Answers To Questions I Have Actually Been Asked
Q. What is "finem respice"?
A. Near as anyone can tell, finem respice seems to have been the motto of Chilo of Sparta, engraved on the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. The most literal translations are "look to the end," "have regard for the end," or "consider the end," reminders that actions and deeds have consequences and that forethought is important. This is a concept that, of late, seems to have lost meaning in the Western world. Consequences appear to be things to be manhandled after the fact and subject to political whim, rather than managed ex ante. This is a dangerous trend, and this theme serves as a central focus of the blog. The blog also shares the motto with the much maligned Vice-Admiral William Bligh. The Bligh crest is described thus: Griffin & quartermoon on crest surmounted by a mailed arm holding an axe; motto reads: "finem respice." Bligh, a one-time student of Captain Cook, was possessed of exceptional skills of navigation. In particular, his seamanship following the famous "Mutiny on the Bounty" deserves mention. Bligh sailed the Bounty's 7 meter ship's launch, burdened with 18 people for 47 days over 3,600 nautical miles to Toufa in an act of such fortitude and courage that this author is pleased to share even the thinnest association with it.
Q. What is "Going Private"? How does it relate to "finem respice"?
A. Going Private, "The Sardonic Memoirs of a Private Equity Professional" is the predecessor to finem respice and is more focused on the in and outs of life in a private equity firm and the analysis of private equity transactions. Or at least, it was. The blog evolved, along with my interest, into more market-observation than private equity discourse. As the blog was less and less about "Going Private," its third anniversary marked the end of that cycle and the beginning of finem respice, a more free-form discourse on market fragility, market failures, "consequences (intended and otherwise)" and the folly of searching for, or trying to breed, a unicorn that defecates Krugerrands- a quest that seems to enjoy a great many adherents in this day and age.
Q. Why the switch? Why not just stick with Going Private?
A. In addition to the "topic drift" away from exclusively private equity discussion, I have increasingly found that Typepad, Going Private's blogging platform, has been getting more and more restrictive. By contrast, the platform finem respice is running on is much more extensible, and I have a great deal more creative control over the appearance and functionality of the site (entry voting and footnotes, for instance, are easy to implement here). In addition to the entry voting, some other features I am looking forward to experimenting with include:
- Financial "Smackdown"
- Embedded Charts
- Embedded Spreadsheets
- Private Forums (Maybe)
None of this would be possible with Typepad.
Q. Are you a girl or a guy?
Q. Are you married?
A. Yes. To
England the Firm.
Q. Want to meet somewhere?
A. How about at the Bandaranaike International Airport?
Q. That's very clever.
A. That's not a question.
Q. What is your educational background?
A. I hold a BA, JD, MBA and MA.
Q. "Here's my resume. Can I have a job?"
A. That's very nice, but probably not. I'm really not the best resource for recruiting at Private Equity Firms or Hedge Funds.
Q. "Are these stories true?"
A. Obviously, I tinker with incriminating or expositive facts like names, dates, addresses, or locations, but for the most part, yes. If it helps you to view the more narrative entries as fiction you are most welcome to do so. I am mostly indifferent with respect to the reader's disposition in this respect. Be this as it may, long discourses over email on how this or that tale couldn't possibly be true are both pointless and irritating. Certainly, I am not going to change your mind, nor will I attempt to. If this sort of thing bothers you and you find yourself constantly possessed of the urge to write me about it perhaps another blog would fit your temperament more snugly.
Q. "[Why do you write anonymously?/You are an anonymous coward./You are just talking your book.]"
A. There is a long tradition of anonymous discourse in the western world. Learn to cope. The Federalist Papers, of course, were penned anonymously. The Economist has printed its opinion pages with no byline for decades and crafts a much better defense of the practice than I am likely to. To wit:
Many hands write The Economist, but it speaks with a collective voice. Leaders are discussed, often disputed, each week in meetings that are open to all members of the editorial staff. Journalists often co-operate on articles. And some articles are heavily edited. The main reason for anonymity, however, is a belief that what is written is more important than who writes it. As Geoffrey Crowther, editor from 1938 to 1956, put it, anonymity keeps the editor "not the master but the servant of something far greater than himself. You can call that ancestor-worship if you wish, but it gives to the paper an astonishing momentum of thought and principle."
Some of my motives are less noble. Most people seem woefully ignorant of the implications of such a digitally connected society. How else are we to explain the daily stories of professionals fired, investigated or ridiculed for the content of their facebook or myspace pages? What would your highly cautious and conservative employer think of your obsession with [Lego/dog shows/Bozo the Clown/night clubs/minimalist techno/ballroom dancing]? Anyone who thinks that doctor-patient privilege or attorney-client privilege means anything anymore hasn't been paying attention. There are no secrets on the internet. Information wants to be free. The only way to prevent this is not to disclose in the first place.
