The Toronto-Dominion Centre Working

2:30pm – 3:30pm, 30th March 2014

Toronto-Dominion Centre and Bay St financial district, Toronto, Canada

 

Preparation material: Francis James Chan’s The Prop Trader’s Chronicles: Short-Term Proprietary Trading Strategies for Both Bull and Bear Markets (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2013).

 

Aims:

 

(i) Understand the geography of Toronto’s financial district.

(ii) Make a psychological connection to Toronto’s bank prop traders.

 

Results:

 

Chan’s book on intraday trading at a Toronto-based proprietary trading firm alludes to inter-firm competition amongst Bay St trading firms. On arrival in Bay St it became clear that Canada’s five major banks — Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the Toronto-Dominion Bank, and the Royal Bank of Canada — dominate the area.

 

The dominance of bank proprietary trading desks explains several aspects that Chan had omitted from his description of intraday trading strategies. Chan and others relied on contracts for difference without overnight holdings. They attempted to understand the order flow of market microstructure using Level II quotes from the NYSE and NASDAQ exchanges rather than technical analysis charts. In game theory terms this was Chan’s attempt to use the best available dominated strategies in a predator-prey ecosystem that the banks dominated.

 

The Toronto-Dominion Centre evokes this institutional banking power in Ludwig van der Rohe’s modernist, international architecture. The TD Bank Pavilion, TD North, and TD West buildings impose themselves on the surrounding area. Their tenants include banking, financial services, investment banking, investment brokerage, and private equity firms.

 

On 11th October 2011, I had visited the Tokyo Stock Exchange and formally began a personal research program “to develop a private, low-key, personal vehicle for long-term self-sufficiency.” The Toronto Stock Exchange was closed so I was unable to repeat the experience. Instead, I stood in the TD Bank Pavilion and grasped the essence of institutional banking power evoked in Adam Smith’s satirical book The Money Game (London: Michael Joseph, 1968).

 

Later that afternoon I visited the Toronto Eaton Centre and the Indigo Books & Music store. Indigo’s business and investment book section was a mix of inspirational biographies; retail investor primers; and technical analysis books. Much of this is outdated information from an institutional banking perspective which relies on non-public trade secrets. I bought a paperback copy of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (New York: Penguin, 2012) as a reminder of the tacit knowledge that a trader may create through personal experience, research, and reflection.

 

The next day I read the new Michael Lewis book Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2014) which features former Royal Bank of Canada trader Brad Katsuyama – founder of the IEX Group dark pool – and critic of high-frequency trading. Lewis describes RBC as a sleepy backwater compared to Wall Street but this wasn’t my sense when walking past the RBC Centre in Wellington Street West, Toronto.

 

Several days later I learned of a new University of Toronto study (PDF) on how retail traders and high-frequency traders interacted on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2012. The study felt like a research counterpoint to the Lewis book. The study found that retail investors largely benefited from the market microstructure of high-frequency trading firms.

 

I resolved to do two things over the next five years:

 

1. To develop a greater awareness of how bank proprietary trading desks affect market microstructure using dominant trading strategies in a predator-prey ecosystem.

 

2. To continue to develop a personal knowledge base and decision heuristics akin to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s published work.

ISA 2014 Roundtable on Strategic Culture

This week, I’m speaking on a PhD-related Strategic Culture roundtable at the International Studies Association’s annual convention in Toronto, Canada (program):

 

‘Strategic Culture Is Dead; Long Live Strategic Culture’: New Directions in Research

Thursday 27th March 2014, 4pm – 5:45pm, TD43, Maple West Room, Sheraton Center Toronto

 

International Security Studies

 

Chair. Jeffrey S. Lantis (College of Wooster)

Part. Christopher Twomey (Naval Postgraduate School)

Part. Patrick H. M. Porter (University of Reading)

Part. Alan Bloomfield (University of New South Wales)

Part. K.P. O’Reilly (Carroll University)

Part. Justin Massie (University of Quebec in Montreal)

Part. Alexander G. Burns (Monash University)

Two Strategies

Blockbusters

Blockbusters

 

Anita Elberse’s new book Blockbusters (Melbourne: Scribe Publications, 2014) opens with a revealing contrast of different project ‘greenlight’ strategies at two entertainment conglomerates. Warner Brothers president and chief operating officer Alan Horne pursued a high-profile marketing campaign for a fifth of the studio’s production slate. The blockbuster strategy paid off. In contrast NBC’s Jeff Zucker cut corners with a risk mitigation strategy. Zucker’s caution may have contributed to NBC Universal’s decline in television ratings in the United States.

