Saturday, March 31, 2007

Alexander's Steakhouse

I've been meaning to post this for a little while now, but just hadn't found the time. But, now the weekend is upon us, and here it is...

So, last weekend, QB and I planned on going to a nice steakhouse. We hadn't been to one in a while, and it was a good time to do it, as I had just come back from a profitable Vegas trip. We decided on a relatively new establishment (it opened its doors in 2005) in Cupertino called Alexander's Steakhouse. We were thinking that it'd be pretty nice to try some Kobe beef; today, we're still thinking it'd be nice, but I'll get to that later.

Well, we get there on time for our reservation, and before we're really able to check out the different slabs of meat they had on display (including some of the revered Kobe beef), we're taken to our seats. The place has a Japanese feel to it. The restaurant decor is clearly derived from the Japanese. The place is packed, and from what I could see on the different tables, the food was looking great.

After we're handed the menus, the first things out of our mouths were the words: I guess we're not going to get to try any Kobe beef. The reason as you might have guessed was the price. For a new steak experience, I would probably give it a go at $100-125 for a 12-16oz steak. But, at double that, I couldn't quite do it. The Kobe Filet Mignon was priced at a solid $250 for a 12oz cut, and the lesser cuts were going for nearly $200. The restaurant gets the real good stuff apparently. Here's a really interesting paper written about Kobe beef by the head chef of the restaurant. Oh, and the chef has a webpage, which you might want to check out. Anyway I didn't think that a 300-400% premium was warranted, so no Kobe for us.

Okay, onto the meal. We started off with a sea bass plate topped with an uni (sea urchin) based butter sauce. This dish was magnificent. It was so flavorful and just awesome, really. If you ever make your way here, order it. You'll love it.

We also ordered the hamachi shots, which came as six shot glasses with the raw fish mixed with a variety of ingredients. If you've ever had neo-style sushi, then you pretty much know how it tasted. Each shot was refreshing, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It wasn't anything totally amazing, but I'd probably order it again. Below is my picture of it, but click here for a close up to see the true beauty of each shot.

Now, for the main courses... QB had the surf-and-turf. It was a petite filet mignon and kushiyaki (skewered) lobster. The filet was excellent, but the lobster was a bit on the salty side. All in all, QB liked her food, so all was well.

I had the dry-aged T-Bone. Alexander's does their own dry-aging in house, and the meat tasted great. The steak came topped with candied bacon bits and some garlic cloves. This was a pretty good sized piece of meat. Along with our side of asparagus, I was pretty stuffed after our meal. But, not so stuffed that we couldn't share some cream puffs for dessert.

I guess in conclusion, I'd say that the experience was a very good one, and I'd strongly recommend Alexander's to anyone looking for a nice steak dinner. I would have hoped that the food could have come out a bit sooner, but the servers were pretty good about everything from keeping our drinks full to checking up on us and giving us the heads-up regarding the slow kitchen. Additionally, our personal server knew a lot about the food on the menu, as should be expected from any fine dining establishment, but that's not always the case.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Altria Ex-Kraft Tracker

Just a quick note to those out there who hold Altria Group (MO) stock. As you are all aware of by now, the Kraft distribution date has been set for Friday, March 30, 2007. But, for those who are curious about the post-distribution pricing, you can take a look at the temporary Altria ex-Kraft tracking stock, which is listed under the ticker MO-WI (on some systems, it might be MO.WI or some other variant).

Here's the last 5 trading days comparing Altria stock and Altria ex-Kraft stock. Days where MO-WI outperformed MO (have to look at end of previous trading session to end of next trading session) are days where Kraft (KFT) was an underperformer.

Oh, and I just wanted to call out Womper to go play that Tower Defense game again. A bunch of us have since put up strong scores... you wanna give it another shot and take us down? Same score group: BruteForceX.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Quick Update and Ramen

Increased the Amgen (AMGN) position by a third at 57.50. With this latest purchase, Amgen now sits right in the middle at #12 out of 23 total stocks in the Long-Term Port.

