Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Quick Sidebar Update

Just a quick update about the sidebar.

Hawkmoon Nine, the blogger that owns the Get Rich Slowly blog, pointed out to me that you could manually edit the sidebar quotes to house more than 10 positions... so, the sidebar is now updated with a complete list of all long-term portfolio positions.

Quick Update and a Thought

Markets are once again off the races... a bearish crude oil inventory report was released today, which should hopefully keep oil prices lower.

Altria Group (MO) increased its dividend by 7.5% to an annual $3.44. At current prices of around $84, this represents a solid 4.1% yield. I continue to be a big believer that continual dividend increases (sustained by its earnings) is an indicator of earnings quality. Go MO!

Now, let's talk briefly about a stock that's done very well since its purchase... American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS). As you recall, we picked it up just below $23 a share back in December of last year. Back then it looked inexpensive, especially compared to other teen retailers. Although the stock's run-up has been a very good thing, it is now looking a lot less attractive valuation-wise. This has led me to its peer, Abercrombie and Fitch (ANF).

It might be prudent to swap out part of the AEOS position for ANF. So, if you're still bullish over the longer-term on the teen retail sector, you might want to consider this. I know that some of you bought AEOS on the initial recommendation. To those, I suggest at least considering a partial swap into ANF. I will probably be making this partial swap myself some time this week.

Right now, AEOS is valued at roughly the same amount as ANF ($5.50B vs $5.55B, using current stock prices, respectively). I believe it is tough to justifiy this. Anyway, that's my thought for the day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Quick Portfolio Update and Poker

I added to the Broadcom (BRCM) position today at 28.70. Cost basis on all the shares is now 27.51.

Been busy today... just now realized that the market was down quite a bit today due to consumer confidence data, and staged a late-day rally to get into positive territory.

And, for those keeping track... my poker streak ended last night with a nice -40 bet session. Fun! Fun! Fun! Good thing the the market advanced today.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Made-up Ambidexterity Test

I was in a meeting earlier, and I came up with a simple way to test your degree of ambidexterity. I totally made this up, so if sucks, you know why.

Ok, let's start with a simple manual activity...

With each hand, start by touching your thumb to your index finger. You will end up with the A-OK sign. Now, for both hands at the same time, switch to a thumb-middle finger connection. Next, switch to a thumb-ring finger connection, and finally, a thumb-pinky connection. You can now repeat this in reverse order going from your pinky back to your index finger.

This is a simple hand exercise that can be done with both hands simultaneously over and over again... forward from index to pinky back to the index back to the pinky, etc.

Now, for the much more challenging ambidextrous part. With your right hand start with the thumb-index finger connection. But, with your left hand start with the thumb-middle finger connection. In lock-step, both hands should work through the exercise described above quickly. With an offset of a single finger-step, it gets to be quite difficult. If you are able to do this just as quickly as you could do it when both hands were producing the same connections, then you're more ambidextrous than most.

Almost everyone I tested, including myself, had a lot of difficulty doing this. Most screw up at some point such that both hands showed the same connections. Give it a try. I assume that those with previous musical instrument training might find this test easier, which makes sense since the mastering of an instrument undoubtedly adds to ambidexterity.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Aw, Shucks! Weekend's Over

Yesterday, QB and I got up bright and early and made the long drive to Pt. Reyes. The plan was to check out the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, pick up fresh oysters from the local oyster farm, and relax a bit at Stinson Beach. So, anyway we finally left around 9 in the morning and we arrived at the light house right around noon.

I've only been to the lighthouse once before, but this time was a lot less exciting, because this isn't the right time of the year to spot any migrating whales. We hiked to the steps leading to the lighthouse, and made our way down. That part was fine. Coming back up was a bit of a pain. I'd say that I'm slightly out of shape, and the 308 steps leading back to the top were not the easiest for me to climb. I was definitely tired and out of breath after we made it back to the top.

After our lighthouse adventure, we dropped by Drake's Oyster Farm and picked up two dozen shelled oysters and also a pint jar of oysters. The workers there packaged them all up in ice and we threw them in the car. We were both pretty excited about the oysters we'd be having later on for dinner.