 

The project ‘greenlight’ decision is like a financial option. Horne took call options on potential blockbusters: having an edge or positive expectancy. Warner Brothers would benefit if the call options were successful. Horne attracted A-list actors, producers and directors. Zucker’s risk averse strategy was financially prudent yet was more like a put option. It cut costs and would have moderate benefits. Yet unlike Horne’s strategy it had no large upside. Zucker failed to keep pace with his competitors and left NBC in 2010.

 

I sometimes wonder if the contrast between Horne and Zucker can be applied to project ‘greenlight’ decisions in other contexts.

A Draft Book / Film List on Metis

Metis or “cunning intelligence” (Marcel Detienne & Jean-Pierre Vernant, 1978; 1998) is an overarching Hedgehog Idea in my personal research program. Metis underpins craft, cunning, skill, and wisdom. It integrates a range of life experiences and research interests, including investigative journalism, initiatory self-work, PhD studies in strategic culture, and study of financial markets trading. Below is a draft book / film list that illustrates different aspects of Metis and metic intelligence in contemporary life. I am working on an annotated book / film list, which will be available in the future on this site.

 

The first phase establishes the concepts. The second phase has an emergent theme of organisational and political skills in a Hobbesian and Machiavellian world. The third phase illustrates some life philosophy and scholarly work, including several books and films which have influenced me.

 

Phase 1

 

The Craftsman by Richard Sennett (New York: Penguin, 2008). (TS-3). A defence of craft as a vehicle for fluid and metic intelligences in the contemporary world.

 

Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas by John Shirley (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2004). (TS-3). An accessible overview of the Graeco-Armenian magus and Teacher of Dances, including his Caucasus and France experiences. William Patrick Patterson made the connection between Gurdjieff and the Detienne/Vernant work on Metis in a footnote to Struggle of the Magicians: Exploring the Student-Teacher Relationship (Fairfax, CA: Arete Publications, 1997).

 

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk-Taking, Gut Feelings, and the Biology of Boom and Bust by John Coates (London: Fourth Estate, 2013). (TS-3). John Coates is a Research Fellow at Cambridge University who uses neuroscience to study financial risk-taking. Coates’ study of Wall Street traders suggests that metic intelligence can have physiological effects due to environmental and psychological stressors.

 

The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens (London: Short Books, 2011). (TS-3). Brooks explains how to lead a philosophical Good Life, and includes a chapter on Metis.

 

Taproots: Underlying Principles of Milton Erickson’s Therapy and Hypnosis by William Hudson O’Hanlon (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1987). (TS-3). Identifies the common patterns and phases in Erickson’s strategic therapy and trance inductions. Includes a useful bibliography of Erickson’s major work. O’Hanlon later wrote on brief therapy.

 

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman (New York: Basic Books, 2013). (TS-3). An introduction to the current debates about expertise, giftedness, and high abilities. Covers the Cattell-Horn-Carroll model of intelligence. I have a broader reading list on these subjects here.

 

Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands A Pagan Ethos by Robert D. Kaplan (New York: Vintage Books, 2002). (TS-3). Recommended to me by Spiral Dynamics coauthor Don Edward Beck. Kaplan explains why classicist authors such as Livy, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Hobbes continue to have relevance in Understanding geopolitics.

 

Capricorn One (1977). A conspiracy theory film that evokes Metis as survival sense, and know how in ambiguous, changing situations. A personal ECI on my mother, shortly before her death in March 1978.

