persists with her bad manners.

So yeah, Facebook etc has its pros and cons. You live with it I guess. It’s a bit like life.

It is raining…again

So I am in England at the moment and my friends and family are calling me to find out if I have to swim between my living-room and my kitchen or if it is all a media ‘s cry wolf.
I read this morning that meteorology researchers are now giving interviews about the future of humanity and asked if we are now enetering already the era of the climate change that we all fear. Nobody seems to care that more than a thousand Chinese people have already succumbed this weekend to the floodings. We are more concerned about the potential 7000 casualties we may see over here. Now the men ‘s answers are quite straightforward. 2 years ago, when Katrina did her damage, we could have said that this was an isolated phenomenon and that we had seen in the past such natural catastrophy- about 50 or more years ago. But now they have to reckon that having such close brutal changes can not be considered as an simple abnomaly. We had floodings here in 2000 – I was there and boy do I remember- and they are now repeating themselves in a much more worrying pace. Although the estimations seem to be exagerated ( in some places, it is much worse than anticipated when in others, well, it just rains), it is now pretty obvious that we are in trouble. Why are we waking up so late? Because the economical side of it is now astronomical. We are not just talking insurances costs here, but also crops that are devastated ( first they weer overcooked in April, now they are rottening in the fileds), people who are losing their homes, water that can’t be drunk, workers who cannot attend their jobs, police and army forces being immobilized by the emergency calls and the rescue operations. The list is probably much longer and I feel so sorry for all the poor souls who are losing everything in front of an indifferent world who just watches TV thinking that it is only rain. Hey, God got us this way a long time ago, and that did have some long time lasting damage as far as I know. Only kidding, but between the ones here who will not go on holiday and the ones there who simply have no chances of survival, I believe it is time for us to become conscious that the golden era is now over.
We see here supermarkets asking their customers to get their own bags for their groceries. We have advertisement about switching light bulbs to more economical models or switching electricity companies to more ethical ones. We are being told that petrol is a curse and I see more and more people using their bicycle to go to work. We eat organic and we are more and more to do so. We turn off our Tv/ computers/ appliances at night- not because of money savings but because of energy savings. And we of course all watch America in denial, using without any shame more than 30 to 40 % of all our resources and blaming China for expanding too fast and developping new cities and new means every. Let’s show them a correct way of doing things, then maybe we could give them advice. Not the other way round. Who said that we are the masters of the world? Aren’t we telling our kids that they should share all the time? Since when have nations become so self centered and selfish?
I don’t think that the end is near, but I have days when it feels hopeless. Individuals seems to be leading the way in this instance and governments still don’t get the message. People are angry and in the City the predictions on America’s downfall are stronger and stronger. The problems of the subprime remortgage sector is just the tip of an iceberg. The general sentiment is that America has lost the lead. It is insidious, but this primal rejection of the American dream is surging- fast.
I am just a woman with a lovely husband and 5 kids. The only reason I am doing anything and everything I do is because my children are my future. What world am I giving them ?
So the holidays have begun. My youngest child is having nightmares when he thinks of the future wars we will have to have water. The odds are that Engalnd will be in one of them within the next 20 years. The scenarii are all scary whatever the outcome. We of course don’t know what is true. Our ministers are sending out confusing messages. The medias are pouring hot & cold – depending of the degree of indifference shown by the public. I keep recycling otherwise I will be fined. The reality is schizophrenic.
So we take one step at a time.

