Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mission Burrito

If I ever moved to the East Coast, how would I get my Mission Burrito?

I guess I'd just have to hope that The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel was operational.

I got tele-scammed

The other day, my mobile rang.

I was in a meeting, so I just sent the call to voicemail.

Later, I listened to the voicemail. A robotic voice droned:

Hello. We have been trying to reach you. This call is officially a final notice from IRS, Internal Revenue Services. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing lawsuit against you. To get more information about this case file, please call immediately on our department number NNN NNN NNNN.

It was chilling. Lawsuits? The IRS is filing a lawsuit against me?

But something about the call didn't sound right.

Well, actually, MANY things about the call didn't sound right:

  • It was a robot, not a person
  • It didn't greet me by name
  • It was full of awkward, incorrect English ("Internal Revenue Services"?!!)

Something clicked in my brain and I remembered reading something last fall: Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Unveils New Video to Warn Taxpayers.

The new Tax Scams video describes some basic tips to help protect taxpayers from tax scams.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

Yep, that matched, quite well.

A nice article at the South Bend Tribune was helpful, too, as it even included the same fake phone number that had appeared on my phone. Credit 'charge' appears very real

I have repeatedly written about IRS scam telephone calls but I am doing so again as your BBB continues to receive many questions from area residents who are concerned about receiving such calls. Caller IDs are showing all kinds of phone numbers, which pretty much indicates the numbers are being spoofed. Some have reported their Caller ID shows 585-310-3870, 725-422-5697 and 726-597-6584, but the IRS impersonator provides different numbers on the message.

Most recipients are being told “this is your final notice from the IRS” and “a lawsuit is being filed against you for failure to pay taxes.” Some are saying if the taxes are not paid at once, a warrant will be issued for your arrest and the police will be coming after you. Consumers are then told taxes must be paid “immediately.” Instructions are given to wire the money via Western Union or get an advance cash card such as Green Dot MoneyPak from your local drugstore or retailer namely Wal-Mart, Kmart or Target.

I read about lots of scary, annoying stuff, but rarely do I actually get one of these myself.

In a weird way, it was good to get one; it kind of was a tune-up, a practice exam, a drill.

A good reminder that it's a strange world out there, and you should stay on your toes and not fall for the nasty scam.

Oh, and yes: I simply deleted the voicemail (though I did file a complaint on the FTC's website for reporting telescams, and I did re-check that my phone is on the do-not-call list, which it has been for years).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fess up


Come on, admit it.

Be honest.

We just don't have a freaking clue.

  • Delayed flash crash arrest may herald future spoofing detection woes
    Tim Massad, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees the trading of futures and swaps, said on Wednesday that it took so long to charge Sarao because of the size and complexity of U.S. derivatives markets. "These are huge markets," he said. "There's a lot going on."
  • Trading at the speed of light
    The faster your trading system, the quicker you can take advantage of those discrepancies. But that is not all the high-frequency traders can do. They can “front-run” news events, jumping on anything that might move a price, and get in and out of a stock before anyone else knows that something has happened. By trading at such speed, they can even get into an equity in the gap between the placing of a large buy order and the execution of it, and thereby buy just before the price rises.
  • ‘Flash crash’ charges spark alarm over regulation of US markets
    Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate banking committee, told the Financial Times: “It’s encouraging that the Justice Department and [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] are pursuing this case, but troubling that it has only come to light now with the help of a whistleblower who invested substantial time in putting the pieces together.”
  • 'Flash Crash' arrest shakes investors' confidence
    Adding to concerns, the CFTC was alerted to Sarao's alleged misdeeds by a whistle-blower, who has not been identified, according to Shayne Stevenson, who represents the whistle-blower through Hagens Berman law firm in Seattle. Stevenson said his client brought "high-quality information" about "market manipulation" to the CFTC, which alerted the DOJ.
  • Accused British 'flash crash' trader fights extradition to U.S.
    A British man accused of market manipulation that contributed to the May 2010 Wall Street "flash crash" said he opposed being extradited to the United States, while the operator of the market where he traded sought to rebut prosecutors' suggestion that futures helped cause the crash.
  • Roots of 'flash crash' go back further than you thought at CME
    More than a year before the May 6, 2010 "flash crash," CME Group noticed questionable trading in its E-mini market by a particular electronic trader who was placing orders and cancelling them.

    As the crash whipsawed the futures and stock markets in 2010, CME saw the suspicious activity again and warned the trader that day that orders must be placed “in good faith,” without an intent to cancel. The trader responded two weeks later: “Kiss my ass.”