 

The Clash: Westway to the World (2000). The punk rock group The Clash explain in their own words how they dealt with the 1977-82 period of their career arc, and its aftermath.

 

Collateral (2004). Michael Mann’s thriller involving a contract killer is really a meditation on Metis as survival sense.

 

The Cove (2009). A team of environmental activists use covert techniques to uncover dolphin killings by Japanese fishermen in the Taiji cove, Japan.

 

The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Bane’s initial operations illustrate metic intelligence via strategic surprise.

 

Limitless (2011). An exploration of the potential for giftedness and high abilities.

 

Moneyball (2011). A film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ reportage on how Billy Beane used ‘sabermetrics’ statistical analysis at the Oakland A’s baseball team to gain an edge.

 

The Silence of the Lambs (1991). FBI cadet Clarice Sterling undergoes an initiatory ideal at the hands of serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

 

Skyfall (2012). The villain Silva gives an island hideout speech about geopolitics and risk arbitrage that conveys metic intelligence.

 

The Usual Suspects (1995). The character Keyser Söze embodies Metis and metic intelligence in this thriller.

 

Phase 2

 

Kata and the Transmission of Knowledge in Traditional Martial Arts by Michael Rosenbaum (Boston, MA: YMAA Publication Center, 2004). (TS-3). Kata are codified fighting patterns that are culturally transmitted through martial arts teaching, and the creative evolution of specific forms, styles, and schools. Rosenbaum examines how kata are the foundation of traditional martial arts and the contemporary warrior’s way. Kata is also considered in Carol A. Wiley’s edited anthology Martial Arts Teachers on Teaching (Berkeley, CA: Frog Ltd., 1995) (TS-3).

 

More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite by Sebastian Mallaby (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011). (TS-3). Mallaby is Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is a near-definitive history of hedge funds — a limited partnership that has a private investment pool — and the fund managers who have used fluid and metic intelligences to become a new financial elite. The influence of performance and sports psychology in hedge funds during the past two decades is visible in two books: Brett N. Steenbarger’s Enhancing Trader Performance: Proven Strategies from the Cutting Edge of Trading Psychology (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007) (TS-3), which uses K. Anders Ericsson’s deliberate practice, and Ari Kiev’s The Mental Strategies of Top Traders: The Psychological Determinants of Trading Success (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2010) (TS-3).

 

More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom In Unconventional Places by Michael J. Mauboussin (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013). (TS-3). (MAM-1). Mauboussin is head of global financial strategies and an adjunct professor at the Columbia Business School. In this book Mauboussin applies scientific knowledge to the investment process of finding alpha: returns above a market benchmark due to active management or skill. Useful both as an overview of recent scientific advances, and as an example of fluid and metic intelligences in investment management.

 

The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World by Jonathan Powell (London: Vintage, 2011). (TS-3). Powell was Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff from 1994 to 2007, and this book draws on his unpublished diaries to give a Machiavellian meditation on power. Powell’s insights can be contrasted with Carnes Lord’s The Modern Prince: What Leaders Need To Know Now (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003) (TS-3).

 

Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t by Jeffrey Pfeffer (New York: HarperBusiness, 2010). (TS-3). Metis involves the creative exercise of different forms of power for finding solutions. Pfeffer is an expert on organisational politics.

 

Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change by Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan (Malden, MA: Blackwell Business Publishers, 1996). (TS-4). A popularisation for business managers of Clare W. Graves’ emergent, cyclical model of mature adult biopsychosocial systems intelligences. It features a useful bibliography of further resources. The framework has had some diffusion challenges similar to the Enneagram and Neurolinguistic Programming. Cowan and Natasha Todorovic later edited Graves’ unpublished notes as The Never Ending Quest: Clare W. Graves Explores Human Nature (Santa Barbara: ECLET Publishing, 2005) (TS-4).

 

Tactics: The Art and Science of Success by Edward de Bono (London: William Collins, 1985). (TS-3). ‘Lateral thinker’ Edward de Bono interviews fifty exemplars about the choices and strategies they used to become successful.

