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.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lettuce and Peas

The peas sprouted not too long ago and grew up in a jiffy. And, the lettuce continues to grow out more. I think I need to go get some stuff for the peas to grow on, since they are twining plants. Maybe something like those wire mesh devices they use for tomato plants will do. I don't really know... I guess I'll just wing it and get something that looks like it might work.

I probably need to get some anti-snail stuff. The GZA is more of a garden expert, and he recently told me that it would likely become a problem. So, I better go take care of it now just in case.

Anyway, here are some updated pics from my ghetto garden.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quick Update

Nothing to report today except that the shares of General Electric (GE) that I sold calls on are going to be called away this weekend at $29. So, all in all for that particular lot of shares I'm taking a small loss.

Initial Position (Buy-Write) on GE: $31.45
Dividend (reinvested): New shares that are now worth roughly 1% of the initial cost.
Covered Call (July): $0.67
Covered Call (Aug): $0.41

I suppose that works out to roughly $30.37 for the effective cost of the shares, which are going to be sold at $29, but I keep 1% of the shares (obtained from the dividend reinvestment) which further pads the original core long-term GE holding. All things accounted for, this is approximately 3.3% loss based on the original cost of shares at $31.45. Come to think of it, that's not too bad given that the S&P 500 fell about 9% over the same time period.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Murder and the Penal Code

So, the recent shooting at the Democratic HQ in Arkansas got me thinking again about a topic I discussed with others in the past. There were some that shared my view, but I would think that most people do not. It really doesn't have anything directly to do with the killing, but it's a tangent that I'll work from.

I think that our penal system defines two main types of murders, 1st and 2nd degree. I'm not 100% sure, but I believe that 3rd degree murder is more like a manslaughter charge. In any case, 1st degree murders, which are the pre-meditated kind generally carry a stiffer punishment than 2nd degree murders, which often are 'crimes of passion' -- spur of the moment types of killings due to a burst of rage or what not.

Anyway, what I have a problem with our penal system is that those murders that are of the passion category seem a whole lot scarier than those that are pre-meditated. And, I don't mean to include random pre-meditated murder, as would be the case for serial killers and their ilk.

Ask yourselves the following... Would you feel safer with the guy that has had a violent outburst in the past that resulted in someone's death, or the calm collected guy that murders his business partner, because he felt that he was being cheated. Do you prefer to put back on the street a guy that drank a bit too much and got in a bar fight resulting in someone getting killed or the guy that carefully planned the killing of someone he hated or has caused him pain?

I just think that anyone who has shown the propensity to lash out in violence all of a sudden is a lot more dangerous to our society than someone who has carefully planned and carried out a murderous plot. Now, I'm not necessarily saying that the 1st degree murder types should be granted leniency, but I am definitely saying that the 2nd degree guys don't need a break whatsoever.

I understand that it's always going to be a case-by-case thing, but when speaking of generalities, I stand by my view that the passion murder types are a hell of a lot worse for our society than their more cold-blooded counterparts.

Anyway, that's just my semi-rant I guess. Just wanted to get it all out while it was still bugging me and on my mind. Also wanted to say that I really didn't have any specific purpose in mind when I wrote this up just now. It's just a post sharing my view.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lenovo P960

Well, here's some more work-related news... Lenovo Mobile just launched its first biometrics-enabled mobile phone, the P960. As always, it's nice when some of the things that I've worked on makes its way into a product.

Here are a couple of pictures I snagged from some Asian website selling the units.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

My Green Thumb

Okay, so I lied. I really don't have much of a green thumb.

When I first bought my place, it came with a playhouse in the backyard. Since I've got no kids, it was pretty useless to me. So, I gave it away to a co-worker maybe six months ago or so. What was left was this empty patch of dirt. I kept telling myself that I probably should do something with that space... maybe start a small garden.

That's just what I did. Last week, I did some research about what could be planted in late summer, and I went and got some lettuce seeds and peas to plant. I put in a little bit of effort to plant them all, and today I went out there to see that the lettuce has sprouted. I hope the peas will come out soon, but I think it'll be a while since they were planted a good deal deeper.

