Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bloody Tuesday

Blood all over... the market dropped precipitously today. Market breadth numbers indicate that the negativity was pretty widespread. Advancers outpaced decliners by more than a 3 to 1 margin. On a volume basis, it was closer to 4 to 1. All sectors were down over a percent today.

Several things really hurt us: Wal-mart, Energy Prices, continued weakness in the dollar, and a large drop in Consumer Confidence.

Am I sickened? Yes. Am I panicking? Not yet.

All large bullish moves in the market will be met with the occasional pullback or correction. This recent correction has been a big one... the Nasdaq is off roughly 9% since we peaked in mid-April. Time to keep your eyes open for some bargain-hunting.

On my 'potential buy list' are:

Movado (MOV) - Sub-$18
Deb Shops (DEBS) - Sub-$28
Shinhan Financial - $80-83
Value Line (VALU) - $40
Moody's (MCO) - $50-52 (it's pretty much there, so I might start nibbling soon)

That's all for now.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Recent SoCal Trip

Well, it's been about a week since I took off for a short trip to SoCal. The trip worked out great... I managed to kill about 5 birds with 1 stone. The biggest bird that needed to be taken out (and the main reason for trip) was to attend PetDander's wedding reception.

The other smaller birds were (in chronological order):

1) Do some drinking with Chococat, since I had won a bottle of GlenLivet from her on a bet.

2) Check out Spud's new house... I know he's been dying to show it off for some time, but I just never got a chance to visit. It's a really nice place with an amazing view, by the way.

3) Talk with a few people about a potential opportunity down there.

4) Celebrate my sister's birthday with her and her husband.

Anyway, that's the executive summary. Let the details begin...

Let me start off with a funny knitted gift. Some say it's a dual socking for keeping coins and other goodies, and others say it's... well, I'll just post up pictures of it from two different views.

A Dual Pouch Coin Purse or...

is it something more depraved? You be the judge.

So, back to the story... Wednesday, Chococat and I had a nice dinner over at Il Fornaio in Pasadena. The food was pretty good, but some of the shellfish could have been a bit fresher. It definitely wasn't bad at all, but I think she had the tastier dish. But, the sad truth is, it really doesn't matter too much (we'll get to that in a moment).

After dinner, we're back at her place and we play Scrabble and started having some of that good scotch. Well, let's just say that the two of us (with a tiny bit of help from her roommate) finished off the entire bottle. Talk about overindulging. I lost twice that night... the first loss was by a few points with a nice 8-letter bingo, DEVALUED. My bingo, POOLING, wasn't quite as impressive. The second loss involved seafood pasta, my esophagus, and about four thousand "I'm soooooo sorries."

Well, since she's such an amazingly kind person, I was not thrown out. I crashed there, and the next day we drove around a little bit in her hot car (a Lotus Elise), had some really tasty dumplings, and also some drinks at the local coffee shop. We had plenty of good conversation, and it was really an pleasant day. Oh, and one thing that really threw me off was when I saw some random guy taking a ton of pictures of her car... that was just really funny to me, but I guess that comes with the exotic car territory. After heading back to her place and a quick nap, I had to bid her farewell, as I had to pick up the girlfriend from LAX and then head down to see Spud in Laguna Niguel.

The house was nice... real nice. It's not like it's large or anything, it's just a really nice place. The neighborhood is certainly upscale, and I already mentioned the view. It's wonderful. So, anyway, Spud and Mrs. Spud hooked it up with some giant burgers, which were damn tasty. I don't know how they'd compare with a Big Kahuna burger, but it sure was a damn fine burger.

The next day, I went and talked to a few people about opportunities, and that all went well. Following this, the g/f and I ate over in Dana Point at an overpriced and not-so-good restaurant. We were not impressed, and the weather was gray, which really killed the one redeeming thing about the place... that is, the view.

Ok, so that night Spud, g/f, and I head up to Los Angeles to celebrate my sister's birthday at Luna Park. The place was packed, and the food was very good. I ordered the braised beef cheeks, and it was excellent, along with a couple of Stellas. I hear that they are known for their Mojitos, but I decided to just stick with the beer. It looked like everyone had a nice time there.