 

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013). (TS-3). Winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2013. Packer used John Dos Passos’ USA trilogy for his reportage on the life decisions that his interviewees made between 1978 and 2012, as they navigated the changing social contract in the United States of America.

 

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management (London: Fourth Estate, 2002). (TS-3). The influential study on the demise of the LTCM hedge fund which involved several Nobel Prize for Economics winners and leading Wall Street traders. The LTCM playbook is dissected in Ludwig B. Chincarini’s The Crisis of Crowding: Quant Copycats, Ugly Models, and the New Crash Normal (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) (TS-4).

 

Breach (2007). The entrapment ploy designed to expose double agent Robert Hanssen.

 

Casino (1995). The Mafia’s attempts to control Las Vegas casinos in the early 1970s.

 

The Firm (1993). Mitch McDeere develops a unique solution to get out of a career crisis in this thriller based on John Grisham’s novel.

 

Inception (2010). A corporate espionage team uses dream control technology to extract information from the CEO of a rival firm.

 

The Mayfair Set (1999). Adam Curtis profiles a group of British entrepreneurs including Sir James Goldsmith and ‘Tiny’ Rowland who developed the hostile corporate takeover in mergers and acquisitions.

 

Michael Clayton (2007). ‘Fixer’ Michael Clayton deals with damage control during a $3 billion litigation case, and a takeover of his law firm.

 

Syriana (2005). A thriller set in the shadowy world of political think-tanks, counterterrorism operations, and oil geopolitics.

 

Phase 3

 

Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (New York: Penguin Books, 2012). (TS-5). Former options trader and philosopher Taleb articulates a personal philosophy of life as ‘long gamma’: “benefiting from volatility and variability” (p. 186). Provides the overarching framework to Understand his earlier books including The Black Swan and Fooled By Randomness. For two alternative views, see Aaron C. Brown’s Red-Blooded Risk: The Secret History of Wall Street (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) (TS-3) and William Poundstone’s Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat The Casinos and Wall Street (New York: Hill & Wang, 2005) (TS-3).

 

The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Development by K. Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul J. Feltovich, and Robert R. Hoffman (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). (TS-4). One of the best scholarly resources on deliberate practice, expertise, and skills cultivation.

 

The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance At NASA by Diane Vaughan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). (TS-4). Vaughan is a Professor of sociology at Columbia University. She traces the decision pathways that led to the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion on 28th January 1986, and the ‘deviant’ organisational politics involved. For a contrasting view, see Charles Perrow’s Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999) (TS-4).

 

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (New York: Avon, 1999). (TS-5). Stephenson’s story of Allied code-breakers in World War II and Southeast Asian data havens features many examples of Metis and metic intelligence.

 

Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History by Alastair Iain Johnston (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995). (TS-4). Johnston’s doctoral dissertation on Ming China’s strategic culture (socialisation and long-term, culturally transmitted influences on decision-makers) and its grand strategic choices.

 

Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society by Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant. Translated by Janet Lloyd. (University of Chicago Press, 1991). (TS-4). The influential study on Metis as cunning intelligence in Greek culture and mythology.

 

Knowing Words: Wisdom and Cunning in the Classical Traditions of China and Greece by Lisa Raphals (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992). (TS-4). Raphals’ doctoral dissertation which extends Detienne and Vernant’s influential work on Metis to Chinese stratagems.

 

Alien (1979). The Nostromo crew encounters forbidden knowledge in the form of a xenomorph. This is a film about ‘normal accidents’ (Charles Perrow); multi-level games; and ‘fixes that fail’ when faced with disproportionate change.

 

Black Rain (1989). When two New York police investigate the Yakuza in Osaka they discover potential enemies who have a different worldview.

 

Blake’s 7 (1978-81). The character Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow) shows metic intelligence as part of a rebel cell dealing with a corrupt Federation in a dystopian science fiction future.

 

Edge of Darkness (1985). The BBC’s influential mini-series on a police investigation into the deaths of environmental activists at the Northmoor nuclear facility. The 2010 film adaptation relies on action and ‘signposting’ of what remain mysteries in the original mini-series.

