Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sports Betting Experiment Update

Here's the 100 game update for my sports betting experiment.

Overall: 54-49-2 (includes combinations, teasers, moneyline, etc.)
Sides: 41-36-1
Totals: 10-5-0
ML: 0-3-0
2-bet combinations: 3-4-1
Teasers: 0-1-0

Using average bet size as a single unit, we're at +11.2 units, and an ROI of 10.68%. The original bankroll for the experiment has nearly tripled at +177% over 23 days of wagering. But, it was a really small amount to begin with, since I'm not ready to put 'real' money on this sort of thing... yet.

Here's a quick chart to show the progress.

Prior to starting my experiment, I said to myself that if I can get 10% or more ROI after 100 games, I would increase my bet size. So, I think going forward I'll step up my bet sizes by 50%, and go back down if I suffer any serious string of losses.

I guess that's all for now.

Have a Happy New Year's, everyone. And, remember not to get too sloppy tonight. It was a rough 2008, but it's done and over with now. See you all next year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Staycation and the Holidays

I'm on Day 3 of my staycation. I really can't remember the last time I took a break from work and stayed in without any plans. Last week I was in SoCal, which was fun, but now it's time to just relax and do nothing.

I guess I did want to mention a couple games I played when I was away last week. One game was called Blokus. It's a neat game where you try to rid yourselves of your tetris-like pieces by placing them on the board in turn. The rules are simple. Each piece (except for your first piece) needs to connect to one of your other pieces by a corner and no actual flat edges can touch. Turns out there's a ton of strategy in the game, and I found it to be a lot of fun despite getting crushed both times I played it.

Another game we played was called Rumis. This one I didn't like as much, but it seemed that others preferred it. It's a weird three dimensional tower building game where you take turns adding to the tower with various building code restrictions. The object is to have the most of your color exposed from a bird's eye view of the structure. I also got crushed in this game.

Anyway, I'm going to just kick back and do nothing. I've still been keeping up with my sports betting experiment. I'll report back soon once I reach 100 total bets made.

Have a Happy New Year's if I don't blog before then.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Night of Poker

It's been forever since I last played cards.  I think it's been almost three months.  Totally unacceptable in my view.  But, I guess I just don't have as much free time as I would like.

The dead stretch came to a close last night, as Dan and I hit up Commerce in the afternoon yesterday.  We sat in a newly formed 9/18 game, and I have to say that initially the table was pretty horrible.  You can always tell when you get 3 or 4 blind chops each orbit in a full-handed game.  Fortunately, this was short-lived and the game got quite a bit better by early evening.

Dan basically ran over the table.  He was up over 3 racks at one point fairly early in the night.  I was unfortunately on the wrong side of variance.  I was stuck a little over two racks before a few hands started to hold up.  The game got better and better as the night progressed, and I was not stuck much any more when midnight struck.  It was around then that Dan took off... he had to work today.

The game was really, really good after midnight.  It no longer amazes me when people cold call 3 bets cold with J6s in a game that is a few steps above the lowest limits offered.  9/18 is still considered low-limits, but a bad night and you're going to be out close to a grand.  You'd think that players with no real clue would have just as much fun playing smaller.  Surely, they're not playing to make money.

By 2am I was completely unstuck and treaded water for a while.  I managed to win just shy of a rack by the time I left at five in the morning.  Money won is twice as sweet as money earned, but money won after being stuck like a pig for 10 hours is even sweeter.

Okay, off to do some last minute Christmas shopping.  Check you all later.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sports Betting

Some of you know that I've been dabbling a bit with sports betting. Basically, I've come up with a meta-system, which unfortunately still has a fair bit of subjective influences. It's a meta-system because it is not based on actually handicapping games, but based on the weighted effectiveness of handicappers.

I figure this is not too much different than determining which Wall Street analysts are worth listening to, and which ones are full of hot air when it comes to their recommendations of certain stocks.

Anyway, I didn't want to share this until I had more bets under my belt. The sample size is way too small for now, but I've made 49 bets so far. The meta-system has worked out alright thus far. At this point I have no real confidence that it's good, bad, or useless. I guess if it was bad, then it would actually be good as you could always bet against it. If we were to assume that the average bet size was a unit, then after 49 bets, the system is up 10.85 units with bets ranging from about 0.75 to 1.5 units.

(Win, Loss)
All Bets (27, 22)
Sides (17, 17)
Totals (8, 1)
ML (0, 2)
Combo [2-bet parlays] (2, 2)

I've been keeping a spreadsheet of all bets, and I've been fairly diligent about posting up the picks each day before the games have been played. If anyone is interested in taking a look, please let me know, and I'll share the Google spreadsheet with you. Would also like to know if this is just really a stupid idea of mine too, if that's your opinion.

Well, I guess that's all for now. I am actually taking time off work until the new year. Going to head to SoCal for a week and then do nothing (except, maybe play some poker) the week after. Hope everyone enjoys the holidays.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Number Spiral

For you mathy types, you might find this interesting: Number Spiral. I've never seen the site before, but I guess it's been there for years. Anyway, I thought it was cool on a first quick read. I'll probably go back and check it out some more when I have time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Famous Suicides

Had a conversation earlier about famous suicides, and so I did some surfing on the web to learn more about some of them. In doing so, I came across many more famous suicide stories, and I was intrigued. There are so many of them out there... here are a few that caught my interest, which I didn't feel were all that well known.

Did you know that two of Bing Crosby's sons killed themselves with shotguns independently? I suppose it might have been bigger news back in the day, but I don't think it's household knowledge.

The e-mail spammer guy, Edward Davidson, that they called the "spam king" who was indicted last year actually escaped from his minimum security prison earlier this year and went on to kill his wife and one of his daughters before taking his own life.

Famous trader, Jesse Livermore, shot himself 11 years after he made a fortune (~$100MM) from the Great Crash of 1929. Long ago I read Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, which was purportedly a fictionalized account of his life. I don't recall there being any suicide in that story though.

King Zhou of Shang, the last king of the Shang Dynasty, killed himself by surrounding himself with all of his treasures and then setting his palace on fire. Apparently, he was a ridiculously corrupt king, and he had some of the most extravagent constructions at his palace. He had built a large pool filled with alcohol and an island of meat in the middle of it. This allowed him and his guests to float around in canoes while eating from the meat island or drinking from the pool as they pleased.

Anson Jones was the last president of the Republic of Texas. I guess what happened with him was that he got pissed off after Sam Houston was chosen over him to represent Texas. Later on he thought the state's legislature would send him to the Senate, but he received no votes. This tipped him over the edge, so he offed himself after dinner one day by shooting himself.

George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodakand inventor of roll film, killed himself after being hit with a spinal disorder causing him intense pain. According to internet sources, he left a nice succinct suicide note that read: To my Friends, My work is done. Why wait?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Math Olympiad Problem

Last week, I worked on one of the problems from this year's Mexican Math Olympiad (a math competition for really bright high school students in Mexico). In the actual competition, you get 9 hours to complete six problems (broken up over two 4-1/2 hour days). The problem I worked on was probably one of the easier ones, but I really don't know.

In any case, it took me a number of hours working on it in pieces before I came up with a solution. My solution was actually quite inelegant, but it was verified to be correct. So, I'm pleased with that. I haven't really tried any of the other problems, but I'm guessing that I couldn't solve most of them anyway (they're quite tough).

So, for those of you that enjoy a mathematical challenge from time to time, here's the problem.

There are N knights seated at a round table. Call the knights K_1, K_2, K_3, ..., K_N. The king decides to play a game to reward one of his knights. Beginning with K_1 and going clockwise, the knights will say the numbers 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, and so on. Note that each knight says only one number, before moving on to the next knight who will say the next number.

If a knight says 2 or 3 on his turn, then he immediately gets up and leaves the table. This little game continues until there is only one knight left at the table, and that knight is declared the winner.

