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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mango time

Appropriately, it was fatmango who pointed me to SepiaMutiny.

This link, however, is for Anj. Ennis posted the following on SP today:

Mmmmmmmangoes! - Sepia Mutiny
For me, the sweetest fruit of Bush’s bisit to India is that finally, after 17 years of trying, Indian mangoes will soon be available in the US. Thus far, desis in the US have had to settle for Mexican mangoes, which are neither as sweet nor as juicy as what one can get back in the sub-continent.
More on Bush's trip to India coming up...

Photos from the roof (and around the city)

twin peaks, mt sutro
Originally uploaded by shooGu.
It's a rare and exciting event when we here at SteadyBlogging get a comment. So when a comment also contains a request, we honor it.

So here is one photo taken from the roof: looking west towards Twin Peaks, Mount Sutro & Sutro Tower, the 17th St pass. A few more shots that I took last Thursday from the roof last week can be seen here.

In fact, I took a bunch of shots around the city last Thursday. Also took a few more Friday, but I haven't uploaded them as of yet.

Monday, February 27, 2006

the week/end in review

I'm not doing very well at keeping up with the avalanche of paper that is coming into our home. We've been getting the NYT Mon-Sat for the last few years, and I was doing reasonably well with just that. But then a few months ago we were able to subscribe to the WSJ using some dormant frequent flyer miles. I needed to start reading the latter anyways, so now we get those two every day of the week other than Sunday.

What often ends up happening is that on Sunday evening I skim a thick stack of papers. That's what I did last night. There were a handful of articles I wanted to save/blog. I'm not going to blog them right now, in the interest of getting some other stuff done this morning. But I saved the links on my account. See, for example, the pages I've tagged with wsj.

Part of the reason I didn't get through much of the papers as they arrived last week is that it was an active week and weekend. I was going around the city W, Th, and F during the day. In particular: went to Parnassus and then stopped at the SF Main PL Thurs; Fri, went to see Taylor Branch at the Commonwealth Club noontime, which was truly moving and amazing; then caught the 38 Geary across to Larkin to pick up a Vietnamese sandwich for lunch, which I ate sitting out in front of the Asian Art Museum; dropped into the AA Museum for a few minutes, to quickly glance at the Kyoto painting exhibit, and do a bit of reading upstairs; then over to the SFPL again. Took a bunch of photos over those two days. Look for them on flickr.

Fri eve we were out for some sushi at 24th and Castro, and then to Hayes Valley for a birthday party. Sat aft we walked to Cole Valley and then caught the 43 to the Inner Sunset; Anj did some work at the Canvas Gallery while I walked through the Botanic Garden, to the top of Strawberry Hill, and over to the new deYoung, stopping and reading some statistics along the way. Sat night we got some pupusas and went down to Argus to hear Subtext and Swahilisheen spin some wrekeds. It was entertaining evening, in no small part due to to a bottle of Anejo that we brought back from Santo Domingo, and was kicked in the space of an hour (not by us, mind you).

Sunday we cleaned the crib, and then got a Photoshop tutorial, right after we did a short graf walking tour. In the evening we had some tasty homecooked Korean food for dinner.

If you want to know what I'm listening to right now, go here. Been listening to 98.1 Kiss FM a lot lately. Just played: "Step in the Name in Love."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Energy swap in the Economist

Following up on my previous post, this is that Economist article:

The whole article is interesting and worth reading, but the paragraph that caught my eye was this one:
Sun Edison, an American start-up backed by Goldman Sachs and BP, has devised a clever new business model that overcomes a number of the real-world obstacles that have hitherto stymied renewable-energy projects. Simply put, it offers big retailers (such as Whole Foods and Staples) long-term, fixed-price electricity contracts in return for being able to set up solar panels on their rooftops. The retailers benefit from stable power prices, but do not have to buy or run the panels themselves; Goldman Sachs, which finances the panels, benefits from the associated tax credits and other offsets; BP sells more solar panels; and solar power has a better chance of taking off. Meanwhile, other ventures are looking to wind energy for a hedge. Several firms are putting together hybrid financial products that combine the output of wind farms in America's mid-west with that of natural gas-fired plants—thus hedging the volatility of both.
I've heard from other sources that energy derivatives are a hot field. Obviously there are the simple and well-known derivatives like oil futures. But then there are more complicated "engineered" ones like the swap described above.