 

Murder One (1995-97). The O.J. Simpson trial deeply influenced Stephen Bochco’s television series on a Los Angeles law firm and its stratagems to win defence cases.

 

Red Cliff (2008). Deception and stratagem battles during China’s Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD).

 

The Red Riding Trilogy (2009). A series of interconnected stories about Yorkshire murders between 1974 and 1983, based on David Peace’s novels. Some characters embody Metis whilst others do not.

 

The Thin Blue Line (1988). Errol Morris’ background as a detective influenced this documentary which changed the outcome of a criminal investigation.

Information Theory & Intellectual Property

Information: A Very Short Introduction by Luciano Floridi (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). (TS-3). (MAM-3). Floridi is the Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at Oxford University. This short book explains the emergence of the information society; defines data and the mathematics of information theory; and applies these concepts to a range of domains, from biology to economics. Floridi’s major contribution to information ethics is The Philosophy of Information (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) (TS-4) (MAM-4).

 

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick (New York: Vintage, 2012). (TS-3). (MAM-3). Gleick (Chaos: Making A New Science) uses Claude Shannon’s information theory to examine the history, cultural impact, and social shaping effects of information. Gleick’s book has some excellent historical sections on pre-computer designer Charles Babbage, programmer Ada Byron, cyberneticist Norbert Wiener, mathematician Alan Turing, and other exemplars of information theory. This book will broaden your awareness of how information choices can shape your creative horizons.

 

Intellectual Property Strategy by John Palfrey (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 2011). (TS-3). (MAM-3). Intellectual property (IP)—exclusive rights for copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets—is a complex and evolving legal field that relates to the creation, assignment, and use of information. Palfrey’s primer defines what IP is, and how it can be developed, assigned, acquired, and securitised. He identifies alternatives to the “sword and shield” legal approach. For an alternative primer focusing on IP management and opportunity evaluation see Stephen J. Frank’s Intellectual Property for Managers and Investors: A Guide to Evaluating, Protecting, and Exploiting IP (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) (TS-3) (MAM-3). For specialist topics on globalisation, biotechnology, entertainment, and information technology see Michael A. Gollin’s Driving Innovation: Intellectual Property Strategies for a Dynamic World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) (TS-4) (MAM-4).

Adventures With Class Status

Class

Class

 

Paul Fussell wrote Class (New York: Summit Books, 1983) as an early 1980s satire on the American status system. The book covers Fussell’s nine classes (p. 27) and their behavioural manifestations in personal appearance, housing, consumption, intellectual interests, and speech. Although some of Fussell’s insights are dated this book is filled with behavioural gems that can be eye-opening and, at times, painful to read.

Fussell’s nine clases have three main layers. In the first, the Top Out-of-Sight would now be called the 1%. The Upper and Upper Middle are visible via conspicuous consumption. In the second, the Middle is anxious not to slide into the lower middle class, which Fussell calls High Proletarian, Mid-proletarian, and Low proletarian. In the third, the Destitute and Bottom Out-of-Sight rely on welfare or institutions.

Fussell defines each of the nine classes in terms of specific emotional signatures. Class for Fussell is about more than income: it is a life orientation to aesthetics, style, taste, and modes of social presentation. The Top Out-of-Sight “lives on inherited capital entirely” (p. 29). The Upper class has benefited over the past three decades from financialisation. The Upper Middle “suffers from a bourgeois sense of shame, a conviction that to live on the earnings of others, even forebears, is not quite nice” (p. 33). The Middle Class has “earnestness and psychic insecurity” (p. 39) and “a salesman’s style” (p. 43). The High Proletarians “are in bondage–to monetary policy, rip-off advertising, crazes and delusions, mass low culture, fast foods, consumer schlock” (p. 44).