The next stop was Stinson Beach, where we had a nice late afternoon lunch at the Sand Dollar Restaurant. The food was really quite good, and the seafood was fresh. QB had the fish tacos, and I had the fish and chips. Along with our food, I had an Anchor Steam, and QB had a really spicy, but refreshing, Bloody Mary. We ate outdoors where there was live music, which really added to the meal. The weather was perfect... it was actually sunny by the time we ate. Earlier at the lighthouse, the sun's rays had not yet made its way through the clouds.

When we were done, we walked around Stinson Beach a bit and enjoyed the nice weather. Finally, we headed back home. We were both ready to prepare our oyster feast.

Okay, let me say right now that I don't think I've ever shucked oysters before. If I have ever shucked them, I really don't remember. I should have read a bit about shucking oysters before I started, but I didn't. In case any of you have never shucked oysters and are planning on doing so, I suggest checking out the video found in this link first. I wish I had seen it before I tried.

So, to make a long story short, QB and I opened up our oysters from the lip. You're supposed to do it from the hinge. We did manage to get them all open and everything was fine from there, but it was a serious effort and a potentially dangerous one. I was lucky to have escaped with only 2 cuts on my thumb. The oysters were very live and they were really fighting to keep themselves closed. I remember trying to rip open one of them that was particularly strong, and I ended up breaking the top shell in two pieces. What can I say... my name is Brute Force for a reason.

Here is the mess we made after we got most the oysters opened. And, yes, that is a real Swiss Army knife you see in the picture. It turned out to be our best oyster shucking tool.

We chilled most of the oysters and ate them on the half-shell with some Tabasco sauce. QB went a bit creative with the others and baked them with a basil leaf underneath each one along with some other spices. Both the raw and cooked oysters were great tasting. After our meal, we really wish we had bought a lot more oysters.

Here are the oysters before we plopped them into the oven.

That's really all for now. And, I guess I'll conclude with a bit of my own stupidity. So, I had received this Kohl's $10 coupon card ($10 min purchase) in the mail a couple of weeks back. The card was clearly labeled that it was only good from August 18-26. I finally got off my butt today and went to Kohl's. I got myself a set of 4 nice dinner plates (the square kinds), and when I get to the register, I'm informed that today is the 27th. That was a nice $10 mistake. Whoops.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sidebar Quotes

So, I've added a stock quote list on the blog's sidebar for the 10 largest positions in the Long-Term portfolio. I intend to keep the Top 10 up to date, but there's no way for me to do that daily, so I'll just update it if there's any obvious moves. Yahoo only allows 10 quotes, which is why I had to limit this to the Top 10 holdings.

If anyone feels this cluters up the sidebar, let me know. I'm not sure I like it all that much myself.

Quick Update

Today, I sold Sept $70 call options covering 80% of the Apple (AAPL) position at $1.65 today. These calls expire in 3 weeks. The plan is to exit 80% of the trading position at an effective $71.65 and keep the last 20% of the position as a long-term holding.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dinner at Valeriano's Ristorante

Tonight, I celebrated this week's triple poker session win streak by eating at a restaurant I've been meaning to try for some time... Valeriano's Ristorante in downtown Los Gatos. I must say that I had an amazing meal tonight. Everything we ordered was great.

We started off with their Calamari appetizer, and boy, was that delicious. It was just so good. The squid was fried to perfection. It was light and flaky with a hint of lemon and some other spices. The dipping sauce was light tasting, which I very much prefer. QB wasn't as impressed with the sauce, but she agreed that the calamari itself was excellent.

For our main course, I had the Filet Mignon with Portobello Mushrooms in a red wine sauce. It was fantastic. I really don't want anyone to think I'm exagerrating, but the meat was so tender and cooked exactly as you would expect it would be in the best of all possible worlds. The sauce was rich and flavorful, and while it might have been a touch on the salty side, it was incredible. I'm still in shock.