  • How computerized trading in the hands of a nobody in Britain allegedly crashed the stock market
    Not everyone agrees.
  • A Sweatpants-Wearing Rando Might Have Caused the Flash Crash
    He seems to have executed his trades out of a modest, semi-detached house under the Heathrow flight path that he shared with his parents. He used off-the-shelf software that he souped up to make his bets. He named one shell company "Nav Sarao Milking Markets Ltd." The guy showed up to court in a pair of white sweatpants.
  • 'Flash Crash' Arrest Raises More Questions Than Answers
    But surely, since then regulators went through the action that took place on and around the day of the Flash Crash with a very fine comb? And if so, why did Sarao's alleged actions not jump at them as strange at the time?
  • Why Did It Take So Long To Catch The ‘Flash Crash’ Futures Trader?
    The CME Group declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. But analysts worry that the CME’s revenue model interferes with its motivation to police trading. The more trades that zip through the exchange, the more money it makes. That means it could be disincentivized from tackling manipulative traders who still bring valuable liquidity to the market.
  • Spoofing the Stock Market -- Here’s One Way to Stop It
    It may be a bit more complicated than that, but not much.
  • Junk bonds really to blame for Flash Crash
    Junk Debt collapsed a full hour before the stock market Flash Crash took place (and I would add that utilities and Treasurys were leading prior, indicating a VIX spike was possible). If junk debt collapses, how can stocks not collapse afterward when in a bankruptcy proceeding, junk debt has a higher claim on assets than equity? What caused the Flash Crash in stocks was a Flash Crash in junk debt, which was like a 1987 style crash in credit.

It's not like this is anything important.

It's not like it's the entire world economy.

Who cares whether we understand it or not?

Oh, dear.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Flash Crash news

Well, this is interesting: CFTC Charges U.K. Resident Navinder Singh Sarao and His Company Nav Sarao Futures Limited PLC with Price Manipulation and Spoofing.

In particular, the CFTC release notes:

in or about June 2009, Defendants modified a commonly used off-the-shelf trading platform to automatically simultaneously “layer” four to six exceptionally large sell orders into the visible E-mini S&P central limit order book (the Layering Algorithm), with each sell order one price level from the other. As the E-mini S&P futures price moved, the Layering Algorithm allegedly modified the price of the sell orders to ensure that they remained at least three or four price levels from the best asking price; thus, remaining visible to other traders, but staying safely away from the best asking price. Eventually, the vast majority of the Layering Algorithm orders were canceled without resulting in any transactions. According to the Complaint, between April 2010 and April 2015, Defendants utilized the Layering Algorithm on over 400 trading days.

The Complaint alleges that Defendants often cycled the Layering Algorithm on and off several times during a typical trading day to create large imbalances in the E-mini S&P visible order book to affect the prevailing E-mini S&P price. Defendants then allegedly traded in a manner designed to profit from this temporary artificial volatility. According to the Complaint, from April 2010 to present, Defendants have profited over $40 million, in total, from E-mini S&P trading.

As others quickly pointed out, the notion that "layering" is involved in these wild price swings is being studied by multiple agencies. For example: Exclusive: SEC targets 10 firms in high frequency trading probe - SEC document.

The SEC has been seeking evidence of abuse of order types, as well as traditional forms of abusive trading like "layering" or "spoofing" and other issues relating to high-frequency trading that might be violations of the law, SEC Director of Enforcement Andrew Ceresney told Reuters in May (

Spoofing and layering are tactics where traders places orders that they cancel before they are executed to create the false impression of demand, aiming to trick others into buying or selling a stock at the artificial price.

I'm pleased that investigators continue to investigate.

On the other hand, even after 5 years the investigators still appear to be uncertain as to exactly what happened and why.

It's disturbing news, all around.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A hodge of podge

Boy, my mind has really been wandering recently.

Must be the weather.

  • The Town That Creep Built
    “Fault creep” is a condition that results when the underlying geology is too soft to get stuck or to accumulate tectonic stress: in other words, the deep rocks beneath Hollister are slippery, more pliable, and behave a bit like talc. Wonderfully but unsurprisingly, the mechanism used to study creep is called a creepmeter.

    The ground sort of oozes past itself, in other words, a slow-motion landslide at a pace that would be all but imperceptible if it weren’t for the gridded streets and property lines being bent out of shape above it.

