Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Quick Update

I'm sure everyone knows all about the sell-off in the markets already. It's a painful day. Not unexpected in the least, but it still stings. What is a bit scary about the 9% drop in the Chinese stock market (Shanghai Composite) is the fact that their market has a 10% maximum drop on individual issues. This means that without the artificial price floor, the Chinese index would have been down much more than 9%.

Have a look here at a snapshot on some of the stocks that make up the Shanghai index. Notice how most of the stocks are lock-limit down. Click image to enlarge.

Anyway, I suppose I was a tiny part of today's sell-off.

I'm still uneasy and generally nervous about the market, and I figured now was just as good a time as any to raise some cash. If we continue to see the markets tumble, at least I'll have additional funds to deploy.

From the portfolio, here are the sales I made today. I don't anticipate any further trimming of exposure on my part.

Sold Home Depot (HD) at 39.93.
Sold Wet Seal (WTSLA) at 6.10.
Sold Micrus Endovascular (MEND) at 20.75.

Try to laugh about it, it's only money. Keep your cool, and understand that markets can't go up in a straight line.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Quick Update

Picked up some more First Marblehead (FMD) at 44.77, increasing the stake by 25%. The cost basis of the position goes up to 29.36.

The former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan, made some slightly negative comments today stating that a recession later this year is possible. He believes we're at the later stages of the economic cycle.

Helping the markets today is the large TXU buyout. A lot of private money is still out there making some monstrous purchases.

Yahoo! (YHOO) got a bump today after reporting increased click-traffic due to their new Panama system. I am hoping that I didn't shoot myself when I sold calls on the position, since I really think that it's a company to own for the longer-term. I just need a pullback in the market... any pullback. We haven't had any sizeable pullback in a long, long time. Statistically, we're simply overdue.

*** Edit #1 ***

Dumped the Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) trading position for a substantial percentage loss at 15.70. Rumors are going around today about the company being a potential LBO candidate. I admit the trade was a mistake, and I took the upward move as an opportunity to exit. If it ultimately gets bought, I guess I miss out on a few points. But, I'm not a believer.

*** Edit #2 ***

Dumped eBay (EBAY) trading position at 33.40. Again, I reiterate that I am getting uneasy about the market.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Late Update

Been busy all day with off-site meetings. Just got home after having some good Mexican food. Anyway, here's the quick update.

Before I left this morning, I put in an order to sell some covered calls. Of the various orders, one of them hit. I sold March 35 calls on the TODCO (THE) position for 0.70. This is the second round of call selling on the shares, and so effective basis has now been reduced to 31.44. I continue to hold onto my cautious stance, and I will sell calls on other positions if I see a decent opportunity to do so.

Linear Technology (LLTC) was the standout performer today tacking on nearly 10% after its peer, Analog Devices (ADI), reported decent earnings and predicting stronger sales and improving industry trends.

SanDisk (SNDK) fell a couple percent after WR Hambrecht downgraded the company to a hold citing potential issues with royalty revenues coming from Samsung. While I'm fully aware of the risks involved with holding the stock, I think the potential reward could be pretty amazing. Obviously, my feelings on it goes strongly against analyst consensus.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Quick Update

Increased the First Marblehead (FMD) position by roughly a third at 45.80.

Wet Seal (WTSLA) started off the day very strongly, moving to 6.50 before stalling and giving back all of the move.

Looking to sell covered calls on some positions in the near-term, as I am still a bit nervous about the market in general. And, I might be selling puts on Yahoo! (YHOO) if the stock declines and premiums get better. I would be selling them in hopes of having shares put to me allowing my re-entry at a good price.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Day at the Races

After a fairly uneventful holiday weekend (mostly due to illness), QB and I spent today over at Bay Meadows in San Mateo. QB had never been to a racetrack, and I believe this was only my third time, the last being some 5 or 6 years ago. The two of us knew going in that we were likely to be betting losers, since neither of us had even an inkling of a clue when it came to assessing a horse's chances.