QB had a Risotto and Rock Shrimp dish. I had a couple of bites, and that too, was unbelievably good. As soon as you put a forkful in your mouth, your taste buds were greeted by a medley of different flavors. After having just a couple of bites, I immediately wondered if this is how some of those Iron Chef dishes with the odd ingredient pairings would taste.

The portions were sizeable, and so we skipped on the dessert. There will be a next time. That much, I know. So, the review of some desserts from Valeriano's will have to wait until then.

Also, the prices were quite reasonable for the quality of food and the excellent service we received. Not once did we have to ask for any beverage assistance, and we were checked up on regularly, but not so often as to be annoying. I highly recommend this restaurant if you are ever near the Los Gatos area.

On a final note, it seems that the restaurant bar is a pretty popular place to socialize. It was packed with an older, richer, and sophisticated crowd. Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time drinking and chatting. Neither QB nor I would fit in, so that's one part of the establishment that we would probably not check out.

Anyway, it's time to kick back and finish off the evening with a nice glass of bock beer.

Useful Market-Related Links

I'm running a few tests in the background, so I'll use some of this free time to list a few links that all of you participating in the markets might find useful.

Information and Data

1) US Treasury Yield Curve

2) Baltic Dry Index

3) Flash Memory Spot Prices

4) Spot Gold Prices

5a) Pre-Market Index Futures

5b) Afterhours Market Futures

6) Economic Releases -- Weekly Calendar

7) NYSE Short Interest Table (PDF Format) -- Updated Monthly


1) Weekly Market Commentary -- John Hussman of Hussman Funds

2) Weekly Commentary -- Morgan Stanley Global Economics Forum

3) Bernie Schaeffer's Daily Contrarian Commentary

4) Financial Sense Online -- Collection of Daily Write-ups

Retail Apparel Blues And More

One of my larger positions, American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS), suffered a three and a half percent hit today. Looks like almost all of the the major apparel retailers took a hit today due to the horrible quarter reported by Chico's FAS (CHS). Chico's got knocked down by 25% and took down the entire sector.

In better news, Constellation Brands (STZ) and First Marblehead (FMD), moved up nicely. And, also it's looking like that recent Student Loan (STU) add-on is paying off. Was I really so lucky as to have bought it at the bottom?

New to the watch list: Nuance Communications (NUAN). Recently, a large number of shares was purchased by William Janeway of Warburg Pincus, a private equity management/venture capital firm. Warburg has taken a number of companies to an IPO in its history... including LG Card, Level One Communications, BEA Systems, and Avaya.

Nuance Communications is involved in speech recognition solutions, and it also has an imaging division. I'm sure you've all heard of Omnipage and possibly of the Dragon Naturally Speaking products. Anyway, keep it on your watch as a potential speculative play.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Running Good

The poker winning streak lives on... so, last night I was dead tired and I went to bed shortly after I got home from work. But, you all know how it is when you go to sleep at too early a time. I ended up waking up after what turned out to be a long nap.

After surfing the web a bit and doing absolutely nothing, I got a bit bored. So, I went to the local card room. I got there around 3am or so, and I found out that only a single 6/12 game and one 8/16 game were going. Lucky for me, I saw two of my favorite donator types with a fair amount of money in front of them in the 8/16, so I opted for that table.

I ran well, and the deck hit me pretty damn hard. When I was done, I had amassed an obnoxious number of chips. I had built myself a nice triangle of chips that was 5 rows deep. And, as the chips kept coming in, I built upwards. I am sure that the ancient Egyptians would have been proud of my building skills.

Time to head off to work now, I suppose. Hope everyone's day is off to a great start.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Yabbie Dabba Doo

So, on Saturday night, QB and I headed out to San Francisco to meet up with a couple of my friends from high school and two of their friends. I had met the other two before a few times, but it's been a long, long time.

Anyway, so here's the line-up... there's me and QB. Then we have my high school buddies, Womper the Hawaiian dentist and AD the lawyer. Then, there is Mr. T, who I found out actually lurks on this blog, and is slowly becoming an avid investor. Finally, there's an Asian Avril Lavigne (AAL). She looks nothing like Avril Lavigne, but it's just as good a moniker as any other I can come up with right now.

