Sunday, July 31, 2005

Poker, Investing, and Specialized Brain Damage

A paper came out last month in Psychological Science that detailed the study of emotions and how they affected investment related decision-making. The paper can be found by clicking here (gotta love Google's document cache). The study produced fairly strong evidence that even perfectly rational people that know a good investment (having a positive expectation) are likely adjust their investment decisions based on emotions.

The study basically involved normal people and two types of brain-damaged people, those whose brains were incapable of feeling fear and anxiety and those whose brains were able to harbor such feelings. All the participants were given many betting opportunities which were quite obviously in the participants' favor. All those who could feel fear would often base their future investments on previous outcomes, while those with the specialized brain damage would invest fairly regularly throughout the study. Because the investments had a positive expectation, over the long run, those who continued to invest would perform better than those who didn't. This irrational behavior can be seen in the younger people who choose to invest in safe things such as bonds and money market funds. By ignoring much higher return investments, they are acting irrationally, in a sense. Anyway, the paper details the entire research study.

I did not do a great job summarizing, so I urge you to read the paper. I found it interesting, as it can be related to investing in stocks as well as investing in poker skills. There are quite a few good players that are sufficiently bankrolled to play much higher stake games. In the long run, these players would be much better off playing them. However, there is often the sense of fear that holds them back. I personally believe that I could play a little bit higher, but I don't... precisely because of fear. This particular problem obviously does not afflict all of us... my friend, PetDander, would be a great example of someone who continues to move higher and higher up the poker food chain. Now, if only I could hit my head just right to produce the kind of brain damage that would allow me to be tilt-free.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Quick Pick-up

Well, it was simply too tempting. I couldn't resist the discount. I snagged some Synaptics (SYNA) after its major drop today at $15.95. I really should have picked it up earlier in the day when it was near $15.25, but it took some time for me too do some quick reading on it to get a better understanding of its earnings report. One piece of the reading material was the CSFB report released late last night... I gave the report some credence, as a lot of what was said made a lot of sense. They suggest that a price of $18 would imply a complete loss of the Apple (AAPL) iPod business and also some serious margin contraction. I also took note of their cash stockpile... $9 per share. I believe there's a good chance that the selling was seriously overdone. $18-20 is probably a fairer price for the stock. Hope to cash in then.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Forbes' View On Living Well

Forbes came out with an article today titled Buying the American Dream. The article discussed the costs of living well these days. They weren't trying to compute the costs of living a movie star lifestyle, but they were definitely targeting the high-end of the upper-middle class.

Here are some things that they included in the lifestyle...

1) private schooling for the children
2) a large house in an upscale neighborhood
3) a weekend retreat
4) a pricey night out once a week
5) a couple of nice cars (a 2005 BMW 325i sedan and a 2005 Lexus RX 330)
6) two week long vacations and a shortened Paris trip each year
7) typical luxury goods for those in this wealth class
8) a very low amount of savings (1%, which is right around the national average)

The costs of maintaining such a lifestyle was computed for many cities across the nation. Take a look below for their breakdowns for two major cities, Los Angeles and New York. A million dollars sure isn't what it used to be. Living such a life would require $350K to $500K in after tax income each year.

This is the lifestyle that many of us strive for. It certainly puts into perspective how hard we must work to achieve our dreams.

Click on the tables to get a better view.

Dodged a Bullet

Well, I just wanted to express a sigh of relief. Not long ago, I sold off my Synaptics (SYNA) trading position at 21.25. Today, they reported their quarterly numbers, and they issued negative future guidance. The stock tumbled, and now sits at 16 and change in afterhours trading.

Also, my RF Micro Devices (RFMD) order was filled, and I sold off more of the stock at $6.10 today. So, now I will sit with the final 20% chunk.

Quick Update

Added Juniper Networks (JNPR) to long-term portfolio at 23.97. Just needed to put some cash to work. It seemed that their recent earnings report was solid. The market didn't react accordingly, and sent the stock lower. It recovered a little bit, and so, now I'm in. Small position for long-term growth.