mother and trading AT THE SAME TIME

I have been trading for the last – almost- 2 years while my children were running around me, asking for breakfast/ lunch/ dinner/ snacks/ going to the toilet/ and a few other things. I realized that I was studying any new techniques better if I was 1) away from home or 2) while the kids were asleep. Being mother develops some form of resilience because despite the fact that I keep juggling with houseworks, kids care, work, administrative work and a few other things ( still unpacking…), I was – and still am- able to learn after 8 pm.
So, against all good advice from my fellow traders, I have started about 6 weeks ago to study the techniques of candlesticks. The theories of John Carter and Hubert Senters, as their newsletter, taught me a lot , and to be honest, still teach me a lot. It gave me an edge and brought some reflection. For example, I did notice that Carter and Senters sometimes disagreed on what would happen next on certain market. Both their arguments were actually valid. I wasn’t confused, as I had enough experience to have notice that any outlook about facts and life can differ according to the person you’re talking to, but I found interesting that these two guys, who work together all the time, could have such different opinion sometimes. I realized that the know-it-all mentors I could have were not as good as I thought. Carter & Senters had the honesty of accepting other people’s view. Most of my mentors over here didn’t have such humility. But it didn’t mean they were always right, far from it. I came to the conclusion that I should drop mentors and examples and start doing my own research and use what suited me best, whatever people said.
So here I am reading Nison and Bigalow and testing like mad everything I am learning. I use daily time frame, hourly time frame, 30, 15, 5, 3, 2 and 1 minute time frames. I test everything. I read trin, put call ratio, tick, ADX, MACD, RSI, volume and test all these indicators against my ideas. I use Fibonacci levels, pivots ( daily,weekly, monthly), EMAs. I takes me ages and I spend a bit of time in the weekend to print charts of different time frames to compare if my findings are making sense. So far I have tested almost exclusively the DOW, but I am turning now to the FTSE, the DAX, the Nikkei and the big stocks. From an early stage experience it seems that my own personnal technique works best on indices.
My fellow traders tell me I am mad. Some of them have decided to follow my lead – as I am obtaining good results- and they have bought some of the books or dvds. Most of them have already commented that the matter is dry. My answer is that I don’t give a damn as long as it works. I actually find that this is fun. You have a theory, you wait for the right set up, you jump in, you jump out, you make money. It can be fun – if you keep an open mind. You have to stop being pessimistic. I read somewhere that a pessimist is someone who prefers to be right, even if the outcome is failure. I don’t want to be a pessimist. I want my life to be good – and that’s what I am aiming for.
Now I am of course constantly under pressure. My husband is working too, and he’s quite busy at the moment setting up his practice and creating cds to help people stop smoking/ lose weight and accomplish a lot more little miracles. If I didn’t have the children I’d be a workoholic. SO would my beloved. We probably are- despite the kids. But I always took the back seat when my husband was at work and this started to get the best of me. Although it was not intentionnal, I started to have the impression that what I was doing was not as valuable as what he was. It felt like if my job was actually a sort of hobby. I gradually became more and more frustrated and felt completely incompetent. Taking the back seat means you don’t count. Gradually it creeps you under your skin- if you don’t count, what you do is crap. So you make it crap. Everything matches. I was not getting results – or I was very irregular- and my frustration was gently but firmly covering the rest of my life.
Now my husband is a great guy. I retain his ex girl-friends as complete morons to have let such a gem slip through their fingers. Mind you, some of them keep calling him back! And the great good thing about him is that I can actually be myself with him, all the time. I was not giving him the best of me, and I was starting to be unhappy, so it was time for a talk. I am not sure I presented that as well as I could have but I am quite sure that I made my point clear. We had to find a way to cope with our both demanding jobs- and the children. And the housework. We had to set down rules – and keep them. So we did.
We are still juggling of course and these are early days. Progress are made and my confidence is returning. My results show this – although of course I am not as rich as I’d like for now! But I am having a good time. I am enjoying my work. I am happy with my life. I love and adore my husband.
And I am knackered, so I don’t suffer from insomnia. Can anyone be happier?

and it was time for a paaarrty !

