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.