Dow Chemical (DOW) reported its quarter's earnings this morning. Everything seemed fine. Stock is up nicely since entry.

Seriously taking a pounding on Dryships (DRYS). Industry-wide problems have sent it down. I'm in it for the longer-term, as I reported before, so again, sticking with this.

Looking to sell another chunk of RF Micro Devices (RFMD). If my order goes through, I'll be left with 20% of my original trading position. Their earnings were not bad, but the run seems over for now.

Harrah's Entertainment (HET) touched a new high earlier today. Earnings next week. Might get early indications on how the Casear's acquisition is working out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Your Personal Philosophy

This quiz has probably been floating around for some time. But, I was only made aware of it today, and I found that it did a fairly accurate assessment of my life philosophy. Give it a try... What Philosophy Do You Follow?

My results:

Justice (Fairness) 90%
Strong Egoism 85%
Hedonism 85%
Existentialism 60%
Kantianism 45%
Utilitarianism 25%
Nihilism 25%
Apathy 20%
Divine Command 0%

Here is what is said about my top philosophies (85 - 90%)...

Justice - Your life is guided by the concept of Fair Justice: Everyone, yourself included, should be rewarded and punished according to the help or harm they cause.

Strong Egoism - Your life is very much guided by the concept of Egoism: You work primarily to promote your own interests.

Hedonism - Your life is guided by the principles of Hedonism: You believe that pleasure is a great, or the greatest, good; and you try to enjoy life’s pleasures as much as you can.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


So, there's a large group of Norwegians sponsored by the Norwegian government that are here for the summer to learn about the ways of American business. The Norwegian government fears that one day its oil-rich economy might not be able to support the country. Apparently, Norway has a poor history when it comes to entrepreneurship and building large multi-national companies. That's the background, anyway.

Last night, I went out partying with many of these entrepreneurial Norwegians. The night started out in a Mountain View apartment. Lots of drinking and listening to bad Norwegian music. The music really was bad, and that wasn't only my opinion. It was an opinion shared by everyone, except for the guy who owned the the album. When we could no longer stand the music, 12 of us took some cabs and headed out to The Vault in San Jose.

The Vault has a unique set up due to its past. It used to be a bank building, and it has since been renovated into a lounge. Cover charge is a bit steep, but ladies can get in for free. This really helps the ratio. The Norwegians had a blast, as did I. After the lounge experience, we headed back for frozen pizzas and more beer. And this is how I learned the meaning of Skål (Cheers!).

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Picnic Puzzle

Yesterday, our company had its annual summer picnic. The food was fantastic. Plenty of hot links, hot dogs, burgers, chicken, and ribs were had by everyone. Everyone had a great time participating in various activities ranging from Soccer to Bocce Ball to Building a Spaghetti and Marshmallow Structure to Pictionary. That brings us to today's puzzle.

We had two Pictionary teams, men versus women. In the final round, we all decided to have one of the kids draw. We also decided that in this final round, it was a free-for-all; either team could guess. At this point, the women were ahead by 1 point, and so our team really needed to take this final round.

The moderator announced: 3 Words

And, the kid begins to draw. He draws a person's feet. And then, he stops. He said he couldn't think of anything else to draw. Once I knew that the word "feet" was going to be in the answer, I turned off the Pictionary neurons and turned on the Wheel of Fortune ones. Fairly quickly, the correct answer was blurted out. The women were in a state of astonishment. One of them even asked jokingly if I had cheated somehow.

What was the answer? And, how many 3 word phrases do you know of have the word feet in them? At the time, I could only think of two, and my second guess was correct. In the worst case, I wonder how many phrases one would have to run through to guarantee a correct guess.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Quick Morning Update

Took an initial bite of Finish Line (FINL) at 18.13.

Sold 40% of the RF Micro Devices (RFMD) position at 6.27. After taking 40% off the table at a 60% gain, I essentially have a remaining position with a cost of 2.32.