Later that night, we hit up a Soju bar called The Blink in Korea Town. I'd never really had Soju before. Not sure if the Korean experience is any different than the Japanese one, but it was fun. I definitely had a good time there. One funny thing about that place was that they have a 'look the other way' attitude about smoking indoors. And, instead of ash trays, they bring you a block of ice on a napkin instead. One funny exchange that evening went like this...

Spud: What's that?
Waitress: It's an ashtray.
Spud: It looks like an ice cube. What is this? A cheap illusion?

As the night went on, Spud got pretty drunk. A few times he was getting borderline out of line with his dry and often times politically incorrect humor. Luckily, we left before he got too surly.

The next day, I went to PetDander's reception with the g/f over at the Sea Empress Restaurant in Gardena. The reception was a good size... I'd say it was roughly 160 people. Both the bride and groom looked great, and the food was pretty good. I wasn't too fond of their their scallop dish and I felt that their Honey Walnut Shrimp dish was extremely bland. But, the rest of the dishes were really tasty... especially the fresh rock cod and the lobster. It was nice meeting up with my friends and also a few people I hadn't seen since my college days.

They had a nice Vietnamese band playing throughout the night, and I really thought they were great. There was a nice balance between the live entertainment and the more serious wedding type stuff. I thought everything worked out well, except that there was some odd mix-up where they kept trying to force me to new tables. But, in the end, it all worked out just fine with our table being overbooked with 12 instead of 10 seats.

Following the reception, some random drunk old guy backs his car into one of our friend's cars. He did not stop or get out... he just figured that a hit-and-run was the best play. Too bad for all of us, no one took a picture of his plates. Everyone was just shocked having witnessed a gross amount of stupidity.

After that commotion, we went to some dive bar down in Anaheim where we drank a bit. The Marquis, Enzo, the Barber, Gamer(o), and Domino were all there, and it was a fun time. We were mostly out of place with our post-wedding reception attire, but it was fine. I even got hit on by a 40+ lady... cuff links must be some sort of old person magnet.

That's pretty much how the trip ended. The next day (Sunday), we were on a plane back home. If you read this far... wow, I'm impressed.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Quick Update

I'll be posting soon about my recent trip to SoCal, but for now let's talk about the market.

The market has been taking a pounding... a serious pounding. Is this merely a correction? I personally think so. And, so I added Form Factor (FORM) today to my long-term portfolio at a price of 36.80.

Has this recent slump been painful? You betcha... I've lost plenty along with other equity investors in the last three weeks. But, I should be able to weather this storm. The longer-term earnings outlook is looking fine.

The international markets have gotten hit a lot harder than us. It's understandable given their extremely heated pace in the recent years. Just the other day the Indian and Russian markets fell roughly 10% in a single day. How sick would it be to wake up and see the Dow down 1000 or the Nasdaq off a solid 220. Just in case it's not obvious, it'd be pretty sick.

That's all for now.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Simple, Yet Annoying Coding Problem

Here's a simple coding problem. What I'm looking for is a simple and efficient solution that does not require any loops. My current solution is pretty efficient, but I think there are probably better solutions, so I will pose the problem here.

IP Addresses are of the form: A.B.C.D where A, B, C, D range from 0 to 255. A computer stores an IP Address as a single value. So, an IP of = 0, an IP of = 256, and an IP of = 517. An IP is simply a base-256 number.

So, say you were given an X and a Y (Y >= X). How many IPs are contained in the range INCLUSIVE that do not end with a 0 or a 255?

Here are some sample Inputs and Outputs (X,Y) --> Total.

(0, 256) --> 254
(250, 255) --> 5
(500, 1000) --> 497
(123, 99999) --> 99097

Anyone have a clever, efficient, coding solution? I'll post mine up in a few days.

*** Edit ***

I now have a solution without any conditionals. So it is a straight formula with the terms X and Y. The formula is pretty ugly, but at least it's a straight (and fast) computation.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Will the world approach that depicted by the 1995 movie, Waterworld? Just in case, I bought some deeper-in-the-money call options on the PowerShares Water Resources ETF (PHO). This ETF tracks the Pallisades Water Index.

Picked up September $16 calls for $2.95. The plan is to hold them until near expiration, and roll it into new calls then. If they expire worthless, then at most I'm out about 3 a share.

Hopefully, PHO won't fare as poorly as the movie.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Friendship and Regression Toward The Mean

So, recently I had some conversations with several people regarding where most people stood in their circle of friends. It became somewhat clear that for the most part, people tend to be pretty average compared to their friends. The conversations I had mostly had to do with wealth and power, but it could also be expanded to include intelligence or beauty.