We were pretty conservative with small bets ranging from $2 to $5 and the occasional Quinella bet (none came through, though there were a couple of close calls. So, anyway I started off in a positive manner after coming out net positive in 4 of the first 5 races. Unfortunately, my luck changed for the worse and I ended up a $25 loser on the day. QB fared a bit better as she gave up only $15. It was a lot of fun, and we each got a free duffel bag due to a promotion the track was having.

Maybe we'll go back some time. We both really enjoyed the day, and all in all the total amount we spent isn't much different than if we went to watch a baseball game. Also, something that I never realized before is that there is a lot of running around. You have to go check out the horses on display, place your bets, and then get back to the viewing area all in a span of about 25 minutes... over and over again. It probably resulted in a decent workout since we always sat up at the top level bleachers.

If you've never been to a race track, check one out. It's actually pretty fun.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Quick Update and Thought

So, shares of Yahoo! (YHOO) will be called away this weekend. The stock ran up a fair bit past where I was willing to purchase back the sold calls. Depending on how shares trade next week, I will figure out how I want to re-establish the position. I still strongly believe that the company will begin showing the investment community strong results, and I do want to own it for the longer-term. My hope is that shares don't run away from me.

Also, I know some of you have been interested in Constellation Brands (STZ). At current prices below $24, I believe that shares are now entering into the 'a bit too cheap' region. Shares are down a bit today, probably due to a Goldman Sachs downgrade. And, doing a blog search, here's a link to someone that agrees: iBooyah's Take on STZ.

If I can free up some cash soon, and if shares remain in the sub-$24 range, I might be bolstering the existing position with another purchase. I don't want to use potential YHOO money to buy it, so I'm going to have to find the funds elsewhere. Since I front-end load my 401k, money is always a bit tighter early in the year.

And, have a Happy Chinese New Year's weekend, if that's your thing.

Another Image in the Wall

This is pretty cool... Bloglines Image Wall. Be careful if you're trying this from work, because once in a while an image that is Not Safe For Work will pop up. The wall is basically a streaming of images that get continuously picked up as Bloglines indexes the blogs that it tracks. You can definitely stare at this for a while, it's sort of like a visual mind magnet.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

V-Day 2007: Plouf

Last night, QB and I headed out to the city for our Valentine's Day dinner. I had made 8:30 dinner reservations over at Plouf, a cute little French bistro in a Financial District alley. Anyway, we arrived at the restaurant right on time, and to our surprise there was a line of couples waiting outside.

plouf: the sound a stone makes when it
drops into a French stream

We found out that somehow the restaurant was backed up and running about half an hour off schedule due to a number of earlier parties taking a lot longer to finish their meals and leave. As expected, I was not too happy about this. So, there we were along with maybe ten or so others waiting outside. The hostess did her best to keep all of us abreast of the current situation, and checked on us fairly regularly. To her credit, she did go to the bar and bring all of us some complimentary champagne while we waited. Thankfully, the weather was nice.

Here's a picture I took of the restaurant alley while we waited. As you can see, all the restaurants were packed.

Shortly after 9, we were seated at a table inside. We would have been seated sooner, except that we declined an outdoor 'edge' table, which another couple gladly took. We then ordered a couple of drinks and figured out what we wanted. The restaurant had a special Valentine's Day 3-course prix fixe menu, which didn't give us a large selection of choices, but it was adequate.

Before ordering, we were given our amuse bouche, which was a mushroom risotto. Nothing fancy, but it was a nice way to whet the appetite.

For our first course, QB went with some mussels served in a thai coconut broth and I opted for the scallops presented with a tomato confit. Her mussels also came with pomme frites, which were really good. She made the better choice between the two of us. My scallops were delicious, but I only got a couple of pieces. Her order came and the mussels were practically overflowing the bowl. The restaurant is known for their mussels, so I suppose it's not a surprise when I say that the mussels were amazing.