See You At The Finish Line

I did some searching tonight for new investments for the long-term port. After reading this week's S&P Outlook, I decided to take a closer look at Finish Line (FINL). The company is a mall-based retailer specializing in athletic/activewear and footwear. Recently, they diversified their goods with the acquisition of Man Alive, an up-and-coming mall-based retailer concentrating on hip-hop fashion. The numbers look alright, and the outlook seems promising.

The company sports a market cap just under $900MM, so it isn't large enough to have caught everyone's attention. While it is not unknown, the company is probably not yet on everyone's radar. That said, there is plenty of room for the company to grow. There are over 500 Finish Line stores scattered throughout the U.S. However, there are less than 40 Man Alive stores sprinkled in the midwest and eastern regions of the nation. The company believes that the Man Alive concept could eventually support hundreds of stores.

The current opinions of Wall Street analysts is neutral to negative; I did read the latest Goldman Sachs report on the company, and I am willing to take on the risk. Sometimes you have to establish your position when the company is out of favor. Typically, long-term profits are not made buying with the crowd. Assuming the stock does not move wildly to the upside, I will be a buyer tomorrow.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Quick Update

Taking a loss of 1.35 on Intel (INTC) trading position, dumped at 27.25. For what it's worth, the post-earnings Credit Suisse report was quite negative on the company. They have them rated Underperforming with a 12-month target price of $24.

By contrast, CSFB's report on EBAY was gleaming. They have them as Outperforming with a $60 target price. In any case, EBAY continues to move higher, trading in the 41.70 at this moment.

International Gaming Technologies (IGT) reported EPS of 0.32. This was better than concensus estimates. Its revenues fell 6.4% Y/Y to about $580MM, which was also better than estimates. Yet, the stock is falling this morning. Most likely the concerns about their growth are sticking around.

Hibernia (HIB) moves higher after Capital One Financial (COF) had a solid earnings release last night. HIB should track COF at less than a 1:1 ratio, since the buyout is part cash and part stock swap.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

eBay's Grand Slam

Well, the EBAY numbers came out about an hour ago. Looked excellent all around. The conference call is currently underway, but I don't have the time to listen to it now. I will review the replay later on tonight.

EBAY flying high with current afterhours trades going off in the 39.50 range. So, Intel (INTC) stung me a bit today, but EBAY's post-market gain swamped the INTC loss. With a little bit of luck and solid execution by Meg and her team, I escaped the blades of the butcher. Woohoo!

Today's Scoreboard

Quick update on key stocks today.

From the short-term trading account:

Intel (INTC) -6% - due to disappointing earnings report yesterday.

EBAY -1.5% - due to disappointing Yahoo (YHOO) earnings. Their earnings come out today after market close. Analysts have been cautious up to now. Deutsche Bank believes Q3 guidance could pose a problem. Prudential has also cautioned on investors' willingness to pay a high multiple for the stock due to slowing growth. This is a half-sized position, so I'll be holding this through earnings.

From the long-term core account:

Eastman Kodak (EK) -8% - very disappointing earnings released this a.m. Yes, I am pissed off about this one. I'm going to give Perez another quarter (maybe two). After previous quarter's earnings, I said I would give the company two quarters. We've now seen one of them. I do not like what I see, but I am willing to be a bit more patient. Kodak is such a large beast with so much inertia, that a turnaround is expected to be slow. But, if a turnaround materializes, it will move huge.

Amgen (AMGN) +15% - blowout earnings released yesterday, and boosted profit forecasts.

Altria Group (MO) +0.3% - earnings released this a.m. were better than expectations, plus they boosted earnings forecasts.

St. Jude Medical (STJ) +6.5% - earnings released this a.m. were also better than expectations, and they, too, boosted earnings forecasts.