Okay, Ramen... So, there's a small/micro-cap Chinese company called New Dragon Asia (NWD). NWD, currently trading at 1.47, has a market cap of $80MM with roughly 65% of its shares owned by their chairman, Hen Jing Lu. The company has 3 main product lines: flour products (60%), instant noodles (30%), and soybean products (10%). After taking a quick look, the main thing that jumps out as a red flag would be an incredibly large stock option grant of 8MM shares to their CFO. And, what's strange is he's getting a salary of $180K vs $20K salary for their CEO. I've no idea what that's all about.

Aside from the compensation weirdness, maybe the company is worth a look. Their business does seem to be growing, and their margins are decent (gross around 19%, and operating at around 11%). Definitely a risky stock, but I might take a small bite at some point. I'll look into it more soon.

If anyone does take some time to look at it, I'd love to hear about why this would be a horrible investment or any other things to keep a watchful eye on.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Vegas Recap

Well, I finally have some time to put up a little something about Vegas... so, here we go. It's going to be really long, but whatever.


The adventure starts with QB dropping me off at the San Jose airport Sunday afternoon for my 2pm flight. I go inside and I hit up the kiosk and it prints me out my boarding pass with all the necessary gate information. I'm really, really pumped about this trip, because I know it's going to be a couple nights of ridiculousness.

Okay, so I make it past security and get to my gate, and what do I see? FLIGHT CANCELED Wow, I'm thinking, WTF. So, I go to the lady at the counter and she says to me, "the airline didn't contact you about this?" And, I'm thinking, well... I booked this on Expedia and no, they didn't contact me, and why the F* did the kiosk spit me out a boarding pass? My mind is going a bit nuts now, and I'm just as I'm about to get a bit pissy when she tells me that I need to go back to the main ticket counter and arrange to get on a shuttle to the San Francisco airport from where we'll depart.

After getting back in line and taking care of everything, I end up on a shuttle bus to San Francisco with a bunch of others on the same canceled flight. The airline gave us a $7.50 food voucher, but it wasn't good for alcohol... what's with that? Anyway, lucky for me and my charismatic appeal, I find myself at the bar with a Hawaiian lady who puts all of our drinks on her company's card. So, we munched on some $7.50 snacks and did the small talk thing until we were ready to board. Thank you for the drinks, Mr. Bill Gates! (she worked for Microsoft)

Get to Vegas, and Rowr picks me up in her Lotus. That's just a really cute and cool car. It definitely has the super exotic look. We check into the Mirage (we got a really good deal at $115 a night), and soon after we find ourselves in the casino where all the action is at. I play some $10 craps so that Rowr can see how the game is played (she's never played before), and also for a couple "free" drinks.

$10 craps is really steep, since I pretty much place a Pass Line bet followed by a continuous string of Come bets until we 7-out... with full odds, of course. But, I'm a luckbox, and I walk away with a tidy $250 and two drinks in winnings. Yay!

We meet up later with K and his girlfriend, B to play some low-limit poker. I really wanted to play the 15 over at the Venetian due to their special reduced rake, but no one else was really rolled for that. So, we play over at the Mandalay Bay, where they have a $1/2 blind $4/8 limit game. It's a really great structure if you have a strong post-flop game. You get to see a ton more flops, especially in late position.

It is at this table where a really, really good night of drinking begins, and it is also here that all the players lucky enough to be seated at our table would not lose their money for nothing. Oh no, they'd be provided with hours upon hours of non-stop Comedy Duo entertainment. I should probably take a moment to explain.

Back in the day, Rowr and I were a comedy duo. We'd basically drink a lot and just be ridiculously entertaining (we thought so, anyway) for everyone. Our comedy act was un-boll weevil-bly funny, and ranged from crude jokes (like catching Pink Eye from glancing at the dirtiest of strippers) to Swahili appendectomies. We now return to the story.

