Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Fancy Expression

The expression, "caught my fancy," has recently caught my fancy. What is the origin of this expression, and how come I am having difficulty finding more information on it? I searched Google, and I was unable to come up with anything useful.

Anyone know for sure or care to make an educated guess?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

eBay And The 6-Card Game

Well, I'm still recovering from the Portal Player (PLAY) disaster. Yes, it was a disaster. Anyway, I jumped into some EBAY today at 34.20. It's a smaller trading position... time to take smaller positions as I continue to heal. At the current price, the stock looks attractive.

Back to what's important. Ha ha.

Someone pointed out that it might be a lot easier to look at the game as an acyclic directed graph instead of as an exhaustive game tree. This will certainly reduce the number of nodes, but it might make other computations I'm interested in more difficult. The exhaustive game tree shows all possible games, which allows for repeat game states. These repeat game states are redundant and entire subtrees are duplicated. Anyway, that's all for now.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Games For Analysis

So, I'm kind of obsessed with this 6-Value strategy game.

Here are a few games I played tonight... anyone want to help me take a look at these games? In particular, I'm interested in knowing the following:

1) In which round was the game ultimately decided?
2) Were there any mistakes in the games, or was the decision purely based on a "guess" scenario?
3) Did any players miss a forced victory by misplaying?

Here are the games... 3 wins, 2 losses. Scores after each round on the right with Final Scores in bold.

 Pot Opp. Me Me Opp. 4 4 5 13 0 6 3 3 13 0 3 6 1 13 22 1 5 2 13 30 5 2 6 26 30 2 1 4 33 30 5 3 3 0 0 2 6 2 0 21 4 2 5 11 21 1 1 4 17 21 3 5 1 17 30 6 4 6 33 30 2 6 1 0 9 4 5 4 0 22 3 3 2 0 30 6 1 6 13 30 5 2 5 25 30 1 4 3 25 38 5 6 4 0 15 4 4 3 0 26 6 5 5 0 26 1 1 6 24 26 3 3 1 24 33 2 2 2 24 33 2 5 1 0 8 3 6 5 0 22 6 3 6 15 22 4 4 4 15 22 5 1 3 36 22 1 2 2 36 22

Deceptively Simple Strategy Game

I've recently become interested in this simple strategy game... I'll lay out the rules and also provide an example of a complete game.

The Rules
2 Players (A and B) are each given 6 cards labeled 1 through 6. The Pot is also given 6 cards labeled 1 through 6.

The game consists of 6 rounds. In each round one of the Pot's cards is randomly selected, and its value is shown to both players. Players A and B now have to decide what they want to bid for the card. So, each player selects a card from his own stack to play. And, both cards are revealed simultaneously. The player that played the higher card wins all 3 cards.

Once a card has been played, it cannot be played again.

If there is a tie, then all the cards remain in the pot. The winner of the next round will then claim all the cards in the pot. If the 6th and final round results in a tie, then no one wins the cards in the pot, and the game ends.

The winner is the player who has accumulated more points (sum of all values of the cards won). In this game, there are 63 points up for grabs (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6) * 3. So, you automatically win if you get 32 or more points. However, you can also win a game with fewer points due to ties.

Below is an example of a complete game. Note that after Round 4, Player A cannot lose if he plays it correctly. The carryover results in a pot with 15 points for Round 5. Player A has the all-powerful 6, and is guaranteed to win at least 22 points in that round. And, since Player A has 13 at that point, a win is guaranteed.

Anyway, I'm looking for more insight and thoughts on this game and how to play this more correctly. A lossless strategy does not exist, but I do believe that a computer playing perfect against a typical human would hold a large edge.

Example Game:

Round 1
Inventory
P: 1 2 3 4 5 6
A: 1 2 3 4 5 6
B: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Total Up For Grabs: 63

Pot randomly plays: 5
A / B simultaneously play: 5 / 3
Result - A (5 5 3 = 13), B (0)

Round 2
Inventory
P: 1 2 3 4 6
A: 1 2 3 4 6
B: 1 2 4 5 6
Total Up For Grabs: 50

Pot randomly plays: 1
A / B simultaneously play: 1 / 2
Result - A (5 5 3 = 13), B (2 1 1 = 4)

Round 3
Inventory
P: 2 3 4 6
A: 2 3 4 6
B: 1 4 5 6
Total Up For Grabs: 46

Pot randomly plays: 6
A / B simultaneously play: 2 / 6
Result - A (5 5 3 = 13), B (2 1 1 6 6 2 = 18)

Round 4
Inventory
P: 2 3 4
A: 3 4 6
B: 1 4 5
Total Up For Grabs: 32

Pot randomly plays: 4
A / B simultaneously play: 4 / 4
Result - A (5 5 3 = 13), B (2 1 1 6 6 2 = 18)