Ask Jeeves (ASKJ) - No longer exists. IAC Interactive (IACI) successfully completed the acquisition. For every share of ASKJ, I received 1.2668 shares of IACI. Also, I should be receiving spin-off shares the week of August 8th from IACI.

North Fork Bank (NFB) -1.7% - Earnings were strong, but it looks like they might have just missed analyst estimates. Concerns about their loan portfolio are growing as Greenspan talks up increased rate hikes. Also, keep in mind that today's flattening yield curve does not help provide a happy banking environment.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Slaughterhouse Awaits

I suppose I will discuss a few recent trades since my last update. I sold off Solectron (SLR) at $3.75. That resulted in a tiny gain of 0.20. I did some more research, and I now feel that its recovery might not come as soon as I had initially thought. That said, I will continue to keep a watchful eye on it.

I mentioned before that I had sold the EBAY July 35 call contracts at 0.40, covering my entire position. Well, on Friday EBAY closed about a nickel over 35. Monday came and 100% of my shares were assigned. This resulted in a small profit. Anyway, I re-entered EBAY at 35.09 after being called away and sold out at 35.41. That's the good news.

The bad news is that I decided to take my chances with Yahoo's earnings release today, and I re-entered EBAY yet again at 35.20. This time, for only half the initial position size. Yahoo! (YHOO) choked on its earnings this quarter, and the investors slammed it. In sympathy, EBAY went down sharply in afterhours trading. It settled around the 34.50 mark when the afterhours session ended. But, the bad news doesn't end here.

I also had the not so bright idea to pick up a moderately sized position in Intel (INTC) prior to their earnings release today at 28.60. Chalk up another disappointment. INTC down sharply as well afterhours. It seems that the investment community was really unhappy with their margins. Couple this with in-line revenue guidance going forward, and it was clear that INTC would not escape the bloodshed. The company faced some supply-side issues as well as increased competitive pricing in the server space. However, they see continued momentum going into Q3, and they expect their gross margins to improve to 58-62% as compared to this quarter's 56.3%. I will hold on to see if it can recover quickly. Taking a longer-term view, I don't see anything horrible in today's report. But, I entered this as a trade. So, to be disciplined, I will not be holding this long-term. I'll be looking for some recovery (if any), and exit.

Now that the bad news is out of the way. I'll end on a more positive note. Motorola's earnings report was great. I don't care that the street sold off on it. How can you complain with their upward guidance and great numbers. They beat earnings and revenue expectations. They shipped more handsets than expected. They guide revenues higher by 5% and earnings by 10-15%. But, what do I know? It sold off afterhours. Good thing that Motorola is one of RFMD's a major customers. Perhaps this means RFMD will have a strong showing on its earnings day. RFMD closed at its highest point (6.55) since I established the position. Hope it continues, I'll need the help tomorrow.

Finally, one of my long-term core holdings, Amgen (AMGN), had a blowout quarter. Stock is trading up nearly $6 afterhours. Today, a friend of mine mentioned to me some favorable things about large cap growth companies. I would like to think that Amgen qualifies. It sports a market cap of nearly $9B, and it sports a 15% growth rate.

So there you have it. I guess I will face the butcher tomorrow. Maybe I'll get lucky and escape his wrath with only a flesh wound. Time will tell. It always does.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hammurabi's Code for the Modern World

I've been thinking a bit about a variable penal code that would align punishment with the values held by those involved in a particular crime. What I am about to describe only applies to those crimes where individuals are both the victim and the perpetrators. It does not apply to any crimes that involve a corporation, the state, or any establishment.

How often have you felt that a sentence handed down to a criminal following a conviction was either too lenient or too harsh? How often have we heard people argue about the morality of the death penalty? This proposed penal code will help mitigate the intensity of the debates that spring from such questions.

