Friday, September 29, 2006

Quick Update

Last night, another SEC filing was submitted detailing additional purchases of Micro-Fineline Electronix (MFLX) by Michael Roth and Brian Stark of Stark Investments. They continue to add to their positions. The question is what their motives are... some are speculating that they are driven by other interests, notably their interest in the MFLX's proposed acquisition of Singapore-based MFS Technology, which MFLX has since decided was not in their best interest to pursue. If things continue to be as murky as they are, I'll call this a mistake and exit while the exiting is good. However, I still feel this company's worth more than it is currently trading for.

Yesterday, the long-awaited opening of San Francisco's Westfield Shopping Mall took place. I'm thinking about checking it out soon. Mostly, I'm curious to see how the Martin + Osa store looks. But, I might have to wait a while, as crowds might be crazy large during the opening weekend.

Recent approval of slot machines at the Pennsylvania racinos is really good news for gaming companies. Harrah's (HET) should benefit, as they own this one in Chester, PA. Plus, I was reading Briefing, and they mentioned rumors about a leveraged buyout involving HET. No idea what that's all about, but I guess we'll know if there's anything to those rumors in time.

Finally, keep your eye on Bare Escentuals (BARE). It priced its IPO this morning at $22, which is well above the high-end of its target range of $15-17. I need to go over its prospectus this weekend, but I like what I hear about the company. The company makes upscale beauty products. It opened its first store many years ago in nearby Los Gatos, CA. The company has a lot of room to grow, as it has boutiques in less than half the states in the nation. Though, it does sell its products at popular spots including Sephora, a segment of Louis Vuitton (Paris: LVMH).

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Quick Trading Update

Sold off the Broadcom (BRCM) trading position at 31.12 just minutes ago. 40% of the position had a reduced cost basis of 25.72 (from covered calls that expired worthless), and 60% of the position was purchased at 28.90. The trade was good for nice 12.6% gain. I'll be looking for any BRCM pullback for re-entry or possibly selling cash-secured puts as a way to get paid for my willingness to re-purchase the stock cheaper than I just sold.

Exit Mandrake, Enter Eisenheim

Well, I survived today's extreme temperature cycling. There are probably some of you who are not to happy to hear that, haha. Anyway, one of the volunteers today was a student from Ecuador. She was really cool, and so we got to chat a lot with her during our down time.

What did I learn from our conversations?

1) Doing a jungle tour some day would be awesome
2) I very much want to try Chicha at some point. Not sure I'm daring enough to try the one that is created in the traditional manner (where fermentation is augmented by human saliva), but you never know.
3) Sounds like the best time to party in just about any part of Latin America would be right around Carnaval festival.

Okay, so after a long day of being thrown into a temperature chamber, I grabbed dinner with QB at the So-Gong-Dong Tofu House in Milpitas, which was tasty as usual. It's not the absolute best place for Korean tofu, but it's decent enough.

Afterwards, we went to the movies, since I had a couple of free movie passes that I still had saved up from the company picnic a few months back. We watched The Illusionist starring Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, and Paul Giamatti. The story involves an illusionist named Eisenheim and a reunion with a long lost love of his.

I am stunned that this movie hasn't done better in the box office (I read that it has pulled in less than $30MM in total). I thought it was one of the best movies I've seen in quite a while. Some might say it's just a love story, but it was much, much more than that. There was a lot of movie to enjoy that had very little to do with love and all the mushy stuff that comes along with it.

So, for anyone who hasn't seen it yet... go watch it. It's highly likely that you'll enjoy it. Maybe not as much as I did, but you won't be disappointed. Now, when someone says 'illusionist' to me, I'll be thinking of Eisenheim and not Mandrake. What are you doing still reading this boring blog post? Go watch that movie... do it, do it now!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Temperature Cycling and Today's Jackpot

I have volunteered to be a participant in my company's temperature and humidity data collection event. There are 20 of us that will provide live usage data in various environments.

I believe we start off at -10°C with serious wind chill, and we eventually end up in a 40°C/90% humidity environment. At least, that's how it was when I last volunteered. I'll be dressed accordingly starting off completely bundled in winter wear and ending up in probably a single undershirt.

And, today's jackpot has a name, and it's not slot machine maker International Gaming Technology (IGT). Today's portfolio winner is First Marblehead Corp. (FMD).

