Here is why I don’t write about what I am actually thinking

The reason that I frequently don’t post is that I go through extensive periods studying for the actuarial examinations.  When I am intensely studying, much of everything else is ejected from my life.

I will write about what I study each day, but it may numb your brain.

I love actuarial mathematics, but the concepts, mathematics, and formulas are really ugly at first.  Normally, I appreciate nice little beautiful mathematical statements that express deep truths.  Many actuarial formulas, however, are daunting.  They might have a dozen variables, each with its own complex definition.  They relate to finance, which seems so far removed from the beauty of pure mathematics, and far from the math that relates to the natural world.

But, the concepts that I learned for my last exam are now my intimate friends.  What were once jumbles of symbols on the page are now complex expressions of important truths.

Take this ugly beast, for the price of a call option:

\Delta =e^{-\delta h}\frac{C_u-C_d}{S(u-d)}

B = e^{-rh}\frac{uC_d-dC_u}{u-d}

The price of the call option is \Delta S +B .

I started at the far end, the most complicated spot.  Now let me back up and explain the essentials.

When we trade on the stock market, we do not always trade the actual stocks, commodities, or currencies.  We may be trading derivatives of these assets.  That is, we may be trading financial instruments whose value is derived from these underlying assets.

In concrete terms, we might engage in a contract to buy an ounce of gold for $1000 in one year.  This is a forward contract.

We might buy an option to buy one share of Ankle Compuners in one year for $1100.  If Ankle is selling for say $1500 at that point, we exercise our option, buy the stock for $1100, then immediately sell it for $1500, instantly making $400.  If Ankle is selling for less than $1100, we do not exercise the option.  We have lost whatever we paid for the option.  This is known as a call option.

We might buy an option to sell one share of Nash Motors in one year for $500.  If Nash is selling for say, $100 in one year, we exercise our option and sell the stock and have $500, instead of the $100 that Nash is worth.

Why do we use derivatives, instead of the actual asset?  To manage risk, like we did with our Nash stock.  This is like insurance.  To speculate on the market.  We can buy an interest in the performance of Ankle, without having to spend $1000 for an entire share.  We might also be buying derivatives because of reduced transaction costs, or because they can help us to avoid the tax implications of owning the asset.

Here is our question.  Given the value of a stock, S, the risk-free bond rate r, the dividend rate, delta, and the volatility of the stock price, how do we find the price of the call option to buy Ankle Compuner in our first example?

We begin with the law of one price.  Two instruments with the same cash flows should have the same price.  We know how to calculate the price and payoff of stocks and bonds.  So if we can create a portfolio of stocks and bonds with the same payoff as the call option, they must have the same price.

In one year, if Ankle Compuner is selling for more than 1100 (we call this the exercise price, K), the payoff is the price at expiration (St)-K.  So if it is selling at 1300, the payoff is 1300-1100=200.

In one year, if Ankle Compuner is selling less than 1100, the payoff is 0.

The formulas above use binomial option pricing to find the price of this portfolio, and hence a theoretically correct price for this call option.  Theory is important here:  an incorrectly priced option will lead to an arbitrage opportunity.  In short, the options may be bought and sold instantly (perhaps within billionths of seconds …) for a profit.

I can’t explain any more here without getting in real deep.

While I am studying on this stuff, I am writing C++ and VBA programs, as a way to learn some computer languages that are in demand for actuaries.  My “native” language is LISP.  Other languages seem really ugly.  When you are first learning a language, the code ends up pretty ugly anyways.