Class evokes the early 1980s in several sections. Fussell quotes sociologists and management advisers who mentor in the behavioural strategies of Upper Middle class looks. “Upper-middle clothes . . . lean to the soft, textured, woolly, nubby” (p. 60). Ostentatious cuff links are Prole (p. 65). TVs and technology are either Middle Class or Prole (p. 92). The New Yorker displayed in a city apartment is the Middle Class girl’s aspiration to be Upper Middle Class (pp. 102, 146). Proles stick to the known on restaurant menus (p. 106). Tourism and luxury defines Middle Class: it’s what the cruise ship industry is built on (p. 109). Fussell spends an entire section on mail catalogues and collectibles aimed at the Middle Class and High Proles (pp. 117-127). You could apply the same logic today to Jeff Bezos’ empire at Amazon.com.

Fussell — who was a Professor of English Literature at Pennsylvania — spends a chapter on the higher education sector. His major concern is the distinction between elite universities, and institutions given university status that are really religious or teaching colleges. What Fussell identified has become part of the bubble dynamics (#16I) of student debt in the United States and other Western nations. It is likely to continue with the increased competition in the higher education sector, and the emergence of free online options.

Many historical books on class deal with aspirational social climbing. Fussell focuses a chapter instead on two dynamics: social sinking and Prole Drift (pp. 171-173). Social sinking is the drive to lower your social status and to adopt the behavioural strategies of lower classes. Prole Drift is Fussell’s massification of society in the media, bookstores, newspapers, and television. These concerns foreshadowed the recent debates on income inequality.

The major escape route from Fussell’s nine classes is a category: X. “You become an X person,” Fussell notes, “or, to put it more bluntly, you earn X-personhood by a strenuous effort of discovery in which curiosity and originality are indispensable” (p. 179). X people are aesthetes, inner-driven, parodists, and personal stylists. They may know several languages; study personal topics; and play with social status conventions.

Reading Class gave me several days of testing my reality tunnel. I did an inventory of my household, clothing, belongings, and media consumption. I thought about my PhD and employer universities, and their class-based differences. I studied Fussell’s class based-indicators in my neighbourhood, whilst commuting, and at a business-university awards dinner. I reflected on familial influences. 30 years later, large parts of Class still hold up. Who will write a contemporary update?

Mindfulness-Based CBT

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression

In 1989, psychologists Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zindel Segal met on the way to the World Congress of Cognitive Therapy. Williams and Tasdale were based at the Medical Research Council’s Applied Psychology Unit at Cambridge. All three psychologists were interested in why people relapse and experience recurrent depression.

In April 1992, the psychologists met again to advance a maintenance version of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The MacArthur Foundation had awarded Segal a research grant to understand the cognitive vulnerability of people to depression. The psychologists found that depressive states created negative biases in memory. Teasedale found that depressive thinking could re-emerge. Patients with dysfunctional beliefs could relapse over the next 30 months.

How could the psychologists develop a maintenance version of CBT to prevent depression relapse? Teasdale was familiar with the Buddhist monk Ajahn Sumedho, who emphasised our ability to Understand thoughts as mental activity. The psychologists had also begun to study Jon Kabat-Zinn‘s work on Buddhist mindfulness meditation. Kabat-Zinn had developed a Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts, and later a Center for Mindfulness.

From this work, the psychologists developed an influential program: Mindfulness-based CBT. This informed their clinical book Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (2nd ed.). (New York: Guilford Press, 2013).

Kabat-Zinn has described Mindfulness as: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” After attending Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness classes, Segal, Williams, and Teasdale developed a version of CBT called “attentional control training.” But in 1995 when they arrived at Kabat-Zinn’s clinic for a second time, the psychologists had reached a conclusion. They had to embrace their own personal mindfulness practice. They also had to transition from being a therapist to Becoming an instructor.

One of the psychologists’ distinctions was between “driven-doing” and “being” modes. The first is goal-driven and focuses on discrepancies and continuous monitoring, which can then lead to ruminations in the subjective universe. In contrast the “being” mode focuses on “accepting” and “allowing”. The core skill of mindfulness-based CBT then is to Recognize ruminative, negative thoughts and to shift more to a process-oriented “being” mode of perception.