This is my first attempt at any sort of actual gardening. The only things I've ever planted were palm trees that have grown into magnificent trees back at my parents' place. But, that doesn't count for much, since all I did was plant them and never did anything with them again.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Company Olympics

So, I just got back from our annual company picnic. It was a lot of fun... this year's theme was the Olympics for obvious reasons. Our team came in last place; ugh, we suck so bad. We simply didn't have enough young kids on our team. There was a 10x and 5x multiplier based on the age of the Olympian. And, as much as the adults think they're awesome, they're simply not going to throw a frisbee 10x futher than a 7 year old can.

Anyway, it's nice to get a day off and relax a bit with the co-workers and their families. Good times, indeed.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Quick Update

Well, here I am working from home. The LCD TV is getting delivered today. I picked up some HDMI cables online for really cheap already, but they probably won't get to me until later this week. Anyway, I'm hoping the television is all it is cracked up to be.

Okay, so yesterday sucked, but today's been great. On top of the market staging a broad rally, one of my holdings, PH Glatfelter (GLT) announced good earnings today. From what was said in the conference call and press releases, their Chillicothe mill operations are paying off. While I wouldn't say that all the news was absolutely great, it was generally good. Higher input costs continue to hurt them, but the company seems to be doing an adequate job at mitigating the effects of those increases through charging higher prices and also cost reduction and efficiency improvements.

*** Edit #1 ***

Okay, well it's here. The cable picture is horrible... lots of ghosting, etc. But, my roommate already warned me of this. My current cable box does not do HD, and so there'll likely be picture issues. The XBox360 in HD looks nice, and the built in content (photos, games, cooking recipes, etc) look great. So, I'm pretty sure it's not the TV. I guess I'll have to go swap my cable box some time tomorrow.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Quick Update

Sold the SNDK bear spread (Aug 15/17.50 puts) for $2.13 today. Could have sold it for more last week, but decided to just take what I could get for them today. The spread, having been bought for 0.87, was good for a 145% return. Too bad it was just a small gamble type of position.

In other news, I am getting hurt with the Manitowoc (MTW) position. Today's announcement that they sold off their ship building business for $120MM was not good news at all. It's one thing if they got a decent price for it, but based on the recent numbers for that component, it seems as if the sale was on the cheap. I'm obviously disappointed.

I would really hate to throw in the towel, as I think it's way too early to say that this is a monumental choke by the management team there. But, this is definitely not good. I suppose I might lighten up some at a loss. I'm currently sitting on roughly a 30% loss, and trust me, it is putting on the hurt a bit. This is one of my larger holdings. Ugh.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Love's a Bitch

I watched Amores Perros (English title: Love's a Bitch) yesterday, and I must say that it's quite good. The movie is Pulp Fiction-like... it is made up of three stories that are all loosely tied together, and it is also chock full of some really graphic violence (of dogs, especially). The movie was also nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar back in 2001.

I went into this movie not knowing anything about it other than it being recommended by a few people to watch it, because it was good. So, I will share the same with you all... watch it, it's good. IMDB has it rated an 8.2/10, and Rotten Tomatoes has it at a 92% on the Tomato-meter. However, I wouldn't recommend that you watch it if you didn't like Pulp Fiction though, as you'd probably dislike this one as well. I suppose if you do want to know a bit more about it, you can always read reviews of it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Find The Bingos

Okay, I just played some Scrabble, and thought it'd be fun for you word people to hone your skills a bit. Here's a board, and it's my turn to play. I really felt there was a bingo (use all 7 tiles) here, but I was running low on time and I was pretty much going to win the game (I was up 60 points and my opponent had 4 tiles left: INRW). So, I just gave up.

I went back over the game and I did manage to find one, and I was curious how many there actually were. I used an anagrammer to help me find them. To the best of my knowledge, there are 4 of them. Two of them are exotic words, and the other two are common. One of the common words would require you to know the Scrabble 3's though.

Anyway, here's the board. See if you can spot any of the possible bingos.