So, here is my code:

#include <cstdlib>
#include <iostream>
#include <cmath>
#include <iomanip>

//Calculates price of call option, and portfolio required to duplicate option, using binomial tree

int main() {
using namespace std;
    float S0, r,div, K, h, sigma, u, d, uS,dS,Cu,Cd,delta, bondValue, callPrice;
//get data
    cout<<“Calculate the price of a call, using a one period binary tree”<<endl;
    cout<<“Current Stock Price?”;
    cout<<“Continuously Compounded Risk Free Rate?”;
    cout<<“Continuous Dividend Rate?”;
    cout<<“Strike Price?”;
    cout<<“Time to Expiration?”;
//calculate likely upward and downward motions
    cout<<“Upward Move “<<uS<<endl;
    cout<<“Downward Move “<<dS<<endl;
//calculate payoff of call, given motions above
    if (uS > K)
    Cu = uS-K;
    else Cu = 0;
    if (dS > K)
    Cd = dS-K;
    else Cd = 0;
//calculate Delta, Beta, and call option price
    delta=exp(-div * h)*(Cu-Cd)/(S0*(u-d));
    bondValue=exp(-r * h)*((u*Cd)-(d*Cu))/(u-d);
    cout<<“To duplicate the call, buy “<<delta<<” shares of the stock for “<<delta*S0<<” dollars and borrow “<<-1 * bondValue<<” at the rate of “<<r<<” for a total price of “<<callPrice<<endl;
    cout<<“Price of Call “<<callPrice<<endl;

//find the price of some other related calls
    cout<<“Some other Call prices: “<<endl;
    float step;
    step = 0.05*K;
    K= K-5*step;
       for (int z=0;z<11;z++){
       if (uS > K)
    Cu = uS-K;
    else Cu = 0;
    if (dS > K)
    Cd = dS-K;
    else Cd = 0;

    delta=exp(-div * h)*(Cu-Cd)/(S0*(u-d));
    bondValue=exp(-r * h)*((u*Cd)-(d*Cu))/(u-d);

    cout<<setw(8)<<k<<” “<<callprice<<<span=”” class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”” data-mce-bogus=”1″>endl;
    return 0;
//Wow what an ugly program

Here is a sample run:

Binomial option pricingIf we buy 0.5483 shares of Ankle, and borrow 496.15 dollars at the continuously compounded risk-free rate of 10% (our current artificially induced nearly 0% interest rates are way uninteresting for examples), for a total cost of $52.18, we will duplicate the payoff for our call.  So our call option should be $52.18.

Let’s check the math.

If we buy the one year $1100 call, and the stock price is 1221.40 in one year, our payoff will be 121.40.  If the price is 1000, our payoff is 0.

Suppose that we buy our $52.18 portfolio.

In one year, if the stock price is 1221.40, our 0.5483 share is worth $669.69.

We borrowed 496.15 at 10% interest.  In one year we must pay back 496.14e^{0.1} = \$ 548.16.   We sell the stock, and pay back the loan, for a payoff of $121.53.  Which is close enough due to all of the rounding that I did.

Now you see why I don’t write about what I think about all day.


boot labelMy feet have been bothering me all year. I thought that it was maybe just me getting old, but my lovely doctor says that it is plantar fasciitis, and that I need to stretch my feet. And I have been stretching my feet. And my feet have been getting slowly yet not entirely better.


You see, I wear work boots to work.

I have worn one hundred and fifty-dollar boots and sixty-dollar boots and twenty-dollar boots. I have worn steel toe boots and waterproof boots and insulated boots and oil resistant boots and men’s boots and women’s boots and farm boots and leather boots and hiking boots and boots that fit a couple of pairs of insulated socks.

Still, on a good year, I completely wear out six pairs of boots. On a bad year, up to ten pairs. There is only a modest difference in wear time between the forty dollar boot and the one hundred forty dollar boot.

waterproof boot

I have been around and around about this before.

I always buy at least two pair of boots at once. Today, I bought two pairs of non-steel-toed hiking boots. They look sturdy, and comfortable. I am always optimistic about the prospect of my new pair of pair of boots.

I try to care for my boots. I waterproof them occasionally. They dry out on most nights.

Still, the soles peel off. The seams split. The leather cracks. The steel toe detaches. The shoe-lace threaders bend. The waterproofing wears out. I wear holes in the soles. Frequently, the big rubber lugs are actually hollow. Once you break through, the soles are finished.