So, after a good number of drinks, the Comedy Duo was in full effect. I was the weatherman, and my pre-flop raises were pretty much hurricane sirens. You could choose to fold and avoid the natural disaster, or you could try and face the storm and usually pay the consequences. One memorable hand went down like this... I raise in early, and announce that a Category 5 was about to make landfall. But, all the fish cold-called, since that's what fish do. And, as the big blind was going to call and close the action, I blurted out, "and, you thought Katrina was bad." Ha ha, it got a lot of laughs, especially from this old guy, Howard.

From then on, Howard was our #1 fan. Apparently, he's a regular who plays often, but rarely talks and keeps mostly to himself. But, man, our comedy really opened him up and got him cracking his own slew of jokes. He re-used a lot of material, but that's okay. Also, there was another guy, Scott, that enjoyed our drunken comedy (he later joined our troupe). And, here's his recollection of our table. Every word I speak is the gospel truth... there really was a Comedy Duo, and Captain Kings is K (he must have gotten pocket K's 5 or 6 times in the span of a few hours). His girlfriend, B, was in the 2/4 game right behind us, so she could only guess at why our table was constantly erupting in laughter.

After many more hours, the table eventually broke up. As I mentioned earlier, Scott joined our troupe as we sought more drinks and more fun. So, off to the bar we went. We played some video poker to score a few free drinks, and once that got old, we hit up the Pai Gow poker tables, where we met a big-busted girl and her friend(?). They were from the 626 area code, which was cool since that's where Rowr used to hail from.

So, there we were. The original Comedy Duo, the new troupe member, and two drunks from 626. We played a lot of hands, and we all had a blast. All of this while the flow of free alcohol never ceased. And, we had the most awesome dealer named Luc. The dude was a riot, and I think he was amused by us... really.

Anyway, just as our bodies began to give in, the 626 peeps thought it'd be a great idea to get some shots of Remy. And, believe me, we were all so ridiculously hammered at this point. I mean that in a good way, none of us were really getting sick or anything. Well, Rowr knew she had had enough, so I had to drink hers, and that really put me over the top. It was definitely time to go back to the hotel and crash. Being the luckbox that I am, I wound up winning a little bit at that table. Yay, again.


The cleaning lady woke us up about 4 times before we got wise and put the Do Not Disturb card on our door. Eventually, we got up around 3 in the afternoon. Neither of us were really hungover badly, but we could totally tell that the night before was pretty rough.

We make it out to Bellagio to meet up with K and B. They were both doing fine, since they aren't drunks like us. We briefly checked out the rose garden, which now has a butterfly greenhouse in the middle of it. Maybe it's been there for a while, I really don't remember. And, before I forget to mention it... the Bellagio snack bar is a total rip off. Who charges $9 for a baked potato? I must admit that the tuna sandwich I got there was very, very good. Not worth the price, but it was definitely up there in taste.

We then went to go gamble in the arcade. I broke even playing Air Hockey, and I lost a dollar showing off my non-moves in the Dance Dance Revolution game. I'm so bad at it, it's almost unbelievable. We were really looking for an old Tetris machine, since Rowr and I have been waiting to do some serious wagering on that game. I suppose she'll keep her money for longer, as we couldn't find one.

Later one, while we were all walking around, I got a call from Duke, a Vegas local. I thought he was out of town, but I was wrong. So, Duke eventually met up with us and K and B went off to dinner. Duke, Rowr, and I then went to the Wynn. We played some -EV table games (but, I'm a luckbox, so it worked out), and soon we were off once again to play some low-limit poker in the same room as the night before. Well, we did make a pitstop to eat a little over at the Raffles Cafe.

This night was a lot more tame, because there was no way we were going to drink nearly as much we had already. But, it was still a good time and a lot of fun. The comedy was still in full effect, but it was nowhere near the level of the previous night.