For example, if N=7, then knights will say 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1 in the first round. This leaves behind only K_1, K_4, K_7 for the second round. At this point, K_1 will say 2 (since, that's where we left off after Round 1), K_4 will say 3, and the winner will be K_7, as all the other knights are gone.

Now, here's the actual question: Find all the values of N such that the winner will be K_2008.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Quick Update

Sold off the Khongzhong (KONG) at 3.40 for just under 40% gain. Will look to re-enter if an opportunity arises.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Image Processing in Mathematica

For anyone interested in image processing, this post on the Wolfram blog might be interesting. I think it's pretty neat, and it surely could simplify rapid testing of custom filters and image processing functions. It's often a pain to spend a lot of time coding up what you thought might be interesting only to learn that it wasn't so useful. And, I agree with what they say about Photoshop scripts... it's just not as nice as interfacing with a real API.

Of course, everything shown in that post can be done with your own image processing libraries and your own front-end, but if it's easy to do with what they've got, why not use it. I'd like to play with the new Mathematica some time, but unfortunately, that time isn't available now.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Some of you know that one of my friends and I have been working on a Tramp Stamp site. We have no idea what will become of it, but it's been fun and educational.

We launched the site a few hours ago... and, it's very much in beta mode right now. Please feel free to poke around the site all you want. If you do run into any issues or have comments/suggestions, please let us know. We expect the site will change a fair bit as we get more feedback.

Last, but not least, we encourage everyone to submit their very own photos of sexy tramp stamps, whether they are your own or simply caught in the wild.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jerusalem Cricket

I'm not sure how many of you out there have heard of Jerusalem crickets. Sometimes people refer to them as potato bugs. While they aren't rare creatures, it's not often that you see one alive and well. In the past, I've only seen them dead in swimming pools or in some similarly bad state. The main reason is that they are nocturnal and burrow beneath the earth most of the time.

Recently, we've been running at night near my place, and we very often see one or two of them walking around on the sidewalk. I have been talking about catching one for a while and keeping it as a pet. Finally, before the run tonight, I was reminded to bring a collecting jar. I'm happy to announce that I've got myself a new pet.

I'm going to add more dirt to the cage and provide some water. I wrote an entomologist who specializes in this particular insect, and he has already responded. He said that my basic care plans are fine, so that's good. These things live for a year or two, so if all goes well I'll be able to keep him a while.

Here are a couple pictures I took. It's a little under two inches long.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Three Sheets To The Wind

So, I just recently started watching a show called Three Sheets on the Mojo channel. The show is all about drinking excessively in a bunch of different countries. It's on its third season already, and I find it highly entertaining.

Before watching this show, I had never even heard of the expression three sheets to the wind. This was a shocker to some, and I guess it's quite a common expression. Somehow it slipped through the cracks. It basically means being totally drunk and wasted. Not sure where I would have heard it... I know for sure that no one I know has used the expression to describe excessive drunkenness.

Anyway, in case anyone wanted to know about its origin, I did some investigating. It's a nautical thing. Sheets are ropes that hold sails in place. When you have three sheets blowing in the wind, the sails will flap around and cause the boat to get really wobbly much like a drunk person. From what I read, sailors used to rate the level of drunkenness using the sheets scale... from one sheet (tipsy) to three sheets (fall over drunk).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Quick Update

Over the last few months as we were crashing, I lightened up a bit in a general sense... sold a little here and a little there across the board as the market trended lower. There weren't many holdings that remained untouched as I reduced my overall exposure. I didn't post too many updates about all of it -- a bit depressing in general. Make no mistake... my exposure reduction was not nearly large enough to make a significant difference on my overall portfolio devastation.

However, as a result, some cash was raised. I deployed some of it today picking up additional shares of Wet Seal (WTSLA). Grabbed a block of shares at 1.90 and a smaller piece at 2.09. My stake in the company remains large, and I still have a good deal of confidence that the company will get through this brutal time for all retailers and do well in the future.

I'm probably still in shock about all of this. It's really not fun to watch wealth evaporate. Anyway, have a nice weekend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Absolutely Sickening

Yes, I'm talking about the markets over the past few months. Just sick. I really should puke. I guess it's a good thing I don't have too much cash right now. But, I definitely plan on raising a chunk after the year's over to deploy.

Citigroup is at $7 now. How sick is that... I was lucky to have dumped it. But, it's only a small consolation as a ton of my portfolio value has essentially vanished. So sick. Good thing I still have a job. Disgusting.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Joke Jokes

So, JC and I whiled away some of our free time last night making up silly jokes. The theme for our new jokes was... jokes. Here are a few of them that I can remember. They're mostly lame, but whatever.

Where do you find the jokes at a party?
In the punch line.

What do you call a pregnant joke?
A belly-buster.

Why do jokes love pizza?
It's all about delivery.

How come the handicapped joke was fired?
He wasn't any good at stand-up.

Now it's time for a couple jokes for the mature audience...

What did one joke tell the other during sex?
Haha, Joke's on you.

What did the joke say to get his woman to swallow?
Don't worry, this joke is tasteless.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Quick Comment

Market's been wild lately. I haven't done much in the market, and for now I'm just waiting for some cash to be raised so I can deploy them... upcoming property tax bill isn't helping.

Anyway, I've been looking at Ingram Micro (IM) recently. Looks cheap to me, but I can't do anything now. So, I'll just continue to keep an eye on it.

Wet Seal (WTSLA) has bounced back some and now sits around $3 a share. Still sucks that it's down a ton from its $5-5.50 peak. But, that's nothing surprising given the overall bloodbath.

Kongzhong (KONG) is up a fair bit since our bottom feeding purchase. Too bad I did not buy more, because it's one of only a handful of my stocks that is clearly in the green. Go KONG Go!

That's all for now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

I know I'm going to get blasted for this, but here it goes...

Well, it's finally here, and no, I'm not voting. Those who know me expect this, and I get crap about it every time elections come around. I have two basic beliefs about my vote, which leads to my decision not to take a trip to the ballot box.

First, I do believe that my vote is meaningless. The chance that my vote plays any role at all is nearly non-existent. And, yes, I'm well aware of the 'if everyone who shared your belief decided to go out and vote, then the collective votes become meaningful' argument. But, truth be told, that simply doesn't happen.

Second, I believe that if you are a relatively uninformed voter, then you are simply adding noise to the system. I feel quite strongly about this point, and for me, it is the more heavily weighted of the two beliefs.

Here's an oversimplifying example. Say we had a total voting population of 110 people. Now, what if 10 of the people were 'perfect' experts in knowing how to maximize utility/happiness/whatever for the nation. Assume that other 100 are not as well informed and have a 50/50 shot of voting as the experts would. So, you've got 10 votes for the 'correct' choice from the experts, and roughly 50 votes for each choice from the 100 less informed voters.

On average, the correct choice wins out with a 60-50 vote count. But, we did just say that it's a 50/50 shot for each of the 100 less informed voters to vote correctly. It doesn't take much to swing the vote towards the incorrect choice. If just 56 of the 100 voted for the 'incorrect' choice, then we can say that the noise has overwhelmed the signal. This will happen about 13.6% of the time based on the binomial distribution.

As we continue to dilute the informed voters by urging the less informed types to vote, the signal-to-noise ratio continues to degrade, and eventually we have what is essentially a lottery or crap shoot that elects our leaders. Most people overestimate their own intelligence, and I'm sure I am part of this group as well. But, I think I know enough to know that I haven't the information to really make a wise decision about a leader for the country or regarding a state proposition.

Can I fix this? Yes. I could spend a good deal of time really understanding all the issues, etc. But, at this point, it's not worth it for me due to my belief that my vote is effectively meaningless.