I take a kind of pleasure in how many pairs of boots that I wear out. My co-workers do not demolish nearly so many pairs of boots as I do. I am proud to be a working person. Proud to be a female in a “man’s” job. Proud that I can work circles around my co-workers, with only half of their physical strength. (When I started this job twelve years ago, I realized that I would need to make up for my lack of brute strength by using organization, and my mind.)

I did not ever imagine that I would be in the position of doing physical work. I had always dreamed of being an entertainer, which is what I did through most of my 20’s and 30’s. When that was done, I didn’t know what to do, and just kind of fell into something.

But on many days, I arrive at work, and I love my job. I love being really good at my job. I have thousands of little pieces of knowledge gained by experience, and experimentation. On many days, my job is like a pleasant walk through the park, and my mind is free to do whatever it will.

boot sole

Show and Tell

It is an important part of my life to communicate with other trans* identified people here in blogspace, but I find that I have used this blog a “show-and-tell” platform for topics that have nothing to do with living as trans* or queer. My life is scattered into many segments. I like for writing to be part of my creative life, but my creative life also consists of drawing and painting and sculpting and knitting and computer programming and mathematics. And gardening. And canning.  And other things.

Scattered is the word.

(that reminds me, there is a website devoted to being scattered like I am, it is called Puttylike, a home for multipotentiates)

Just two weeks ago, we found that my boss’s kid is having a baby. Most years, I start knitting in August. That way, I can finish complex projects by the time that the holidays come around. This year, my first knit projects are baby items for my boss’s impending new grandchild. (I really like my boss’s son, and his wife. I have watched him grow up through high school and college now out on his own. When he was in college, his band played in our cafe. So I really like him, and am very happy for him)

So, H. and I spent the week clacking needles. scarfOne of my favorite things ever is mittens with a cord that goes through the coat.

Baby MittensAnd a hat to top it off:

Baby hatWe would have done booties, but we only had one week.  We made labels for each item, and wrapped them nicely.

My camera isn’t working, so I just placed the knitwear on my scanner.

I hope that they like everything, and that it helps to keep their baby warm this winter.

Fonzi Gets Chomped

September 5, 2015, Avonia Beach Pennsylvania, Lake Erie.  We spend an hour or so picking up beach glass while trying to coax Fonzi into learning the joys of water.  He does not mind getting his feet wet, at least.
Nearby, a group of people has five Labradors frolicking in the surf.  Further down, a couple plays with an exotic looking Australian cattle herding dog.
Back, closer to the parking lot again, where Avonia creek scribbles sideways through the sand, another young couple plays in the water with a large, tan, pointy eared dog (This is probably a 100 pound dog.  Fonzi, by comparison, is about 25 pounds). As we wade across the stream with Fonzi, suddenly the dog is on top of Fonzi in the knee deep water, jaws locked on Fonzi’s body, then neck.  The big dog’s owner jumps in, and wrestles her dog away from our dog.  I pull frantically at the tail end of her dog.
In thirty seconds, the chaos is over.  The girl’s boyfriend leads the dog, who is still lunging aggressively, back to their car.  The girl is balling, upset by her dog’s behavior, and clearly worried about Fonzi.  Fonzi, meanwhile is wiggling all over as if he just had the time of his life.  His collar falls to the ground, severed, as he shakes the water and sand from his coat, then rubs back and forth against me as if to ask what fun comes next.
I am still shaking, after imagining the disaster of the injury of my dog, and my spouse.

If I were Jamie, this is where I would relate my dog’s behavior to some aspect of my own condition in life.  If I were Ellen, a gull with the queen’s accent would swoop down and carry Fonzi off.  If I were AnExactingLife, I would use this event as inspiration to inventory my dog snacks.