Now is as good a time as any to talk about the hand depicted in Rowr's drawing. It went as follows... I've got KK in middle, and I raise a couple of limpers. Rowr cold calls on the button, one of the blinds comes in, and it's 5 to the flop. Flop comes Q33, checks to me, and I bet. Rowr calls, as does a Santa Claus lookalike. The turn brings a 3, and Santa bets out. I make it $16, Rowr cold-calls, and Santa calls. The river is some blank, and they both call my bet. I figured they both had Q's, and I was only half right. Santa had a Q, and Rowr shows down pocket 5's ??. After that, she started believing me more.

After we were all done there, we went on a failed mission to find some late night food. It was at the "24-hour" McDonald's where we saw a crazy drunk girl go at it with the cashier. The cashier was really up in the drunk's face at one point calling her "Ms. Kansas." I had no idea what all the bickering was all about. But, it turns out that it's a 23-hour McDonald's, as they don't serve you from 4am to 5am or something. So, we left empty-stomached. We closed out the night with some more blackjack, where I pretty much broke even (I think I won like $5).


Woke up at 11:30 or so, and checked out. We then went to GameWorks to find the Tetris machine, because Rowr really had money to burn. Once again, the machine was not to be found, and so we played some more blackjack (this time, my luckbox skills paid off) before heading to the airport.

The flight was not delayed, and I made it home without any incidents. QB picked me up, and I told her all about the wild time I had in Vegas, and all was good.

The End.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Quick Update

Here's what happened today... all in the Trading Port.

Sold off all of the SanDisk (SNDK) at 49.97.

Bought back the EBAY at 31.83.

Bought Concurrent Computer (CCUR) at an average price of 1.415. CCUR is one dog of a stock, but it's one that I've traded in the past that I still follow. Maybe it will finally get acquired. Not really holding my breath, but it'd be nice if say if Arris (ARRS) took them out at the depressed price.

*** Edit #1 ***

The nervous side of me really shines these days. Just sold off the EBAY I bought at 31.91 for a tiny gain after commissions... I suppose it's enough to cover dinner for two. Hah!

Anyway, I'll figure out what I want to do this weekend. I'm leaning towards keeping Todco (THE) and letting it convert to cash + Hercules Offshore (HERO).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Quick Update And A Hint Of Vegas

I guess I'm really wishy-washy right now... sold the EBAY today at 32.44.

I haven't had a chance to write anything about Vegas, but Rowr did. So, check it out... especially the awesome stick figure artwork: Rowr's Vegas Artwork Post

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Quick Update

Got back into EBAY in the Trading Port at 31.34, shortly after the Fed announcement to leave rates unchanged.

Also, read up a little bit more about the Hercules Offshore (HERO) and TODCO (THE) combo, and it looks like the deal will complete in relatively short order... maybe as soon as June of this year. I will look into HERO, and maybe I'll just let the shares convert into cash and stock. I guess I'll figure that out this weekend.

*** Edit #1 ***

Looks like today was a clean sweep. Every single stock in the portfolios closed up today. It's such a rare occurrence, so it's pretty awesome when it happens.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Another Buyout

Well, I just got back from Vegas... it was a good trip. But, I'll write a bit about that later on. Time to talk business. I was checking quotes on the cell while in Vegas, and thought that the price I was being quoted on one of my stocks was in error. Lucky for me, it wasn't.

On Monday, Todco (THE) agreed to be acquired by Hercules Offshore (HERO) for a cash and stock deal valuing its shares at around $42. I might hold this for a little bit to see if anything more becomes of it, but I'm very much ready to just sell it as well. Can't complain about this kind of short-term gain. Yay!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It's Vegas Time

Off to Vegas for a few days to play some cards, down some drinks, and party it up. I read that the Venetian has a $1 max rake on their 8/16 and 15/30 games for the next month or two. I should go check that out when I'm doing the 'serious' pokering.

