Learn R for Free

It never hurts to increase your skill set, especially in this economy. And when you can do that for free, so much the better. And when you can learn something for free that is in demand all over Wall Street, well that's just the icing on the cake. So I wanted to let you know about a new course that
Codeschool is offering called Try R as an introduction to the R programming language.

For those who don't know, R is quickly gaining steam among the quant trading set on Wall Street and was recently listed among top skills on Wall Street's wish list. The way it's been explained to me is that R isn't really Excel on steroids, it's more like Excel got exposed to a near-lethal dose of gamma radiation and morphed into the Hulk. So if you have a head for coding, it's definitely something you'll want to check out.

One of the cool things about Codeschool (and several other training sites, to be fair) is their in-browser programming environment. So you don't need to download anything and clog up your hard drive with DE's and a bunch of other junk. In fact, you do all your programming right there on your screen within the course. Now that I think about it, Khan Academy offers the same set-up in their new Computer Programming track.

"It's Just a Matter of Math."

The fiscal cliff is dominating the news and the markets at the moment, and it's anyone's guess whether DC will have a solution in place by the end of the year (I'm not particularly optimistic). Bloomberg sat down with the President yesterday to discuss the issue, and I have to say he sounded pretty reasonable. When pressed on the cuts vs. increased taxes issue he responded, "It's not me. It's just a matter of math." TheKing and I are going to be doing a week's worth of posts on the fiscal cliff starting next Monday, but this interview is as good a way to kick off Fiscal Cliff Week as any. I'm no fan of Obama, but I defy you to make the case that this doesn't make sense.

Full Tilt Players Hosed by DOJ

We have a robust poker community here on WSO, and I know at least some of you got jammed up on Black Friday - April 15, 2011 - when the Department of Justice seized Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker, and Ultimate Bet. I personally know a guy who has a 6-figure Full Tilt account which is still in limbo, despite the fact that Full Tilt was sold to PokerStars in January. So what's the hold-up when it comes to getting your money out?

It turns out the DOJ is really big on seizures, but not so much on restitution. Even though the DOJ made over $500 million in profit on the sale of Full Tilt, it has yet to return a cent to players despite promising to do just that after the sale.

According to Steven L. Kessler, an attorney based in New York City who specializes in forfeiture law and is representing high-stakes pro Adam Webb's attempt to recover nearly $59,000 in this case, it's business as usual to make seized funds difficult to recover. "Any forfeiture case is about fund-raising," he says. "In one of its publications [the 'National Asset Forfeiture Strategic Plan 2008-2012'], the government talks about bringing in $2 billion in forfeitures and returning only $700 million." Recouping Full Tilt funds will be "a long, drawn-out process to the point that you will need to be out five or six or seven figures for it to be worth pursuing. The system is set up so that you are discouraged from going after your money.

The Bizarre Case of John McAfee

Mmmmm....that's good bath salts.

Have you guys been keeping up with this case? I love a good eccentric billionaire case as much as the next guy, but this is one for the books. For those of you who've been living under a rock for the past month, anti-virus software mogul John McAfee is a person of interest in the murder of his neighbor on tiny Ambergris Caye in Belize on November 11. But that's not the weird part.

It is believed by some that McAfee committed the murder while under the influence of bath salts; hallucinogenic drugs he'd been dosing himself with for some time to improve his sexual performance with dozens of women, at least one of whom was underage. After the murder, he slipped into the jungles of Belize and disappeared. It was rumored that he was captured trying to cross into Mexico last night, but that rumor has since proved to be false.

Better to Have Been Rich and Lost It, or Never Been Rich at All?

mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from November 2010. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

When I was in my teens and early 20's, all I could think about was being rich. I didn't care what I had to do to make the money, I just knew that I wanted to be rich. Not just wealthy, either. I wanted the private jets, the boats, the mansions, the proverbial "fuck you" money. What I didn't spend any time thinking about was what would happen if I made that kind of money and then lost it.

I was reminded of this when I read the story of the Martin family of Paso Robles, California. This is the story of a husband and wife with three kids who made $10 million after taxes from the sale of his father's company in 1998. Today all the money is gone, along with their sprawling estate, his Aston Martin, and her horses - one of which cost $173,000. He went from jet-setting and dinners at the "21" club to teaching at a community college in Kansas in just over 10 years. And it got me thinking about which was worse: to be rich and lose everything, or to have never been rich and not know what you're missing?