I managed to choose wisely when it came to the main course. I had the grilled swordfish that also came with some chorizo-stuffed calamari. My fish was excellent, and the stuffed calamari, while really quite spicy, blended well with everything. QB ordered the filet mignon, and sadly, it was average at best. I guess you shouldn't really expect a seafood joint to excel in preparing red meat.

For our dessert, we went with the shared selection, which was a pair of chocolate mousse cakes (one was white and the other dark). We enjoyed the cakes quite a bit. They weren't too sweet, but definitely sweet enough to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Oh, and they gave each lady a long-stemmed rose when they brought out the bill, a nice touch I thought. In any case, I'd be willing to go back and try out selections from their normal menu. I'll just be sure to stay away from non-seafood items.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Toshiba's G500 and G900

Toshiba officially announced these phones at the 3GSM Congress on Monday. I won't say much other than posting up a link and some images I found on the web. But, a small part of me is inside both of these phones. Despite putting in a lot of time and effort, you never really know if anything you've worked on will ever see the light of day. I'm glad that this time around something is going to make it out there into the global market.

Some Links:
CNET UK Article
Toshiba Europe - G500
Toshiba Europe - G900

A couple of pictures I found on Modaco.com:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Persian, Anyone?

Recently, QB and I tried out a small local Persian kabob place called Isfahan. We tried the steak and chicken kabobs as well as the beef kubideh. It was really full of flavor and the saffron rice that came with them complemented the meat really well. I liked it so much that I think I'm going to try and get a few co-workers to go there with me today for lunch.

Here's a San Jose Mercury review if you're interested to read more about it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

My Very Own Google Image Bug

I've been meaning to post about this for some time, but I wanted to wait a while to make sure that the bug wasn't magically fixed. It's been around for some time now, so I'm ready to share it.

Check out the following link, and click on the first image... the one of the zebra moray eel that Google lists as coming from aquaarticles.com: Link with Confusing Image

Pretty neat, huh? What if this blog was actually full of spam or adult content? What then?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Quick Update

Picked up Wet Seal (WTSLA) near the open at $6 even following its disappointing operating income guidance. However, the company did report better than expected revenues. The main factor for the earnings shortfall is due to the heavy discounting going on at the company's Arden B stores. Definitely a setback for the company, but I do think that they are doing the right things to make this turnaround happen.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Quick Update

Sold Todco (THE) Feb 35 covered calls (THEBG) for 0.60. This lowers the effective cost basis of the shares to 32.14. I do plan on buying the calls back if they end up slightly in the money by expiration. Thinking about selling the Feb 45 calls on FormFactor (FORM) as well with the intention of buying them back if they aren't that deep in the money by expiration. Haven't decided yet.

*** Edit #1 ***

Sold Yahoo! (YHOO) Feb 30 covered calls (YHQBF) for 0.50. Effective cost basis now sits at 26.16. Again, I intend on buying back the calls if they're cheaply in the money.

I guess you could say that I'm getting a bit more cautious about the current state of the market. I would not be that surprised if we see a reasonable pullback in the near-term.

Streak Ends At Eight

Well, all good things come to an end. I was on an 8 session live poker winning streak for the year, and well, I finally got hosed. What sucks is that I could have walked away a small winner, but instead I gave myself a target that if I hit I'd leave. Things went downhill and I never recovered.

Here are two pretty big hands where I lost a good chunk of money. The game is $5-200 spread limit... I've got KK, and my opponents had QQ and Q8c. I had both of them covered, and I managed to get all of our money in on a JcTx6x flop. The turn brings a 9, and I was left drawing to a 1-outer, which missed as expected. At least I put my money in good.

I put the hand into a poker calculator, and it looks like I was roughly a 75% favorite. Q8c had 20% equity, and QQ had the remaining 5%.

The other hand I had what I thought was a strong read on a bluffer. I'm sitting on KJ, and the flop brings KT5. I basically check-call a medium-sized bet against the Mr. Overplay Tons of Hands and Habitual Bluffer. The turn brings an 8, and I go ahead and check call a decent sized bet. I figure I'd let him hang himself. The plan was to lead out on any non-scary river. The river comes an offsuit 4, and I bet out and he raises me for the rest of his chips (not that many at this point). I call and he tables 84. Now, it's easy to say that I misplayed the hand horribly, and maybe it's true. But, it's still a really, really sick running beat.