It's obvious that very few voters really understand all the issues involved, as often one will see two campaign ads where one ad says one thing and the other ad basically says that it was not factual. If most people really had the information, these types of back-and-forth ads would not exist as they wouldn't be useful, since you can't really convince someone that a fact isn't a fact... no matter what an ad might do to convince me, I know that 1+1 equals 2 and not 3.

That said, there are some elections where I do cast a vote. One would be voting my shares for some of the companies where I feel that I am more informed or knowledgeable. In these cases, I feel that I am adding signal to the equation, and not just noise. Another time where I vote is as part of a committee at work, where I am very well informed and again, I believe I'm adding signal and not noise.

I know I'm rambling now, but I think people should understand that there is another choice when it comes time to vote. That choice is to ABSTAIN. People often abstain from a vote by recusing themselves due to conflicts. Others abstain from a vote due to indifference. But, I think one reason that people should abstain is often overlooked, and that is, the voter is simply unqualified.

Before I end this, I should ask the following.

Say you were going to build a house and there was a question as to what materials should be used and how the house were constructed. Would you prefer that a smaller group of qualified house building experts voted, or would you prefer that the population of your state casts their vote? Sure, there's a chance that your house would be built just fine with the large-scale vote, but I doubt anyone would prefer it. The building of your house is a whole lot simpler than all the issues involved in running our nation, so why do we insist that everyone throw in their 2 cents when often it's worth much closer to nothing.

*** Edit #1 ***

Okay, I've got some people slamming me now on chat about this...

The bottom line is that I do urge those that are informed to vote. I just don't think the non-informed or ill-informed types should spoil it for the nation. I happen to be in the non-informed crowd, hence my decision not to vote.

*** Edit #2 ***

I have to say that the free swag being offered to those that voted today is really a bad thing. Basically, some part of the population is voting only because of the free Starbucks, Ben and Jerry's, Krispy Kreme, etc. Those folks whose decision to vote or not to vote was tipped due to the free stuff are much more likely, in my opinion, to be uninformed or misinformed or vote randomly. So, companies that offer free stuff to 'get out the vote' are doing the nation a serious disservice.

Why would you possibly want to force or urge people to vote when it's likely that they are not well-informed?

*** Edit #3 ***

A friend of mine made a good point. He agrees that votes are meaningless and that most people are 'stupid' (aka mis- or ill- informed). But, he votes to keep the voter turnout high. His reasoning is that politicians that see a low voter turnout would feel less obligated to do what's right for the masses due to the population's lack of care.

He did say that something that needs to be there on the ballot is an option to Abstain from voting. This would help reduce the noise as those that are conscientious enough not to vote when they are not well enough informed will choose to abstain, but it would also allow the voter turnout number to remain high.

I think I like this idea. I suppose one could just leave options blank and use the write-in space to just say "Decline to Vote." Maybe that's what I'll do next time.

*** Edit #4 ***

This is just something kind of funny... definitely evidence of how misinformation is quite possibly more of a problem than lack of information. This is a Howard Stern interview from Harlem earlier this year. Our nation's elections seem to be very much popularity contests where the good of the nation is rarely being taken into consideration.

*** Edit #5 ***

Okay, I've stepped down from my platform. But, here's something funny... so how the heck are votes counted and updated? Right now (5:17pm PST), there are 3 votes total that have been counted in Maine.

I just think it's odd. How can that even be possible to count exactly 3 votes and have it be reported to the media? Strange.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Garden Update and Meat

A while back I harvested the veggies from the ghetto garden I planted. Anyway, we cooked up the peas and ate the raw lettuce with some dressing. The peas were surprisingly good despite harvesting them a bit too late. Some of the smaller ones tasted really sweet. The lettuce didn't taste too good. It was really on the bitter side.

And, we cooked up some tri-tip tonight. The meat was on sale at the local grocery store, so we picked some up and marinated it overnight using some soy sauce and vinegar based recipe found online. I've never tried cooking this up before, and I have to say that it tasted great. No complaints at all.

Here's a quick pic of the meat.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Most Populous U.S. Cities

I just saw this quiz thing on She-ra's page: 25 Most Populous U.S. Cities Quiz. Basically, you have to name the 25 most populous U.S. Cities. I got 18/25... give it a try and share your score. I was surprised by some of the answers.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Restaurant Gift Certificates - Halloween Special

I saw this deal on Get Rich Slowly. Basically, you can get $25 gift certificates from for only $2. There are restrictions that require you to order some amount, but it's still a great discount. Check it out here (use Discount Code: TREATS). Offer is only valid TODAY, so don't miss out!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mélisse Dinner

JC, Tiff, and I had a really nice meal over at Mélisse in Santa Monica. I probably won't have such a nice meal for a while given the economy and all, but it sure was a great experience. The food was excellent, and the service was exceptional. There wasn't anything to complain about really.

After looking at the menu for a little while, we each decided to do the tasting menu. The one thing that was really nice about this restaurant was that we actually had a lot of flexibility when it came to the tasting menu. At most other places, everyone at the table is more or less served the same thing. But, here, we got to pick and choose a few things much like how you'd order from a standard prix fixe menu.

Two different amuse bouches came out shortly after we had ordered. I'm not sure if one was something else, but both more or less served as an amuse. The first was a serving of grapes encrusted with goat cheese and pistachios, and the second one was a tomato gazpacho over a cucumber purée with salmon tartare. Both tasted so good. They definitely served their purpose of whetting my appetite.

As a first course, I had the Lobster Bolognese, Fresh Capellini with Black Truffles. This was some seriously good stuff. It was simple, but it tasted so damn good. I could easily have an entire meal consisting of just this, and I'd be perfectly happy. JC and Tiff had the Seared Foie Gras, but I didn't take any pictures of it.

For a second course, I had the John Dory dish. I like this fish usually, and this time was no different. It was served in a scallion mousseline sauce and also a shellfish sauce. The texture of the fish was just right and all the flavors worked really well for this one. It's hard for me to describe how nice it all worked out, but I was in fish heaven. I think the other two missed out, but I'm not sure.

JC, who isn't a fan of most seafood, had a corn ravioli dish. Tiff went for an abalone dish, but again, I didn't get a picture. I guess you'll have to check out her blog when she puts up her own pics.

Both JC and I had the rabbit for the main course. It was quite good, and the meat was not gamey at all. I often fear that rabbit meat will be a bit strong, but the meat was done really well and everything was so tasty. The dish was full of spices and you could taste a whole array of different flavors, as each part of the dish seemed to have been prepared and spiced differently. The rabbit also came with a boudin blanc, which is some sort of cajun sausage. That was one fancy tasting sausage, I must say.

Tiff had the lamb, which offered three different cuts of meat. After having a taste of her lamb, I think I prefer it. But, that's not to say I had any complaints about my own choice.

Finally, it was dessert time. JC and I chose the same thing again. We had a chocolate-themed finale. Four different chocolate desserts were served. There was chocolate ice cream with a white chocolate outside, a soufflé with a fresh injection of chocolate goodness, a chocolate parfait, and a chocolate cake.

Then, after this rather filling meal, we got some slices of fruit, cookies, and petit fours.

And, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the pictures. The meal was wonderful, and it was really nice that Tiff could join us as JC bid farewell to Los Angeles.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Big Move

Well, this is it. I'm heading down to LA for relationship purposes one final time. Tonight, there is a going away dinner at a nice restaurant. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures. And, tomorrow is the big moving day. We'll pack everything up into the truck, and then head on up to Triple-S J... that is, South Side San Jose. Ha ha. I learned that from some random grocery store cashier a few weeks back.

Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Journey of a Dead Skin Ball

Some will find this video clip gross, some others will relate to it, and others yet will find it inspirational. Enjoy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

BSOD at a Gas Station

Not too long ago I found a gas station pump with the Blue Screen of Death. Luckily, I had my camera handy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Eyeballing Game

Tiff posted this Eyeballing game up on her blog, and I thought it was pretty fun, so I'm sharing it here. The game is self-explanatory, you just try to eyeball the correct geometries that are asked of you. Anyway, the first time I played the game, my mouse slipped and I had a single large outlier that caused my average error to be really high (~8.0), but the second time I played it, I did OK.