The Mindfulness-based CBT program that Segal, Williams and Teasdale developed relates to psyche-enhancing activities and the pursuit of self-mastery. Kabat-Zinn and the psychologists used a form of Buddhist mindfulness meditation similar to the Chan style. Segal, Williams and Teasdale urged people facing potential relapse to spend time doing a task that gave them pleasure, and a sense of self-mastery.

Segal, Williams and Teasdale also adapted and developed several other practices. A body scan meditation helped to identify physical sensations. A Pleasant Experiences Calendar embedded Indulgence as a way to strengthen the psyche. Mindfulness of a routine activity — eating, doing dishes, brushing teeth, attention to a pet — expanded the scope and range of Being to everyday circumstances. Guided, sitting and walking meditations provided further practices to cultivate awareness.

Mindfulness-based CBT is useful for positive, mindful self-growth.

Lou Reed RIP

Lou Reed - Transformer

Lou Reed – Transformer

I was on the train to work this morning when I read of Lou Reed’s passing.

I had stayed up late the night before: re-reading Venkatesh Rao’s Gervais Principle series, and playing Husker Du’s album The Living End (1994). Re-reading Rao, I condensed my on-going research down to one core Need: time to write. Tiredly, I checked my email, and scrolled my Facebook feed. Friends were posting Reed’s lyrics and photos.

Others will have more memorable Lou Reed anecdotes than me. I first heard his music around 1983 interspersed between the Australian bands AC/DC, INXS, and Midnight Oil. The Velvet Underground reformed whilst I saw Andy Warhol’s underground films in college. I never saw Reed live. Instead, I saw him via his allies: playing on cable TV for David Bowie’s 50th birthday special, or as an on-screen sample when U2 played ‘Satellite of Love’ during their 1991-93 ZooTV tour.

We can learn a couple of things from Reed’s life and passing:

First, the aesthetic and cultural forces that informed the mid-20th century were vast. If you situate The Velvet Underground as an epochal band — or at least synonymous with an era of hedonistic Self-exploration — then you have a larger viewpoint to Understand the drive for artistic creativity. Reed’s collaborations with John Cale, Nico, and Andy Warhol are instructive.

Second, Reed had initiatory allies — his muse Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Bono, and others. We also see this with other artists and creative spirits: Aleister Crowley and his followers; H.P. Lovecraft and his Arkham House publisher August Derleth; or the painter Salvador Dali. Having initiatory allies can mean that our Work continues after our death, and that our legacy is preserved, rather than being scattered.

Third, Reed’s music is generative in a deeply cultural sense. The New Yorker‘s Sasha Frere-Jones notes that Reed’s music inspired many other musicians, artists, writers, and even life-changing decisions. This what the Egyptians call Heka (or magic) at its most pure: Reed was Sending his future Selves with each new song to Change the objective universe. This has led to all sorts of collaborations, influences, and interactions — ‘shaping’ effects or ‘causative willed change’ — which Reed could not have foreseen. It increased the amount of Unknown (Runa) and personal destiny (Wyrd) in the objective universe. This is where aesthetics can be more constructive to study than occulture.

Fourth, Reed’s passing is a reminder about death as Shock. We only have a certain time to do initiatory self-work: the Buddhist insight of impermanence. Our death will be an opportunity for initiatory allies and others to see our lives as a manifestation. Already, many bloggers, journalists and musicians have penned remembrances for Reed, citing his impact on their lives.

Perhaps you will have your own, similar artistic and creative impact on others’ lives.

Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund on HFT

Oyvind G. Schanke (New York Times)

Oyvind G. Schanke (New York Times)

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund Norges Bank Investment Management has released a new report about high-frequency trading (HFT). NBIM’s report finds that HFT firms front-run the large orders of asset management firms; that there is “transient liquidity” due to cancelled quotes; and that exchanges benefit “low latency ultra HFT strategies.” NBIM trader Oyvind G. Schanke told The New York Times: “It has become much more a market trading for trading’s sake.”