FMD is up over 7% following its announcement last night, which provided payment rate details of its latest securitization.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More Stock Talk

Today was a mixed bag for the Long-Term portfolio. The two largest positions, Harrah's (HET) and Altria (MO), fell today. Harrah's dropped sharply due to a JP Morgan downgrade and accompanying earnings estimate cut. Altria continued to fall today following yesterday's unfavorable ruling on the Schwab case. However, the losses were offset by strong gains elsewhere in the portfolio.

Four stocks in the portfolio set 52-week highs today: Abercrombie and Fitch (ANF), American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS), Constellation Brands (STZ), and International Gaming Technology (IGT). Additionally, Eastman Kodak (EK) made a big move today as well. Maybe this next quarter's earnings release won't be as disappointing as ones we've seen recently. Other strong performers include Fortune Brands (FO), Student Loan (STU), and Apple (AAPL).

The trading portfolio was a bit of a downer today with Broadcom (BRCM) and Multi-Fineline (MFLX) both falling.

This brings me to what I've been looking at recently as potential buys for the long-term portfolio.

Universal Corporation (UVV) - UVV was first mentioned here. I believe the reasons that got me interested are still in play, and the stock has pulled back a bit now and is once again entering an attractive range.

Lifetime Brands (LCUT) - Lifetime Brands sells a broad range of kitchen products. You might have heard of such brands as Cuisinart, Farberware, or KitchenAid. I've been watching this one for a while, but never did get around to mentioning it. But, today the stock fell and I think it's time for us to all give it a hard look.

The drop today really brings its price to an attractive level. It might continue to make some new lows, and if it does, I'm going to start buying. At current prices, the shares trade at 13.2x 2006 earnings (using the low end of the $1.45-1.55 EPS range provided by the company in their latest announcement). This represents 18% year/year earnings growth. The shares are also currently yielding 1.3%. So, in short, I'm still waiting for a better price, but we're really close to levels where I'll begin pulling the trigger.

A couple weeks ago, the Inelegant Investor blog had a write up on the company. I do agree with much of what is said there. Have a look if you're considering this as an investment.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

Ever wonder about those condom and mystery gift dispensing machines that sit above the urinals at crappy bars?

Same here.

And, now I am the proud owner of one of the twelve mystery gifts that can come out of the machine from the bar across the street. It's a 'sexy' coin... Heads I Win, Tails You Lose. Ain't that the truth.

That's a poorly spent 50 cents.

Certified Pain

This one headline says it all, and all of us holding shares in big tobacco companies are sharing in the pain...

Federal judge certifies tobacco suit as class action

Altria Group (MO) is down over 3% at the moment. It's tough for the portfolio to have a nice showing when the largest holding gets the smackdown.

*** Edit #1 ***

Altria is now hosting a conference call on the decision to certify the class action. I haven't got the time to listen right now, but what is being said must not be too good. Shares of MO have fallen even more after the start of the call. MO is now down over 7% on the day.

MO has announced that it will appeal this decision, and it will likely get overturned. But, perhaps a delay of the intended break-up of the company is now imminent.

Luckily, the rest of the market is up nicely.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dinner at the Loft

Tonight, we had dinner at the Loft Bar and Bistro in downtown San Jose. It was quite a nice place, and the food was very good (at least my dish was). We were hoping to get an outdoor rooftop table, but since we didn't make reservations, that didn't happen. We were seated promptly, and the service was decent. I had the lamb shanks, and QB had the tri-tip dish.

When the food arrived, I knew mine was going to be absolutely great. The smell of the food and the presentation were key in making my (correct) prediction. Her tri-tip was alright, but not too exciting. Anyway, here's a shot of my dish. Hope everyone's having a great weekend.

Oh, and for those who enjoy electronic music... check out Ladytron. I was recently introduced to their music, and I really dig it.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

You Gotta Fight For Your Right

Dropped by Wienerschnitzel tonight for a midnight snack, and I noticed there was this huge banner in the front that offered you a free drink if the cashier did not ask you if you wanted one. So, anyway I called them on that, and the lady in charge refused to give it to me. She claimed that the promotion was no longer in effect. I just pointed out the gigantic banner, and said they should probably take it down if it wasn't available any more.

It's not that I really cared that much about the drink, but I really did not appreciate the manner in which she refused to make good on their promotion. She basically did this weird hand motion signaling an X. Giving me that X was pretty lame of her. So, at that point, I figured I'd just get the drink based on principle.