Bonus Bananas November 30, 2012

1) Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan Apparently Can't Remember Anything (Rolling Stone) - Obfuscate much? Apparently Moynihan was less than helpful when he was deposed in the MBIA v. BofA et al suit. "I can't recall" is the new pleading the fifth.

2) UBS fined over rogue trading case (CNN Money) - Just in time for the holidays, Kweku Adeboli gets to ruin everyone's bonus check for another year at UBS. On top of that, the bank might be forced to raise capital. This guy is the gift that keeps on giving.

3) What It Was Like to Be a Woman at Goldman Sachs (The Atlantic) - Let me guess, it sucked? Look, she's got some valid points about sexism on the Street in this piece, but to described Goldman as "a frat on steroids" leads me to believe she's never been to a frat, and never seen the effects of steroids.

Muddy Waters Bails on China

You can't fight city hall.

In the process of explaining his recent takedown of Singapore-based Olam International, Muddy Waters founder Carson Block admits that his firm is no longer focusing on Chinese stocks due to the Chinese government's complicity in the various and sundry accounting frauds perpetrated by Chinese companies. He admits that there's no sense in uncovering corporate fraud when the government is just going to erase all the evidence anyway.

Lucky for Muddy Waters and their clients, there are crooks and morons in accounting departments worldwide. Block covers a lot of ground in this interview and I have to say that he is looking really polished these days (compared to his almost manic paranoid appearance during the Sino-Forest debacle). He has some great insights on short selling, and he bolsters his claims against Olam by asserting that they're willing to go to court to defend their research. This is good stuff.

What I've Learned About Facebook

It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of Facebook. I thought it was a neat idea early on, but like just about anything else it loses its luster when your mom becomes aware of it. So like the rest of the cool kids on the Internet I migrated to Twitter, which is actually much better suited to meet the needs of finance and econ information junkies like me. I didn't delete my Facebook account (it's really the only way to keep in touch with my old Marine buddies), but I more or less left it in my rear view.

Part of what I did on my time off was soft launch a side project I've been meaning to get off the ground for a couple of years now. Naturally, I wanted proof of concept before I plowed a bunch of time and money into it. So my alternatives (as I saw them, anyway) were to advertise a landing page on Google and compete for some relatively spendy eyeballs, or give Facebook advertising a shot and see if I could achieve better results for less money.

How does this relate to Wall Street, you ask? Well, one of the primary arguments against Facebook stock recently has been their seeming inability to capitalize on mobile advertising despite the fact that better than 50% of Facebook users interact on mobile platforms. I'm going to cover my surprising mobile findings in a minute, but I wanted to give you guys a breakdown of Facebook as an advertising platform from an advertiser's perspective, and that might help you to better judge the value of the stock.

So What Did I Miss?

Wow! A whole month off. I feel like my WSO muscles have atrophied a bit from disuse. The rest did me some good, I got a little tiny bit of travel in, I managed to save a deal that appeared to be going sideways in a hurry, and I kicked off a little start-up of my own (which so far has taught me some pretty surprising things about Facebook).

So what did I miss around here? Obama walked through Romney to no one's surprise other than Romney himself, apparently. As much as I don't particularly care for the guy, I had to throw some grudging respect to Obama over the way he handled election day. While Romney was out running around trying to drum up votes like a madman, Obama was shooting hoops with Scottie Pippen, OG-style. I'm guessing he wasn't worried about Romney for a single minute during the campaign.

What else big happened? Oh yeah, AAPL got clobbered. What's up with that? Fortunately, I bought it all the way down and now my average cost is $593. Yeah, yeah, I know. You own it at $40 a share and started buying it when you were eight years old with your paper route money. Shut up. Some of us were late to the party.

Is Marriage Useless Today?

mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from November 2010. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

Has marriage become obsolete? According to a recent Time Magazine/Pew poll, 40% of Americans believe that marriage is obsolete today, and 44% of Americans under 30 believe the institution of marriage is soon to be extinct.

I can't think of a better topic to write about on my 8th anniversary.

You guys know how I feel about marriage from a practical standpoint: there's no percentage in it. Clearly, Prince William is not a WSO reader. All joking aside, though, is marriage dead? For someone in a lopsided income/asset relationship (where one partner earns or is worth far more than the other), how could it be to the advantage of the more financially successful partner to get married?


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