Vanity plates

I’ve been spending a good chunk of time commuting to and from work. Most of it being stuck in traffic on I-290. It can be a miserable experience, but listening to the radio helps. I also like looking around and spotting different license plates. Apparently custom plates are quite popular in Illinois.

Here we have a character from one of my favorite silent movies. I spotted him on two different occasions. Oh, and the driver looks actually Indian!

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Below is what must be President Obama visiting his home City of Chicago in his presidential Ford Taurus. Or perhaps this is his wife’s car?

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I decided to get a vanity plate of my own. It was actually quite easy: few clicks on a website and viola. The plate was on its way. It did take more than a month (just shy of 30 business days), but I finally got it today. Behold:

LOL HA HA - my new vanity plate :-)

I really hope it will help me get out of speeding and parking tickets… or, at the very least, bring a smile to my fellow I-290 commuters :-)

Seven Deadly Sins

I was getting my morning coffee ready, and I accidentally knocked over a wine bottle. Luckily no spillage or broken glass, but it made me glance at the wine label. The Seven Deadly Zins.

Seven Deadly Zins

Seven Deadly Zins

This brought back memories from my preparation to the First Communion in Poland. I believe I was in 3rd or 4th grade at the time. I remember we had to cram a lot, and we needed to be able to recite the whole catechism from memory. It was a complete brain wash!

As I was drinking my coffee, I asked myself a question: Did the Catholic Church succeed in their indoctrination? Can I really recall the the Seven Deadly Sins on the whim? Sure enough! I was easily able to recite:

  1. Pycha – pride (lat. superbia)
  2. Chciwość – greed (lat. avaritia)
  3. Nieczystość – lust (lat. luxuria)
  4. Zazdrość – envy (lat. invidia)
  5. Nieumiarkowanie w jedzeniu i piciu – gluttony (lat. gula)
  6. Gniew – wrath (lat. ira)
  7. Lenistowo – sloth (lat. acedia)

It’s amazing how much our minds are absorbent while we are little. They can really be shaped and molded. This is exactly how regimes and religions are able to control their populations. So be mindful of what your children are exposed to, as they will likely remember this for a long time.

As for my kids, I just want them to have a happy childhood as I did (sans the brainwashing, naturally) and grow up to be decent people :-)

Six months at Thomson Reuters

It’s unbelievable how fast the time goes by. It was only in January that I started my new role of Lead Software Engineer at Thomson Reuters, and here we are six months later. Lots of things have happened during those two quarters, and I feel I really grew a lot professionally. I am part of a new team charged with revitalization of TR’s data feed architecture. I live and breathe C++14 and low-latency is my middle name 😉Thomson ReutersThomson Reuters is a much different place than any of my previous gigs. It’s a large, mature company with thousands of well-known clients. Oftentimes I need to interface with our developers in St Louis, Beijing and Hong Kong, sometimes at ungodly times of the day. Good organization is key. Our code is also well designed. I must admit this is the first time that I was forced to write extensive unit tests. It took some time to get used to, but now I really appreciate them. It’s much quicker to find obvious behavior bugs accidentally introduced by code changes. I cannot believe I’ve gone so many years without proper unit test coverage.

Despite Reuters’ size, I feel like I have a lot of power to innovate on my and cross teams. This was something I feared I’d lose in a large firm, but thankfully I was proven wrong. There is plenty of autonomy.

And finally – the people. I am lucky to be surrounded by lots of smart, kind people who are a pleasure to work and hang out with. I’m learning tons of new stuff, which is a definite plus. Let’s keep this thing going! :-)

TT Platform finally out!

So it finally happened! After all these years of hard work designing, implementing, and unnecessary re-writes (thanks Rick), the TT Platform is finally a go. This is very exciting! Now anybody can sign up and try out my TT Mobile client and enjoy the cloud trading experience. Great job team!

Take a look at the official announcement page.