Eventually, they caved and gave me the free Coke. There is no way it is worth it for them to hold up the line at the cost of a soda. The guy behind me got a kick out of it, but too bad for him, I'm sure the cashier won't forget to ask if he'd like to order a drink.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Portfolio and Market Update

The market is taking a beating today. Scanning the headlines, it looks like one of the reasons has to do with a negative reading on manufacturing activity coming from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. Additionally, the Leading Economic Indicators number fell 0.2%. The increased worries about potential economic slowdown is putting the hurt on us today.

Only a few bright spots in the portfolio today: Amgen (AMGN), Chevron (CVX), Harrah's (HET), and Student Loan (STU). The rest of the portfolio got shelled pretty good.

FormFactor (FORM) dropped a whopping $5 a share. The semiconductor sector is down over 2%. So, this also affected Linear Technology (LLTC) in the portfolio.

The teen retailers in the portfolio are also getting hit hard today. American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS) is off roughly 2.5%, Abercrombie and Fitch is down over 3%, and Deb Shops is trading lower by two thirds of a percent.

However, I'm a glutton for punishment. I used today's drop to add to my Eastman Kodak (EK) position. I increased the position by 30% at 21.59. I know I've been long on EK for a while now, and at the moment I have serious egg on my face. But, I am still a believer, that when this stalwart turns itself around the payoff will be large. The cost basis on this position now sits at $25.92.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Bocce Ball Night

Yesterday, I attended a company sponsored night of Bocce Ball over at Campo di Bocce in Los Gatos. I had seen the game played before, but I had never tried myself. Heck, I didn't even know the rules.

The game is remotely similar to shuffleboard. The first team throws this little metal ball called a pallino. After that's done, each team tries to toss their balls as close as possible to the pallino. After all the balls are thrown (order of throws is dependent on which team is currently closest), the team with the closest ball, gets a point for every ball closer to the pallino than the opposing team's closest ball. And, you're allowed to purposely knock the balls around, which adds a bit of strategy to the game. Anyway, the pallino is surprisingly heavy, and the larger balls are surprisingly light.

The game was really a lot of fun. I totally want to go play again, but I think it's the type of game that is most fun when played with a large group. I guess I'm going to have to solicit my friends and get a game going. If you've never played it before, give it a try if you ever get the chance.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Market Update

Today's definitely not looking so good. The markets are down sharply for a number of reasons.

Thai Coup - The Thai military has ousted the prime minister, and the baht fell dramatically. While the coup might not have much of an economic impact, it is a bit scary seeing as how it was baht currency troubles that led Asia into a serious economic slowdown.

Yahoo! (YHOO) - The company warned on their quarter citing slowdown in ad revenues. Yahoo is down 12.5%, and its troubles led the rest of the internet stocks are down as well.

Maxim Integrated (MXIM) - The company warned on their quarter, too. This definitely doesn't help the semis.

The only bright spot in the portfolio was American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS), which is up a beautiful 2% today despite the gloomy market sentiment. Can't win every day.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Martin + Osa + Market

Who are Martin + Osa?

They will be coming to the Bay Area next Thursday with a grand opening in San Francisco. I read a quick review about their D.C. debut, and it was chock full of positives. Go American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS)! Here's a company presentation from the Goldman Sachs 13th Annual Global Retail Conference. It's got some really high-res shots, including a storefront sporting the aerie sub-brand.

It is full steam ahead for First Marblehead (FMD), the NYSE's #1 percentage gainer last Friday. The stock is racing up another 3% this morning.

Home Depot (HD) is suffering a bit of a setback today due to a Credit Suisse downgrade and price target reduction ($40 to $37).

Oh, and before I forget to mention this... you may (or not) have noticed the labels that are now being attached to the blog posts. I guess this is a new beta blogger feature that I'm now allowed to use. Some were given access to this feature before others. Anyway, I like the idea of labels, so I'm going to be using them.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Taste Of Saturday and Teddy

Didn't do too much yesterday... went over to Santana Row and walked around a bit. Ended up having a light lunch over at Pizza Antica. I've been there a few times, and each time, I've really enjoyed my meal. They serve thin-crust gourmet pizzas, as well as other italian fare. I've only had their pizzas, so I can't really comment on the other foods. Anyway, we ordered the pizza topped with fennel sausage, portobello mushrooms, and roasted onions. Delicious!