I liked this reference because it shows how financial engineering can do good for the world.

Derivatives in the news

I'm at home this morning, finally starting to review some material for the MFE. Something I've been meaning to start blogging are the interesting finance-related articles and topics I come across.

Indeed, it's been interesting how often financial engineering pops up, usually in the guise of derivatives. Well, I suppose it's not too surprising to find it in WSJ and Economist articles--but they are references that would have gone over my head just 6 months ago, before I started learning about the subject.

Here are two articles, one from the WSJ and one from the Economist. The WSJ article is from earlier this week
The hedge-fund tactics the headline refers to are primarily trading in derivatives:
Pressured by weak stock-market returns and greater competition for investors' money, a growing number of mutual funds are making use of investment strategies typically found in riskier hedge funds.

A number of major mutual-fund companies, including Allianz Global Investors, Julius Baer Holding AG's GAM subsidiary, and Alliance Capital Management's AllianceBernstein, have recently asked fund shareholders for permission to change the rules governing how they can invest to include a range of hedge-fund-like investment strategies. Some of the new techniques being adopted include making complex derivative trades, investing with borrowed money and short selling. (Short selling involves selling borrowed shares in order to profit from an expected price decline.) Even some conservative U.S. government bond funds are adding risk with more derivative strategies.

And later in the article:
The biggest changes are coming in traditional stock funds, a number of which are now shorting stocks for the first time and using complicated derivatives, which are financial contracts whose value is based on -- or derived from -- some underlying stock, currency, commodity or other investment. To be sure, some mutual funds have long used basic derivatives, such as stock-index futures, but a growing number are now expanding into more exotic types. Oppenheimer shareholders last month approved plans to allow several of the company's funds to trade derivative contracts tied to the price of commodities or currencies....

Bond funds, too, are changing tactics to boost returns. Shareholders of Seligman U.S. Government Securities fund voted recently to allow the fund to increase its investments in bonds that don't have government backing and in derivatives. And Principal Global late last year altered its government bond fund to begin including commercial mortgage-backed securities and using derivative strategies.

Predictably, the article spins this as a risky move, which indeed it may be, depending on how a given fund trades in derivatives. But an overarching theme of derivatives is that there are two sides to every trade in them: they allow for risky speculation on one side, but they allow for hedging of risk on the other side. A fund which allows itself to trade in currency derivatives could very well use them to reduce the currency risk to which its shareholders are exposed via its other (equity or bond) holdings.

The 2nd article I was going to post is an Economist article from a few months ago. Surprisingly, there was a reference to derivatives was buried inside an interesting article about alternative energy.

But I can't find the link right now, and I've got to get going. So that one will have to wait.

A photo from DC

suman & middu aunty
Originally uploaded by shooGu.
I downloaded, from our camera to my laptop, all the photos from our recent trip. But I haven't yet uploaded them. First we need to title (and tag) them, which is a daunting task.

Actually I did upload a handful: two that I took in China Basin on the Friday before we left town, and three from our visit to DC. Here's one from our visit to the US Botanic Garden, which is right next to the Capitol. Anj took about 40 photos of the orchids on display--this is one of the few with people in the photos.

You can click through on the photo to go to the Flickr page.

Actually, I've been meaning to mention that you can click through on any of the "badges" in the column to the right, which will lead you to,, flickr, and, respectively. For example, if you click on the badge, you'll see what tracks I've listened to in the past hour.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

In the Mission

I thought with these 2 1/2 months I'd be getting around the city more, but that hasn't really happened. Instead, I've been spending more time in and around our neighborhood. I think it's primarily inertia related to transportation. It's easier to stay on foot, and it's possible to get and do just about everything in the 'hood.

Today, for instance, I walked/jogged 3 separate times, in 3 different directions. First in the morning, down Mission, Valencia, and Capp, to our branch of the public library. I returned 3 items we were finished with, all related to our recent trip to the DR: Lonely Planet's Latin American Spanish phrasebook, the Rough Guide to Merengue and Bachata CD, and Lonely Planet's guidebook to the DR (and Haiti). I left with only one book ("Merengue: Dominican Music and Dominican Idenitity" by Paul Austerlitz). Also picked up some onions and lemons at the 23rd & Mission market on the way home.