There's a lot of truth to the maxims, Hot begets hot. or Money begets money.

It is fairly uncommon to be at the high end of your group of friends, and it is just as uncommon to be one of the have-nots in your own circle. Over time, you gain some friends and lose others. For the most part, you are more likely to shed those friends who are further from the mean.

Sometimes, it is only natural that your interests change as your status does. If you were to suddenly strike it rich, you might be more inclined to pick up sailing or start a fine wine collection. If you were to suddenly find yourself to be more physically attractive... say, you got a nose job, lost some weight, or perhaps underwent breast augmentation surgery, you might be more interested in being fashionable and more social. These changes in your interests will undoubtedly alter your circle of friends, resulting in both gains and losses. After all, you only have so much time.

But, maybe the alteration of your group of friends is not as natural as it seems. The bigger question, however, has to do with causality. I know that it's not purely black or white... but, let's talk about which of these holds more weight in explaining why most people tend to be fairly average in their circles.

a) You tend to be the average of your friends, because there is simply more overlap in interests.

b) You tend to be the average of your friends, because you are more likely to strive to be better if most of your friends are heads and shoulders above you and more likely to be content with your status if you are at the top of the pecking order within your circle. Ultimately, this leads to a stoppage in your growth, and you become quite average.

I do think it's a combination of both, but I think that if I had to choose, I think that the second reason wins out. There are so many things that you never even knew existed, yet after spending enough time with a certain echelon of society, you find yourself interested in these very things that you had no knowledge of beforehand.

As I reflect on my own past, I know that over time my group of friends has shifted... very much in line with my own growth. Frankly, I think it sucks that life works out this way, but it really is the way it works. Over time, you can't hang with the extremes of your group so much (maybe you can't afford it any more, or you just don't fit in any more), and so the extremes get trimmed. Those that were in your group that moved up above and beyond your upper bound tend to disappear from your life, and those that either moved down or from whom you moved above and away from also tend to disappear.

I know I've rambling, but I had several conversations about this, and I think it's an interesting topic. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Taco Bravo

So, last night I did nothing but play a ton of X360 and clean up my place, since my girlfriend had a night out with her co-workers... well, I suppose they are ex-coworkers as Friday was her last day. She starts at a new company next Monday. Anyway, my room is not that big of a mess any more.

The highlight of my evening was the Super Nachos I had from Taco Bravo. What a big mess of a meal. Here's a pic I took. It was pretty damn large, and I can't hang at all any more when it comes to eating large amounts. I gave up after I took down about 80% of it. It was heavy... lots of beans, cheese, and ground beef. Since the pic is a top view, it really doesn't do this thing justice. And, at 4 bucks, it's a lot of food. Yay for Taco Bravo!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Kodak and the Guess Who? Game

Kodak announced yet another loss this morning. Boo on that. Looks like I'm a sucker and a believer, but I still continue to believe. Bill Miller's large stake also provides me with another vote of confidence, I'll be sticking around I guess.

Now, onto the game. I was playing on: Guess the Dictator or Sitcom Character

I've got a thing for those stupid tree search guessing games... anyway, here are two sitcom characters. See if you can figure them out.

Character #1 -- Took 19 questions.

1) Are you female? No.
2) Are you often seen dating different women? No.
3) Do you have trouble performing everyday tasks? No.
4) Do you put down rebellions? No.
5) Do you often dispense advice? Yes.
6) Do you work with animals? No.
7) Are you a middle age white guy? Yes.
8) Are you the owner of a company? No.
9) Are you tall? No.
10) Do you have 3 children? No.
11) Are you a television writer? No.
12) Are you heavy? Yes.
13) Are you a butler? No.
14) Do you work in a department store? No.
15) Do you deliver mail? No.
16) Does your son-in-law live with you? Yes.
17) Are you liked by all? No.
18) Do you like cigars? Yes.
19) Do you live in New York City? Yes.

Character #2 -- Took 53 questions.

