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22 Jan 2005: The Heat Is On

At last there are some signs of life in the job market. No offer of employment to report at this moment, but let's just say the interview fairy godmother stopped by our flat this week. And that's all I'm going to say about that, which is bound to irritate you considering that's the only thing you wanted to know about.

Amongst the chaos something extraordinary has happened. I have started writing again.

This is probably the first serious writing I have done since 2000. From my point of view, this is something to sit up and pay attention to. As with the interviews, I'm not going to make any promises, but it certainly is a pleasure to feel the words coming together again. One of the reasons I needed to leave Japan was for writing - I found the focus on Japanese and speaking simpler English had made an impact on the ability to write anything in English other than the tripe you're reading now.

Aki and I were surprised to notice a programme called Dragon's Den on BBC which is so, so, soooo similar to a programme on Japan's NTV called Mane no Tora (Money Tigers). I asked the BBC if their programme was based on the Japanese one and I got an e-mail confirming it was and that they'd been working on it with Sony. So there.

Just one other thing. A friend of mine, who I will refer to using the pseudonym "David Couch", recently asked what we were up to in the UK. He or she imagined that Aki and I were just playing computer games all day, as we are unemployed. Well, of all the downright cynical things to say. We are busy, busy, busy! Book reading takes a lot of time. That's all the explanation you need, or at least you're going to get. (Half-Life 2 was quite good, by the way.)

Bonus Pictures

The usual assortment of bonus pictures from the Japanese web log again. See Aki looking for a fox (Dec 31), Trafalgar Square (Jan 3), Man of Action (Jan 6), Tower Bridge from London Bridge (Jan 11) and Caffe Nero at Canary Wharf (Jan 12).

I have noted that there are problems on Internet Explorer if it is set to auto-detect Japanese encodings. The web log page seems to go blank (the page uses Unicode not a particular Japanese encoding) and you can fix that in the browser by changing the encoding detection to Unicode. I'm currently weighing up whether to republish the site using a Japanese-specific encoding which would solve Internet Explorer's problem permanently. I think.

Mathematical Book Corner

It's been a while since I told you anything about the books I have been reading. It's because most of my reading has been restricted to quantitative finance, and that's not something you can casually browse. If I've already frightened you, please feel free to start clicking on the photos instead of reading what lurks below.

The "bible" of quantitative finance is Options, Futures and Other Derivatives by Hull, although, having finished it, I must admit I found it a bit mysterious at times. More than once did I wonder why the text was written so as to maximise my confusion, and it came across somewhat fragmented. Concise is nice, but concise and mysterious is not something I want out of a mathematical text.

I've also read a great deal of the massive Paul Wilmott on Quantitative Finance. The book is definitely more accessible than Hull but as I'm not currently a practitioner in the field in any sense, once it starts getting deeper into QF territory it can get a bit tough.

Finally, just this week I've embarked properly on An Introduction to The Mathematicals of Financial Derivatives by Salih Neftci, which by all accounts is a hardcore maths text, not something you want to start out with. Considering Hull and Wilmott had proved to be taxing reads, I was a bit concerned that it was not going to be easy.

What a surprise, then, to discover this to be the most absorbing of the books. Within a few days I've got through over a hundred pages. Yes, it is a highly mathematical book but that is probably why it seems to work for me. Neftci feels that it is important to explain the foundations of stochastic calculus and I appreciate that; this contrasts with the Hull and Wilmott books that want to give you the essentials and the practical details, leaving all that dirty stuff underpinning it well alone. Just going ahead and integrating a random variable is something the pure mathematician inside me could have difficulty swallowing...