Second, Anj and I went for a vigourous walk into Dolores Heights in the middle of the afternoon. Across on 21st, up to the highest point up there, and back down through Dolores Park.

Finally, I ran down to our post office at 23rd and S. Van Ness to try to get our held mail. They redirected me to the post office at 16th and Bryant, so I jogged over there. But they didn't have our mail either, so I just ran home.

I am beginning to feel how the neighborhood approximates a small town, or a village.

There was an article in the Travel section of the NYT last November about our neighborhood, which I've saved with the intention of posting. It's pretty good, with some interesting bits about the history of the area. Here's the link, and the first few paragraphs:

San Francisco's Mission District: Eclectic, Eccentric, Electric
Published: November 20, 2005
From the rooftop patio of Medjool, a new restaurant in the Mission district of San Francisco, the entire neighborhood is laid out like a flamboyant mosaic. Ranks of painted ladies - San Francisco's ornate wooden Victorians - rise to Twin Peaks in the west, the hills that block the city's infamous fog and make the Mission one of the city's warmest and sunniest neighborhoods. This terrace is the perfect spot for watching the cottony wave of evening fog roll into downtown, for the sky in the Mission remains crystalline.

At the intersection below, an animated scene of daily life unfolds: sidewalk vendors sell yucca flowers and avocados, blue-haired anarchist daddies push strollers, young men loiter at the corner, Central American housewives and vegan lesbian tattoo artists shop for fresh handmade tortillas.

"I try to get anybody coming to San Francisco to come to the Mission," said Dave Eggers, the best-selling author who set up the first of his community writing schools here. "Not to misuse the word 'authentic' - I think that's such a troubling word - but the Mission really does have all the best parts of San Francisco intersecting here."

That Medjool spot is at 21st and Mission, about 3 blocks from us. It's a bit too much of an upscale scene to be somewhere we frequent, but we have been up to that rooftop patio twice, and the view is spectacular.

Then again, the view from our roof is pretty good too. I'll have to get up there, take some photos, and post them.

Zaha Hadid's Cincinnati building

Just wanted to save this link from today's SF Chronicle, which caught my eye b/c some friends are moving to Cincinnati next month; the first two paragraphs of the article are included below:
PLACE / After the buzz disappears, so do the crowds
When architect Zaha Hadid strutted her stuff on Sixth Street in 2003, critics swooned and attendance soared -- two reasons the Contemporary Arts Center in this long-struggling downtown hired her in the first place.

Three years later, the building's still there. The crowds aren't, judging by what I saw earlier this month. And this would-be icon stands as a cautionary tale: In an age when celebrity architects are courted by cities and institutions desperate to make a splash, brand-name buzz can fade quicker than a fresh coat of paint.

Monday, February 20, 2006

back in the Bay

I've been hearing that more friends and family than I'd thought are dropping in here now and then, so I figured I should get to posting more regularly. Especially with what's been happening in our lives, instead of random links.

We just got back to the Bay late last night, after two weeks on the road. It was a good trip all around, but it's also good to get home. One of the benefits of travel--makes you appreciate home.

So here is where we were:
  • Feb 4-6 in northern Virgina/DC, visiting Anj's aunt and uncle
  • Feb 7-15 in the Dominican Republic; specifically
    • Feb 7-8 in Cabarete, on the north coast
    • Feb 9-13 in Las Terrenas, on the Samana Peninsula
    • Feb 13-15 in Santo Domingo
  • the night of Feb 15 to the morning of Feb 16 in Boston
  • Feb 15 to yesterday morning in Northampton, Massachusetts
  • yesterday afternoon in Cambridge, Mass.
  • yesterday evening into this morning on a JetBlue flight
As with previous trips, I'm hoping to blog in some details about where we were and what we did. With previous trips, however, I've tried to be complete and detailed, and never got around to finishing; see for example, the two long entries (here and here) I wrote up about the first two days of our trip to South America--but I didn't get pasts those first two days!

And now that I go back and look for them, I'm realizing I never wrote up any entries about our trip to Ukraine and Istanbul last May. I did post twice from Ina's apartment in Kyiv on the day we arrived there: go here and here.

More soon...