  • Seveneves
    The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason. It was waxing, only one day short of full. The time was 05:03:12 UTC. Later it would be designated A+0.0.0, or simply Zero.
  • Linux 4.0
    But "Hurr durr I'ma sheep" trounced "I like online polls" by a 62-to-38% margin, in a poll that people weren't even supposed to participate in. Who can argue with solid numbers like that? 5,796 votes from people who can't even follow the most basic directions?
  • Linux 4.0 released
    Looking at just the statistics in git, this release is not just when we cross half a million commits total, but also cross the 4 million git object limit. Interestingly (if you look for numeric patterns), Linux 3.0 was when we crossed a quarter million commits and 2 million git objects, so there's a nice (and completely unintentional) pattern there when it comes to the kernel git repository.
  • Almonds in California: They use up a lot of water, but they deserve a place in California's future.
    The problem is that, thanks to the current drought, the water supply is going away faster than expected. The almond industry is an indicator of how difficult it might be to adapt to climate change, economically and environmentally.

    What we’re witnessing in California right now is a glimpse into the future. California has now endured drought in 11 of the last 15 years, and there’s every reason to believe this is just the beginning.

  • Math for eight-year-olds: graph theory for kids!
    This morning I had the pleasure to be a mathematical guest in my daughter’s third-grade class, full of inquisitive eight- and nine-year-old girls, and we had a wonderful interaction. Following up on my visit last year (math for seven-year-olds), I wanted to explore with them some elementary ideas in graph theory, which I view as mathematically rich, yet accessible to children.
  • Replicating SQLite using Raft Consensus
    I decided to build a distributed replication layer using the Raft consensus protocol, which gives me effective replication without the hassle of running a much heavier solution like MySQL. It provides all the advantages of replication, with the data modelling functionality of a relational database, but with the convenience of a single-file database.
  • A Million Little Boxes
    While crossword construction is unavoidably linguistic, constructors these days rely heavily on data and programming. Take, for instance, Puzzle 5, always the hardest of the tournament. This year, Jeff Chen was the sadist behind the curtain. An aspiring novelist from Seattle, he runs the crossword database XWord Info and has authored or co-authored 37 New York Times puzzles.

    Chen’s Puzzle 5 was titled “Attention, Newbies!” The conceit was adding new B’s (get it?) to familiar phrases. “Vocalist” became “vocab list,” “alloy” became “ballboy,” and so on. To find workable and interesting phrases like this, Chen wrote a Python script and applied it to his master word and phrase list. Using this program, he realized “caroms” could become “car bombs,” for example.

  • From the vault: Watching (and re-watching) “The Mother of All Demos”
    To give an idea of the scope of the demo, Engelbart demonstrated an early look at word processing, windowing, hypertext, and dynamic file linking, as well as using graphics in a computer program. It was also the first time many of the attendees had seen a mouse, although work on the mouse began in 1963.
  • Arcology: cutaways of the future city-hives that never were
    Soleri taught architecture at ASU, but his real classroom was Arcosanti: "an experimental town and molten bronze bell casting community" a few hours from Phoenix, which was supposed to have 5,000 residents by now, demonstrating "lean" city living in high-density complexes that combined super-efficient usage of space with stylized, naturalistic exteriors that made each building part of the landscape.
  • The Cult of Work You Never Meant to Join
    I take walks. I leave my phone in my pocket when I’m out with friends or eating my meals. I spend a fair amount of time on my hobbies, like writing and hunting for the world’s best cheeseburger.
  • Code Quality
    It's like a salad recipe written by a corporate lawyer using a phone auto-correct that only knew Excel formulas.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Edward Capriolo's NoSQL blog series

One of the things about computing that hasn't changed much over the decades is that it is often best to learn by doing. Many of the original computing pioneers were hobbyists, who built their own computers for themselves, programmed them for fun and for mental stimulation, and who traded notes about what they were doing, what worked and what didn't, and what they had learned along the way.

So along comes Edward Capriolo, who has entertained himself over the winter writing his own NoSQL data store, and has entertained and educated us, along the way, with his series of blog posts:

Thank you, Edward, for the time and energy you spent helping us all get smarter, it is much appreciated.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Playing the lottery

So the big news broke late last week: Grateful Dead sets two shows at Levi’s Stadium

A statement by Weir, Hart, Kreutzmann and Lesh said “it has become clear to us that we first need to return to our beginnings, where we first said hello — to each other and to all of you. And so it is that we have decided to plug in for two additional shows on June 27 and 28 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California — just a dozen miles south of where Dana Morgan’s Music Store once stood.”

Fans wanting tickets for the two shows, priced at $59.50-$199.50, can sign up for an online ticket lottery that the band installed on its website, The sign-up will be in place through April 14 and those who place requests — with a maximum of four tickets per person, per show — will learn if they have received tickets on April 19, according to the band’s website. The announcement said 65,000 tickets would be sold for each show.

One of my grandfather's favorite sayings was:

Well, you pay your money and you take your chances.

And so we did.

I'm thinking lucky thoughts for April 19.