While I wasn’t able to find a link for the TT SDK download, I am certain that it will become available soon. I had a lot of fun working on the Algo Team, especially on TT SDK. It is the foundation of everything algo-related, including ADL. My friends who left TT are joking we should start offering TT SDK consulting services, since we are the ones who created it. That is actually not a far-fetched idea. Stay tuned 😉

Railfanning Chicago

Siemens ACS-64 with Sears Tower in the background

My kids love trains and I must admit I’m a fan as well. On weekends I always try to take them to the train yard. We sit in the car and wait for the trains and locomotives to go by. It’s the main Amtrak train yard, so there are plenty of Amtrak cars and engines – long haul GE Geneses, and many shunting locomotives. Every once in a while we see coaches all the way from California, or some vintage carriages.

In the summer the boys were ecstatic because we spotted a locomotive that endured a collision. From what I could find, a truck carrying oil field pipe ran into the eastbound Empire Builder in early December, 2013 at a rural grade crossing near Motley, Minnesota, and took out locomotive #90. It was sitting on a siding for several months, awaiting repair. Kids were disappointed when it finally disappeared.

Locomotive after head-on collisionAmtrak locomotive after head-on collision, patiently awaiting repair.

Amtrak engine #90 after head-on collision, patiently awaiting repair.

This past weekend was a very exciting day. Adrian noticed a brand new, electric Amtrak locomotive being push around the yard. It was quite a surprise, considering the fact Amtrak mid-western lines are not electrified. Something didn’t quite add up. Adrian right away recognized it as Siemens ACS-64. He’s very familiar with it, since I bought him a wooden version for the National Train Day. We watched the locomotive roll right by us. Indeed it was Amtrak Cities Sprinter (ACS-64) manufactured by Siemens. I did some quick googling to discover that they get assembled in Sacramento, California and Chicago is one of the stops on their way to the East Coast. The locomotives hitch a ride on the California Zephyr to Chicago and then on the Capitol Limited from Chicago to the Wilmington, DE. ACS-64 is slowly going to replace the toasters that currently serve the electrified lines of the eastern corridor.

Needless to say, we were quite lucky that day :)

ACS-64 rolling through Chicago Amtrak train yard

ACS-64 rolling through Chicago Amtrak train yard


ACS-64 coupled to P42DC

ACS-64 being coupled to P42DC


ACS-64 with clean breakes

Siemens ACS-64 with clean brakes


Siemens ACS-64

Siemens ACS-64


Siemens ACS-64 with Sears Tower in the background

Amtrak #635 with Sears Tower in the background

TT Mobile showcase

My friends at TT are really busy trying to get the mobile clients out the door and into production. TT’s twitter account is buzzing with all kinds of photos and videos. I am really happy and proud of how far my apps have come. The end result is looking beautiful and I am sure the end-users will be delighted by both the design and functionality.

I really enjoyed working on TT Mobile, as it presented a very unique set of challenges. How to effectively push price updates over potentially slow cellular connections? How to ensure users don’t accidentally place trades (butt trading anyone)? And how to effectively integrate with the rest of TT’s eco-system? I think the team did a splendid job and the apps are rock solid. One disappointing fact is that both Android and iOS apps could have been released over a year ago, had we chosen to re-use logic. There are ways to write the code once, and use it verbatim on multiple mobile platforms (naturally the look-and-feel needs to be done separately, so that the app feels “native”). I have long argued with the executives and advocated for shared business logic, since it seemed like a no-brainer.

  • Shorter time-to-market. In today’s fast-moving world it’s imperative to be there first.
  • Lower cost of development.
  • Less bugs.
  • Parallel releases on multiple platforms.
  • Lower long-term maintenance costs.
  • Less testing effort.

Other companies are not as short-sighted and have long recognized the benefits of writing the common logic once, instead of re-implementing it for every platform. Xamarin has their cross-platform C#. Google is pushing Java with its ability to share code between Android, iOS and the web. Dropbox uses C++ for shared logic. RemObjects has their cross-platform Swift. Not to mention frameworks like Flash and Cordova. I still cannot believe that the decision makers would rather have us maintain two separate codebases, but I guess you need to be good at engineering to comprehend the benefits.   

On a positive note, I am extremely pleased with the aesthetics of TT Mobile apps; graphical design and usability are essential. Nobody wants to use an app that looks “f-ugly” or that feels cumbersome. Folks at TT spent countless hours doing usability studies and polishing the design. Trust me – a lot of love went into making of these apps. They look awesome, they are snappy and I really hope you’ll enjoy them :)

Sound Racer

In January I started my new job with Thomson Reuters. It’s in Oakbrook, so my commute is completely different than what I was used to. No more walking, no more Metra. Now it’s all about Chicago traffic.

