Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thanksgiving, Theft, and Trading

Have been neglecting this blog lately. The past week and a half has been pretty busy.

So, for the holiday weekend, my girlfriend and I made my way down to Riverside to spend Thanksgiving with my parents. The drive there really sucked. You'd think that most people would have already left to wherever they were headed by Thanksgiving day, but you'd be wrong. So, we left San Jose at around 11 in the morning, and we didn't make it to Riverside until it was almost 7. The traffic was pretty bad. I don't remember the traffic being so bad at that time on Thanksgiving day before. Maybe next year I'll plan a bit better if I intend on making the drive again.

I did take advantage of some of the Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving... picked up a few DVDs for $3.99 and also The Sims: The Complete Collection at Best Buy (BBY), and also some nice jeans and a decent shirt over at Aeropostale (ARO). Had I gotten out of the house earlier when the stores opened their doors, I could have had a bunch of good stuff. But, I only started my shopping at 7:30.

Saturday, hung out with the Cam Man and also an old friend, Miss Mt. Fuji, that I haven't seen in years over at a bar/nightclub in Brea called 330. Basically danced a little, chatted a little, and drank all night. We finished off the night drinking some Oban 14 Yrs, which is a nice scotch. But, in that price range, I personally prefer the GlenMorangie 15 Yrs.

Before we headed home on Sunday, we dropped by FatBurger for some fat burgers and some of their skinny fries. I really do like the joint. Too bad they haven't really spread out to this area yet. The drive home pretty much sucked too, but not because of traffic, but because we were exhausted and it was late.

And, let me tell you how awesome Monday was. I get in bright and early to find that my notebook computer is missing from my desk. Then, I learn that I wasn't the only one to have my computer stolen. The thieves even stole a nice wooden pen I had on my desk. Those bastards. Anyway, until my replacement computer arrives, I'll be working on a build machine we have stashed away in a mini-cubicle in the corner of our building. I can't even begin to describe how incredibly frustrating this whole ordeal has been.

And finally, I dumped the "gambling" position, Under Armour (UARM), for just around an 11% loss. Will be keeping my eyes open for an entry into a new position. But, right now, I haven't any serious ideas. I'm definitely still looking.

Maybe some Abercrombie and Fitch (ANF) is in order. Just recently, I learned that the fairly new super-duper popular store, Hollister, is owned by them. Maybe I'll finally grab some of the McDonald's (MCD) I've been eyeing for some time now for Chipotle spinoff reasons. Another stock on my radar is New Jersey based Sun Bancorp (SNBC), which has paid an annual 5% dividend via a 105 for 100 stock distribution. Their earnings have been growing, and the stock has been stagnant for a while now. With the Fed's tightening cycle coming to an end soon, maybe some of these smaller banks are worth a look. Or, maybe I'll choose to actually get some rest and worry about putting cash to work at a later time.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What Bird Am I?

A friend of mine and I spoke a bit about literature, and it was pretty apparent that I'm not very well read. Anyway, I'm going to incorporate some literary clues into the following puzzle just for good measure.

Here are a series of clues that lead you to a type of bird. Good luck.

Clue #1: Crimson, Nena's Balloons, Hestor Prynne's "A"
Clue #2: Mr. Toad's Friend minus "R", Sergeant Krupke had one and Porfiry Petrovich probably did too.
Clue #3: What makes a king out of a slave?, Who put the ape in apricot?, What makes the muskrat guard his musk?

And quick update... covered the SYNA for a small profit in the high 24s. The covered portion of EBAY will be called away. Hibernia is no more, as the Capital One (COF) deal is completed. Picked up a little bit of Under Armour as a pure gamble at 25.70.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Replacement Burner and Bots

Well, it took quite a bit of bitching to Dell's technical support, but Dell finally agreed to ship me a new CD-RW drive. For whatever reason, the one that came with the computer decided to stop working one day. In any case, the drive came today, and I'm pretty happy that I'm back in business. It's not like I really burn that many things, but it's nice to know that if I ever need to, I will be able to do so.

And, what's with the new Movie Bot on AIM?

Here's how my conversation went...

BruteForce: Hello
MovieFone: Hey there. If you cannot remember the title, just enter even a piece of an actor's name and I'll find it if it's playing!

BruteForce: I don't remember anything.
MovieFone: No?

BruteForce: No
MovieFone: I'm sorry then. Why don't you type, help to see how I work.

BruteForce: No thanks.
MovieFone: anytime

BruteForce: You are not helpful.
MovieFone: Mm hm. Such negativity. You are in need of some Tyson protien! Type, help and I will expain how I work.

BruteForce: Tyson Protein?
MovieFone: I think you should type, menu. I was not able to find any movies related to what you typed.