My score on the second try was a 3.65.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Togo's Flashback

I wasn't in the know until today about Togo's Flashback Wednesdays deal. They've got a select 6" sandwich each week that is priced at $1.99. After yet another market crash today, I know where I'm heading for dinner tonight.

Icelandic Plunge

The markets have been bad for us, but it's nothing compared to what is happening over in Iceland. Pretty crazy if you ask me.

"Iceland's benchmark stock index plunged 77 percent, the biggest decline on record, as trading resumed after a three-day suspension and the nationalization of the country's largest banks."

Bloomberg Report on the Iceland stock market crash.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Poor Fitness Level

I am out of shape. I really am. I'm not overweight at all, but I lack stamina. This past Sunday, I ran in the Run Forrest Run 5K during the Long Beach Marathon. JC ran the half-marathon.

So, anyway, I ran a whopping 3.1 miles in just over 36 minutes. This is sad. This is not much faster than a 12 minutes per mile pace. Pathetic. In my age group I was basically in the bottom 40%, and this includes those that walked and those that ran it while pushing a baby stroller.

You know you need to step it up when senior citizens are killing you. The fastest 65 year old male did it in under 25 minutes and the fastest 70 year old male was able to do it in about 28 minutes. And, here I am, someone that's just outside the prime years putting up a lousy 36 minutes.

Anyway, I'm going to have to fix this. I'm not looking to be a super star runner, but this is simply unacceptable.

JC, on the other hand, did just fine. She ran her 13.1 miles in under 2 hours and 15 minutes, which put her in the top third of her class. This means that she was able to run her 13.1 miles at a significantly faster pace (around 10 1/4 minutes per mile) than I did for 3.1 miles. How sad is that?

In my defense, I didn't really train or prepare at all. The results of running this cold turkey tells me that if I'm going to try this again, I'm going to have to really put forth some effort. It sucks to suck.

At least at the end of the run they gave us some food that was supplied by the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant. Ceviche and shrimp cocktail never tasted so good. There will be a next time, but it won't be any time soon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Garden Pics

If you recall, I don't have much of a garden. One day I just decided to plant some Sugar Snap Peas and Salad Bowl Lettuce to make use of this empty patch in my back yard. A couple months ago, my plants had just begun growing. Today, the pea plants are probably 4 feet tall, and the lettuce is a pretty large bunch.

I have no idea how to tell when to harvest any of it. I suppose I should read up on that. I was really only half-expecting anything useful to come from this exercise. But, now that it seems pretty clear that the plants are doing fine, I should do some more research and maybe put a little more time into this.

Here are some pics.

Quick Update

Well, the emergency rate cut prevented us from tanking thus far. It hasn't really helped us move up, but at least for now the bleeding has stopped. Pretty scary really... what the heck now?

Same store sales numbers came out this morning for a lot of retailers. Overall the picture's bleak. Fortunately, Wet Seal (WTSLA) came out more or less in line with expectations (-7.5% vs -7.3%) and they re-affirmed their 0.05-0.07 EPS. This is really good all things considered. Had the numbers come out horribly, I'd be crying.

I picked up a position in Kongzhong (KONG) at 2.45. It's a company I used to own/follow, and I know that it's a favorite of gaamblor's. He's been pushing it my way for some time, and today, I finally bit the bullet with a (very) small starter position. From what I can tell, it's now trading substantially below its cash value, and current projections have the company remaining in the black. Anyway, not willing to buy a substantial amount until I get a much better idea of what's going on. Plus, I'm skittish and scared for the most part.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Quick Market and Life Update

I lightened up on a few things earlier today when the market was slightly in the red... too little too late, but I suppose for now I'm better off having done so with the market sinking to a new low. Maybe this is what I look like when I'm capitulating somewhat.

Anyway, sold off between 10-25% of Manitowoc (MTW), Glatfelter (GLT), Phillip Morris International (PM).

When is this pain going to end? I have no f'ing idea... all I know is that I'm hurting pretty badly, and most people I know are in the same boat. Ugh.

In other news, JC is moving up here (and in with me) in a few weeks. Hopefully, it is smooth sailing. From a personal perspective, it should be nice. Sure beats us flying around to see each other. From a financial perspective, it is definitely a win-win. I get help on the mortgage, and her rent decreases a fair bit as compared to what she pays with her current living arrangement.

Also, my sugar snap peas are growing a lot... there are a lot of peas now. Not sure when is the right time to pick them. I'll post up pictures some time soon if I can remember.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Quick Update

Reducing exposure... got rid of the rest of Citigroup (C) at $20. The vote is later on today, and there's more complication regarding the Wachovia (WB) buyout with Wells Fargo (WFC) swooping in.

I might be back in it in the future, but for now I'm done. Essentially took some not-so-huge losses on 3/4 of the initial position, and took a rather large loss on 1/4. Oh well. Could have gotten out of this last 25% yesterday for a good deal more. It's a pity that I'm not clairvoyant, I'd have avoided the past 30-45 days of absolute pain.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Neat Forced Mate

I finished a game this morning, and I thought this was a straightforward, yet neat, forced mate. So, I'm posting it here. Maybe you'll think the same about it. Anyway, it looked pretty to me. Enjoy.

White to move. Mate in 3.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Day To Remember

I lost a crapload today. Anyone who was long the market lost a crapload today too. These things happen... and, sure, I wish I had further trimmed my exposure. Hindsight's 20/20. Today's the worst I've seen ever since I've been involved with the markets. Watching the Nasdaq Composite lose over 9% was a shocker. Pretty sick, if you ask me.

On a different topic... I wasn't active in the markets in 1987, but my parents and others that I talk to were. They mostly tell me... well, these things happen. And, I know it sounds a lot like those "when I was your age, I used to walk 10 miles to school in the middle of a blizzard" stories. However, the fact is they all felt the horrific drop that dwarfs the one we saw today.

Not that any of this really matters... I digress. Tomorrow is another day.

Anyway, I thought I'd close this quick post with some interesting trivia. Of all the S&P 500 companies (500 of them), only one closed up... that honor goes to Campbell's Soup (CPB).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sushi Zo

When I was in LA last weekend, we met up with a couple people over at Sushi Zo. All I was hearing were rave reviews of this sushi restaurant, and so I was dying to check it out. I always feel that the Bay Area's sushi just doesn't quite compare to what you can get down in SoCal... but, I'm probably just not in the know.

Anyway, we did the Omakase which is pretty much what everyone seems to order over there. I have to say that the fish was fresh and everything was excellent. It was expensive, but you get what you pay for. I'd definitely go back.

Here are a few pictures I took of the sushi we ate. Just looking at these pics makes me hungry. It was fantastic. Yelpers seem to agree, too, as the restaurant is rated 4.5 stars with over 100 votes.

Speaking of sushi... I've been hearing some really great things about Stonefish sushi (okoze). I've never had it, nor have I ever found any place that served it. One of these days I will find me some, and I'll report on what I thought. Hope that day comes sooner and not later. Anyone ever had it or know where I can have a taste? I have also heard that it's great cooked as well.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Lobsters and Indians

Yep, it's been a while since we've talked about Lobsters and Indians. Anyway, the awesome Tiffster made this for us to hang up on the back wall of the bar that we will open up in the future.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bo Burnham

I suspect that most of you have seen Bo Burnham's videos on YouTube already... he's been putting up videos since 2006 I think. For those of you who haven't, you're really missing out. This kid is talented, and his songs are hilarious. Sure, they're a bit offensive to those who are overly sensitive or to those without any sense of humor, but I just find myself cracking up at his lyrics.