After this, I ran a bunch of errands including getting a hair cut. Sorry to disappoint those who liked the shaggy look (you know who you are).

For dinner, we went to Barrio Fiesta in Milpitas. I haven't been there in maybe 3 or 4 years, but it's really got some excellent Filipino food. I'm really glad we went there, as it was really nice to be reacquainted with that cuisine. We went with two traditional dishes... the Kare-Kare (an oxtail and tripe stew), which used to be my all-time favorite, and also the Chicken Adobo. I should go more often. I had forgotten how much I liked some Filipino dishes. Next time, I think I will order a dish with Bangus (milkfish), which was another favorite of mine back in the day.

And, check this out... Teddy: A Sketching Interface for 3-D Freeform Design. I played around with it a lot last night, and I'll be the first to tell you that the applet is very buggy. Also, you will definitely want to watch the video and read the tutorials, but once you get the hang of it, it's a very cool tool. Anyway, check it out.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Quick Market Update

The big mover in the Long-Term portfolio this morning is First Marblehead (FMD). Yesterday, after the market closed, the company gave a preliminary estimate of the fees from a set of student loans they are securitizing. The money they stand to make was significantly higher than expected and included a way to monetize some non-cash residuals. Today, Friedman Billings upgraded the company to a Market Perform with a price target of $55, and ThinkEquity raised its price target to $75 from $65. FMD is currently trading up a whopping 14% to 59.80, a new 52-week high. Go FMD!

International Gaming Technology (IGT) is also making a new 52-week high today after William Blair initiated coverage on the issue with an Outperform rating. William Blair also gave a similar initial rating to Shufflemaster (SHFL). The firm believes that gaming operators will continue focus on deploying more digital machines and content-driven games, which will benefit companies like IGT and SHFL.

Most of my Apple (AAPL) shares will get called away this weekend at $70. Recall that I sold covered calls on 80% of the position with the intention of keeping the last 20% as a long-term holding. Since the calls were sold at $1.65, the effective sale price is $71.65.

In the Trading Portfolio, recent pick-up Multi-Fineline Electronix (MFLX) continues to trade lower. This trade is looking like a mistake. We'll see what happens next week, but I'm getting close to just taking the loss.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Parapraxis of the Day

Not long ago I had asked a friend of mine if he wanted to go and play some cards tonight, or if Monday was a better night for him. His response was a classic Freudian Slip...

I think I'm gonna go out with some college friends tonight, but maybe we can next money.

No Booze, You Lose

Just caught this article on CNN Money... apparently there's been a recent study showing that there is a real positive effect of social drinking on income. Makes sense from a networking standpoint.

Anyway, as I almost always do when I read about some study, I try to get a hold of the original paper, so you'll find that here: No Booze? You May Lose: Why Drinkers Make More Than Non-Drinkers

So, next time you're invited to happy hour, just go... for your wallet's sake.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quick Trade Update

Picked up a position in Multi-Fineline Electronix (MFLX) for the Trading Portfolio at 25.57 this morning. Based on minimal research that I did recently, the stock looks like it is trading at a reasonably cheap valuation despite its recent run-up from its August lows. Will keep a watchful eye on this trade.

Also, important to note that Michael Roth and Brian Stark of Stark Investments have recently acquired a 15% stake in the company. Here's a short interview I found on the web.

Big Day for the Markets

Well, today was a huge day for the market. The good news was that the rally we had was really broad-based. Always nice to see everyone get a piece of the action.

The main catalysts were the Credit Suisse upgrade of the chip sector, strong earnings from both Goldman Sachs and Best Buy, and also some apparently favorable presentations coming out of the Credit Suisse Homebuilder Symposium (the Homebuilding sector was up a whopping 6.1% today). And, oil continued to fall. It is now sitting below $64 a barrel.

Scanning the news, it looks like Home Depot (HD) was helped by a Chicago Mayor's decision to veto an ordinance that would have required the large retailers to pay their workers wages much higher than the minimum wage. Additionally, it looks like there's a rumor going around that Eddie Lampert, the guy behind the huge Sears-KMart mega-merger, was loading up on HD. In any case, whatever it was, the stock moved 4.6%.