Of course, many hands do not write finem respice, but I do share the belief that it should be about the writing, and not the author. You should simply assume that I am an interested party in every entry I write. There is no such thing as true dispassionate discourse and those that claim to produce it are selling a bill of goods. Any sector I mention favorably, you should assume I have bet the farm to go long on. Any industry I decry, you should expect that I have borrowed heavily to short. If you do these things, and my discourse still sounds compelling, then so much the better. If I fail to convince you, even with those assumptions, then my argument is truly weak. So be it.
In the end I find that those who complain about anonymous authors are really expressing frustration with their inability to mount ad hominem attacks in the absence of any other cogent argument. Sorry, that's just not good enough.
Q. Who is this "Debt Bitch" person?
A. Laura the Debt Bitch is a private equity professional, colleague and friend with a rather caustic manner and "take no prisoners" approach to life. She figures prominently in the occasional entry back on Going Private. No, you can't have her phone number.
Q. Where do you work?
A. Really, don't waste our collective time with questions like these.
Q. Can I see a picture of you?
A. Sure. There is a heavily sterilized picture of me on my Facebook page.
Q. Very cool, you look... hey wait, you don't have a Facebook page.
A. Nothing escapes you, does it?
Q. Are you loaded? You're totally rich, right?
A. Yes. I'm loaded. I'm totally rich. (How does one answer such inquiries?)
Q. It was all inherited, right?
A. Sure. Why not?
Q. How do I get a job at a [hedge fund/leveraged buyout fund/proprietary trading firm/massage parlor/would you like that in a pump or a loafer]?
A. Really, I have no idea. I'm amazed I'm employed at all sometimes.
Q. How much money do you make from the blog?
A. Minus... something. I don't put up ads and finem respice is not part of a larger firm. It is a personal endeavor I use more for the catharsis of expression than anything else.
Q. Hey, why don't you enable comments?
A. Because they seem to bring out the absolute worst in people. I've experimented with the idea more than once and never had an even remotely rewarding experience with it. Comments either need to be moderated (opening the moderator to repeated accusations of censorship, bias or bigotry, and costing a great deal of time and energy) or given a frontieresque "wild west" liberty that tends to attract the worst kind of wingnuts and fanatics. Be this as it may, I have wanted to permit some sort of reader interaction. Accordingly, I have enabled per-entry voting that allows users to rate entries on the site. This, at least, should give me the ability to identify the sorts of entries that finem respice's audience enjoys. I'm afraid that will have to suffice for now.
Q. I am a literary agent for [Simon & Schuster/Harper Collins/Random House]. I love your [new] blog and I would like to sign you up and work with you to get a book done. What do you say?
A. Maybe. Be aware that I am entirely unwilling to do any book touring or promotion. If you think you have a hit on your hands in the absence of my ex post involvement, feel free to email me.
Q. If I put a link to your blog on my blog will you put a link to my blog on your blog?
A. Probably not. I find that blogs on subjects that interest me (finance, theoretical physics, cosmology, markets, corporate governance) are few and far between. I'm always happy to find a new resource that I hadn't known about, but I am rather picky about such things. If this is likely to offend you, perhaps you should direct your requests elsewhere.
Q. Why the new blog? What was wrong with the old one?
A. Going Private, my first blog, was intended to serve an entirely different purpose. It was primarily private equity focused and as my interests have drifted from that nexus, I feel that the content I want to produce doesn't fit the mission statement of Going Private. Going Private will stick around for archival purposes for another year or so. After that, who knows?
Q. What is "Sub Rosa"?
A. The pseudonym for my private equity employer.
Q. How often do you post?
A. There is no rhyme or reason to the circumstances or events that will trigger in me the desire to post a given entry.
Q. I'm with [NBC/CBS/ABC/FOX/NPR/PBS/DOD/NSA/FBI/DIA/NRO] and I would really like to interview you. What do you think?
A. Really, I think I will have to pass.
Q. What software is the blog run on?
A. Drupal. Worth looking at, certainly, if you have the urge to blog and are willing to delve in to some coding.
Q. You are a filthy Republican nut job, aren't you?
A. Yes, yes, sure. I recognize the need to associate any free-market, finance or economics based discussion with the worst elements of the Republican Party- as real argument is more difficult. Unfortunately, I am not a Republican, nor do I share those values. It has become fashionable in the Western world to brand anyone who expresses a dislike for leftist-statism as a Bush supporter, as if this guilt by association, true or not, should wash away all credibility. I find most of the people quick to associate me with Republicans or insinuate that I am some kind of rabid fan of George Bush (an insult which, despite my lack of support for the former President, I find bemusingly comic) have no clue whatsoever what my beliefs are.
Some things I am for:
- The National Endowment for the Arts
- The Fourth Amendment
- The Exclusionary Rule
- Safe and Legal Abortion
- Gay Marriage
- PBS (I grew up with Wall Street Week, Nova and Frontline)
Some things I am against:
- Organized Religion of Any Kind
- Unchecked Surveillance States
- Political Correctness
- The Death Penalty