Anyway, here's a taste of his style...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Neat Wario Land Ad

Even though I don't know anything about Wario Land and don't own a Wii, I thought this was a really cool marketing/advertisement idea. You'll know what I mean when you watch it. Check it out.

Wario Land: Shake It YouTube Ad

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quick Update

Bought some Wet Seal (WTSLA) at 3.82. Not a large buy, but this is adding to an already large position. This increases my current holding by 7%. I'm not expecting anything, but I'm definitely more willing to let this new batch go if we happen to get any quick move to the upside.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Know It When I Read It

First, I'm going to say that this is NSFW, but it's pretty tame. Anyway, JC and I were just feeling kind of goofy while chilling over at her place in LA. And, I'm not even sure how it started, but we got to talking about how sometimes adult film companies create titles based on famous works. Titles like Forrest Hump or Intercourse with a Vampire are some examples.

Well, we ended up coming up with a list for the literary aficionado. We decided that we'd start with the Charles Dickens collection for obvious reasons, and here's the list that we came up with. Some are pretty bad, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them have actually been used before.

  • A Tale of Two Titties
  • David Cop-a-Feel
  • Oliver Fist
  • Great Sexpectations
  • A XXX-mas Carol
And, there's one Dickens' work that needs no alteration at all... Hard Times -- For These Times. Okay, that's it for now... maybe next time we'll tackle the works of James Joyce or maybe Oscar Wilde.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Domain Name Hot List

A friend of mine recently put up a website ( that provides interesting, useful, and potentially lucrative domain names that are currently available. The list is updated daily and free to check out.

From Today's 'Hot Name' List, here are a few that I thought were pretty good:

Anyway, whether or not you are a collector of domain names, check it out.

Who Woulda Thunk?

If you'd told me on Wednesday morning that the Citigroup (C) I sold was at the bottom, I'd think you'd be right a good amount of the time. It's just that I was willing to sacrifice selling a portion at the bottom for fear that any more damage might have put me over the edge causing panic, etc.

Now, if you'd told me that the C shares I've got that are currently covered by calls would be in danger of being called away at $20, I'd have thought you were crazy. But, that's where we are today. What a wacky crazy week.

I did manage to add to my Goldman Sachs (GS) position in the retirement account... added some at 104.45 yesterday. So, for the record, the shares have a cost basis of $113.79. I did sell some tech to finance that purchase, but I guess I'm on the good side of that at the moment.

I guess in short, it sure looks like the little guy (me) sells his C at the bottom. On the bright side, I didn't sell off too much of it.

As much as this market jump helps me, I am not necessarily a fan of the outright ban on short-selling of financial stocks. Of course, I don't have all the information on it, but it doesn't feel right. Creating an imbalance like this can't be what's in the best interest of the markets, but what do I really know.

-- Edit #1 --

Okay, the market's closed, and C closed above $20. Come Monday, I will be down to only 25% of my original position. Who would have guessed? Clearly, I did not.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quick Update

Reduced my exposure to Citigroup (C) this morning. Sold 25% of the position at an average price of $14.70. First sale was filled at 14.92 in early trading, and then I dumped a second piece at 14.55. Will continue to watch it carefully.

I really needed to reduce the position so that I am less likely to enter into 'panic' mode, which is almost always a bad thing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Interesting Chess Game

I just played what I felt was an interesting game of chess. I'm not qualified to make that judgment, but I suppose what's deemed interesting is subjective. The game was clean as far as I'm concerned, as neither of us made any obvious blunders.

Throughout the game we were fairly even. Despite the evenness of the game, I really felt that there was a lot going on, and the tension was high. There was a lot of play in both of us as the game went on. Obviously, as the game progressed, we both missed out on some opportunities to eke out a small gain here and there. Adding up all of the small missed opportunities surely cost one of us the game. However, there was no obvious death blow that was missed.

Ultimately, the game ended in a draw, but I was generally pleased with how it all played out. In the end, I was trailing slightly, but managed to play it to a draw. I am sure it's clear to anyone who actually plays well that our endgames need some work. But, without further ado, here are a few snapshots from the game.

My opponent, playing White, is rated 1464 on RHP. I'm Black with a 1527 rating on that site.

Here's the first snapshot. Note that the board is from Black's perspective so notation is flipped. After White makes move 32, the chess engine estimates that we are dead even.

I move Rb2 seven moves later, and the battle is definitely on. Pieces are about to be cleared off the board. The computer still puts us completely even at this juncture.

Now, we're 50 moves into the game, and I push pawn to f5. The situation is precarious looking at this point. Despite this, we're still pretty even. And, to think that we're only two-thirds of the way through the game.

We get to the final position below after a lot of end game maneuvering. I think it was in the end game where we both missed a good number of chances to take the lead, or preserve one that we'd obtained, whichever the case may be. Finally, at this point, I think it became clear that neither of us was going to win. So, I offered a draw and he accepted it. The computer agrees that this is indeed a drawn position. There you have it... a draw after an intense 72 moves.

I think there's a lot of neat stuff that went on in this game that could not be captured by these four positions. If you're interested in chess, I encourage you to take a look at the full game yourself. The full game can be found below.

Here's the PGN:

[Event "Challenge"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2008.09.11"]
[EndDate "2008.09.17"]
[White "MyOpponent"]
[Black "BruteForce"]
[WhiteRating "1464"]
[BlackRating "1527"]
[WhiteELO "1464"]
[BlackELO "1527"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]

1. d4 d5 2. c3 Ng8f6 3. Nb1d2 Nb8c6 4. e3 e5 5. Bf1e2 e4 6. f3 Bc8f5 7. f4 Qd8d7 8. h3 Bf8d6 9. Nd2f1 Nc6a5 10. Nf1g3 Na5c4 11. Be2xc4 dxc4 12. Ng3xf5 Qd7xf5 13. Qd1a4 Nf6d7 14. Qa4xc4 O-O 15. Bc1d2 a6 16. O-O-O c5 17. Ng1e2 b5 18. Qc4b3 c4 19. Qb3c2 Nd7b6 20. g4 Qf5d5 21. Ne2g3 Rf8e8 22. Bd2e1 Qd5c6 23. Rh1h2 Nb6d5 24. Rh2e2 Nd5b6 25. Ng3f5 a5 26. Kc1d2 b4 27. Rd1b1 bxc3 28. bxc3 Bd6a3 29. Kd2d1 g6 30. Nf5g3 Ra8b8 31. Be1d2 a4 32. Re2e1 Ba3e7 33. Re1f1 Be7h4 34. Ng3e2 a3 35. Ne2c1 Nb6a4 36. Kd1e2 Na4b2 37. Rf1g1 Bh4f6 38. Rg1g2 Nb2d3 39. Ke2f1 Rb8b2 40. Rb1xb2 axb2 41. Nc1xd3 exd3 42. Qc2xb2 Qc6f3 43. Kf1g1 Qf3xh3 44. g5 Bf6g7 45. Qb2c1 h6 46. Qc1e1 f6 47. gxh6 Bg7xh6 48. Rg2xg6 Kg8f7 49. Qe1g3 Qh3h5 50. Rg6g4 f5 51. Rg4h4 Qh5d1 52. Qg3e1 Re8g8 53. Kg1f2 Qd1xe1 54. Bd2xe1 Rg8g6 55. Rh4h2 Rg6a6 56. Kf2f3 Bh6f8 57. e4 fxe4 58. Kf3e3 Ra6b6 59. f5 Bf8d6 60. Rh2g2 Rb6b1 61. Be1d2 Rb1b2 62. Ke3xe4 Rb2xa2 63. Ke4e3 Bd6f8 64. Rg2g6 Ra2a7 65. Ke3f4 Ra7e7 66. Rg6e6 Re7xe6 67. fxe6 Kf7xe6 68. Kf4e4 Bf8d6 69. d5 Ke6f6 70. Ke4d4 Kf6f5 71. Kd4xc4 Kf5e4 72. Bd2h6 Bd6e5 1/2-1/2

Buying The Dip

I generally don't comment on my retirement portfolio, but I'll make an exception today. I picked up some Goldman Sachs (GS) today at $127 even. With the current $1.40 dividend, shares are yielding 1.1%, and GS should fare much better than others during this financial turmoil. Anyway, figured I'd put this down here so I can refer back in the future. I've been very, very wrong about the financials thus far (with C, and some XLF in the retirement account), but I'm sticking with my long-term plan for now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bloody Monday

Dow Futures are currently down 300. Relative to fair value, S&P Futures are down 32, and Nasdaq-100 Futures are down 35. Lehman (LEH) is likely going to fail... Bank of America (BAC) buying Merrill (MER).