Let's see what tomorrow brings. Looks like the Asian markets are only up a smidge following our strong rally.

Before you go, check out these articles. I found them interesting.

Why Gambling At The Office Pays - Talks about the predictive power of wagering by the masses. Reminds me of the time when the government actually considered a terror wagering market to predict future terror attacks.

Where You Live Is Factor In Longevity - Pretty interesting findings that not only links race to lifespan, but geography as well. The evidence supports a notion that America can be subdivided into eight disparate subsets.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Weekend and a Poopy Game

Ok, so I returned home last night. Sometimes when you're really tired from an exhausting (but, fun) weekend trip, something as simple as a nice meal can really bring a smile to your face. QB picked me up from the airport around 9pm, and when we got to my place, there was a surprise meal that she had prepared for us.

Bacon Wrapped Enoki Mushrooms

Mussel Risotto with Iberico Cheese

Food was great. Thank you, Iron Chef QB.

Okay, let's go back in time a bit... so, on Friday I flew down to Phoenix early in the morning for a work-related meeting. All that went okay, and by 4:30 my plane took off for SoCal. By 6, PetDander had picked me up in his new Prius. We made it to his place quickly, and pretty much just hung out and watched Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (remember this, as it is of karmic importance) while waiting for Mrs. PetDander and her friend, Loaner.

Due to traffic, the four of us didn't make it out to dinner until about 9 or so. We went to a place called Pizzaioli in Chino. I had the Tortellini al Forno, and I must say that I liked it very much. There wasn't ever much silence during dinner. Conversation flowed without any problems at all. It's really easy when you have two nearly-compulsive talkers (me and Mrs. PetDander) sitting at the table together. However, it was fairly balanced. I'd estimate that we dominated no more than 70% of the entire conversation.

Ok, so that was dinner. PD and I then headed for the Commerce for some late-night poker. We sat in a really soft 9/18 game and PD proceeded to get smacked in the face by the deck... he must have had the nuts 4 or 5 times in the first few orbits. I was stuck a little bit early on, but over the next couple of hours I clawed my way out of my hole. Eventually, we got moved over to Table Stonehenge, where there wasn't much card playing going on. It was mostly a blind-chopping fest. When we finally called it a night, PD was up 420 and I was up 420 (I told you the movie was important).

The next night we entered into Event #5 of the California State Championship: $540 Limit Hold'em Tournament. There were a total of 180 entries, and the top 18 spots paid. Sadly, neither of us lasted more than 2 1/2 hours. I'll bore a few of you with the details of the hand that led to my eventual demise...

So, I had gotten hurt pretty badly a few hands ago when I had a strong hand that lost to a guy's runner-runner straight. At this point I've got 1500 chips and the blinds were 75-150, and the limts were 150-300. I'm not in good shape at all. I look down to see KQ of hearts in the small blind. Everyone folds to the button who has roughly as many chips as I do. He raises to 300. I call as does the big blind. We see a flop of Ah Td 6h. This is a flop with a ton of potential for me. The big blind and I both check, and the button bets. We both call. The turn brings an offsuit 5. Again, we check and the button bets. I decide to make a move now... I figured I'd raise it here and hopefully get them out right now. If they both don't fold, I've still got 12 outs to the nuts.

To my surprise, the big blind cold-calls my raise... and my stomach felt just a tad bit sick. The button folds (he later told me he had AKo). The river is an Ace, and I bet out in desperation, and get raised. I fold my King high, and the big blind tables A5 for the full house. I'm down to 150 chips at this point. Rowr shows up with her luck, and I am able to quadruple up to 600 with AK suited. Then, I find 55 and 3-bet pre-flop. The original raiser calls that and also my flop bet. I'm shown 77 and no help comes, and I'm out.

Unfortunately, I can't remember PD's busting hand. So, on that note, I'll move onto what's next. We all then decide to head off to Hermosa Beach with Duke and Crestfallen for some post-bustout drinking. Our plan was to hit up Sharkeez, which is a bar I used to frequent back when I lived down in SoCal. But, when we get there, all we see is a burnt out lot. Turns out Sharkeez burned down in May. You can read about it here. There went that plan.

