In Quarantine

Yesterday afternoon we had gathered to watch some Beijing Opera, only to be told that the even was cancelled and that we must return to the dorms.  Word slowly trickled down that there had been a few cases of H1N1 and that we were to be placed in quarantine.  To save typing, below is the email I sent to the American embassy.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: XXXX XXXX <xxxx>
Date: Wed, Aug 12, 2009 at 9:21 AM
Subject: In Beijing, have been quarantined
To: <embassy email>

Good morning,

I and others of my summer session at Beijing Normal University were
moved into quarantine late last night/early this morning.  (We were
finally moved to the quarantine hotel about 2 am.)  Current location
appears to be the Yanxiang Hotel at A2 Jiangtai Road in the Chaoyang
District.  We are told that we will be kept in quarantine for 5 days.

I believe there are a few other Americans here, but only other name I
know at the moment is XXXX XXXX.  (Most of the others I know are
Italian or Polish.)  The [rumored] reason for the quarantine is that a
couple of students (Japanese, possibly Korean) from the No. 2
international students dormitory had contracted the H1N1 virus.

Daily temperature tests will be taken at 0900 and 1600; it appears to
be taking them some time to reach everyone this morning as I only just
now hear voices in the hall. My temperature at arrival was normal.



All masked upWorriedCalling homeHallwayDoctorsDoing paperwork

When it rains…

I’m due to fly to Beijing this Friday, and already I have plenty of work ahead of me.  Fortunately some of the more urgent tasks have been resolved, albeit only to make room for their successors.  The process of preparing not-too-cryptic clues for my colleagues continues apace.

Taking a page from my last trip, I expect to fit everything I need for a month’s stay in a single carry-on, with a briefcase for the tablet and camera.  I will check an additional garment bag on the assumption that I will be retaining the services of Senli and Frye.  The question remains of which lenses I should bring; I am leaning towards a single fast prime and a zoom.  Perhaps the 50/1.8 and the 18-200, though the 35/1.8 and the Tokina 11-16 present compelling arguments.  My iPhone will remain at home and in its place will be my Blackberry.

Tanta Has Died

One of the most valuable resources I encountered in the past few years was Tanta, recently co-blogger on Calculated Risk.  I do not remember exactly when I had begun reading CR, but do remember when she had agreed to write for the blog.  She was able to take a normally dry topic and make it incredibly accessible.  I am remembering especially her humor, with references to steel-toed bunny slippers, bourbon slurpees, and delightful metaphors of risk, like this: “Buying a B tranche of a subprime ABS is playing with matches. Buying the equity tranche of a CDO is playing with a blowtorch in the parking lot of the Exxon station while wearing a St. Lucia wreath on your head.”

It is with no surprise I learn she had a graduate degree in English, given her professed fondness for American Lit nerds and literary allusions that I myself would have trouble placing.  Her postings collected in “The Compleat ÜberNerd” should be considered mandatory reading for anyone involved or interested in mortgage origination, servicing, and securitization.  For those of us who follow CR this is a tragic loss, but I am glad that in her last few years she was able to touch so many.  Tanta vive!

Photography and Oil

This is another station-keeping post. Energy prices (oil, coal, etc.) have been going parabolic, a phenomenon that almost always ends in a relatively quick collapse. Will oil go back down to 70, or stay over 100? That I don’t know, but demand destruction is the tried and true fix for high prices, and it’s something a recession is great at doing. The peak might have been a few trading days ago, or it might be in the next few weeks. Either way, like the bear market rally we saw, I think this run is due to end. As to the broader market, remember, bear market rules still apply: Don’t buy the dips, do sell the rallies, and if you can’t trade, sit things out in cash.

I recently bought a Nikon D40 (digital SLR). I have a few decent lenses for it, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 and 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6. I’d also like to get the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 for an ultrawide, but I may hold off a bit. Thanks to the Safari Bookshelf I’ve worked my way through Scott Kelby’s The Digital Photography Book (both volumes) and Joe McNally’s The Moment It Clicks. Ken Rockwell’s web site is also very helpful, as were a few articles on How do I know I’ve been reading too much? When I glance at the screen saver on the iMac next to me and instead of my brain going “ooh.. what a pretty picture of water droplets on an autumn leaf”, it thinks “oh, the photographer was using a ring flash”.

Status Update

A quick lunchtime update, since I have a few posts marinating in draft form. My reading list has ballooned; I’m trying to finish The Omnivore’s Dilemma whilst simultaneously working my way through the last of the Honor Harrington books and starting on Robert Greene’s works.

This rally in the markets has been running for almost two months now; I’ve been staying mostly clear of it, but did dip my toes in at a few points before being stopped out. For the S&P 500, I’m looking for it to spend a little time above the 200 MA and for the RSI to match the highs of last October.  It feels almost played out, and if that’s the case, the turn should be in the next few weeks.

The fundamentals continue to deteriorate. It was only last week I saw a Financial Times article suggesting the ECB is starting to suspect banks are using them as a dumping ground for toxic securities.  The Fed (in concert with the ECB and the Swiss) is now accepting auto loans and credit card debt as collateral.  This buys only three or four more months before the Fed runs out of balance sheet.

My Mandarin classes finished up earlier this month, and that frees up some time for reading and other projects.  I haven’t seen much in the way of summer classes (in any field) that appealed to me, so I’ll likely find something to study on my own.  Travel also remains likely.