We all made our way to Yabbie's Coastal Kitchen half an hour earlier than our reservations. We were promptly seated, and we went ahead and ordered drinks. Only QB and Womper had alcohol (white wine and beer, respectively). I just went for some Iced Tea.

Anyway, the place is pretty nice. It's not too fancy, but it's fancy enough where Womper felt underdressed in his Quicksilver T-Shirt. He never took off his jacket, because of this, which was great for the rest of us. Any time there was a lull in the conversation, we could just point at him and extract some bits of humor at his expense.

We all decided on a large Seafood platter to share, which was really quite good. The shrimp could have been a bit larger, but the oysters were great as were the other shellfish. The ceviche that came with the platter wasn't too bad either. Avril was a bit hesitant at first with the whole oyster slurping, since it's really not too lady like, and well... she's a lady. Womper and Mr. T pretty much went to town. We were all quite pleased with the platter, and I'm really glad we got it.

For our main course, I went with the bacon-wrapped Idaho trout. I've never had this combination before, and I felt that it worked out well. Here's a quick visual.

QB got a herself a halibut dish, which tasted great. I know this, because I got a piece. Avril had a seafood linguine that must have been good, since she took care of it completely. Mr. T had the special fish of the day, but for the life of me, I can't remember which kind it was. Womper had cioppino and AD had a grilled chicken dish. Not sure if that's because he's not too into seafood, or if he just felt like chiken. It was all Mr. T's idea to get seafood, so if AD wasn't too happy with the restaurant choice, he can blame him.

Here are two quick shots of the cioppino and the halibut.

Some of us had dessert. I had a decent, but fairly unextraordinary creme brulée. Mr. T and Womper had a flourless chocolate cake. Nothing too interesting.

After our meal, we hit up the Royal Oak just down the street. It had a weird vibe. It seemed like it catered to an older crowd, but I really don't know. Maybe that was probably because we were there pretty early. The seats were comfortable and high. It really did feel a bit royal in terms of decor. The server screwed up our drink orders a bit, and we pretty much split after our first round.

We then walked a long ways to Sip Bar and Lounge. At first, we were really not too pleased with the place, because there wasn't much room to lounge. We mostly wanted to relax, drink, and chat, but tables were all reserved, and outside of that there were two small 3-seater sofas available. Luckily, we were able to snag one of those, and so that pretty much became our base. Lots of drinks and a good amount of random conversation later, we headed off to get some xiao ye (literally means midnight snack, but it was more like 1:30am) over at New Sun Hong Kong Restaurant. The food was okay, but since we were all mostly drunk, it was great. After our midnight meal, we called it a night and headed home.

The next day, I woke up at 2:45pm. At some point, I made it to the gym... why am I mentioning this? Oh yeah, because I wanted to tell you about the guy who said something pretty rude and loudly to his (overweight) girlfriend for all to hear...

Girlfriend: I can't wait to lose weight so I can try on the new clothes I got. They're definitely the kind that look good on skinny people.

Boyfriend: How the hell does that make sense? Do you buy your furniture before you buy the house too?

Girlfriend: Well, you don't have to be rude, buttface.

And, I'll leave it at that. Later, people.

Quick Trading Portfolio Update

Form Factor (FORM) was called away at $40. I had sold the August $40 call options before their earnings announcement. I still hold shares of FORM in my long-term portfolio. The shares called away had a basis less than $36, so that's definitely a win in my book.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Going Away Parties and More

The Norwegian students have now completed their summer internships as of yesterday. And, off they go to explore some other parts of California before they finally make the journey home.

On Thursday night, the Norwegians threw a party at their apartment complex. Similar to the partying from last year's batch of Scandinavian interns, there was plenty of booze and plenty of craziness. One entrepreneurial Norwegian female went around recruiting partners for her new "alternative energy" venture. Her idea was to produce alternative energy via making out with a bunch of guys. Whether all that making out actually produced energy or not, I have no idea, but it was entertaining to watch the recruiting process. Some Silicon Valley start-ups could learn a thing or two about how to attract new talent.