We figured food made sense, so we hit up a small pizza joint on Hermosa Ave, then we made it to Sharks Cove, a sports bar just down the street. There, the five of us started off with a fair bit of drinking. A little later that night, an old college buddy, Mafioso Enzo (also known as RD Pabn in some circles), joined us and we partied some more. It was a fun evening full of random conversation topics ranging from eating mosquitoes to obsessive-compulsive disorder to boll weevil appendectomies. We left when the bar closed, and by then, most of us (non-drivers) were fairly toasted.

PD and I decided we wanted to play more poker, so we headed back to the Commerce. Rowr wanted to hang out more and watch us play. PD and I were already playing for some time and there was still no sign of her. I began to wonder what had happened to her, but I was soon paged on the loudspeaker. Turns out she forgot her phone and was wandering around aimlessly in the card room. At some point, the catcalls and whistles broke her down and that prompted her to just make the page.

It took a little bit before PD and I were put on the same table... must have been around 4am or so when it finally happened. And, what a table it was. This 9/18 table was EPIC. Here was the line-up when we first sat down... there was Crazy Arabian who was a true maniac. He'd raise pre-flop just about 100% of the time. Then there was Mr. Fobtacular who was by all means an enabler. He really loved to egg on Crazy Arabian and kept the game super-live all night long.

Along with those two, there was super-bad playing old Russian man and really passive Math teacher guy. The math teacher guy really reminded me of Milton (the stapler guy) from Office Space. Then there was the Egyptian. He wasn't really Egyptian, but he must have taken lessons from them, as he had this ginormous pyramid of chips in front of him. He played extremely well throughout the night, so there's no reason to believe that he didn't win it all (possibly from the Crazy Arabian). The Egyptian really reminded me of Vin Diesel. He didn't really look like him... he might have had the Vin Diesel smile, but his voice was really similar.

Anyway, the table was fantastic, and even Rowr (who is a beginning poker player) could see just how profitable such a table would be for those who chose not to play stupidly. I think she had an amazing time, as I heard a rumor that she is planning to go play some low-limit poker at the Commerce soon. PD was pretty card dead and went up and down all night, never really getting much traction. By the time we left (about 9:30am) he was stuck a little bit, and I was up about a rack. Win or lose, that table was entertaining for everyone to be sure.

Sleep is so good after a night like that.

Now a quick mention of Cat Poop. Has anyone heard of the game, Eat Poop You Cat? I think it'd be a really fun game if you had the right mix of people and just the right amount of inebriation. I just wanted to mention this game so that some friends might read this and happen to remember it next time we all got together. Okay, this post is way too long already. That's it, I'm done.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Options Issues and the Upcoming Weekend

The start of the weekend not looking so hot... Broadcom (BRCM) announces that they have uncovered additional stock option-related issues. Looking at pre-market trading, the stock is down around three and a half percent or so. There's been a pretty steep sell-off of nearly 20% in its shares recently. Ugh.

Anyway, I'm off to SoCal for the weekend. The plan is to head down and play cards with Mr. PetDander... including a Limit Hold'Em Tournament over at the Commerce Casino. With some luck, maybe I'll score myself a nice bonus.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blizzard in the Sierras

So, tonight I was chatting with Duke, and we ended up talking about old computer games. The actual conversation chain went something like...

SPEMIN is not a valid scrabble word. Damn, I've seen it somewhere before.

and then

Oh, I remember it from this old school computer game... Starflight.

From here we ended up talking about game software publishers, and Blizzard Entertainment, the makers of the mega-popular Warcraft series, came up. Anyway, that's not really the interesting thing. So, I was curious about the corporate side of Blizzard and found that it was owned by Vivendi Games.

Naturally, I looked into Vivendi Games. I typed into my browser, and I was transported to its website. And, what I see is none other than our old friend, Sierra Entertainment, maker of the amazing King's Quest (among other Quest) series. I mean it's all owned by Vivendi now, but it's amazing to see how companies evolve naturally or forcibly.

Anyway, it's nice to learn something new each day. So, what did I learn?

Sierra is still alive and kicking, and SPEMIN is not a word.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The New Jet Set

Well, the market took a serious hit today on inflation and rate hike fears. Not surprisingly, almost all of my holdings fell. Given our recent run-up, I'm not too concerned. I'd have to see a lot more evidence that things are a lot worse before I'll start losing any sleep.

