A Hot Date

Written for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), engine.

I’m gonna post today about a component I once wrote in my professional life, which was a date engine.

For part of my professional life I was a consultant to an asset management company. Asset Managers run funds, hundrends of them. The way each fund is set up might be different. Half of it might be based on a commodity, like gold or silver, and half of it might be based on a spread of stocks in such-and-such a sector. Or, you might have a fund which is based on other funds. For example a fund might be based a third on Fund A, and two-thirds on Fund B. The possibilities are endless.

We use the term pension fund, and in fact the two are very similar ideas. The plan is just to invest into a fund, and allow the fund manager to grow the fund, without having to worry about too much detail. In fact, the funds we handled were popular with many pension companies.

Unlike the raw stocks or commodities themselves, each fund would only deal periodically. They tended to be long-term, rather than used by day-traders. In the simplest case, something might deal every day, but you could also have funds which dealt:

  • every Monday,
  • every other Tuesday,
  • the first Wednesday of each month,
  • the 2nd last Thursday of each month,
  • the 15th of each month,
  • once a year, on 31st December
  • once a year, on the first Friday

…and so on. The possibilities were pretty endless. Except that in practise, only a few tens of options were used.

The place I worked, they used to calculate these dealing calendars manually, for each fund, a year at a time. Just this process, over about 1,500 funds, took somebody about six months every year. And somebody else, another six months to check.

So they wanted to build a system which would automate the process. After all, it’s simple enough to have a computer just apply a set of rules and tag one date onto the last.

So I built an engine so they could do this. You needed to tell it the last dealing date, and once it had this, it would apply the rules for the fund and calculate the next dealinng date. So you can imagine, you could run this engine again and again, on each fund, to calculate dealing calendars years in advance.

The trickiest problem was in capturing all of these rules. Capturing them flexibly enough so as to allow many different types of rules to exist, but rigidly enough so the rule could be used to calculate a dealing date.

One of the oe other problem was, what if the engine came up with a non-banking day, for example a weekend, or New Year’s Day?

Plus, the funds were based in different countries/currencies. Different currencies have different ideas about what day is and isn’t a bank holiday. So straight away, you’re having to also capture bank holidays against all the currencies (although funds tended to be only set up in the main half-dozen currencies).

It had to take all of this into account, and more besides.

We got there in the end. It this sounds quite boring to you, that’s because it was. Working with banks was quite well-paid, but it wasn’t rocket science. The reason it paid well was because people had to be meticulous*. A lot of the time you would be working on something to improve a manual process. Either to make it quicker, or less error-prone (in this case, both). Banks are quite a specialised environment, in that respect. In later years, when I was hiring people, previous banking experience was always a big factor, just because it showed that somebody was used to that environment.

* some banks are more meticulous than others!

My Recipe

Written for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), fiction.

I try to keep my FOWC responses short, but today I saw the prompt and thought I might actually write a proper post. But don’t worry, I’ll try to keep this short, too.

I guess we all have comfort zones, even in the context of blogging. Subjects we like to blog about, subjects we like to avoid. I wonder, does anybody else think consciously about this?

When I used to read books, I had a straightforward preference for biographies, or at the very least nonfiction. I maybe put that down to being quite a serious person, but didn’t really think about it in any great depth. Even now, if I listen to a book, it’ll fall into those categories. My knowledge of the world’s great fiction authors, like Shakespeare or Dickens, is zero. In fact I did try reading Dickens once … and got about three pages into the book before I decided we were incompatible.

Maybe my reading tastes, however, mimic my writing tastes? For I mostly like to write nonfiction. Just everyday life. Beyond that, the subject matter could be anything, especially nowadays, but it will be nonfiction rather than fiction. Furthermore, this is a very deliberate choice, on my part.

I have written one piece of fiction in my life. Well, outside of school. I never really got bitten by the bug. Maybe one day I will? But right now, it doesn’t float my boat. It actually took a fair amount of up-front thinking, before I felt able to write a word. With nonfiction, the thoughts are already flying around my head, it is just a case of getting them out in an order that makes sense to other people.

I follow a few people who regularly write poetry. I have a very basic knowledge of poetry. I have no idea what a haiku is. (And before you tell me, I’m not much interested right now. Maybe one day …) I have written a few limericks, enough to know that they can be quite a challenge to write, even though they tend to be just nonsense fun to read. As for other poetry, I am very ignorant.

I guess other types of poems must follow that same pattern as limericks? A challenge to write? So I can appreciate the author’s penmanship in not only saying what they want to say, but in massaging/cajoling the language so that it fits into their chosen format. But maybe the final poem is that much more difficult to comprehend as a result? How many of us have read poetry and not fully understood its meaning? Or, at least, had to look at something three or four times, before we “got it”? Come on, I’m sure I can’t be the only one!

At the moment, at least, my writing priority is to be clear, unambiguous. That is prose, nonfiction prose.

Double Whammy

Written for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), publish.

Rather than write a post on this prompt, I wanted to reblog a post that I myself already published a short time ago, I guess just three months.

In it, I talk about how I am (kinda) a published author.

So, today we have two hits for the price of one!

Mister Bump

Yesterday I didn’t do much, so I had a bit of time/inclination to write. For many of the prepared posts I write (as opposed to responses), I like to just save them as Drafts, then put them live maybe the next day. This gives me overnight, at least, to think about any tweaks, and also means that the final proof reading will be performed with a fresh pair of eyes. So, the post got its final check this morning, and here goes.

From having read my posts, would any of you believe that I have been a published author since very early on in my working life? Okay, not really in that sense! Let me explain:

My very first job out of college was with the UK’s Atomic Energy Authority. It was basically civil service – you can imagine that in the early days, atomic energy was very closely linked…

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Play Your Cards Right

Higher or lower?

Written for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), gamble.

Mister Man

For Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), tickle.

When my daughter was young, this was one of her favourite characters: