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2005-07-29 12:42 p.m.


Itís been a while. As usual, Iíve been distracted. LikeÖ the past two days it hasnít occurred to me to consume any other meal beyond a bowl of cereal for breakfast; I just canít be bothered with food. That kind of distracted.

A couple years ago it occurred to me that you could actually make money by exchanging foreign currencies back and forth at the right times. Then, a couple weeks ago I began toying around with forex (FOReign (currency) EXchange) markets. Day trading and stuff. Thus far I havenít used real money. Itís all a game to me. A game thatís taken up huge swaths of my time and is dominating all my thoughts. Yesterday morning, for instance, when my alarm went off and I just laid in bed instead of getting up, I thought, ďI really should set the snooze. Going back to sleep without setting the snooze is like entering a trade without a stop-loss in place. Risky.Ē The only reason Iím even writing this is because the trading interface is on the fritz right now.

I have mixed feelings about this stuff. On the one handÖ Iím glad somethingís finally gotten me interested in economics and spurred me to learn something about investing and shit. (Iím also on the verge of investing big chunks of my money in various mutual funds and stuff. In the last year Iíve become solidly financially independent, and Iím loving it.) Learning how to put your money to work for you and getting started into it early in life can make a huge difference in the long run. Itís a fun intellectual challenge for me, as well, to study these oscillating patterns, patterns that arenít actually random but are notoriously hard to predict, and to try and decode them, at least a little bit. Enough to make a solid if not necessarily large profit margin. And actually, this crap is not irrelevant to my chosen field, biochemistry and systems biology. Enzyme concentrations in the cell also oscillate, and the way they oscillate can send specific cellular signals. People who study these enzyme oscillations use analysis methods that are related to some of those used for financial markets. Thereís also a strong psychological aspect to trading that appeals to me; it requires a disciplined mind that does not make decisions based on transitory emotions. (The emotions that, unchecked, cause most traders to fail are fear and greed.) Forex thus issues a direct challenge to both my head and my heart. Itís hard for me to resist the urge to rise and meet it.

On the other handÖ Iíve got more than enough demands on my free time as it is. Listening to music, practicing clarinet, practicing guitar, reading, writing, studying Japanese, studying French, studying science, studying everything else, watching films, karate, swimmingÖ (I guess I could even add ďbadmintonĒ to the list, though I doubt Iíll keep up with that after I leave The Rock next year.) The last thing I need is another time consuming hobby, as Iím not really giving proper attention to the ones I already have. AlsoÖ It bothers me that the only goal and tangible result of such a pursuit is to make more money. It doesnít create anything, it doesnít put anything beautiful into the world or help anyone else. Itís a selfish pursuit. I fear it could be the start of a slippery slope that will turn me into another unquestioning worshipper of Profit, ready and willing to sacrifice anything and everything to my uncaring and vengeful god. I might as well worship Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, or Satan.

ďIn a human sacrifice to deity there might be at least a mistaken and terrible beauty; in the rites of the moneychangers, where greed, laziness, and envy were assumed to move all menís acts, even the terrible became banal. Shevek looked at this monstrous pettiness with contempt, and without interest.Ē -Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed (a wonderful statement of my traditional views on economics)

well iím sorry, but iím not interested in oil wells, gold mines, shipping or real estate
what do i wish i had been? everything you hate

(The White Stripes/Citizen Kane)

ďThere is nothing so overrated in all the world as money. Ö Some is necessary, and all should be willing to work for their share of it, but more than this I cannot understand. Why it is so precious and so difficult to win, where so many are willing to work for it, is one of the strange things one had to think about. There are many better things than money; it is a thousand pities so much good time is wasted in seeking it.Ē Lucy Lane Clifford, From Outside the World

ďOnce a person starts getting really, really rich, itís like a narcotic. The most dangerous drug in America, much worse than crack, is money. Once people have it, they start getting obsessed with making more, and they become much more predatory and uncaring toward all those people theyíre screwing by accumulating so much wealth and property while other people go homeless.Ē ĖJello Biafra

ďBattle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster. And if you gaze long into the Abyss, the Abyss gazes into you.Ē -Nietzche

All of which makes me feel a little nauseous at the prospect of getting into something like this. But as far as the worthiness of the pursuit goes, I think you can argue it has as much value as any other game you might get obsessed with. It just happens to make money if you really know what youíre doing, like blackjack or poker, two other games that challenge both the head and the heart and offer some monetary compensation to those who succeed. And the thing about money is, theoretically, having it gives me that much more freedom to do the things I really want to do. Plain and simple, my financial goal is to have enough money that I donít have to worry about money. I find the stuff distasteful, but money is freedom. ďMoney will not buy you happiness, but it will let you be unhappy in nice places.Ē

And Iím encouraged by the fact that though this forex stuff has very steep learning curve, it seems once you have a good system in place and are able to apply it dispassionately, it no longer requires that much time and effort. And it may just be because Iím lucky, or smart, or dumb, but I think Iíve already found a system that works reasonably well. And Iíd like to think I have the personal traits necessary to apply it effectively. Time will tell.

Anyway, Iím still toying with this. It remains to be seen whether it will find a place in my life or not.

Iíve got another entryís worth of stuff not related to rampant greed to write about, too. Maybe weíll bust that out tomorrow. (The markets flatline over the weekend, so youíre guaranteed at least two days without it.)

"We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl. ... Or boy."

happier than a pig eating bacon,