1) Are you female? No.
2) Are you often seen dating different women? Yes.
3) Are you a salesman? No.
4) Do you live in New York? Yes.
5) Are you rich? No.
6) Are you funny? Yes.
7) Are you balding? No.
8) Do you live in the same building with a mailman? No.
9) Are you a lawyer? No.
10) Do you work at a museum? No.
11) Are you an actor? No.
12) Were you once married to a supermodel? No.
13) Are you the deputy mayor of New York? No.
14) Do you work for an advertising agency? No.
15) Do you work on TV? No.
16) Have you ever been on a sports team? No.
17) Were/Are you a professor? No.
18) Do you drive for a living? No.
19) Are you a comedian? No.
20) Did your parents abandon you? No.
21) Are you british? No.
22) Do you live with your cousin? No.
23) Are you a Doctor? No.
24) Do you work in a bar? No.
25) Do you have a mustache? No.
26) Are you a mailman? No.
27) Are you constantly making crude sexual remarks? No.
28) Are you a writer? No.
29) Do you work as a policeman? No.
30) Is your boss black? No.
31) Do you own any birds? No.
32) Are you an auto mechanic? No.
33) Do you work at night? No.
34) Are you a photographer? No.
35) Do you have any children? No.
36) Did you grow up in the 60s? No.
37) Do you have curly hair? Yes.
38) Do you dress as a woman? No.
39) Are you a handyman? No.
40) Do you work in a news stand? No.
41) Do you work as an RA? No.
42) Are you a fact checker? No.
43) Are you a dentist in Chicago? No.
44) Are you a restaurant owner? No.
45) Are you black? Yes.
46) Are you friends with Holly? No.
47) Is your best friend white? No.
48) Are you friends with Theo? No.
49) Are you involved with mathematics? No.
50) Does your best friend call you Bud? No.
51) Are you a student? Yes.
52) Are you in College? No.
53) Is your father a doctor? Yes.

What TV sitcom characters was I?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Quick Update + CTST 2006

I checked out the CardTech/SecurTech exhibit at the Moscone Center yesterday evening. It was interesting, and I got to see a palm vein pattern biometric device from Fujitsu. I'd read quite a bit about it in the past, but yesterday was the first time I got to play with one. The error rates they quote are not believable, and I'm certain that the actual error rates you'd see in the field are orders of magnitude worse (which, would still be quite good).

I also saw some guys from International Game Technology (IGT) checking out and asking about biometrics. Perhaps the casinos are looking into securing player cards with fingerprints or some other biometric.

Visa sponsored the hors d'oeuvres and refreshments that evening. And, they really went all out. I really wonder what Visa considers a meal. They served sushi (actual sushi, not just California rolls), New York steak strips, turkey, various cheeses, tons of fruits, truffles, chocolate covered strawberries, seafood cocktails (calimari or shrimp), etc. There was also red and white wine available along with a decent selection beer, soft drinks, and bottled water. It was great. No one in attendance could complain about the quality of the food.

And, the mandatory boring update: Bought Dell Computer (DELL) at 25.39. Been watching it for some time, and it has now entered my buy range, so I picked some up.

** Edit #1
So, American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS) released great Same Store Sales numbers, and guided their quarter higher. Moved up another 2% afterhours on the news. Go AEOS!

Monday, May 01, 2006

My Fairly Eventful Weekend

This has to be one of the first nice weather weekends we've had in a long time. I'm glad I took advantage it.


So, I went to Bay101 that night with my poker buddy, NoKuntrol. I had mistakenly thought it was the paycheck syzygy... the alignment of monthly, semi-monthly, and bi-weekly paydays. But, I was wrong. Bi-weekly paychecks went out the previous Friday. I was off by one due to the 5 Fridays we had in March. It didn't matter... I had to wait 3+ hours to get a seat. But, it wasn't too bad, I did get to watch NK play while I waited. His game's getting pretty damn good. He left up with well over a rack in profit.

To make a long story short(er), I played for over 8 hours and won a whopping $132 at the 6/12. I started off losing with KK, QQ, JJ twice, and TT twice in the first two hours. That put me in -$200 to -$300 range for about 6 hours. Then, I made it all back and then some in the final two hours when a wannabe pro (you know the type... the sunglasses wearing, stare you down, pot-odds talking, and taking way too long to think type) showed up and tried to outplay me over and over and over again.

Here's the hand that kind of set him off on his mission to get me.