First, assume the existing penal code will remain in effect for for all crimes that are not committed by an individual upon another individual. Now, with that assumption in mind, here is how the proposed penal code would work. At the age of 18 (or whatever the legal adult age may be), an individual will be allowed to specify the punishments (number of years in prison, number of hours of community service, death penalty, etc) for all the different individual against individual crimes. These would include crimes such as grand theft, petty theft, aggravated assualt, different degrees of homicide, etc. For those crimes that they did not speficy their own punishment, the current penal code would act as a default.

Now, we basically have assigned what we feel should be just punishments for various crimes against individuals committed by other individuals. We should very much set these crimes in accordance with our own moral standards. When a crime is committed by Individual A against Individual B, and Individual A is convicted of that crime, then the customized penal code would be looked up for both parties involved. The harsher of the two penalties will be imposed upon the convicted. If more parties are involved, the harshest of all penalties will be imposed.

What this does, in effect, is force everyone to live up to their own standards. In our current system, if a car thief has his car stolen by another car thief, the convicted car thief in this particular case would face what the state felt was the appropriate punishment for car theft. However, in the world of those involved, car thievery is not so big a deal. Why must the current system force a sense of hypocrisy into this incident? In this proposed system, the car thieves would have likely set a fairly light sentence (or none at all) for grand theft auto. However, if you know that you would never steal a car, you would likely set a penalty based on how severe you thought the crime was. Being unsympathetic to criminals, I would simply assign a life sentence to grand theft auto. But, I would definitely not assign a life sentence to vehicular manslaughter. It is conceivable that I might be tired at night one day and run a red light due to my weary state, which ultimately causes someone's death.

If I happen to have caused the death of someone who shares my personal ideals, then I would receive exactly what we felt I deserved. If that person did not feel that vehicular manslaughter was that horrible, then I would get what I deserved, and more than what the victim thought I deserved. And, finally, if the victim felt that vehicular manslaughter was worthy of a death sentence, then I would be punished according to what the victim felt I deserved. Even if it was too harsh a sentence in my own view, who is to say that it truly was the case?

Our justice system would remain unchanged, except that the judge would not issue a sentence based on what he felt. The sentence would be based on what the participants of the incident felt about the particular crime in question. Of course, the custom penalty should be kept a secret until the day of sentencing. This would allow the jury to act in an unbiased manner. This is something that our current system does not handle well. A particular juror might feel that the death penalty is immoral, and that juror could possible sway away from his/her duty, and ultimately, hang a jury in a death penalty case.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but, in a modernized sense. I know that many of the ideas above might not be perfectly clear. It would take some time to flesh out the details. But, what's been said could serve as a good starting point for discussion. What are your feelings on such a penal code? Would this constitute fairness?

Someone mentioned that your views on life would change over time. So, as an afterthought, I should mention that your penal code selection is not set in stone. You would be allowed to update it as you pleased.

Friday, July 15, 2005

SHARK Shorthand

So, I read a review about a new text-input technology from IBM's Almaden Research Center called ShortHand Aided Rapid Keyboarding, or SHARK. It really looks promising. Novice users were reporting 80+ words a minute. This certainly beats using the tiny keys on a Blackberry.

The idea is to simply trace out a word using a stylus. The stylus goes down on the first letter, and you just draw a line to the next letter, and so on. When the stylus lifts, the word is complete. The intended word is then determined using a combination of pattern recognition and a database of words. The technology works on both QWERTY keyboard layouts and also a new one dubbed ATOMIK, which is supposed to provide higher performance.

It is refreshing to see innovation in areas that many feel are near the end of their creativity life cycle. I haven't yet downloaded either of the available demos, but I imagine I will as soon as I find the time. It would definitely take a lot to change the way people view text input, but if the technology is truly useful, change will happen.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Market/Trading Update

Wow, Apple (AAPL) surged huge on their strong earnings report, which really helped give the markets a push higher today. Sucks to have gotten stopped out, but that's the way the game is played. So, instead of a $3 gain, I took a 30 cent loss. Win some and lose some. Next trade.