Instead, I will continue my story.
I am in Erie for the weekend to visit my parents.  This means a certain amount of stress.  But I have seen a lot of my parents this year, and that is good, because it allows us all to get through the surface pleasantries, and to spend some varied time with each other.  My parents still use the name for me that they gave me at birth, and the gender words too.  Possibly, they always will.
There are many aspects to this.  Although they still use these words, they undoubtedly know and accept me as female now.  They hear my friends, and even strangers in public referring to me this way.  Last winter, when I visited them, their neighbor stopped over, and said to my mother when she saw me “I thought that you said your son was visiting.”  So, in private, I am not hurt too badly by their words.  Especially since my mother occasionally lets a “she” slip out accidentally.  These accidental accuracies are even more significant than forced ones.
What I really anticipated with dread is to be mis-named or mis-gendered in public.  But, happily, we spent the weekend amongst ourselves, and the situation never arose. (I have to admit that I am partly to blame for the situation with my parents.  I have never been good at asserting myself with them.)
The other reason that I am thinking about all of this is that I am finally reading Stone Butch Blues.  Leslie Feinburg’s widow has made the book free for download in honor of the late Feinburg (thank you TheFlannelFiles for making me aware of this).  I have seen people reading this book, and heard them speak of it, for years.  Somehow, I avoided reading it.  Despite the fact that my own life is radically different from Feinburg’s, and Jess’s (her protagonist), I find that the book speaks giantly to my own life, and I would suspect to the lives of many other people.  While the specifics of her life are so different, she yet captures specifics of my lived experience on every page.
Here are two great quotes that make me step back and re-evaluate the way that I am viewing my life:

I care which pronoun is used, but people have been respectful to me with the wrong pronoun and disrespectful with the right one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.
Leslie Feinberg – A Communist Who Revolutionized Transgender Rights, By Minnie Bruce Pratt posted on November 18, 2014, Worker’s World,

For me, pronouns are always placed within context. I am female-bodied, I am a butch lesbian, a transgender lesbian – referring to me as “she/her” is appropriate, particularly in a non-trans setting in which referring to me as “he” would appear to resolve the social contradiction between my birth sex and gender expression and render my transgender expression invisible. I like the gender neutral pronoun “ze/hir”? because it makes it impossible to hold on to gender/sex/sexuality assumptions about a person you’re about to meet or you’ve just met. And in an all trans setting, referring to me as “he/him”? honors my gender expression in the same way that referring to my sister drag queens as “she/her”? does.
Transmissions – Interview with Leslie Feinberg, July 28, 2006, by Jamie Tyroler ,

I got both of these quotes from Feinburg’s Wikipedia page, but I then went and tracked down the original sources.

Both quotes speak to me, and will help me to get my head on straight the next time that I am squirming because someone has called me “he”.  I live boldly out and loud as “other”.  I have for all of my life, even when I was trying not to (there is no more backing down now).  Although I am uncomfortable being interpreted as male, I cannot deny my femininely manerismed gay and straight male brothers with whom I share so many experiences of growing up, nor my transgender sisters.  When I am seen as “she”, yet labeled as “he”, I am at my greatest strength in breaking the barriers of gender.
Still, my identity is confidently female.  If I need to earn the right to that, I think that I have by now.  And, I have earned the legal right to it as well.
Yet, I still identify most closely with butchy females, with trans males.  Adopting too many stereo-typically female traits goes against everything I believe about feminism.
In short, I am making a political statement every time that I walk out my door.  This statement is more important than my own discomfort that people sometimes interpret me as male.

The bad parents are right to steer their staring kids away from me in the supermarket.  But it is already too late, the kids are already corrupted: they have already glimpsed me, and now they now that there is something other than boy or girl or man or woman in the range of possibilities of life.
( The good parents satisfy their kids curiosity with a reasonable explanation of the wide variety of people in the world. )
(Sorry this post is still a little disorganized.  Conceptually, some of the stuff in the last few paragraphs is complicated, and I am still trying to get it just right.)

