Monthly Archives: October 2008

Fusion research

I have a confession to make: I haven’t decided which party to vote for in the presidential election next week.
Of course, I phrased that statement carefully. As any regular reader of this blog knows, I long ago decided which candidate to vote for. But this month I changed my voter registration to New York from California, and here in New York there are two ways to vote for Barack Obama.
What’s going on is that New York is one of the few states with an active fusion voting system. Here a political party is permitted to cross-endorse another party’s candidate, so that voters can express different preferences from one of the major parties without feeling that they’re throwing their votes away. So there are two lines on the ballot with Obama’s name: one for the Democratic Party, and one for the Working Families Party. Similarly, John McCain’s name appears three times, under the Republican, Conservative, and Independence party lines.
The result of this is that, while California’s minor parties are pretty much all total crackpots, the electoral system in New York has the potential to reward serious and pragmatic third parties that align with a major party most of the time, but can withhold an endorsement in a close race and thus have an influence on the outcome.
For a while it seems that this created an effective four-party system with the Conservative Party to the right of the Republicans and the Liberal Party to the left of the Democrats. Recently (in 2002) the Liberal Party failed to qualify for the ballot (you need 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial election) and the Working Families Party became the sole progressive alternative. Meanwhile the Conservative Party is still around, and there’s also the Independence Party which appears to have no ideology and seems to endorse whoever is the most mavericky, so they’re backing John McCain.
So, back to my dilemma. Back in 1998 when I was first qualified to vote (having turned 18 just after the ’96 election), I was only leaning Democratic. After eight years of Republican governance, I have become a staunch Democrat, and if I were still in California I’d vote a straight Dem ticket. But since I’d like to see more leadership from Dems on progressive issues, a vote on the Working Families line would help send that message.
I’ve thought of a compromise. I’ll vote Democratic on the federal offices, since this is a year when I’m not just voting for the least bad alternative: I’m proud to be a Democrat and I have no reservations about supporting our presidential ticket. But in the elections for the state legislature, I’ll vote Working Families to keep them honest. (Either way I’m voting for the same candidates–in all of the races on my ballot Working Families has endorsed the Democratic candidate.)

New and improved singles map

Remember the infamous singles map? The weird east-west gradient in which single women were concentrated on the east coast and single men in the west always seemed very odd to me. I think there must be some demographic explanation (I’m guessing related to immigration patterns) but I haven’t seen a compelling one yet.
In addition, I used to wonder just how useful it was to look at the entire single population at once. The statistics were likely to change substantially under various demographic slices, so the overall average may not be very interesting—any given person is only going to be looking for singles within some subset of age, socioeconomic status, and so forth.
So this remix of the data in which one can select an age range is pretty interesting. It turns out that moving the age slider alters the picture radically, primarily because women marry earlier than men. So in the 18-39 range there are excess single men pretty much everywhere. (Don’t miss the commentary at that link, which is both entertaining and insightful.)
What this needs now is more sliders along other categories so that a user can locate the demographic that offers him or her the best odds. Meanwhile I am going to continue to deprioritize my own efforts at dating until the market recovers, and working for a major bank is once again held in higher regard than professional puppy-kicking.

Arcane Gazebo’s financial crisis FAQ

I won’t attempt to explain the financial crisis here, but I will answer a few questions that have frequently been asked of me.
Q: Why haven’t you been blogging about the recent events in the financial sector (or anything else, for that matter)?
A: One reason is that I don’t have a lot of insight to add over what others are already saying. On top of that, since I work in proprietary trading I’m not at liberty to talk publicly about the aspects that affect me the most. As for blogging on other topics, I’m spending a lot of time at the office, and posting to the blog from firm systems is (I believe) frowned upon in the same way that using personal e-mail accounts is.
Q: Do you still have a job?
A: Yes.
Q: What’s it like starting out in the finance industry right now?
A: Sort of like you got the last ticket on a luxury cruise, and the cruise ship was the RMS Titanic. Or you moved to Tokyo just in time for a Godzilla attack.
And now, some questions that have not been asked of me but to which I have answers:
Q: What’s happened to the Lehman Brothers building since they went bankrupt?
A: Since it’s on the edge of Times Square, it has a big TV screen on the front that used to show attractive video of various landscapes. When Barclay’s took over the building, it didn’t change for a few days, and then turned into a still Barclay’s logo on a hideous blue background–BSOD blue. They later figured out how to animate the logo, but it’s still that awful blue and the entire block glows with the color at night.
Q: Is there a blog collecting those dumb trading floor pictures you complained about a while back?
A: Yes: Sad Guys on Trading Floors.
Q: Can you give me financial advice?
A: I think my employer would frown upon this.
Q: I work in the financial services industry. What is a good song to play at the office this week?
A: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”
Q: Is there a bright side to all this?
A: Barack Obama is now the overwhelming favorite in the presidential election.
Q: So why haven’t you been blogging about politics?
A: The political news cycle moves so fast that by the time I get home from work my commentary is redundant.
Q: What about the music blogging?
A: I’ve just been lame. I did catch a couple shows at Austin City Limits a couple weeks ago (Spiritualized, and Iron & Wine). And I’ve been listening to the new TV on the Radio album, which is excellent.
Q: Should you put a disclaimer on a post like this?
A: It should go without saying, but the opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer. I should just put that on the sidebar.