Round 5
Inventory
P: 2 3
A: 3 6
B: 1 5
Total Up For Grabs: 20

Pot randomly plays: 3 (4 4 4 roll over due to tie in previous round) = 15
A / B simultaneously play: 6 / 1
Result - A (5 5 3 3 4 4 4 6 1 = 35), B (2 1 1 6 6 2 = 18)

Round 6
Inventory
P: 2
A: 3
B: 5
Total Up For Grabs: 10

Pot randomly plays: 2
A / B simultaneously play: 3 / 5
Result - A (5 5 3 3 4 4 4 6 1 = 35), B (2 1 1 6 6 2 2 3 5 = 28)

Final Result: A beats B with a score of 35 - 28.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Dark Side of Oz

I'm sure everyone's heard about how Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon can be synchronized with The Wizard of Oz movie. But, most have never actually tried it out. I know I haven't.

Dark Side of the Rainbow.

I haven't watched the whole thing, but I did skip around a bit. Some parts seem to really work well. It was harder to see the fit in other parts.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I Got Played

Biggest trading mistake in quite some time. I dumped Portal Player (PLAY) in the pre-market at the high 13's for my largest loss since an ill-timed Juniper Networks (JNPR) short sale. The shorts were right on PLAY, and I got played. I am a fool. Simple as that. They lost the iPod business for the most part, which was the bulk of their revenue. As much as it sucks, at least I can laugh about it... no ulcers here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I'm Clueless

So, I was catching up on reading Slashdot via Bloglines, and I was shown some graphical exception error. Pretty funny... I'm glad I have a screen shot to show it to all of you.

Click the image to see the exception.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Quick Update

Sold Finish Line (FINL) from the Long-Term Portfolio... I guess it wasn't meant to be. Not so long-term a holding after all.

Student Loan Corporation had a disappointing earnings release this morning, and that was good for a nice 10% haircut. That stung me a bit.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Xbox 360

First, let me say that I'm really not a gamer. The last system I really played with was a Super Nintendo. Back when I used to play console games, I did have a lot of fun.

Anyway, it's about time I upgraded. I've been looking to buy a newest generation system for a while now, and everyone kept telling me to hold off for the Playstation 3 which was slated for this spring. Well, they delayed the release until late this year or early next year. After hearing that, I decided I was not interested in waiting any more. So, I've been looking at the Xbox 360, and I finally ordered one today.

I couldn't just order the system since all these vendors are selling them in bundles only.

Xbox 360 Platinum System \$400
Xbox 360 Wireless Controller \$50
Project Gotham Racing 3 (Xbox 360) \$49
Fable (Xbox) - Bonus Game \$0
Xbox 360 Play and Charge Kit \$20

Shipping: \$0 (Yay!)
Taxes: \$43 (Boo!)

Grand Total: \$562

I don't think I got ripped off, and if I did, oh well. A console gaming system is the type of purchase that I'll be making about once every decade... if that. Anyway, I'm excited.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Grub of Count Dracula

I just woke up from a rather deep food coma.

Earlier tonight, we decided to try something different. So, we headed out to Los Gatos, where those with money reside and those without dine. We'd passed by this small little Romanian restaurant numerous times in the past, but we never had a chance to try it. That is, until tonight.

We walked into the Transilvania Restaurant, and we were greeted and seated promptly. The place is small, quiet, and definitely qualifies as romantic. While I'm familiar with some traditional European dishes, I had never had many of their offerings.

I decided on the Sarmale, which was a dish consisting of cabbage-wrapped meat. It also came with a side of polenta. Man, it was certainly tasty. It was very much homestyle cooking, but it was really good. The food did not come fancied up in any way, but it tasted great.

She had some homemade chicken soup and the Mititei, which is a traditional sausage dish served with mustard. Her meal came with some ordinary french fries on the side, but that didn't really take away from the food. The sausages were really good, but I think I liked my dish a bit more. Come to think of it, it could go either way depending on my mood.

We got a few samples of various red wines from Romania, and I ended up really liking one of them. So, I got myself a glass. I usually don't have wine with my meals... wine is really not my thing. Since she much prefers the drier wines, she went with a glass of some Romanian Pinot Noir.

Anyway, in summary, if you're ever in the area and want to try some Romanian food. Give Transilvania Restaurant a try. Maybe you'll enjoy it as much as we did.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Quick Update

Well, I've been playing around with the Ipod Nano... got it today as specified by the rescheduled delivery date. That thing is tiny. It's pretty sweet. Not sure if I'll start listening to music at work or not. I guess we'll see.

Anyway, onto the important stuff...

