My Annual Cascadian Late-May Meal

147. Memorial Day Weekend Meal

  • Copper River Salmon – Grilled. Indirect heat until the fat oozes, then fire it up underneath. Don’t overcook it! Such nice rich fish. CR Salmon is the Kobe of salmon. A stretch to say it swims around the cold north Pacific, fattening on crustaceans, dreaming of a day when it will be paired with the best of the Northwest spring harvest?
  • Asparagus – Spare A Goose. The closer it’s grown to you, the better it is. We start getting ours here in the NW in mid-April. Grill it fast, direct heat.
  • Morels – If oysters are a kiss with Neptune, morels are a smooch with Artemis. Sauce pot, butter, saute.
  • Willamette Valley Pinot – O Pinot does three things for me: Cherries, cream, graham cracker. Turns out this is the perfect foil to the triangle of fish / veg / shroom. A nice Ribbon Ride single vineyard is what I want.
  • Oregon Cheese – It rains a lot here. One of the benefits? Damn good dairy. Cheese course, the best way to polish off that bottle of wine.
  • Strawberry Clafoutis – Strawberries start here in early May. By this time, we can get the Hoods. Serious berries.

3Y + 7Z = Jabberwocky

The attractiveness of any trade basically boils down to a simple equation:

TradeAttractiveness = (WinProb*WinValue) – (LossProb*LossValue)

(Unless you trade for JP Morgan Chase, in which case LossProb is equal to zero I suppose?)

Simple and elegant right?

Well that’s a little like declaring that hitting a baseball is just about the hitter mentally calculating the velocity of a pitch when he sees the ball come out. Ok, 93.7 MPH. And the rest is trivial.

Not quite.

See there’s all sorts of layers of complexity that need to be accounted for.

In trading we have setups that let you add to your position. That let you out easy without taking a full loss if you’re wrong. There’s trades with multiple targets. There’s nested trades, where you’re actually trading against a larger, higher-timeframe trade. All with their own subsets of equations which believe it or not contain their own subsets of complexities.

At some point it resembles trying to work out a moon shot with an abacus. Or trying to predict the weather with a calculator.

I’ve run into similar problems trying to figure, say, the ideal time a sales rep should with a prospect before giving up on the sale.

Sales is art. Trading is art. Hitting a baseball is art.

The role of the science is not to overmaster the art. Or be intimidated by the art. Or call art names.

The role of the science is to produce an equation. While aware that the one equation is total BS if it’s used to develop the yes/no answer.

There’s no force I’ve encountered quite like the combination of equation and ‘gut feel’. Statistically-informed intuition? Or something like a hitter who’s gone over the plan from his hitting coach when he goes up to the plate. Yeah, he has a plan. But in the end, it comes down to hitting the ball. Where the bat meets the ball, it’s always art.

Science-informed art.

Make Something Happen

A client reports increased sales during a sales contest. The odd thing is that sales are up across product lines. Including products that have nothing to do with the contest!

The geese along the waterfront here in Portland have a babysitter’s club. Two adults watch while the rest munch bugs on the grass. Or munch grass on the grass. I have no idea what it is the geese eat. Birds of a feather though.

140. Goose Daycare

Walking home from the PSU Market today, I spot a black Benzo, mid 80s model, 380 SL, rag top. Sweet little car. Real estate agent car. Guy’s right there. We chat. Sure enough, he’s a real estate agent. He can tell I’m not serious. Chats anyway. You never know. Just being part of a sales process attracts more sales processes. Why? Who knows. I sure don’t.

Anthony Bourdain And The Need For Submission

Watching No Reservations reruns tonight. Bourdain in Paris. Hanging with Joël Robuchon. Robuchon understands that there is an ethos of places. Of a Tapas Bar. There’s a tastiness that goes just with the ambiance. And it is the same for Paris.