We had our house warming party on Saturday. The house was more or less ready and tidy, but we still had our dining room packed up to the ceiling . Guests were very impressed just by the look of it so I didn’t dare comment about the cellars and the coach house. They are bigger – and full of boxes too. Our neighbours came early to help me look after the children while I should have been preparing the desserts. It turned out I was late on my schedule and they ended up cleaning the kitchen with me before helping peel a mountain of apples. I made apple pies, pear pies, apricot pies and chocolate mousse. Not one dessert lasted more than 20 seconds once put on the table. People complained they didn’t have a bite. It was brilliant. Although I had hoped we had enough for everybody, I also know that when you tatse something sweet, the less you eat the better it tastes. It is an old trick, that actually got a famous cola company in trouble. They tried to create a new taste – many years ago- and when samples were tested, lots of people absolutely loved a particular one. When it was put on the market, it turned out to be a catastrophe. It took the cola company a while to find out that their clients taste buds couldn’t cope with the sweetness of their product. Lesson learned.
We had our children, their friends and children of our friends – in total, more than 20 of them. Aged from 1 to 18, they all were very well behaved and we enjoyed their company. We had more than 50 adult guests turning up and it was very pleasureable to spend some time with so many people we love and we like. I think we should do this more often! I am already planning my husband’s birthday, which is in September…
Now of course we are completely knackered. The house is very cleaned as the neighbours – once again- popped in and gave us a hand. I don’t think I could have better neighbours actually, which is great. But we are physically drained. It was to the point that my beloved husband forgot to close the main door yesterday, while we were going out. He didn’t just left it unlocked, he left it wide open. We came back a few hours later- and it turned out that an Amazon delivery guy had left a parcel for me – inside the house. But nothing was missing. Amazing. I am not sure if there is a lesson to be learn here…
When you are happy, there isn’t much to say. For us all, it took a trampoline, a great barbecue, lots of friends around, a few pies and a bit of free leisure time. Nobody got drunk- which was premiere, but I realize that when you have fun, English people don’t need to drink that much. So for once the discussions were coherent and funny. And clever…
Now it is back to a normal life. I am trading, shopping, cleaning and I can take my time to open new boxes. The holidays are not far- and I will definitely take some time off. I need to spend some time with my family – and the friends who will join us. I hope I will also take time to read….and do nothing. If I am able to!

Insomnia, the housewife fantasy

I can be very sad. I resent sometimes the fact that I don’t have enough time on my hands to accomplish all the tasks I have on my list. Due to our move, I still have about 400 boxes to unpack- at least. I make sure that the kitchen and the bathrooms are always clean, I dust and I vacuum clean once a week – which is not enough. I lately discovered about 6 boxes full of clothes that had been stored in a damp place, so I had to wash them all. It has taken me more than a week to do it- 7 to 8 washloads a day. I should be finished by the end of this week- but then I was not able to keep up with the ironing. At first I did quite well; 3 hours in the evening while I was watching a movie with my beloved and discussing a few topics that would interest us. Then I did 2 hours, and soon I had quite a pile on the sofa. Good weather allowing I was able to do more washloads. The mountain grew bigger. The boxes were lingering in the halls of the house. I had pictures frames, jewellery, books and toys littering my office. I am used to order and spotless hygiene so I started to suffer. Add to this my youngest child with chicken pox, the feeling that I am overwhelmed by the situation, and a bad trading day ( that could have been actually funny; everytime one of my daughters entered the room, I jumped and pressed the trigger. I got it at the second mistake and got my arrow away from the clicking button. But it cost me a bit).
So when the time came to go to bed, I was tired, a tad frustrated and wondering how I was going to sort out this mess- literally.
I fell asleep, woke up 45 min later because of some thugs evaluating the opportunity of breaking into our house, then one of my daughters woke up, then again…And It was one in the morning, two, three…and I got up. I thought that maybe I could trade FX while I was finally in peace but there wasn’t anything that screamed ” go for it!”. So I started making some research about my strategies and watching wher they could apply, which stocks, what markets, and so on. After an hour, I decided I could surf Amazon, but tempatation was hard to resist so I read all my mail and the trading news I hadn’t read this week. Finally I considered playing some computer games but came to the conclusion that it would be wiser catching up with my ironing. I spent the next 5 hours and a half just doing that. Having reminiscences of a time where I used to have fantasies about staying up all night in order to catch up with my housewife work so I could then spend the day with my kids and be free of any obligation. I had been wise enough not to test it as I reckoned that it would be more than likely that I’d be too knackered in the morning to enjoy anything. But now I had my opportunity; I could spend all night doing it – I wasn’t tired. I felt completely numb.
At 8 am I went to check the UK market, something I hadn’t done in 2 months. I was horrified by the spread and wondered why I had spent so much time and effort to do it. Then I realized that I had only done a third of my ironing, 3 washing, and that the kitchen was a mess. I was basically in a haze and stayed there all day. I didn’t trade in the afternoon as opportunities wer rare thanks to what is called FED day. By 7pm I was ready and watching the markets again but didn’t lift a finger to trade. I knew what to do and papert raded it, but a part of me was just happy watching.
So I guess that I fullfilled my fantasy, at the cost I had predicted. It was unvoluntarily but as it happened, all I could do is going all the way.
I am too old for this. I will take a sleeping pill if I ever get there again!