Since my re-entry into EBAY in the 35.30s, I have traded in and out of part of the position and shaved the cost basis into the low 35.20s. Then, being a bit skittish, I sold calls covering the entire position expiring tomorrow (July 35s) for 40 cents. At the time of sale, this represented almost 0.6% premium over the intrinsic value. And, for a just over one trading day left, I figured it was worth trying pick up that small boost.

RFMD continues to charge ahead. It is now trading at 6.25 as I write, a 60% gain from entry. A single home run will more than offset many smaller losses.

CPI data was also quite encouraging today.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Left Foot Blues

Earlier this evening, I had a piece of gravel stuck in my right shoe, which irritated me horribly as I was driving on local roads. So, as I was driving, I shifted over to using my left foot to control the accelerator and the brakes while I took my shoe off to shake out the rock. Talk about difficult.

I'm not sure if anyone else has tried to drive using their left foot, but muscle memory and conditioning really play a large role in driving. At least for me, it does. I would accelerate too quickly and brake way too hard. My driving was so jerky, that an outsider might have confused me for someone who was just learning to drive stick.

Or maybe, I just don't have what it takes to drive with my left foot. Maybe it's easy, and I just don't get it.

More Activity

Apple position was stopped out. Maybe for the better with their earnings announcement looming. Re-entered EBAY averaged in the 35.30s. Just got into work, and getting a fairly late start to my day. But, at least the markets have moved strongly into the green, ignoring the new oil price spike news, apparently.

Another Quick Update

A bit tired from online poker bonus clearing. So, I won't write much.

Today's quick trading update. Sold off the Synaptics (SYNA) position at 21.25 today. Took the profits after a fairly short 3-month holding period. Entry at 18.25 on 04/22/2005. Entered into a quick Apple (AAPL) position at 38.25 shortly after the market open. I'm actually going to put in a tight stop here a nickel or so below 38. Order entered, and if it hits it hits, and I'll take a minor loss. Apple's action hasn't been too promising lately, as many of its moves have been on lower volume. But, if the money starts flowing into it, it could really move. Maybe I'm just a gambler. Anyway, still watching EBAY for a possible re-entry.

RFMD continues to push higher. One part of me really wants to book some profits. The Gordon Gecko side of me says that Greed is Good. Earnings are soon, maybe I'll take some off the table prior to their earnings. They've already pre-announced that it'll be better than what was originally expected. Maybe there isn't much additional upside to be had. Anyway, letting it ride for now.

Also, the Altria dividends were paid out yesterday, and they were automatically re-invested. Almost 7% of my Altria position came through re-invested dividends. Quick side note: At HarrisDirect, this dividend re-investment service is free of charge. From what I can tell, this is also a free service in Schwab retirement accounts. I can't speak for their regular trading accounts, however.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Going Once, Going Twice, SOLD!

Just a quick update. I've exited EBAY at 35.60. I had to sit through a minor downswing, and I'll use this chance to get out with a tidy profit. Will continue to watch it for future re-entry.

A Night of Partying

Well, I just got back from the wedding reception and after party not too long ago. I'm exhausted. The wedding itself was short and sweet. Then there was a nice 4 hour break until the recption banquet began. Anyway, I was seated with the groom's friends. The table was extremely friendly, talkative, and very much the party-type. In fact, our table ended up buying additional bottles of liquor and wine, because we finished our allotment. Remy Martin cognac was the poison of choice at our table. It really was a great night.

I already mentioned what happened at the engagement party about a year ago. Well, the groom's parents did not disappoint. They were still up to their wild and crazy ways. It was really fun. At one point, a bottle of Viagra was being tossed around as a joke.

At my table, I engaged in several conversations. The oddest one was with a guy who used to work in bioinformatics. Anyway, he had a ton of ideas about using learning algorithms to help with sports betting. While his ideas sounded interesting, he obviously had not researched much when it came to actual sports betting. Being unfamiliar with the vig was a clear indication of this. Well, he gave me his business card at the end of the night... who knows, I might e-mail him if I ever feel like trying out some of his ideas for shits. I did mention that they did sound interesting.

