Saturday, May 31, 2014

Writing about 9/11, it's aftermath and loss - by Kandell & Thompson

Two great pieces of writing I came across about a week ago both dealt with loss out of 9/11. For Buzzfeed, Steve Kandell wrote "The Worst Day Of My Life Is Now New York’s Hottest Tourist Attraction" about visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum after his sister dying in the World Trade Center.

For ESPN, Wright Thompson in 2008 wrote "Bedtime Stories for Catherine" about Matthew Conley and the family he left behind after being killed in Iraq.

Both were really well written and moving pieces of writing.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Businessweek pieces of note - by Stone, Faris, Stein, Paskin & Brustein

There were some interesting pieces of writing on a variety of different subjects from recent issues of Businessweek.

From the April 24 issue, Brad Stone wrote the short pieces "Twitter Wants to Be Your TV" on Twitter Amplify and "Google and Facebook's Fight for the Future of Tech" about acquisitions strategies.

The May 1 issue had two interesting features by excellent writers with "Greenland's Prime Minister Looks on Global Warming's Bright Side" by Stephan Faris and "Blue Bottle Coffee and the Next Wave of Artisanal Coffee Shops" by Joel Stein.

 Additionally, the May 10 Design issue contained the interesting piece "Sha Hwang, the Designer Hired to Make Obamacare a Beautiful Thing" by Janet Paskin and a really solid feature from the May 15 issue was "Font War: Inside the Design World's $20 Million Divorce" by Joshua Brustein.

Outside Magazine story on murder in Papua New Guinea

The latest issue of Outside Magazine had a captivating piece of writing in "Murder and Revenge in Papua New Guinea" by Carl Hoffman. Very much one of those stories about a different world and written well.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Writing by Peter Bach on losing his wife to cancer

Really a remarkable and said story was done recently for New York Magazine with "The Day I Started Lying to Ruth," a first-person piece by Peter Bach with the subtitle "A cancer doctor on losing his wife to cancer." It's a painful read throughout and then the part at the end where she says goodbye to her second-grader... just so sad.

"Flash Boys" by Michael Lewis

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis was a really detailed look at high-frequency trading in the financial markets and a disquieting read due to in the types of predatory activity taking place at the expense of average investors.

The book begins with a description of a fiber cable line run between stock market locations in Chicago and New Jersey and how the speed of the line would enable millisecond advantages in receiving financial data for those paying to access the line.

This speed advantage, how money can be made off, and how it's advantage can be mitigated was covered by Lewis in part through the story of Brad Katsuyama, beginning with his experiences as a New York-based trader for Royal Bank of Canada. Katsuyama started with RBC in 2002 and in 2006 began to notice trouble buying stocks, as prices would bump up between the time he would begin and then complete transactions. What was occurring is a concept known as front-running, where people (through a speed advantage) would figure out what investors were trying to do and then make money off it. High-frequency traders in a span of milliseconds were seeing that a buyer for a given stock was out there, then purchasing it themselves to drive up the price and selling it at a profit to people like Katsuyama and investors he would purchase on behalf of.

Lewis details in the book how this unfair advantage for high-frequency or high-speed traders has been enabled due to new market parameters such as multiple stock exchanges that receive buy or sell signals at slightly different times, dark pools within a given financial institution where stock transactions can occur with notice only going to the institution or those who pay to access information within the dark pool, traders paying for co-location close to trading sites to get a speed advantage, fees and kickbacks to exchanges for buy or sell orders, and multitudes of different trade types (particularly "flash orders" that aren't really orders, just fake market signals) utilized by high-frequency traders to suss out information on what's going to occur so they can then get in front of the intentions of investors who don't enjoy the same speed advantage.

Covered in Flash Boys is how Katsuyama after seeing the market predation that was occurring sought to educate others in the industry on it and then created a new stock exchange to try to limit the amount of market advantage enjoyed by high-speed high-frequency traders and have buying and selling of stocked be based on actual company valuations and investor intention. The new stock exchange is IEX and some of the particulars around trading on it include a limited number of order types and no co-location for the purpose of speed along with requiring where firms could connect with the exchange so no speed advantage would exist. IEX opened on October 25, 2013 and on December 19 Goldman Sachs became the first large investment bank to show it's agreement with the principles of IBX by sending a huge volume of trades to them. One interesting thing about Goldman doing this is Lewis in the book also tells the story of Sergey Aleynikov, a former Goldman staffer who was arrested in 2009 for stealing Goldman code, but really appears to have done little wrong, other than show in a way the limitations of Goldman in high-frequency trading.

It's a fascinating book by Lewis that was covered by 60 Minutes around the time of its publication and recently written about in The Guardian as having triggered political attention (or at least public statements about paying attention) to needed regulatory changes around high-speed trading and front-running activities.

Excellent sports stories - Wickersham on Derek Carr, Svrluga on a baseball marriage & Michael Sam being drafted

Over the past few weeks three different sports stories stood out to me, one as particularly well-written, one as being on an interesting topic and a third as being just a fantastic thing.

The one I found noteworthy due to the writing was by Seth Wickersham for ESPN The Magazine with "Sins of the Brother" on Derek Carr, the Oakland Raider second-round pick at QB and whose brother David was the first pick of the 2002 draft, also at QB. Really focused look at the connection between the two and fascinating reading.

The second piece of writing that was memorable for me in the past few weeks was by Barry Svrluga for the Washington Post with "The Wife: Chelsey Desmond" about the baseball life led by the young family of Washington Nationals SS Ian Desmond. Tremendously interesting look at a family life very different than most.

The final sports story to note here wasn't writing, but the ESPN video of Michael Sam learning of getting drafted by the St. Louis Rams and kissing his male partner. Really great stuff...

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Story on NFL prospect Pierre Desir by Jeff Pearlman

Really loved a recent story for Bleacher Report by Jeff Pearlman. "For NFL Prospect Pierre Desir, It's Always Been Fatherhood, Then Football" began with the text below and stayed just as interesting throughout.

"In a few moments, you may become very angry. That's just a warning, before you dive into a story that features a confident 23-year-old man, a scared 15-year-old boy, a pregnant aspiring dancer, two adorable little girls, Haitian immigrants, NFL dreams, floating diapers, knee-high liquid feces and a Division II football coach who nearly destroyed the whole damn thing."

Louie C.K. GQ story by Andrew Corsello

The latest issue of GQ Magazine had a great cover story with "Louis C.K. Is America's Undisputed King of Comedy" by Andrew Corsello. Just some really cool stuff on the comedian who often seems to have fascinating takes on life.