BruteForce: No kidding.
MovieFone: Neat-o.

Talking to a bot is pretty funny for about 2 minutes. Anyway, two more trading days before options expiration. I'm so anxious.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Quick Update

Dryships (DRYS) announced earnings today. They weren't great, but they weren't bad either. The stock came down a bit today, and I added to my existing position at 14.35. The Baltic Dry Index has rebounded a bit since August, and the company's prospects still look decent. The company has a bit more debt than I really like, but I don't see dry shipping slowing down a great deal with China's continued expansion. While I usually don't like to average down, my position in this company is fairly small. As a result, I am definitely not sticking my neck all that far out on this call.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


On Thursday, we celebrated our anniversary at Aqua, an amazing seafood restaurant in San Francisco. Although we made reservations a couple of weeks in advance, we ended up with a short wait upon arrival since we were half an hour late due to the rush hour traffic. While we waited for our table, we had a few cocktails at the bar. The drinks the bartender made were perfect. Long pours were the rule and not the exception.

Finally, our time had come. We were seated nearby a giant mirror and had full view of the entire restaurant and all of its patrons. After being presented with menus and a wine list, we were each served lobster bisque and a cracker topped with seafood. We were also given a choice of bread; I opted for the sourdough, and she went for the olive bread. The crust was a bit hard, but the bread itself was quite good.

The waiter arrived and provided us with details of the various dishes available ranging from the texture of the fish to the taste of the sauces. After some perusing, we figured out what we wanted. To start, she had the Chilled Shellfish, which came with clams, prawns, crab, and oysters. True to my sushi loving nature, I ordered the Hamachi. For the main course, I went for the White Sturgeon En Paillotte, and she passed on the fish and decided on the 1 ¾ Pound Maine Lobster “Fricassee” dish. She had a glass of the 2000 Lagrein Blend, Masetto Nero, Endrizzi; I'm not a wine drinker myself, so I had water.

The food was simply amazing, some might even say sui generis. It was some of the best prepared seafood I've ever had in my life. As reference, this meal was a step above those we had at two memorable seafood restaurants, which both happened to be in Las Vegas, Aqua (Michael Mina) at the Bellagio and AquaKnox at the Venetian. The meal was filling, but not so much that we did not have room for dessert.

Their dessert menu was nice, and each dessert had a recommended matched wine to go with it. But, it was late, and we had had enough to drink. So, we just had dessert without the wine. She had the Chocolate Composition, which was a fancy assortment of chocolate confections and fudges along with some ice cream. I indulged in the Oak Spice Crème Brûlée, which was fantastic. Though, to be honest, I preferred some of the chocolate treats in her dessert. After our dessert, they further pampered us with additional pastries before handing us the final bill. The meal cost an arm and maybe two legs, but it was well worth it. I highly recommend Aqua to anyone who is looking for a fancy night out on the town or wanting to dine for a special occasion.

Here are a few pictures of some of our dishes. Enjoy.




Friday, November 11, 2005

First Marblehead Roller Coaster

The saga continues. After First Marblehead (FMD) announced that one of their large customers, Bank of America (BAC), did not auto-renew their contract, the shares plunged from over 32 to under 24. This gut wrenching turn took place after the company had already gone from 30 down to 21 because of some gift-giving office romance scandal between the CEO and a director at one of its client firms. Today, FMD shares are up a whopping 20% back to 32 after the company announced that their largest customer, JP Morgan Chase (JPM), has extended their contract to 2010, which effectively removes many clouds of uncertainty. This stock has been scarier than Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Quick update...

I am short a bit of Synaptics (SYNA) in the 25.40s. I covered part of it for a minor loss at 26.05. Still holding the rest of the position short. Reasoning is that a lot of current run-up in share prices is due to Apple speculation. If the shares continue to run higher, I will cover for a loss.

EBAY has been smoking lately. The covered shares will likely get called next Friday.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Vegas Recap

Last weekend was the Vegas trip with Alex and PetDander. Due to exorbitant hotel prices due to a large SEMA convention and the National Bull Riding Championships, we stayed over at the Imperial Palace, which is a pretty shabby place. The word on the street is that Harrah's, IP's new owner, will tear it down at some point and rebuild a nice new hotel and casino in its place.

Anyway, the room we were given was in the dungeon. There was no straight path to our room. In order to get to it, we needed to take an elevator or escalator up a floor then walk a ways to another set of internal elevators, which then had to be taken down a floor. It was an awkward path. Lucky for us on this trip, none of us needed to invoke our drunk card.