Last night, we tried a small sushi joint nearby, called Truya Sushi. Let me give you the verdict: two thumbs down. It's simply no good. We probably should have left once we saw the fish, but we were already seated. And, I'm already a bit too presumptuous an individual. Well, I ordered mostly cooked stuff, to minimize my unsatisfaction. If the raw pieces turned out good, I could always order more later. The fish was not fresh, and even the cooked foods were not prepared well. At least the place was fairly inexpensive. Another early warning sign that we ignored was that they delivered sushi. So, I guess this is the Domino's Pizza of sushi. Anyway, it sucked.

Tonight, QB and I are heading out to San Francisco to meet up with a couple of old high school friends (Womper and AD), and a few of their friends. Womper was the dentist guy I met up with in Hawaii, and AD, I haven't seen in a couple of years. Hopefully, it should be fun. I've made reservations tonight for all of us at Yabbie's Coastal Kitchen up in the Russian Hill area. I'm sure the food's going to be at least 50x better than the food I had last night. I've heard and read good things about the place. I'll give my quickie review at some point.

Okay, everyone... go have a fun weekend. I'm outta here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Victory For Big Tobacco

One headline says it all...

08/17/2006 4:39pm

Tobacco Avoids Major Financial Payments In DOJ Suit -- Dow Jones Newswires


Another Day Another Dollar

Played another session at good ol' Bay 101. Played well, and actually made a couple of flushes that paid off nicely. The tables were loose and super juicy. Most hands went to the flop 6 or 7 handed, making tons of stuff playable from the button or the cutoff. Just a fun, passive, and profitable table. Anyway, picked up a little over two racks. Maybe I'm back on the winning track again... two in a row does not a streak make, but it's a damn good start.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Leaving Money On The Table

Looks like I left a lot of money on the table in that Rackable Systems (RACK) trade. I am kind of laughing about it now, but man, could have been some serious cash-o-la. RACK jumped over $23 today. But, I'm not too ticked. Profit's profit, and there's not much wrong with taking the money when the taking is good.

Oh, and I've migrated to the Google's new Beta Blogger. Not really sure what the deal is, but I figured I might as well migrate now.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I Need Coffee... No, I Don't... Wait, Yes I Do

I'm still at work right now... have a few things to take care of still, and I'm tired. I should get myself a cup of coffee to give me a jolt.

Is my caffeine habit a good thing or not?

I have no idea what the answer is, and after these recent findings, I still have no clue.

Coffee Is Bad For You

Coffee Is Good For You

What to do, what to do... working while alert trumps working while weary, so coffee I choose.

While I Was Sleeping

Several things happened while I was sleeping. Who said sleeping was overrated?

Rackable Systems (RACK) sold at 19.43... good for a 3.6% gain. Had an order to sell put in before I headed off for bed last night, and it was filled early in the session.

Home Depot (HD) moved on its earnings report.

American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS) did not fail me with their earnings numbers.

Student Loan Corp. (STU) rebounded after yesterday's drop.

My smallest holding, Kongzhong (KONG), jumped after its earnings report. Looks like it is today's 2nd largest % gainer. In any case, I'm still down quite a bit on this position... it was highly speculative to begin with, so I'm not too surprised. The position is so tiny at current prices that today's move is still rather insignificant.

The Core Producer Price Index came in at -0.3% vs an expected +0.2%. This should help justify the Fed's rate hike pause, and should bode well for the market.

Poker and Earnings

I was fortunate enough to play against some super fishy players tonight, but I was even more fortunate not to get sucked out on too badly. Finished the night up two and a half racks. Hopefully, I'm back on the winning track again.

So, about an hour ago, Home Depot (HD) announced its Q2 earnings. On first glance I think it's neutral at worst. They beat expectations by a penny coming in with a 93c EPS. They beat on revenues by half a billion dollars. My main concern is that they guided to the low end of their previously announced earnings range going forward. That said, the shares are trading at a very cheap multiple (around 11x trailing earnings). If the stock does not move strongly to the upside, I will be filling the third and final part of the position. I will once again reiterate: the stock is cheap.