Sold off the rest of the Form Factor (FORM) in the 40-40.50 range. Also, increased the Portal Player (PLAY) position substantially -- added shares at 21.18.

Next week is going to be an important week for me and the trading port. First, Apple (AAPL) reports its earnings. This should affect both AAPL and PLAY and will play a role in the options I've written for Apple. Also, SanDisk (SNDK) reports earnings -- barring a disasterous quarter, looks like I'm going to lock in maximum profit on the buy-write strategy.

After next week, I'm going to have a lot of dry powder... not sure where to make a move next.

And, P.S. Pyramid Hefeweizen beer is relatively inexpensive and excellent. I encourage you all to try some.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nano Nano

It's so close to being in my hands... So, a little over a week ago I ordered my Nano from PokerStars. I was expecting it yesterday, but I didn't receive it. So, I checked on it, and apparently the delivery has been re-scheduled.

Status: In Transit - Rescheduled
Rescheduled Delivery: 04/13/2006

At this point I'm rated as a Gold player on the site, so I get double the points. 10000 points a month is pretty easily doable playing at this doubled rate. Not sure exactly what I'll try to get next, but the VIP store definitely gets my support.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sizzler, Anyone?

A couple weeks ago I ate at Sizzler... yes, the one that never did serve good food and eventually went bankrupt, but somehow managed to emerge from its ashes. It was such a weird experience too. Sizzler's not a sitdown place anymore. You order your food from a menu posted on the wall and they bring it to your table. Maybe it had never been one, but I always remembered it being a standard sitdown place.

The weirdest part of the Sizzler experience was that right at the register was a vat of beer on ice. And, it wasn't just normal sized beer for your everyday dinner... we're talking about 22oz Coronas.

Anyway, I had a cajun chicken sandwich, which wasn't all that bad. I won't be going back to Sizzler again, but it certainly was a strange experience, even though it was nothing like I had ever remembered (or imagined) it to be.

I'm bored, and I thought I'd share my recent dinner at Sizzler.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Quick Update

Sold 20% of the Form Factor (FORM) position at 41.26 today.

Picked up some Portal Player (PLAY) at 22 even. Not sure what to do with it at this point, but it's worth more than this.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hey Jude

St. Jude Medical (STJ) warned last night that it would not be able to achieve its quarterly sales numbers. Implantable defibrillator sales have slowed remarkably, and so the numbers suffer. The company is blaming industry turbulence resulting from the recent acquisition of Guidant.

The news has sent STJ tumbling. It currently trades at \$36, down 13%. And, it is now a loser for me with a cost basis in the 38.50s.

In other news...

Shinhan Financial Group (SHG) has really taken off without me. Now, I can do nothing but wait. I expressed my intent to purchase here. The stock is now trading up almost 15% since. Must not chase. Must not chase. Must not chase. In any case, I'm reminded daily of the train I missed. Maybe it will come back for me.

Time to take the sad song... and make it better.

Apple (AAPL) has unleashed new software to run Windows XP. At this very moment, that news is good for a 7.5% move to the upside.

SanDisk (SNDK) is trying to break \$60. At this point I'm 'maxed out' since this was a buy-write position. The current basis on the shares is 53.27 (55.72 stock - 2.45 call options). Once SNDK is at 57.50 or above, no additional profits can be made. If it moves considerably higher, then I might buy the April 57.50 put contracts on the cheap to lock in sizeable gains. We're definitely not in the clear yet as SanDisk announces their earnings the week of options expiry.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The shorts were really wrong on this one. Tom Brown of BankStocks.com was not.

Bank of America's contract with First Marblehead (FMD) was set to expire in May. And, the FMD bears must have figured there was serious risk to an extension, since they did not cover their shares. In fact, short interest in FMD increased going from February to March.

And, now the news is in.

From this afternoon's press release:

The First Marblehead Corporation announced today that it has signed an agreement with Bank of America to provide certain Direct-to-Consumer private student loan services through May 31, 2008, provided that either party may terminate this agreement on or after June 1, 2007 upon 90 days notice.

FMD currently trading up 8.3% afterhours at \$48. This, after ticking up 2.2% during the normal trading session. FMD, Go Go Go!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Quick Update

Sold Suntech Power Holdings (STP) at 36.33.

*Edit: Sold Apple (AAPL) April 67.50 Call options (QAADU) at 1.30. Also, looks like Shinhan Financial Group (SHG) is running away. I'm not going to chase. I was looking for an entry, and it did not materialize. It remains on my watch.

*Edit 2: Executed a buy-write on SanDisk (SNDK). Buy shares at 55.72. Sell April 57.50 Call options (SWFDY) at 2.45. Goldman downgrade today based on pricing pressure is what is causing most of today's selling.