So, last night QB and I went off to Stephen's Green in Mt. View, and learned that they jacked up the cover charge a fair bit for St. Patrick's day. And, the lines were pretty long at all of the bars there, so we decided to just have drinks and chill at my place instead.

We played Abalone, which is a pretty old but fun strategy board game. I suck so bad at it; I lost all but one game.

Anyway, my March Madness bracket is still looking alright, but it's still early, and pretty much anything can happen. Hah. Okay, later people.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Quick Update

Increased P.H. Glatfelter (GLT) position by 50% with a purchase today at 15.61. Cost basis for the full position is now 15.84.

Will update later regarding what becomes of positions affected by options.

*** Edit #1 ***

Bought back the Form Factor (FORM) March $45 calls for $0.40 (gain of 0.50).

Bought back some of the SanDisk (SNDK) March $40 calls for $0.50 (gain of 0.10). The rest of the SNDK position will be called away this weekend.

Yahoo! (YHOO) closed at 29.88, so I should be getting shares put to me over the weekend, which is what I actually wanted to happen. Cost basis for the shares is effectively $29.50.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March Madness and Stocks

So, Coventry Health Care (CVH) just boosted its earnings forecast to a range of 3.92 - 3.98. The Reuters consensus was at 3.93. They also raised its revenue guidance to $9.2B - 9.55B. The Reuters consensus was at $8.7B. They also mentioned that they've already bought back 4MM shares of stock, and have increased their authorization to purchase up to 10MM shares.

The company is presenting at an investors' conference next week, and they report earnings some time next month. Good to see that the company is doing well. A shame that I only got only a third of my intended full position.

Tomorrow will be a somewhat antsy day for me as options expire, and most of the positions for which I have options-related decisions to make are trading pretty darn close to the strike prices.

And, now for March Madness. I usually suck at filling out March Madness brackets. I think the only time I did really well was back in 1998. It was a total fluke... I was the only person out of a sizable group to have chosen Kentucky to win it all, and that pretty much did it.

Anyway, here's my bracket for 2007. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Portfolio Update

Today, I purchased P.H. Glatfelter (GLT) for the Long-Term Portfolio at 15.95. When I first mentioned the company a few months back it was trading at just under $15. I was preparing to buy, but the stock ran away a bit... it hit a recent high around $18 and has since pulled back some. So, I used this opportunity to get in.

At current prices, the shares yield just about 2 1/4%. Also, look for their margins to improve as the company begins to realize the benefits of its recent acquisitions. Last year, the company purchased of NewPage Corp., a carbonless paper company, and J.R. Crompton's Lydney Mill. The Lydney Mill produces non-woven products. These would include products like coffee filters and teabag papers.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

An Awesome Game!

Okay, this online game is just a ton of fun. It's called Desktop Tower Defense. You basically build these attack towers and try and defend against waves of various types of enemies. I'm not so good at it yet, but so far I'm addicted. Also, at least for me, the game is highly re-playable.

Once you make a decent enough score, enter your name and put your score into the group BruteForceX. This way, we can can all compete a bit.

Note to WOMPER: You've got to play this and crush it, since I know that you're the real gamer among all of us.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Belated Update

So, the other day I sold the March 40 calls (SWQCH) on the SanDisk (SNDK) position for 0.60, and I realized I had neglected to update here.

Next Friday is March options expiration. Here's what is going on right now...

SNDK at 39.41. Definitely volatile enough to breach the 40 mark and get called away. If the stock is not too far in the money, I will buy back the calls. I still like the company as I've said numerous times.

FORM at 45.90. I had sold the 45 calls for 0.90, so at this point I would have done better had I not sold them. But, same deal as with SNDK. I like the company, and will definitely buy the calls back if it is not too far in the money. Crossing my fingers that we get a somewhat flat to down week and FORM closes below 45.