This is going to hurt... a lot.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Portmanteau

So, I was having a conversation earlier about random stuff, and of course, the subject of Hurricane Ike came up. Anyway, during this conversation I invented a portmanteau to describe what the government might call for when the certain flooding occurs.

< ... drum roll, please ... >

They might call for a State of Submergency.

Someone thought it was so good that it must have been a fairly common one. So, how can we get a quick estimate on its popularity? Well, you do the Google test and look at the hit count.

State of Emergency: 4.4MM hits
State of Submergency: 3 hits

Yes, that's right... a whopping 3 hits. I'm going to lay claim to that term based on this quick test. Now, it's time to market it... though it's really in poor taste now, I think it'd be pretty sweet if one day we saw a headline that referenced it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Simple Exponential Equations

So, I was asked recently if I could help solve a simple exponential equation. And, while I was able to get an answer, I was only able to do so by inspection. I'm not sure how to go about solving a more general equation without using numerical methods.

Anyway, here's the equation:

SQRT( (3 + SQRT(8))^x ) + SQRT( (3 - SQRT(8))^x ) = 6

When I took a look at this, I was able to solve it by inspection readily...

The equation can be rewritten as:

(3 + SQRT(8))^(x/2) + (3 - SQRT(8))^(x/2) = 6

Clearly, if we had (3 + SQRT(8)) + (3 - SQRT(8)), we would get 6. So, we just want the exponents to be equal to 1, and thus, x = 2.

That's all fine and dandy, but that doesn't really sit well with me.

What if we had the following instead:

SQRT( (3 + SQRT(8))^x ) + SQRT( (3 - SQRT(8))^x ) = C

Now what? How would we be able to solve this in terms of C? Now, is there some sort of identity or trick that we can take advantage of to help us solve this... maybe something related to the conjugate?

I thought about this more, but I got nowhere. In terms of a quick and dirty approximation, we could simply drop the 2nd term knowing that as C tends to infinity, the (3 - SQRT(8))^(x/2) would approach zero.

So, for large C we could get an accurate approximation by simply solving the simpler equation:

(3 - SQRT(8))^(x/2) = C

And, x = (2 ln C) / (ln (3 + SQRT(8)). The value of C doesn't even have to get all that big for that approximation to be accurate. At C = 6, we have 1.65% error. At C = 34, we are down to a tiny 0.0246% error. And, by the time C reaches 198, we have a near negligible 0.000482% error.

Okay, but it's still not that useful. And, for small values of C, we are certainly going to be way off the mark.

Continuing with all of this... what do you do with another simple exponential equation like:

2^x + 3^x = C

I could get nowhere in trying to break this down. Is the only way to get a value for x is by solving for it numerically using known methods?

I've either forgotten a lot of simple math or there's just no clean way to solve exponential equations that contain different bases. Anyway, I'm done thinking about this for now. So, does anyone want to help me out with this?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Great Ziegfeld

My quest continues... the latest Best Picture I watched was The Great Ziegfeld, the 1936 winner. And, I have to say that it was really good. I thought the acting was really quite good, which was surprising to me considering what I've seen in older movies.

I knew nothing about Florenz Ziegfeld before watching this movie and subsequently reading up a bit about his life. The movie portrayed him as a likable fellow with some serious game. He was probably the PUA of his time, plus he went from broke to rich to broke a few times in the movie, which is always good for drama. He was definitely an interesting character, and the movie did a good job developing his character.

He was known for his Broadway productions (and publicity stunts), including what he's most famous for, the Ziegfeld Follies, which involved such stars as Fannie Brice, W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, and Bob Hope. And, the movie certainly wanted to show off some musical productions to its audience. I don't know much about that time period and whether or not Broadway musicals were accessible to the common people or not. I would assume not, and so this movie was probably a nice way of exposing the public to that form and level of entertainment.

Some interesting things that I learned about Ziegfeld from what I read about him... he was married to Billie Burke (not a household name, but if I said she was Glinda the Good Witch of the North, you'd know who she was instantly). He hired Eugen Sandow, the father of modern bodybuilding, early in his career. Here's Strength and How to Obtain It, one of Sandow's books on how to get buff. The Sandow guy was was actually an important character in the early part of the movie. And, finally, Ziegfeld lost his ass in the stock market (due to margin and the big crash in 1929). That, too, was included in the film.

Anyway, if you don't mind watching a movie interspersed with many musical production segments, then I definitely recommend this one. As far as older Best Picture winning movies go, I would have to say that this is one of the better ones. So, go check it out.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

We All Scream For Ice Cream

A friend of mine, Miss V, passed this my way... and, now I pass it along to the rest of you.

Cold Stone Creamery is hosting an ice cream social to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The bottom line is that you get some free ice cream from 5pm-8pm on September 25, 2008. Here's a link to the actual promotion page.

Wet Seal Downgrade

Credit Suisse downgraded shares of Wet Seal (WTSLA) today from Outperform to Neutral with a price target of $5.

The basic idea behind their downgrade was that the seemingly easy same store sales comparisons for 2009 were misleading (WTSLA's 2008 is estimated at -3.5%, making for an easier '09 comp). They believe that the better measure is sales productivity (sales/sq. ft), and for many retailers, comparisons on that basis would be much more challenging.

From their report:

"Specifically, we estimate Wet Seal will achieve sales/sq. ft. of $324 in 2008. While this doesn’t seem high compared to higher price point retailers, for Wet Seal $324/sq. ft. is 26% higher than the average productivity the company achieved over the last five years ($257)."

This puts WTSLA at the top of their list of retailers comparing 2008 estimates on sales productivity to a five-year average (2003-2007 sales productivity average).

Additionally, they also mention that they are not all that bullish on the turnaround of the Arden B division.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Wet Seal Fan Page

Those of you who have used Facebook probably have seen those fan pages where you can become a fan of X, Y, or Z. There are probably thousands of them... you can be a fan of South Park, a fan of Cheerios, etc. Anyway, out of curiousity, I checked to see if I could become a fan of Wet Seal (WTSLA), and the answer was NO.

There did not exist a Wet Seal fan page. And, being the dork I am, I created one a week ago. And, now we're up to a whopping 104 fans! Ha ha. This is so silly, but I get a kick out of it.

Anyway, as the admin of that page, I can see the statistics kept for it. Here's a snapshot I just took. The plot at the top shows the growth of the fan base over the past week. They should hire me part-time.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Market Pain

Today, the market is suffering. Jobless claims jumped, and monthly retail sales figures were weak. However, the portfolio is taking a much harsher beating.

A couple reasons why...

Wet Seal (WTSLA) announced its sales numbers, and they were a bit worse than the analysts' consensus. Shares down roughly 5%.

Manitowoc (MTW) is down a good 6% right now after Terex (TEX) announced that its earnings would fall short of expectations for the next two quarters as well as for the current fiscal year. TEX fell a good deal more (-20%), but that doesn't change anything about the MTW pain I'm feeling.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Quick Update

Just got back from lunch, and I saw that an order to sell some covered calls on Citigroup (C) was filled. Sold Sept 20 Calls (CID) covering half the C position at $0.58. The full position now has an effective cost basis of $21.71. Tack on the 0.32 dividend that was paid out recently, and it's not such a horrible loss.