It's 6-handed at this point with 2 prop players (those who play professionally with their own money, but also get paid by the card room to keep games from running out of players). These two props I've played with many times before, one is excellent and scares me, the other is quite good. Then, there was the wannabe, one unknown Asian guy, and another Asian guy I've played with plenty before that plays a bit too loosely pre-flop, but has a strong post-flop game. NoKuntrol had left about an hour earlier, so he missed this hand.

So, anyway, I've got ATo in the big blind. Everyone limps to the wannabe, and the small blind (the lesser prop) folds. I call, as does everyone else. The flop comes J88. Checks to the wannabe, who checks. I'm pretty sure he's got a small pocket pair or AT-AK. It's possible he's got a monster, but I really doubt it. The turn brings a 4. I check, and again everyone checks to the wannabe. I'm pretty sure if any player actually had something they'd bet this turn card. The wannabe now bets... I'm thinking there's a great chance that a raise knocks out the players in between and there's a pretty good chance the wannabe folds here. He's been making what he claims were tough laydowns up to this point. The poker gods were with me on this one, and he folds, and I take down the pot.

Wannabe: Looks like you missed a bet.
BruteForce: Maybe you would have won if you had checked.
Wannabe: There's no way I can check my hand there.
BruteForce: I know that. That's why I knew I could check-raise you... you're an open book to me.

Who knows if I was bluffing with the best hand or not. In any case, it was pretty lame table talk, but it did irk him enough to pay me off grandly until I left.


I got up at 1:30. That's pretty damn good considering I went to bed at eight in the morning. Played some more XBox360 (I beat Fable: Lost Chapters, yay... but there's a lot of random crap I can still do in the game, so I guess I'll continue to play it).

Anyway, the girlfriend came over around 6, and we hit up Petsmart to get some fish medicine for her parrotfish. Both of them are sick... we suspect gill flukes, but we're not positive.

After taking care of her fish, we went out to dinner at Mama Mia's just nearby. We've never been there, and figured we'd give it a try. It was pretty good. We were both quite pleased with the meal. I had the Linguine with Clams in the bianca sauce, and she had the Osso Bucco, which was excellent (I had a few bites of it).

Following dinner, we actually rented a movie, King Kong, and an X360 game, Dead or Alive 4. I don't really recommend that game unless you really like the Tekken-style fighting games. I never was a good street fighter player, and not surprisingly I'm pretty damn horrible at this game. I'm usually totally against renting movies, and even now I'm not sure what compelled me to do it. I always get pissed off about movie rental prices, because the prices are outrageous. Seriously... what if you went to Hertz and they told you that renting a crappy Dodge Neon would cost you $3000 for 5 days? The movie rental business is based upon legalized usury. Ok, enough of my bitching.


Got up before noon, and went to the
Nikkei Matsuri Festival in San Jose. It was entertaining for a short while. The festival itself isn't all that big, and so we saw pretty much all there was to see in less than a couple of hours. I found the Suiseki exhibit the most interesting. I guess I just felt that the whole idea behind it was pretty neat. When you really think about it, it's nothing more than rock collecting. But, these naturally formed rocks really do look like greater landscapes. I guess you could say that it's sort of microcosmic. Anyway, I liked what I saw. Not enough for me to go out there starting my own collection or anything, but I definitely can appreciate it all.

After checking out the festival, we had a late lunch in Santana Row at Thea Mediterranean. The food is primarily Greek and Turkish. Neither of us had ever been here before either. We both started with an amazing tasting Spanakopita. For our main lunch entrees, she ordered the Garides, which came as six large prawns cooked on zucchini cakes. It was pretty tasty. I went with my usual Greek favorite... the Moussaka. I know quite a few that don't like moussaka, but I don't understand why or how. I personally think it's a great tasting dish, and the one at Thea was quite good.

After lunch, we walked around Santana Row for a bit, and watched a few people play chess in their lounge area. It's really a nice area to walk and window shop. Real (and affordable) shopping is best done elsewhere.

Next, we decided to watch Thank You For Smoking. I thought it was really funny and entertaining. Unfortunately, she felt otherwise, but I guess I expected it somewhat. She's really not much into movie dialogue, and certainly not a movie predicated on dialogue. If anyone hasn't seen it and actually enjoys movie dialogue, then I recommend it.

I guess that brings my weekend to a close. We did get sunburnt from our Sunday activities, but it was rather mild. Hopefully the weather stays nice... especially, after the record breaking dreariness we experienced recently.