The English wedding

I went to a wedding on Saturday. It was kind of typical; the guests were – some of them- excentric. The parents of the bride and groom sometimes disagreed on little things. The friends of the married couple were having loads of fun. The weather was changing- sunny, then rain started falling down. Although the occasion was supposed to be formal and all the assistance was wearing – I believe- their best clothes, most people were relaxed and happy. I had a great time. I saw some guys whom I hadn’t seen for 6 years. They hadn’t changed a bit. I met girls who were welcoming and lovely. My eyes were watering while I watched my friends tie the knot. I remembered my own ceremony and my husband pronouncing his vows. The speeches were witty and full og innuendos that completely escaped me ( I am not a Star Trek fan).
The meal was very good. The company remained sober until quite late in the evening. There is now a tradition that I find very clever; the guests have to pay for their own booze. It works a treat. People don’t get drunk too quickly. You can still enjoy their presence ( of mind). I personnally enjoy sobriety, as I don’t drink, but also the fact that I may have the possibility to talk to people whose minds are not wandering on a personal and tortuous path that is inaccessible ( unless you’re drunk yourself or on drugs, in which case you may have the illusion to connect with the poor soul). So I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The pleasures of Life are sometimes very simple. Good company, good spirit ( not the one with alcohol) and a bit of food on the side. I’d wish people ‘d get married everyday. A friend suggested we’d all remarry again – at the same time. One huge wedding , all of us renewing our vows and giving a hell of a party. Sounds good to me- I’d be game for it. Maybe we could just give a hell of a party. Summer’s coming.

English customs …and how other Europeans see them

I know England quite well. Or so I believe. With my almost decade of regular stays in the UK I have started to notice a few things that are actually considered normal over here that would make other Europeans shiver- if only they were aware of them. The list is non exhaustive and I reserve all rights to add to it from time to time.
Let me give you an example. In England, when you’re about to receive visitors that you want to impress, you clear your home. You think I should have written ” clean”?. Big mistake. I meant what I said. I even read an article proudly intitulated once ” How to clean your whole house in 20 min “. I was – you bet- more than interested. I spend myself a minimum of 4 hours a day in domestic tasks so any advice is welcome. The article was quite short actually and quite simple; all you had to do was to gather all things that were on display and throw them under your bed. You were encouraged to take your clothes and flatten them on your mattress before covering them up with your duvet. Dusting and a quick passage with the vacuum cleaner where dirt was too obvious were on the cards. You had to close your bathroom door and pile all dirty dishes and glasses in the kitchen sink, that you’ d fill with water. Open windows and voila; your guests could knock on the door and you’ d open with an apology- you were just doing the dishes. THAT – according to the author who very surprisingly was a woman, and I hope when I say woman that she was not more than 20 years old- was cleaning. So I had here a first clue. I then heard stories of women who were receiving their parents for dinner and started frantically rubbing the sole of their boots on the carpet as it was gathering piles of dirt. How on earth did they discover that, it remains a mystery to me. I saw parties being thrown in houses that were dusty and and really not at their best; the hosts very nicely explained that the guests would mess it up anyway before the night would end, and probably one or more of them would get sick somewhere so why bother cleaning? That would be done after everybody was gone. Right. The notion of respect for the guests didn’t seem to play the slightest role in the decision. So that was one custom that I was almost shocked to discover; my home is my castle, they say, but they seem to imply that the caslte is still in its original condition and has been built more than 400 years ago. May I add, of course, that for most English people I am a sad sad maniac? I am even being offered cleaning products and books on the subject – as if I needed them. Or is it a hidden insult? Whatever that is, I can tell you this: my products are the best anyway. I get my bin bags and my window cleanimg products from Switzerland, my washing detergents from Italy and my scraping utensils from France. Can’t wait to go back to the US where they have nuclear powders and GM utensils. Just kidding.
The good point of all of this, of course, is that you can keep your shoes on everywhere and even put your feet up on the furniture, although this is more a US custom.
Next subject: personnal hygiene and food habits. That is one hell of a subject!