Still waiting on American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS) earnings, which are due out within a couple of hours. I guess I'll have to read about it tomorrow. It's late, and it is most certainly past my bedtime.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Quick Update

Added to the Student Loan Corp (STU) position at $161.56.

Rackable Systems (RACK) moved higher today, but I failed to take the profit. Still waiting for a move.

Home Depot (HD) and American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS) report earnings tomorrow. Eager to see how they do. Depending on what I see tomorrow, I might fill out the HD position with my third and final purchase.

Broadcom (BRCM) has bounced, and is no longer a losing position. Yay!

Still watching Universal Corp (UVV) and new to the watch list is the REIT, HRPT Properties Trust (HRP).

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hot Dogs, Hula Hoops, and Fireballs

Friday was my company's annual picnic, which was held at Vasona Park. There was plenty of food available for everyone. Our chef, the Q&A engineer, cooked up the typical BBQ fare consisting of hot dogs, burgers, chicken, and some other pieces of meat. After everyone had their fill (and some time to rest), it was time to move on to the day's activities.

We ran two activity tracks. There was the 'active' activity track and the oxymoronic 'inactive' activity track. I was in charge of the inactive one, since I'm pretty lazy. So, the adults and kids that wanted to run around a lot in the hot sun played soccer, bocce ball, and also ultimate frisbee. The adults and kids (mostly younger ones) that wanted to kick back have fun in the shade got to do a number of other activities.

I started off with a game of Taboo. In hindsight, Pictionary would have worked out a bit better, because the younger kids really had a hard time participating. But, still, it was a lot of fun. Few had played it before, so the final score was 1 - 0. This doesn't mean that only one term was guessed correctly... I was playing the official rules where you can lose points for passing or getting buzzed. At one point both teams had negative scores.

Next, we had all the kids (and their parents) do collage art. So, we laid out a bunch of old magazines and catalogs and had the kids clip different images and paste them onto a posterboard. Don't worry, we made sure to get the kid-safe scissors for them. This craft activity worked out really well, and the kids really loved it. One of the kids, a cute boy named Will, enjoyed making a collage so much that later on he wanted to do another one.

The others who were on the inactive track and did not want to do the collage activity were given the Pentominoes Puzzle from the Google National Puzzle Championship. The password for the Test is jag1511. Two of our interns and one of our software engineers solved puzzle. The rest that tried just ended up really frustrated. Ha ha.

I was on a pretty strict budget so, I filled up my third slot with a Junior Semi-active Triathalon. The three events were awesome, and all the kids had a blast. The first was Water Pong. Think of beer pong, but there's no drinking and no beer, just water. The second event was a Bean Passing Relay game. Each kid put a plastic spoon in their mouth and passed scoops of beans from one end to the other end. The final kid on each team would then dump the beans into a cup. This was inspired by Fear Factor and all those bug-transferring games they had their contenstants participate in. Finally, there was the Hula Hoop game where each team tried to get their team through the hula hoop as many times as possible in a fixed amount of time.

Needless to say, I was totally exhausted after the picnic.

Anyway, last night around 2am or so, QB and I were kinda bored and not too tired, so we drove out into the Barryessa hills and watched the Perseids meteor shower for a while. We saw about 20 or 30 of them. But, one of them was amazing. It was this magnificent fireball that burned for a long time and eventually broke up into two pieces. That one shooting star alone was enough to justify our spontaneous drive into the hills.

Time to hit the gym. I'm outta here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Long-Term Portfolio Activity

Sold off the entire Dow Chemical (DOW) position at 36.10. Natural gas prices have been killing this company's profits, and I don't see any reason to hang on. Maybe in the future I'll get back in, but for now I'm out.

Used the funds to add to Home Depot (HD) at 33.56. Might be premature, as Home Depot reports its earnings next Tuesday. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bottom Fishing

Lots of craziness in the news today. The terrorist airline plot authorities thwarted is really scary.