Also, nice to see that the Wet Seal is back above $5. We're approaching striking distance now of the $5.50-$6.00 range that I was targeting. I had a small window before where I could have sold some shares in the 5.50's, but I missed it. Hopefully soon, I'll get a new chance.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Quick Update

My order to sell Hewlett Packard (HPQ) Sept 45 Calls (HPQII) at 2.75 was filled this morning. Good for +120%.

Market continues to be volatile. At least the Wet Seal (WTSLA) is once again closing in on the $5 mark. Still waiting for a better price to unload some of it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Hey, This Beer's Clammy!

I was down in LA over the holiday weekend, and on Friday night, JC and I went to the grocery store to pick up some chips and dip to bring to GZA's BBQ on Saturday. While at the store, we figured we wanted to get some beer for us to have that night. We saw that they were carrying Bud Light Chelada (Bud Light + Clamato), and while we both heard about it, neither of us really had ever tried it nor gotten the urge to do so.

Anyway, we were just talking about it, and we at some point we said something like, "Not sure I really want clam broth in my beer... it'll probably taste funky." It was then that a random guy shopping for his own beer chimed in with his words of wisdom. "You've got to try it, it's really good. It's the beer drinker's Bloody Mary." We were swayed by his praise, and we got a can of it to try out, along with our normal beer (Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blonde Ale, for those that care).

So, after we had Indian food over at Akbar in Marina del Rey (the Lamb Vindaloo I had was very good, by the way), we mustered the courage to give the Chelada a try. We took a video of the experience, but unfortunately, I was too lazy to put on a shirt when we took it and I don't feel like grossing anyone out with a topless me. The drink didn't taste all that bad on the first sip. It was like a less viscous alcoholic V-8, but soon after the first sip went down I had a weird look on my face. The after taste, in my opinion, was pretty strong.

When it was JC's turn, she more or less knew what to expect and she felt the same way about it. She couldn't have any more of it, and well, I drank the rest of it. As much as I wasn't a fan, it was far from the worst drink I've ever had, and who wants any sort of beer to go to waste?

The next day was really chill. We went out to attend a little BBQ that the GZA had over at his new place in Newbury Park. Finally got to see his daughter who is growing up fast. The Tri-Tip was so good that the GZA got a temporary name-change. He was the Ghost Face Grilla for the night.

On Sunday, JC, my sister and her friend ran the Nike 10K Human Race. I did not participate, because I'm a slacker. However, I am planning on running a much shorter 5K in about a month and a half. It was a pretty cool thing to see from the sidelines, as there were over 12K runners in Los Angeles.

There were so many people that it was a full 8 minutes before all the runners had crossed the starting line. I'm not sure how many runners participated worldwide, but it was a lot from what I heard. A total of 25 cities participated. The picture is a blur, but this is just a quick glimpse of the sea of red runners.

JC put in a fine time of 57:34 (Good Job!). I think that was good for the top 20% or so for women. My sister and her friend did alright as well, but neither managed to crack the hour mark. The best time for men in LA was 30:38, and for women it was 35:57. Really impressive. The cyclist, Lance Armstrong, ran in Austin in 98 degree heat and came in 6th in that city.

After the race was over, my sister and her friend watched the Kanye West concert that was the main post-race event. After that was done with, we hit up Hodori in K-Town for some late night grubbing.

That pretty much wraps up the weekend. Hope you all had a nice Labor Day.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

No Country For Old Men

Last night I watched the 2007 Oscar winner, No Country For Old Men. Another one down in my Academy Award Winning Quest I have knocked off 46 of them, but I'm a distant third of the group of us trying to finish; one has seen 75, and another has already watched 57. It's not really a race though, but I'd like to think I was keeping up with the pace. I still need to watch Gandhi (1982) and Ordinary People (1980) to clear out the 1970-2007 block.

So, let's get back to the movie. I thought it was great. I liked it a lot, as it kept me interested the whole way. There was just enough going on that I never felt like anything was really dragging on and how can you not appreciate the use of a cattle gun when you are going for violence.

The crazy psycho guy was played by Javier Bardem, and I have to say his acting was amazing. He was one scary mofo, and he would definitely be fun to watch play some high stakes no-limit poker. I mean, after all, he does flip coins for lives. Ha ha. Seriously, he was one bad ass, scary dude.

I knew nothing about what the movie was about other than a lot of people having mixed feelings about the ending. I thought the ending was great. I won't say much more than that in case some of you haven't seen it and plan on doing so in the future.

Anyway, I don't have much to say about the film other than I give it two thumbs up. It was a lot better than the previous year's winner. Not sure if I'd say it was better than Crash, but I would say that it was better than Million Dollar Baby.

And, on a totally different note. Not sure if anyone dared try to play more of that Capsules game, but I am still an addict. I'm up to Level 72 now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Sequence Relationship

I thought I'd spend a minute to post this up, because some might find that trying to figure it out might be entertaining. So, I'm at work going through some code and I'm getting two sequences of 4 numbers. All I know is that these two sequences are related somehow, but there isn't much more information beyond that.

Unfortunately, I'm slow and I did not instantly see the relationship, and so I had to spend some time digging deeper into the code before all was revealed. Let's see if you can spot the relationship.

Sequence A: 11, 25, 165, 300
Sequence B: 64, 199, 339, 353

Hint: Think line numbers in text, or maybe think of a line of people. -- Too bad, I wasn't given this luxury. Could have saved myself 20 or so minutes of time.

Note: There's actually some practical meaning to the sequences.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Capsules - Yet Another Addictive Game

As if we all don't have enough time-sucking activities in our lives. Here is a game called Capsules. There are 347 levels!!!! I have barely made a dent in the game having only completed 37 levels for a total score of 14580.

It starts off sort of simple, but gets tough really quickly. The basic idea is that you need to have the yellow capsules eat all the blue capsules. So far, the two ways you can die are if any yellow capsule touches a red one, or if you move your mouse out-of-bounds (which, seems to be loosely defined and depends on the level itself).

Some levels are annoying since they incorporate a trial-and-error guessing aspect, but for the most part most levels have been challenging and not rote. The difficulty seems to jump around a bit as it doesn't seem to necessarily get harder in order. Be warned though, you might want to pull your hair out... some of the really frustrating ones took me a ton of tries. Enjoy.


*** Edit #1 ***

Okay, I've beaten 54 levels now, but Level 55 is giving me a hard time. Going to stop for now... wow, I just wasted a lot of time. Ugh.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wet Seal Earnings

Wet Seal (WTSLA) has fallen sharply in the past month from its peak in the mid-$5's to around $4 a share. It seemed that this was caused by the anticipation of further weakness in the retail environment, which would really hurt the company. Today, the numbers came out, and while they were not blow-your-socks-off amazing, a cursory look at the report tells me that things were quite solid, and so I am not going to be selling any of my shares at the current prices.

In early August, the company announced that their earnings (excluding one-time charges) would come in at the high end of a 0.09-0.11 range. They came in just above the range with an EPS of 0.12. They are also guiding the next quarter a higher than current consensus estimates, providing a range of 0.05-0.07 vs. 0.05.

However, they are forecasting a drop in sales, which puts them 1-4% shy of current analyst estimates. So, this might dampen the mood some. Given all of this, I'd be surprised if we did not move higher on this report. Shares have been taken down a lot already, and the weak revenue forecast isn't enough to spell doom. It looks like the company's margins are continuing to improve, and there seems to be some light at the end of the Arden B tunnel.

From the press release:

In spite of continued comparable store sales challenges at Arden B during its merchandising turnaround, its infrastructure downsizing earlier this year and cautious inventory management efforts during the remerchandising have reversed an operating loss to operating income, prior to corporate cost allocations, in the second quarter and for the first half of fiscal 2008 in that segment.