Lehigh Valley Charter High School For The Arts ( Vacation, Part 2 )

Lehigh Valley Charter High School For The Arts

Lehigh Valley Charter High School For The Arts

On Wednesday, August 19, 2015, I finally toured the new Lehigh Valley Charter High School For The Arts (Charter Arts), in Bethlehem Pennsylvania.  The old school was in a rented old industrial site (no windows in the whole school!) but it still blew me away.  Art, dance, and music was happening everywhere: in the classrooms, in the hallways, on the ceilings. The new school puts all of that in the most beautiful building: a building constructed especially for creating art, situated in a vibrant arts community, and positioned with dozens of unique and inspiring views.

Charter Arts pulls the students from 46 different school districts in eastern Pennsylvania.  Each student auditions to get into the school.  At the school, the kids do academics for half of the day, and their art (dance, figure skating, music, visual arts, theater, vocal arts) for the other half.  I have seen some of the art that these students are creating, and it is very impressive.

But here is the most wonderful thing, and the point of me writing about this school.  My friend who gave me a tour of the school made a point of telling me what a safe haven the school has become for students who are LGBT, trans, gender variant, or have just otherwise not fit in, in the places where they come from.  Charter Arts is like a college experience for these kids.  They are able to be welcomed as themselves, in a new school where nobody knows them, and where they are judged solely as artists.  The school is a place that works to transcend boundaries of socioeconomic background, class, race, and gender.  These are lofty ideals, but my friend is believes that this has really happened in her school.

My friend is super wonderful anyways, but I know that our decades long friendship has caused her to give extra thought to the students of her school who are outside of the gender norms.  I am so happy that our long friendship has led her to take a special interest in the well-being of these kids.

The school impressed me so much that I drove back up to Bethlehem twice to draw and paint the school.  My friend hasn’t seen the drawing yet, but I hope that she likes it enough to hang it in her office.

My Summer Vacation

Stone House

The Stone House

Last week was my summer vacation. That is nine straight days from work, that I really needed. I knew that I could not leave town, due to a few other previous plans.
I put weeks of work into planning my vacation.

Here were my requirements for my potential vacation activity:

  1. Should not involve too far of a drive
  2. Nothing too physical
  3. Should involve some outdoor activity
  4. Must be cheap
  5. Should involve being around people
  6. Should be different from my normal daily life
  7. Should involve my spouse, and my doggy

In the end, I decided to sit out and sketch and paint watercolors for several hours every single day.  I sat in pleasant places, sometimes alone, or sometimes with my wife and dog.  I happily sketched, and exchanged pleasant greetings with passers-by.  I ended up in a very nice mental place.

I have never truly applied myself to drawing from life before.  But, I have spent a lifetime making art, and thinking about design.  I am happy with my rudimentary attempts.  I am pleased that I used a 2 dollar set of children’s watercolors with a free brush.

What a joy to simply sit, and see, and watch the world go by.

Reading Pride 2015

Pride Day It is the middle of July. There are many competing potential things to do on any given July weekend. Hence, this is my first Pride celebration in several years. I have almost forgotten the deep significance that Pride day has to me.

Here I am amidst hundreds of people with whom I share common visions of normal relationships, modes of gender expression, and ideas of gender roles. All of us here grew up with dreams that were not the ones found in most of the books, movies, television shows, fairy tales, songs, family histories, and holy texts that we were exposed to as children. Most of us have felt invisible. Most of us have feared rejection, simply for existing. Many of us have been ostracized by friends or family. Many of have been mocked, bullied, demeaned, stalked, and assaulted for what we are.

All of us are refugees.

Yet here, all of us refugees wash up on a common shore for a day. We look around, and are surprised to see how many of us there are. It dawns upon us that each day at work, on the street, and in the supermarket we pass many others of our tribe.