THE at 33.71. The 35 calls I sold will probably expire worthless. And, when they do I will likely sell yet another round of calls for April.

YHOO at 29.12. I had sold the 30 puts for 0.50 with the intention of re-establishing a long position at a price better than I had exited. YHOO dipped today on some news regarding a deal change with AT&T, which could lead to some revenue loss. I do hope the stock stays below 30, as I don't mind re-entry at an effective 29.50.

Also, trying to re-enter WTSLA at 5.75 or below. I had sold off the position at 6.10 when I got a bit skittish from the drop we had recently. If I am able to get my price, I will be buying 6% more than what I originally owned. I figure I might as well keep the total dollar amount the same.

Once next Friday passes, I'll have a much clearer picture on what funds I have available for deployment. There are a few existing positions that I think I might add to in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Coding For Dummies

Some of you have already heard me vent about this already, but I just think it's too good not to share with everyone else. So, anyway I had to deal with some really horribly written code recently. I mean this is the sort of stuff that you simply cannot make up. It really is that bad.

A person might need a loop using some kind of counter. But, no one needs what I had the privilege of dealing with shown below for your entertainment. The if - else if chain was a part of some function that was ironically being called in some sort of loop. In any case, enjoy.

// global booleans
bool firstTime = true;
bool secondTime = false;
bool thirdTime = false;
bool fourthTime = false;

if( firstTime )
firstTime = false;
secondTime = true;
// do some stuff
else if( secondTime )
secondTime = false;
thirdTime = true;
// do same exact stuff as before
else if( thirdTime )
thirdTime = false;
fourthTime = true;
// do same exact stuff as before
else if( fourthTime )
// do same exact stuff as before

To make matters even worse, this code needs to be expanded at some point, most likely with a variable number of iterations. Talk about a nightmare. Oh, this really is just the tip of the iceberg, but I think I've said enough. It amazes me that anyone can possibly believe that coding in this manner is logical or effective.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Water Damage Pictionary

Each week, we have a weekly team meeting at work. And, more often than not some part of the meeting covers an area that is of no interest to me. During these lulls, I tend to tilt the chair back a little and stare at the ceiling. My co-workers probably wonder what the heck I'm doing.

I'll confess to the world right now... I'm playing a game, kind of like Pictionary. It's the same image every time, but after a while you can see new things in it. Here's what I stare at. It's an image formed by water damage. What do you see in it?

Some things that I see repeatedly are:

1) Bird sitting in a nest with a worm in its beak.
2) A U.F.O. that has crash landed on a pillar-like rock formation with smoke coming out of it.
3) The profile of a big-nosed face with some abnormal growth and fluid seepage. (To see this one, you probably have to view the image sideways) .

Maybe I'll get lucky and we'll have a really huge storm that causes new water damage. I could always use a new image to think about.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Featured Food

So, the Valentine's post got featured in the 2nd edition of Carnival of Dining Out on the Stuff You Oughta Know blog. Pretty cool. I spent some time clicking on some of their archived posts and it's got a little bit of everything. Check it out.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Seeing Stars

Well, looks like I was pretty much dead wrong on Constellation Brands (STZ). The company dropped a profit warning bomb today on investors during their earnings release. Glad I didn't yet add to the position. I will continue to monitor the company, but I'm now undecided. What I thought was true for the company simply wasn't.

The markets were down pretty large in early trading, but they've since recovered somewhat. Scary times are here, but it's good to know that it's during these trying times that good opportunities arise. The level of fear in the markets is high today. The VIX and VXN are making highs that we haven't seen since June/July of last year (right around the time the market bottomed most recently).

*** Edit #1 ***

Sold March 30 YHOO puts (YHQOF). In a couple of weeks, either I pocket the premiums or I will have re-established the Yahoo! (YHOO) position at an effective price of 29.40.

*** Edit #2 ***

Sold March 45 FORM calls (AFUCI) for 0.90.