So, in any case, I'm optimistic about what tomorrow will bring. There isn't enough afterhours trading volume to really get much of a real sense now. While I don't expect shares to fall as a result of this report, if they do, I just might be tempted to buy some of my shares back. I think the turnaround plans are still working out, and Ed Thomas has yet to let me down in any manner thus far.

Been so busy at work that I will have to listen to the call later on tonight.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Close Chess Game

I've been in a game against a 1450 rated (on RedHotPawn) for the past week or so, and finally the game ended today. I felt it was a really hard fought match, and generally the game was clean. Looking at the game again, I was lucky to have pulled out a win. The game was fairly long too, as his resignation came after 51 moves.

I ran the game through a chess engine, and the computer had us in a dead heat (+0.00) after his 27th move as White. Here's the position that was considered even by the analyzer.

My next move (27. ... Ne5) was deemed a mistake and quickly the computer upped my opponents chances a notch. But, he does not counter my threat properly (28. Nc3), and it would ultimately cost him the game. He overlooked the fact that my own queen is covered by my knight after I take his queen from the fork, which wins me a piece. The computer suggests 28. Kg1 or Kh1 as the correct plays that thwart my plans.

Below is the game in its entirety. I also have another game (against a 1550) that I will probably post up later on when it's done. I think I'm going to lose, but I'm not 100% convinced yet, so it's going to be at least a couple of days more probably.

1. b3 e5 2. Bc1b2 Nb8c6 3. e3 Ng8f6 4. a3 d5 5. Bf1b5 Qd8d6 6. Bb5xc6 bxc6 7. Ng1f3 Bc8g4 8. h3 Bg4xf3 9. Qd1xf3 Bf8e7 10. O-O O-O 11. d3 e4 12. dxe4 Nf6xe4 13. Qf3g4 Be7f6 14. Bb2xf6 Qd6xf6 15. Ra1a2 c5 16. c4 c6 17. Ra2c2 Ra8b8 18. cxd5 cxd5 19. f3 Ne4d6 20. Rc2xc5 Rb8xb3 21. Rc5xd5 Rb3xe3 22. Qg4d7 Nd6c4 23. Qd7xa7 Qf6e6 24. Rf1d1 Re3e1 25. Kg1h2 Re1xd1 26. Rd5xd1 Qe6e2 27. Qa7d4 Nc4e5 28. Nb1c3 Ne5xf3 29. Kh2g3 Nf3xd4 30. Nc3xe2 Nd4xe2 31. Kg3f3 Ne2c3 32. Rd1a1 Rf8a8 33. Ra1e1 g6 34. Re1a1 f5 35. h4 h5 36. Kf3f4 Kg8f7 37. Kf4e5 Ra8a4 38. g3 Kf7e7 39. Ra1e1 Ra4e4 40. Re1xe4 fxe4 41. Ke5d4 Nc3b5 42. Kd4xe4 Nb5xa3 43. Ke4f4 Ke7f6 44. g4 Na3c4 45. g5 Kf6f7 46. Kf4e4 Nc4d6 47. Ke4e5 Nd6f5 48. Ke5f4 Nf5xh4 49. Kf4e5 Nh4f5 50. Ke5f4 Kf7e6 51. Kf4f3 Ke6e5 0-1

Quick Update

The Hewlett Packard (HPQ) calls I picked up from yesterday got a boost today, now that shares of the company are trading around $46. I'll hang on in hopes of getting out on a real market rally.

Today, I sold some Manitowoc (MTW) Sept $25 calls (MTWIE) for $1 apiece, covering less than half the position. Still losing my ass on this one, but this helps reduce my exposure.

*** Edit #1 ***

I have re-established the General Electric (GE) position that was called away over the weekend at $29. Picked up shares via a buy-write at a net cost of $27.75.

Bought GE at $28.35
Sold Sept $29 Calls (GEWIC) at $0.60

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quick Update

Taking a chance here with some Hewlett Packard (HPQ) calls ahead of their earnings release this afternoon. Made a small bet on the Sept $45 calls (HPQII) at $1.25. I rarely play out of the money options and tend to do spreads, but this time, I think there's a real chance for a move in the next month given all the negativity surrounding tech these days. It won't be too long before we see how this works out.

*** Edit #1 ***

So far so good. The numbers came out, and it looks like HPQ beat Wall Street estimates on both the top and bottom lines. Looks like they are guiding slightly above consensus as well, but I'm not 100% sure on that. I suppose the next thing to listen for on the call is how the EDS integration is progressing, and also how the competitive landscape is looking these days.

At least for right now, the move is clearly to the upside with shares trading at $45. I picked up the calls when shares were hovering in the 43.60's. Hope there are no bombs dropped during their conference call. Later, people.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Quick Getaway

This last Saturday, the lady and I took a one night mini-vacation out to San Francisco. We had dinner reservations at Ristorante Milano situated in the Russian Hill district of the city. When we arrived, the small restaurant was packed and there were some people waiting around for a table. I didn't know exactly what to expect, but as soon as we gave our name, the host points us to our table that was definitely reserved for us. Awesome.

As I mentioned, the restaurant was small, and it was loud... but, I think that was mostly because of a birthday dinner party that was there. We started off with Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Bruschetta, which we shared and both thought was good. We really had no problem at all gobbling up every last bit of it.

For our main courses, I had the Guazzetto di Pesce, which was really an assortment of seafood served over Polenta made with fish stock. I liked my dish, which was flavorful. The seafood was fresh tasting, and on top of that, I was pleased with the quantity of food. She had a gnocchi dish, of which I only got a tiny taste. From my single bite, I could tell that I'd enjoy it, but I like gnocchi usually, so I'm probably not that the best to judge.

For dessert, we really wanted to have some cannoli, but that wasn't part of their selection. I guess this makes sense, as I later learned that cannolis are Sicilian, and this was a Northern Italian restaurant. So, we had to settle for a chocolate cake with nuts and strawberries. The first bites of the cake on the outer edges weren't so good. It was just a tad dry, but once we got to the inner parts, we quickly changed our opinions. And, soon the cake was gone.

Anyway, I wouldn't say that the food was anything amazing or spectacular, but it really was above average and for the prices being charged, I felt it was a great value. I would definitely go back again, and I would have no reservations recommending this place to others. I think next time I want to try a pasta dish, as I was really waffling between what I got and the Lasagna.

I should also mention that service was excellent. The water glasses were always filled, and the server was highly energetic and enthusiastic, but was never intrusive. It was a waitstaff that deserves some applause.

After dinner, we checked into our hotel, Le Meridien. The guy at the desk then informs us that we are in for a treat... a phenomenal upgrade. He was not kidding.

We ended up in a full-on Business Suite, which we found out later was over three times the rate of the standard room that we had booked. The bedroom was large with a good-sized Plasma TV, and the suite had its own balcony that we could walk out onto. Not only that, but it also had a nice view of the Bay Bridge. Additionally, there was an extra office room and the bathroom was huge to boot. Score!

After check-in, we had some navigational difficulties, as we proceeded to get somewhat lost on our way to Ruby Skye. Eventually, we made it and we had a few drinks and partied there for a little bit. The place was absolutely packed, and the dance floor was really crowded, but the music was great as usual, and we enjoyed ourselves.

The next day we hit up the Chinatown area, and we had dim sum at New Asia for lunch. There wasn't anything really great about the place, but I thought the food was decent enough. It was your typical large dim sum restaurant with plenty of carts whizzing by, so there was never any shortage of food to eat. Although the price wasn't too bad, I am pretty sure that I wouldn't go out of my way just to eat there again.

Afterward, we walked around a bit more. We checked out some of those trinket and knick-knack stores, and then we strolled around Union Square briefly. Then, the weekend sadly came to a close. And, here I am waiting for some tests to finish running so I can go home.