I was a little bit nervous whether I would be able to handle it or not. This is why I decided to treat myself to a funky gadget. I purchased a Bluetooth-enabled OBD II scanner, and promptly paired it with the SoundRacer app on my Android phone. The results can be seen (and heard) in the video below:

It’s really tons of fun! The SoundRacer app reads the RPMs from the OBD II scanner, generates race car engine sounds to match, and plays them through the car speakers. It really makes you want to rev the engine! Probably not a good thing if you want to avoid speeding tickets :)

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that it’s not feasible to have it on all the time. I just want to fly, but sometimes traffic just forces me to idle. Now I’ve switched and enjoy listening to NPR and get a much needed break from electronics. It’s very refreshing :)

To my friends at TT

Hi Everyone,

I would like to thank each and every one of you, who have been calling TT a second home for all these years. We share many great memories: our outings, team lunches, water cooler talks, as well as simple, honest, everyday work. You guys have touched my life, and I will cherish these moments forever.

The greatest asset of TT has always been its people, and I have been very fortunate to have worked and learned from you. You are the reason this company is the powerhouse it is today. I am proud of our accomplishments.

While I’m moving on to the next great thing, this is a small world and I hope our paths will cross again. I’m looking forward to staying in touch. My personal e-mail is Let’s also connect on LinkedIn.
I wish you best of luck in your future endeavors.


Filip Frącz

TT Mobile available in Google Play

TT Mobile is now available for everyone to download from Google Play. It looks awesome! Great job, team! This version also added support for trading strategies written in TT SDK running on my AlgoSE server. Below is a screenshot showing child orders of SSE’s Time Sliced order. TT’s next generation Synthetic Strategy Engine (SSE) runs on top of TT SDK and AlgoSE server. SSE strategies are written by my good friend William Baker.

Download TT Mobile today! :-)


TT Mobile

TT Mobile now in Google Play store


FICO Score 9: The New FICO

Recently, in no small part because of the National Association of REALTORS® and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, FICO announced big changes to their credit scoring model. While it remains to be seen how much of a quantitative impact the new FICO 9 formula will have, many segments of the population could see increased scores. Those who stand to benefit the most include people with medical collection accounts, repaid collections and young people with “thin files.”

The Federal Reserve Board reports that over 50 percent of all bad debt collections on credit reports are connected with medical bills. Troublingly, a high frequency of medical collection occurs via poor communication between the patient and the hospital or the patient and their insurance company. The reporting of erroneous medical debt was one of the bigger driving forces behind the coming Sept. 1 implementation of FICO 9. Under the new scoring model, the impact of overdue medical bills will be largely negated as medical debt will be differentiated from non medical debt. For borrowers with unpaid medical collections, it is anticipated that scores could jump as much as 25 points per account.

Borrowers with multiple accounts in collection stand to be big benefactors as well. Scores will no longer be penalized for previous collection agency charges once they have been repaid or settled. FICO 9 will ignore all old debts that have zero dollar balances. Those with more than one account in collection could see their scores increase as much as 50 to 75 points.

Young people aged 19 to 29 have had an uphill challenge post 2008 when it comes to opening credit lines. Enormous student loans, an aversion to credit cards, and limited credit histories have compromised many younger Americans’ ability to build their own credit. The new formula takes a more lax approach when assessing those with smaller credit histories, making loans more accessible for Millennials.

Experian, after conducting its own study on FICO 9, concluded that 59 percent of renters’ scores will increase.

While the effect of FICO 9 may not be known for some time, the new formula, especially as it pertains to medical debts, is at minimum, a small victory for consumers. Hopefully, by establishing a tangible way for borrowers to improve their scores, new incentive will be established for many to work with collection agencies in an effort to settle or pay off previous obligations.

This doesn’t mean we are returning to the pre 2008 economic climate, but it’s something.

-Noah Perkins

Noah is an alumnus of UMASS, currently making his home in San Diego. Originally from Boston, he now works as the CMS for VA Home Loan Centers, a VA sponsored lender helping veterans and active duty personnel in their search for affordable housing. To learn more about VA mortgages, visit;



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