Anyway, onto fishing. I was filled on an order to pick up some Rackable Systems (RACK) at 18.75. Maybe I'm catching a falling knife here, but it is what it is... the trade's been made. The stock has sold off horrifically, and I think at this price, it's overdone. Wish me luck. Keeping a close eye on this. Not willing to take too large a loss if it moves against me.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Quick Update

Cisco rocked their earnings, which worked out great for the Juniper Networks (JNPR) trade. I closed the position at the closing price of 13.41. The trade was good for a quick 4.4% gain.

Broadcom (BRCM) jumped today, and is now within striking distance of my break-even point of 25.72.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Taking A Small Shot With Juniper

Picked up some Juniper Networks (JNPR) at 12.84 ahead of the Cisco Systems (CSCO) earnings release this afternoon. This is purely a trade. I will be out of the position before the week is over.

Monday, August 07, 2006

WTC Sneak Preview & BJs

Tonight, QB and I went to the sneak preview of World Trade Center at the Oak Ridge Mall Century Theatre. The movie was due to begin at 7:30, and we were there by 6:15. The line was amazingly long already and I was sure we'd get pretty crappy seats. But, I'm a luckbox.

Turns out that there were two types of passes. You either had a physical invite card, or you had a printout from that link I posted up last week. Well, would you possibly believe that those with the printout were ushered to the front of the line and let in first. Yay... we win.

We were probably the 10th or so couple in the theatre, and we basically got great seats. In the next half an hour the room would fill until there were no more empty seats, and the rest of the people in the line outside were turned away. The ushers apparently miscounted too, as some who got into the theatre were led out after it was clear no more seats were available.

Enough with the logistics... the movie was very good. I was quite impressed. I went into this knowing nothing at all about the movie except that Nicholas Cage was starring in it. While I do show my emotions, I rarely get emotional during a movie. But, I can say that I did tear up a bit during this one. It was never boring, really. A few scenes were kind of stupid, but perhaps they were necessary to tie the story together.

And, even though I was far from New York during the 9/11 attacks, the movie still hits home. After all, we're Americans. I think that 9/11 is the only major non-personal event that I can clearly remember where I was at the time. I could not say the same for a lot of other events... fall of the Berlin Wall? Chernobyl? Russian coup d'etat? No idea.

But, on 9/11 I was in a hotel room in Long Beach getting ready in the morning before attending a class on Matlab. That class was not even canceled that day, but as you'd expect, nothing was really taught. Everyone was on the internet keeping up with the news. The next day I was scheduled to fly back to the Bay Area, but the airplanes were all grounded. So, I drove the rental I had back up. I was lucky to have a car at all. I heard lots of horror stories about those who could not make it home easily.

If I recall correctly, one of my friends was on a flight to Europe when his plane was sent back to the States. He was then stuck for many days trying desperately to make it home.

Anyway, the movie was enjoyable, but sad. Check it out if it sounds like something you'd like.

After the movie we went to BJ's Pizza for dinner and a couple of drinks. And, let's not forget the Choco Chunk Pizookie. Delicious!

Scrabble Snapshot

I play Scrabble recreationally... that is to say that against those who take the game seriously, I pretty much get hosed. But, against those that don't play much I expect to do well.

I know some of you play, so I thought it'd be fun to throw up a board from a game I played recently. I ended up finding a winning play, and I believe there are others. Curious what you all come up with.

At the moment I trail my opponent 334 to 362. He has A, S, and U in his rack for a total of 3 points. In order to win, I need to find a play that scores 23 points or more while using all of my remaining tiles (A, F, O, ?).

I wasn't under any time pressure, and I eventually found a winner. Took me a while though. Anyway, have fun.

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Bellagio and Bowling

Today, I'm pretty much just chilling. Playing some darts and having a few beers on a Sunday afternoon listening to some decent music.

Last night we went bowling, and boy do I suck. We played two games... I bowled an 84 and an 89. She bowled a 97 and an 88. So, I won the 2nd game by 1 stinking point. I'm so horrible, but whatever. While bowling was pricy, drinks weren't too expensive there.