Well, the Market God got pretty pissed at the Poker God after that hand. So, he decided to give the portfolio a nice boost today. Yay for the market to help ease the pain of sick beats.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Quick Update

Sold February 42.50 (SWQBV) covered calls on the SanDisk (SNDK) position for 0.30. Effective cost basis for the position is now 41.96.

Also, Student Loan (STU) continues to fall today along with other student lenders following government proposals to cut student lending subsidies. This could impact margins a fair amount, so I'm now taking a more cautious stance.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Weekend

This weekend wasn't too bad. Friday was pretty lame, because I ended up working late. But, Saturday night was full of fun. QB and I went out to a group dinner at Vaso Azzurro in Mountain View to celebrate the birthday of Eva... who is someone that we go party with from time to time.

The restaurant was small and fairly cozy despite it being quite busy when we arrived. The food was decent. It was flavorful and looked nice. But, it wasn't anything special. But, I felt everything was reasonably priced, so I'd definitely consider going back if I was in the area and wanted to do Italian. QB and I both ordered from their nightly specials list. She had the Risotto, and I went with the Lamb Shank. The third dish shown below is the Salmon Stromboli, which the birthday girl's boyfriend ordered (and, allowed me to take a picture of).

Lamb Shank



After dinner, we all headed out to Molly McGee's for some pre-clubbing drinks. Then, we walked across the street to Monte Carlo, which is a club dominated by Latin folk, since they have an upstairs salsa music room. The music was pretty good, but the drinks were way overpriced. The group was able to secure a couple of tables, which really made things easier. Because I know that Spud will ask me about it, I'll go ahead and tell him here... yes, there were lots of latina hotties at the club.

After we left the club, I figured I'd go and recoup some of the cash I dropped on drinks. So, we end up at the card room, where I play a couple of hours. I didn't make all of it back, but I'll take a 50% off night any night of the week.

We finished the weekend off with an uneventful at-home Super Bowl viewing. I'm glad the Colts won. I liked the Colts a long time ago (back when Ryan Leaf was QB). Too bad the last couple of years I haven't really been into football at all. Would have been nice to see a team you've rooted for finally come through and take home the big prize. Anyway, that about sums it up.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Solid Stock PerFORMance and Poker

Today, FormFactor (FORM) jumped a solid 10% on strong earnings and a fairly upbeat and confident outlook going forward. I listened to the conference call yesterday, and it was quite positive. The company's technology is still pretty far ahead of its competition, and they landed a large contract with Hynix. The large order announcement clearly shows that FORM is making headway in the flash memory testing market.

Altria Group (MO) announced its earnings yesterday, and said that they would be completing a spin-off of Kraft to shareholders on March 31. Other than this announcement, nothing all that eventful was said.

Eastman Kodak (EK) also announced its earnings results yesterday. The company turned a profit. They explained in their conference call that the decreases in their digital revenues was a result of their previously described strategy to improve upon their margins. All in all, the results were strong, and maybe it is finally time to see the turnaround really materialize. I want so bad to be vindicated. I would have to say that this is the position that I've taken the most crap and negativity from others. So far, the naysayers have been right, as the position has underperformed the general market significantly. Anyway, the company says that a lot more information will be released on Feb 8 at a major investor's conference. So, stay tuned for that.

Finally, let me just toot my own horn a bit. I've played 7 sessions of live poker this year. Most sessions are 6-8 hours apiece. In any case, I'm 7 for 7 in '07. 777 -- time to play a slot machine. Yay, Poker! Play was mostly in 6/12 and 8/16 limit with a couple short mini-sessions in the $5-200 while awaiting a seat in my bread-and-butter limit games.

Okay, that's it. Have a good night!