Now that most of us have less money now than we did yesterday, let's make ourselves feel just a tad bit worse by learning how the rich folks do their luxury spending. I found this paper on ultra-rich spending habits to be entertaining. It might seem long at 40+ pages, but most of it is in big print with pretty pictures and lots of visual aids. What is sort of neat is the assignment of rich people as spenders into three distinct categories. Anyway, check it out.

Here's a quick taste of what you'll read about...

Roughly 60 percent of the New Jet Set spent money on spa services last year at an average annual cost of $107,000.

The New Jet Set: A Psychographic Analysis of Luxury Spending

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Oil's Well in the Markets Today

Today was another strong day for the markets. The big news of the day came from one of my long-term holdings, Chevron (CVX).

Chevron, along with its partners, Devon Energy (DVN) and Norway-based Statoil (STO), made a monumental oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. The discovery is huge. Currently, it is speculated that it could lead to as large as a 50% boost in U.S. oil reserves. Chevron owns a 50% stake in the new find, while its partners each have a 25% share.

Chevron and Statoil tacked on just around 2.3%, while Devon Energy ran up more than 12%. Deep sea drillers such as Transocean (RIG) also moved up on this discovery... the oil was found more than 5 miles deep!

Here is the Chevron Press Release.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Poll: Grocery Follow-up

After reading Duke's comment about grocery shopping in the previous post, it got me wondering where most of you get your own groceries. And, I wanted to test out blog polling, which might be useful in the future for getting anecdotal evidence to help support future stock market decisions.

So, here we go...

Where do you primarily get your groceries?
Warehouse/Wholesale (Costco, BJs, Sam's Club, etc)
National/Regional Chain
Local Mom & Pop/Farmer's Market
Don't Buy Groceries
Free polls from

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Initial Grocery Price Check Post

I don't go grocery shopping often, because I don't cook all that much. However, I do cook and eat at home enough where it makes sense to keep a watchful eye on grocery expenses. One problem with me is that because of my infrequent grocery visits, I rarely know what constitutes a good price. For the few items I buy often (soda, beer, junk food, etc) I know when I'm getting a good price, but for most other items, I am usually at a loss.

So, here's my latest idea. I'm going to blog about the grocery items that I buy and track prices in an Excel sheet at home. If it gets too lame or annoying, I might make a new blog solely for tracking grocery prices, or I might just can the idea and write it off as a lame one.

If anyone does grocery shopping often or is in-the-know on prices, PLEASE leave your comments. I am through with overpaying for my groceries.

Today's Grocery Shopping List (and my comments)

Half Gallon Berkeley Farms 1% Milk - $2.90
1 Dozen AA Large Eggs - $2.58
12-pack Soda (Coke, Dr. Pepper, Squirt, Mountain Dew) - $2.25 - This is a great price.
Pete's Wicked Ale - $4.99 - Again, a great price.
Blue Moon Beer - $5.99 - A good price.
Pasta Roni - $1.00T-Bone Steak - $8.99/lb - I think I overpaid here, but I really felt like some T-Bone.
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast - $1.99/lb
Hillshire Farms Turkey Sausage - $1.99
Broccoli Crowns - $2.49/lb - I am told this is expensive.
Russet Potatoes - $0.69/lb
Seedless Green Grapes - $0.99/lb - I heard this was a good price.
White Corn - $0.50 each

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Food, Drink, and More Food

I don't really have any big plans for this holiday weekend. So far, it's looking like I will be spending it eating and drinking with some relaxing (hopefully) in between.

Last night we had dinner at the original KrungThai restaurant. I think this restaurant serves the best tasting Thai food in the area. There is a nearly identical restaurant just down the street that is considered the new KrungThai (this is a different link than the previous one) restaurant. We had a fairly light dinner consisting of two dishes, the Jun Pad Poo (crab noodles) and the basil chicken. Both were very good, as expected.

Later on that night we went to Blowfish Sushi, located at the Santana Row (an upscale, ritzy shopping area). We didn't go there for food. At night their lounge gets very active. The restaurant eventually closes at around 11, and the lounge expands to cover the restaurant area. The music was pumping... it was mostly house music last night. Drinks are expensive there... you're looking at roughly $9 a drink. But, not by accident, we went with one of our friends who has a connection there.

The connection's a good one... he's a co-owner of the bar. So, pretty much we were on a flat rate order basis, meaning whatever we ordered (usually 4-6 drinks) we were charged a flat rate of $10. Obviously, you tip large on top of that, but it's a hell of a deal, and worked out nicely.