We did get try a nearby restaurant... A Bellagio. The restaurant was quite good, and reasonably priced. I was very happy with my gnocchi dish, and the QB thoroughly enjoyed her seafood pasta dish. We also ordered steamed clams as an appetizer, and it was excellent. And, another huge plus is that we got large portions. I'm definitely going back there in the near future.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Gaming at Casino Brute Force

Well, QB and I are probably going to party in Vegas some time in October or November. We're likely going to be joined by the GZA and PetDander... and anyone else who wants to head that way, let me know.

So, we got to talking about Vegas, and the topic of Blackjack came up. Now, I know that the game can be beaten with an appropriate counting system. Outside of counting or incredibly good shuffle-tracking, it's not possible to win in the long-run. QB feels that she's got a 6th sense... some special voodoo mojo, if you will.

I challenged her on it, and she decided it was best for us to put money where our mouths were. So, we played Blackjack, and I was the house. It was a single-deck game with favorable rules for the player. Bets ranged from $1 to $5 a hand.

After a while, Casino Brute Force was up $37. Lucky for QB though, she's a platinum card holder at the casino. So, it wasn't a total loss. She got comped lots of drinks and also a free room for the night. What a deal!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Streaks Eventually End

Well, not much to report... I dropped a little over a rack tonight at Bay 101. Lost with all of my big pairs except for QQ. No draws came in, and I never picked up any nice pots. C'est la vie.

In other news... Apple (AAPL) is going to get pummeled tomorrow. After the market closed, they released some bad news about earnings restatements due to improper options pricing practices. At least I have today's gains to offset tomorrow's likely losses. American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS) continued to show strong sales growth, and keeps on trucking.

New on the radar is Universal Corp. (UVV). It recently sold off its lumber business and will be focusing more on its tobacco supply and agricultural snack businesses. After a quick look, it looks inexpensive with serious potential. That said, I am not yet ready to take a position in it. Need to do more research. At the very least, I want to wait to hear what they have to announce at their upcoming quarterly earnings call.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Let's Talk Poker...

Well, I'm on a nice streak right now... since I started playing live again, I'm 6 for 6 in winning sessions at the lovely Bay 101 cardroom.

Last night, however, was a serious uphill battle. I was stuck nearly 3 racks in the first 3 hours, and I was in for a total of 4 racks ($800). I got absolutely hammered. Caught a lot of great hands only to get hurt. Most memorable were losing with AQ to 34 suited on an AQ7 rainbow flop, losing with my K flush vs an A flush, and also losing with a flopped set of 7's when TT caught his 2-outer. Oh, and QQ on a 89TJx board chopping 3-ways pretty much sucks too.

But, I stuck with it. The table was still really soft, and I was not playing badly (at least not that I noticed). There was one particular strong read I had on an opponent... some might call it spewing, but I was confident enough to play it as I did. So, the game is 6-handed at this point and I'm sitting with 44 and I open-raise it. A crazy way over-aggressive love to bluff Korean dude cold calls on the button, and the big blind calls.

Flop comes K84.

Checks to me, and I bet. Crazy dude raises, blind folds, I 3-bet, and he calls.

Turn comes a 7.

I bet, he raises, I 3-bet, he 4-bets, I 5-bet, he 6-bets, I 7-bet... and against 99% of players, no way do we get past 4 bets. But, this guy's special... I mean, he's got Seoul (oops, I meant soul). He really loves outplaying you and bullying you around. I saw him go 4 bets with Ace high on more than one occasion. He doesn't think too much, but he does get lucky once in a while.

Finally, he calls.

The turn is some picture card... and I bet. He calls.

He has an extremely overplayed K7o. Now, I can argue that I overplayed my hand as well, but I guess I just had a good read on him. I'm glad he didn't have the 56, which is certainly in his cold-calling range, but his range is so large that he could have anything, really.

Anyway, after way too many hours, I clawed my way out of my hole, and left a small winner (dinner included)... yay!

I think some time in August, I'm gonna head down to LA and chill with Pet Dander and play a lot of poker. Maybe we can crush the games there like we did at the Orleans about a year ago... man, that was a sick night. We were basically seated at two separate tables, but we kept comparing our stacks throughout the night. We busted up our tables so badly it was sick. It'd be nice to repeat that performance.

Okay, you're probably bored now, so I'll stop. Check ya'll later.