I like AB because AB makes me hungry. It’s not so much a hunger for food as it is a hunger for an aesthetic and an ambiance. Like Joël Robuchon explains: In Spain there is an ambiance of the tapas bars that’s delicious in a way that’s so much more than just the taste of the tapas.

Or as Tony himself says:

“If cooking professionally is about control – about manipulating the people, the ingredients and the strange, physical forces of the kitchen universe to do one’s bidding always anticipating always preparing, always dominating one’s environment – then eating well is about submission. About letting go.”

JP Morgan And The $800m Whale

I don’t know what Jamie Dimon does. The largest company I’ve worked for had 300 employees. In that sort of environment, the CEO knows everyone by name. Knows, probably not their tasks, but certainly their role and their mission.

So I don’t have a clue what it’s like in a company when the CEO not only doesn’t know everyone, he has limited knowledge of a project that might impact 1 or 2% of the firm’s overall value.

But I do know something about culture. About how hard it is to defend. And about how tenuous are the positive perceptions he have of ourselves, and how easily we’re led astray and into darkness.

It hasn’t come out yet if the recent losses involved what they call ‘rogue trading’, or even anything nefarious. It doesn’t have to though. Even if this was legit biz. It clearly wasn’t the type of business Jamie Dimon envisions JPM doing. It’s the type of business that’s done by someone saying Fuck it, we’re Wall Street, we win every time, we don’t have to manage risk.

Markets are all about managing risk. If you’re not managing risk, then you’re not really playing the game. You think you’re a quarterback but you’re not. You’re a guy standing at a pinball machine wearing a football helmet. And when the bill collector comes, it’s hard to pretend you’re earning a quarterback’s salary when in fact, it’s one in the afternoon and you’re playing kid’s games in a bar.

So what next, Jamie?

Here’s what I see: I see Goldman Sachs losing a handle on its culture to the point where reps are referring to clients as Muppets. I see JP Morgan Chase losing a handle on its culture to the point where trading strategies are blowing up in their face.

To me, Wall Street needs help. Where would I start? Well, since I’ve already copped to naïveté, how’s this: Storytelling time. Seriously. Maybe as simple as a tight, punchy, to the point Don Draper-style marketing campaign. Something to start the process of explaining the good that Wall Street does in the world.

You heard me right. The GOOD that Wall Street does.

(I’ll skip the part where I say, if you don’t think Wall Street does or has done any good in the world over the last 100 years, you need a reality check buddy)

So what am I saying? A flowery, oil-industry-esque campaign to convince middle America of Wall Street’s beneficence?

Hardly.

Wall Street needs to get across the message to SHOW THEMSELVES the good that they do.

Because lately, Wall Street does a lot of bad too. And the best way to allow yourself to do bad, is to forget that you do good.

note: Of course there’s a lot more work to be done here than just some storytelling. The question is where to start. And where I would start would be with reminding the people behaving like jackals that they’re people too, or they were once, and that they can be again.

China Basin

Who had the vision for all this? Who had the courage in 1993 when this whole thing was a desultory thirty-some-odd square blocks to put their foot down and say, No, this has potential. This has the possibility to become great. Better than great. Nigh-near the next nexus of the western world.

Forget the money. I mean as a reward. ‘Getting rich’. Yeah, somebody got rich down here. So what. The money came because the money always comes. This is about having the courage to believe in something grand. Something that came about through a mountain of work. That’s the reward here. The money was ancillary. Like the score in a game of Super Mario Bros.

The Power Of Stanford

A big part of the power of Stanford is that, at Stanford, you’re around people who believe they have the authority, the right, the mandate even to shape the world as their mind sees it should be. We are social animals. We act as those around us act. We build authority based on the authority of our peers. Being accepted into a group of positive-thinking world shapers seems to be worth most prices, even those heavy on the markup.

This isn’t the only power of Stanford. And I don’t know it any better than any other interloper who’s never gone to school or taught there. But I get this much at least.