Pride Day 2015

We realize that, although the world has changed in revolutionary ways from the frightening days of our youth, when it still socially acceptable for our classmates and our teachers to call us sissies and dykes and queers and faggots, and when almost every media image of us was a mockery; that there are still kids growing up with families of the worst kind of haters. That there is still much of the world where we cannot travel. That most of us still live in places where are jobs are at risk. That there is still a need to stand in solidarity.

So, I sit here on a bench with my pen and notebook, in the mottled light though the oak trees, with the buzz of music and voices around me, and bask in comfortable oneness.

My Father Washes With Rubbing Alchohol

(another aside, until I very shortly return to the regular trans* related programming)

My father washes with rubbing alcohol.  He unscrews the entire lid from the bottle, holds three fingers over the opening, then rubs it all over his hands and arms.  Next, he scratches it into his legs, his feet.

Each time that he re-loads his hands with alcohol, I see bits of skin, hair, blood, effluvia swirl back into the bottle.

He believes that this ritual will prevent poison ivy, skin fungus, athletes foot, jungle rot, lyme disease, sore joints, arthritis, rheumatics, infections, Ebola, flesh-eating bacteria, and brain eating amoebas.

He is actually causing dry, itchy, raw, irritated skin which produces incessant sensations of ivy rash, creepy crawlers, dust mites, parasites, and melanoma.

After he leaves, I discard the bottle and purchase a new one.

Envisioning Howard Finster

Before I return to my regularly scheduled blogging, I need to take one minute to plug my friend Norman Girardot’s book.

Howard Finster was a retired preacher from Georgia, who in his later years became a spectacularly prolific, frequently genius, self-taught artist.  In his unclassifiable book, Girardot examines Finster from the point of view of a scholar of comparative religion, but also from the point of view of a person who’s life was transformed by his interactions with Finster.

Norman spent five or six years on this book, and I am honored to have been a part of his book’s creation.  It is trully unique and insightful.

This is the book:

original coverThis is my spoofical version of the book:

officialcoverHere is the book at amazon.

If you look closely at the Amazon page for the book, you can see a picture of Norman’s face which I drew years ago.

By the way Finster left his own mark on my life, as well as thousands of other people’s lives.  We passed a banjo back and forth, while we waited for the pot of coffee to brew, and he called me a star-faced clown from heaven.  I am glad to see that he is still being talked about, 14 years after his death.

Feed Stray Cats

I have been participating in a discussion with Ellen Hawley, of Notes from the U.K., about the practice of feeding obnoxious wild animals ( Gulls, cats, bears, gators, etc … ) and the strange attraction that I feel about the idea.  I realized that the idea is nothing new to me:

Feed Stray Cats

I leave backpacks and coolers full of hotdogs and beer for bears in the woods.

I painted this sign in 2003.  It reads:

Feed stay cats.  Allow them to grow and thrive and multiply until they are a formidable presence in the neighborhood.

Feed birds and squirrels in the park. Feed gulls at the beach. Leave backpacks and coolers full of hotdogs and beer for bears in the woods.

I don’t know why I have such a perverse attraction to this idea.  In real life, I would never do it.  But I have this vision of myself as an elderly person sitting on the beach with bags of potato chips and hundreds of swooping ravenous gulls.

Now I have to confess that my wife and I do feed stray cats. I am already halfway to being a weird cat lady.   Ever worse, we know the cats by name.  But we get together with the other weird cat ladies in our neighborhood and get the cats fixed.  So all of them are neutered (Scruffy Ringtail and Sylvester and Jewel and Spikey and Grey Momma and Grey M and Grey F and Jasmine and Dash ).

So I guess that’s all right.

Previous Older Entries

Into the Nitty Gritty of a Male of Transgender Experience (Female to Male)

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non-binary bound

a journey of top surgery for a non-binary body

The Recompiler

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recess | city

move toward what moves you.

the ghosts journey

A transparent look in to the (no longer) closeted life of a transgender woman


arts journalism, ficiton, content writing.

Butch and Brat

The life and times of a butch woman and her offspring.