I heard from Crestfallen that the typical guy doesn't feel the way I described regarding weddings. Well, at my table, a guy and his wife discussed their wedding. Their opinion? Forget the fancy wedding, save that money and use it for a down payment on a house instead. And, after they said this, another couple at my table basically agreed. So, I stand by what I say. Most men want to simply get the wedding itself over with. Now, I don't mean all men are this way, but I would say that it is a typical feeling.

In any case, I'm pretty beat. Time to go to bed.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Poker and Marriage

It is 6AM, Sunday morning. Why am I up this early? Well, my better half is the maid of honor for a wedding that starts in about seven hours. So, I was awakened by the alarm that was meant for her. Unfortunately, I couldn't fall back asleep right away, so I figured I'd write a bit now.

So, today I will be attending a wedding, which doesn't sound like much fun at all. But, the wedding banquet should be fun and full of drinks. I attended the engagement dinner banquet a little over a year ago, and the groom and his family sure know how to party. All it took was a bottle of Smoking Loon, and his parents were demonstrating to their son how to kiss romantically. All in all, that was a good time.

Yesterday, I played in a charity fundraising poker tournament hosted by a local sorority, Alpha Kappa Omicron. It was a $50 buy-in, but only 55% of the entry fees were put into the prize pool. So, you can't expect to make any money. Even the best players in the world couldn't beat a 45% rake. But, it was certainly fun. Nothing beats getting waited on by a bunch of sorority pledges. Lots of beer, snacks, and sandwiches to be had. It took precisely one bad move with KK on a QQ5 flop, a bad beat with AK vs JT, and a desperation push with A4s against a 22 to knock me out. Before those three hands, I was doing quite well. No one to blame, but myself, since the chain reaction would not have initiated had I not made a foolish play with the Kings.

After my exit, I attended a wedding rehearsal dinner at Gordon Biersch. Had a few drinks with the groom and his boys, which was quite fun. Typical of most men, he indicated that he really wants to get the wedding over with. It's not exciting for him at all. He wants his recently hectic life to go back to normal. I don't blame him.

Let me close this with a random question. I can probably do some research and get the real answer, but I think it's more fun to just estimate and speculate. For the average human adult, how is the weight distributed? I mean, really break it down. What percentage of your weight is from your feet? your calves? your thighs? your chest and belly, and so on?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Quick Market Update

Jobs data was not too bad today. While payrolls didn't grow as much as expected, the unemployment rate now stands at 5%. This is the rate that economists once thought was the non-inflationary lower bound, or the natural unemployment rate. Though, during the Clinton Administration, we witnessed non-inflationary unemployment rate below 4%. But, I digress.

OK, so the markets rocketed on this data. Made two quick round-trip trades today, and one yesterday. All three were profitable, thankfully. Yesterday, I played Cisco (CSCO) for a small 18.63 to 18.78 pickup. Today, I played THQ Inc. (THQI), the video game publishing company, for a bounce following their Wells Fargo downgrade from 31.64 to 31.89. After making a few bucks, I decided to gamble a little, and grabbed a little bit of Neurocrine Biosciences (NBIX) at 44.37. It came to my attention after a brief mention on Guerilla Trader's blog (see my blogroll). I dumped it a little while ago at 45.29. Yay. I really should post my trades in real-time, but I've been playing on PartyPoker trying to clear a bonus.

In other news, World Poker Tour Enterprises (WPTE) received an unsolicited takeover bid by the poker god, Doyle Brunson. Stock is currently trading up a whopping 60%. Wow.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Terror and the Markets

My condolences go out to all those in London and elsewhere who suffer as a result of the terrorist attacks this morning.

It is unfortunate that we are growing accustomed to terrorism. Today, after the initial panic subsided, our financial markets absorbed the terrorist attack news without any real trouble. One would not be able to tell based solely on the market numbers that any major event took place. Effectively, this weakens the terrorists' position. But, a ripple effect should be expected as London is a major source of business in the world, and the attacks will surely have some damaging effect.