All of us were itching to play some live poker, so off to the Bellagio we went. Man, let me tell you how much the Bellagio poker room sucks nowadays. It is extremely cramped; it seemed like that added quite a few more tables since the last time I was there. The cocktail waitresses weren't able to move around at all. This led to slow service that then led to grumpy players. And, grumpy players that are losing money aren't all that much to play with. The Bellagio game was really soft. PetDander and I played some 8/16 there and Alex hit the 4/8. The highlight for me was hitting quad Jacks against a guy's boat (sixes full). We all cashed in our chips shortly after the Marquis showed up. I take that back... Alex got pounded on this first session, so there was no cashing in for him. But, don't worry, there's a happy ending for him.

Next, we ate at an extremely overpriced (due to portion size and not actual prices) restaurant in the Bellagio before we headed off to Mandalay Bay. The plan for Mandalay Bay was to meet up and drink a bit with an ex- from years ago. We all met up at the Island Lounge smack in the middle of the hotel. The meeting wasn't awkward at all, and the drinks were flowing. She even gave me a couple of poker books that her company had gotten for free.

Now, that was a bit awkward. Carrying around poker books in plain view while walking around a casino is tantamount to wearing an "I am a Tool" T-Shirt. We also managed to hit up the Raffles Cafe to eat our real dinner since we were all pretty hungry. After the meal, we all said our good-byes to her, and we were off to start our drunken low-limit poker session.

The Mandalay poker room is a nice small room. We played in a low-limit 4/8 game with 1/2 mini-blinds. It was a ton of fun. Playing like a fish every now and then at the lowest limits can be a lot of fun, and it doesn't cost you too much in terms of long-run expectation. After splashing around for many hours, PetDander and I dropped a little bit, and Alex escaped breakeven. We finally crashed in our hotel room at 9 in the morning.

That's the end of my happy poker stories. The next one is sad. On Saturday, we met up with old friends, Jimmy Schlong and Dr. Madav, on the strip while walking to the Wynn. They happened to be in Vegas that same weekend, and so we planned on meeting up briefly with them. So there we were on our way to the Wynn... off to play some 15/30. We got there and were seated relatively quickly. And within 4 hours, I dropped a good number of bets. A good 25% of the loss was due to my donkish play after being outflopped and outdrawn constantly. I really should have had more control of my emotions, but it was too late, and the tilt monster showed its face. PetDander played well, but still took a small beating. Alex won a bit in his 4/8 game.

There was no more poker for me the rest of the trip. I took my beating and then played a few pit games before calling it a night. PetDander and Alex played in the 6/12 at the Mirage though. I was not there to witness Alex's run, but he ended up a substantial winner.

While not a profitable weekend, it was fun. All I need now is for EBAY to move so I can wipe out the weekend's expenses. There will be a next time. Time to head back to bed for a quick nap before work.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Quick Update

Well, I'm up early today. Going to head out to breakfast first, then I'll be off to the airport. But, just a few minutes ago I sold the November 42.50 calls on two-thirds of the EBAY position for 0.70 a contract. This further reduces the EBAY cost basis by 47 cents, which brings us to a final basis of 37.11. However, the covered portion of the position has its upside limited at 42.50. Two weeks to expiration. Ok, I'm outta here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Mixed Bag

Today, First Marblehead (FMD) got hammered. Bank of America (BAC), one of FMD's largest customers, decided not to renew an auto-renewing contract with the company. It is still not certain whether or not they are going to walk away completely or if they will choose to renegotiate for better terms. Most likely, this move was related to the scandal a while back regarding the gift-giving and corporate romance between the ex-FMD CEO and a director at BAC. At the point of maximum damage during the scandal, FMD shares traded just below $21. It recovered shortly after, and even traded in the mid-$32 range. Well, after today's beating it is now sitting in the low $25's. One of the largest shareholders of FMD however, feels that today's trading demonstrated serious overreaction. Obviously, his opinion will be somewhat biased, but it is the content of his message that should be analyzed closely.

Enough of the bad news. The first bit of good news I received today was that Harrah's (HET) had a strong quarter showing all the naysayers that its earnings were nothing like those of MGM-Mirage (MGM). Then, after the market closed, Expedia (EXPE) reported its earnings, which were spectacular. It had already risen quite a bit, most likely due to the strong Priceline (PCLN) earnings report the day before. But, after its own earnings report, it moved an additional 15%. Also, EBAY made a strong move, which really helped out. I am going to be selling some November 42.50 calls to cover part of my position if I can get a good price on them.

Today's mixed bag really is a testament to why diversification is desirable. If your portfolio were concentrated in a single stock such as FMD, then today would have spelled disaster. You would be in a pit so deep that a quick recovery would be nearly impossible. But, when no single stock makes up an enormous percentage of your entire portfolio, you can absorb these spikes. While such spikes are plenty painful, they are not lethal.

I'm off to Vegas this weekend with PetDander and Alex. Hope to make some cash and have some fun too.