The crowd was definitely mixed, but it was primarily asian and white. The quality of the view was quite good... there was plenty of eye candy, and only a few, if any, dressed poorly for the night. Later, another guy (some card dealer over Lucky Chances) met up with us there, and we continued to party until the place closed and kicked everyone out.

From there, the four of us went to our favorite late-night Chinese food place, China Palace in Milpitas. The place is open until 3am, and the food here is very good and cheap... not inexpensive, cheap! We ordered venison, beef stew in a clay pot, some fish, and Mapo Tofu. There's already a super huge menu of about 200 items. But, when you look up on the walls, there's the 'secret' Chinese-only menu... another 50-100 items. The good thing is QB can read all that stuff, so we always get an even greater selection. And, as usual, the place was absolutely packed with people who, like us, had just left the bars and clubs in the area. After being stuffed, we went home and crashed.

Today, we went to Mayuri for some tasty Indian buffet. I first ate here with one of my Indian colleagues, and ever since, I've been going there when I get a craving for Indian. The food is full of flavor, and the selection is extensive. I wish they had more desserts, but other than that there's not too much I can complain about. And, I guess that is the end of the first quarter. I hope the rest of the weekend is just as enjoyable.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Quick Trading Portfolio Update

I've had a standing order to sell the PowerShares Water Resources (PHO) Sept. 16 call options at 1.15. Today, the order was filled. This was a losing trade, and I'm out. I'm still bullish about water over the long-term. I might actually add PHO to the long-term portfolio at some point, but now is not the time.

Partial Trade -- AEOS for ANF

I've been talking about swapping out part of the American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS) position for some Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) in the last few posts. Well, it's done.

I sold roughly 37% of the AEOS position today at 39.75, and initiated a position in ANF at 64.30. ANF has now been added to the sidebar quotes.

Given the recent sales data and watching the near-term growth trends of each company, it does look like AEOS is the company with more growth potential. But, I still think it's tough to justify its valuation relative to ANF.

I'm no market guru... so when I'm not that sure about something, it makes more sense to have a little bit riding on two horses than just one.

Today's Update and a KFC Bad Beat

Well, last night American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS) reported their August Same Store Sales figures, and they were spectacular. SSS was up a whopping 11%, which beat the aggressive analyst estimates of 9.1%. This morning, Abercrombie and Fitch (ANF) reported strong SSS numbers as well... they came in at 6%, which soundly beat the 2.4% estimates.

On this news, AEOS shot up nearly 4% and ANF managed a respectable 1.9% gain. Yesterday, I said that it probably makes sense to swap out part of AEOS for ANF. I stand by that statement in spite of the story these sales figures tell us. That said, look for me to make a swap some time tomorrow. At least I can be happy that I was able to capture a nice move today.

Other notable movers in the portfolio today...

Harrah's Entertainment (HET), which agreed to purchase London Clubs International. London Clubs owns a slew of casinos in the UK, and also a couple in Egypt and another in South Africa. Investors apparently liked the news. More often than not, the share price of a company that is doing the acquiring falls.

Student Loan (STU) tacked on 6.5%. However, this is an extremely thinly traded stock that is 80% owned by Citigroup. The move came on no readily available news, but I believe the company is fine for the long-term.

Form Factor (FORM) gave up some of the gains it picked up from the day before.

Altria Group (MO) lost exactly what it had gained the day before to close at the previous day's closing price.

Still on the watch list as potential buys... SHG, MCO, UVV, NUAN (very speculative), and CRFT. And, currently I'm undecided if I want to buy the final batch of Home Depot (HD). I had planned on buying a full position in three chunks, and so far we've got two of three filled. But, I've still got the slight bit of hesitation. Either way, the current position is not small by any means.

Okay, enough stock talk. Let's get onto what you've all been waiting for... the KFC bad beat. So, anyway I've become a real fan of the KFC Famous Bowls recently, especially the one with Mashed Potatoes, Corn, Several Varieties of Cheese, and of course, Chicken. I've gotten one of these about once each week for some time now. I get out of work a bit late tonight, and I drive up to the KFC near my place. It's gone... literally. Apprently, they are remodeling. That's what the sign said anyway And by remodeling, they meant demolishing the building and re-building. I don't know where the next closest KFC is, so I am out of luck for now. Talk about a bad beat.