Quick update. EBAY trading position is still underwater a little. RF Micro Devices (RFMD) guides revenues higher. New on my radar is Wit Systems (WITS). Oil supplies down, but oil retreats in the wake of the attacks.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

International Weekend Gluttony

This weekend, we decided on Afghani and Brazillian cuisines. Both styles of food were new to the both of us, so we were truly entering uncharted waters. We had some idea of what to expect, but you never really know for sure what it is going to be like until you're in the middle of the experience. We also attended a traditional Chinese dinner banquet, which topped off our weekend.

So, on Friday, we went to the Afghani House in Sunnyvale. The restaurant was quite large, and decorated nicely with traditional Afghani artifacts as well as pictures of Afghanistan. The tables were set up beautifully, and restaurant carried an ambience of subtle romance. Before we talk about the food, I must say that the service was impeccable. Their waitstaff never failed to keep our drink glasses full, and they were always quick and courteous. This was such a nice departure from the usual crummy service provided by so many restaurants these days.

Having never had Afghani food before, we both just took a shot and ordered what sounded good. Well, everything turned out great. We started out with mantu, which are meat dumplings and vegetables topped with a yogurt cream sauce. I'm not a fan of yogurt, but this appetizer was excellent. It also came with a rather spicy and sour green sauce on the side. For our main courses, she had the Kabob Gousfand, which is a dish of skewered lamb cubes. It was served with a spiced brown rice called pallaw. I had the Korma Challaw which was a stew-like dish containing very tender pieces of beef, served with seasoned white rice. The portions were so large that we simply did not have any room for dessert. Next time, I'll bring a heartier appetite, because the desserts ordered by the table next to ours looked quite tasty.

On Saturday, we went to Espetus in San Francisco. This was recommended by a Brazillian colleague of mine. Of all the Brazillian restaurants she's tried in the area, this was only one of two that she would classify as authentic and worthwhile. When we arrived there, we were told to expect a 25 minute wait. So, we had a couple of white and red sangrias at the restaurant bar, which helped the time pass. It should be noted that the restaurant was not spacious, and tables were tightly packed. Brazillian steakhouses are all-you-can-eat with waiters bringing around freshly cooked meat and carving slices for you on the spot. A variety of meat was available, ranging from different marinated versions of top sirloin to lamb cubes to the more adventurous chicken hearts. While this was a steakhouse, they also had a good number of Brazillian side dishes to offer. Despite the tight space, the food was excellent, and I would recommend it to any meat lovers. Keep the vegetarians away from this place, it's really not for them.

Tonight, we attended a fine dinner banquet at Chez Mayflower in Milpitas. The food here is consistently good, especially the seafood which is always fresh. The service is excellent for a Chinese restaurant, but average when compared to finer dining establishments. The dinner was a full 11 courses. We started off with an appetizer plate consisting of delicate cuts of meat, seaweed, and seasoned jellyfish. This was followed by shark's fin soup. For you environmentalist types, note that this was imitation shark's fin. True shark's fin would run upwards of $30 a bowl. After the soup came a refreshing lettuce wrap stuffed with a meat, which cleansed our palate. Next, we were served a seafood dish containing squid, scallops, and vegetables. The seafood medley then continued with braised sea cucumber and mushrooms. Once again, to break the monotony, we had some Yang Zhou fried rice along with a crispy baked chicken dish. All of this was then followed by stir-fried crab and also a delicious sea bass. Finally, the meal ended with a noodle dish and a red bean and lotus dessert soup with a hint of citrus flavor.

The food this weekend was amazing. I don't know when I'll have another weekend as gluttonous as this one. No complaints at all, but I think I need to hit the gym a few extra times this week. Tomorrow, we're off to a block party where a friend's band will be performing a bunch of Beatles hits. Should be fun. Have a happy Fourth of July, everyone.