Monday, April 30, 2007

Free Museum Month

As much as I dislike my bank, Bank of America, they're doing something nice for a change. I just read somewhere that for the entire month of May, they are offering customers free admission to a good number of museums in the country.

Check out the details here: B of A - Museums on Us

And, while we're on the subject of deals... Baskin Robbins is having a 31 cent scoop night on May 2 from 5pm to 10pm. Details can be found here.

Quick Update

Sold off the Kraft (KFT) today at 33.53. After thinking about it some, I decided I didn't really want to hold it. I really ought to trim the number of Long-Term positions anyhow. I've been meaning to do that for a while, and just never get to the doing part.

The Fun-Filled Weekend

The weekend was quite eventful, and I figure I'd write a bit about it as I play some online poker. So, my buddy who runs the Programmer's Almanac was unexpectedly in town. His wife had planned a surprise San Francisco trip to celebrate a life event. She also brought along a couple friends of theirs to add to the merriment. Anyway, I learn all of this Friday morning, and made plans for QB and I to head out for dinner and drinks with them.

We went to the House of Nanking. I actually went there with Mr Programmer's Almanac years ago, and I guess he remembered it being really good, so that was the restaurant choice. We get there at around 9pm, and after a short wait, we're all seated. The restaurant owner(?) decides to order for the six of us, and overall he did a decent job.

The table started off with a thick seafood soup... it was almost as thick as a porridge. We then had a really delicious calamari appetizer. This was followed by some really tasty Chinese food... scallops with mushrooms, a spicy shelled shrimp dish, a dish of pork cutlets, a mu-shu wrap dish, and also a sesame chicken dish. There might have been another dish that I forgot, but the important part was that there was plenty of food.

The next stop was to get some drinks in us. The original plan was to head to the top of the Bank of America building and enjoy the view from the Carnelian Room. But, it turns out that the place closed early for some reason, and we were denied. So, it was onto Plan B. And, that was to head to the Top of the Mark, a bar at the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel. We get there and the crowd isn't really what we were going for. The place was really too packed, and they also had a dress code that a couple of us didn't exactly fit. And, upon this denial, we played it safe and had drinks over at the 13 Views bar in the Hyatt.

We all had a good number of drinks and chatted a bit about random stuff. I got a bit obnoxious at one point when I went into poker conversation mode after I learned that one of their friends actually went to play poker over at Ocean's 11 recently. I thought it was the most awesome thing ever, since it seemed so unlikely that she'd be a poker player. Guess you can never judge a book by its cover. And, that's pretty much how the night ended.

The next night we headed out to the city again to meet up with a couple friends. One of them, we hadn't hung out with in quite some time. QB and I stopped in Palo Alto for dinner on our way out there. We tried out a relatively new Italian restaurant on University called Madison and Fifth. We were seated after only a short wait.

The restaurant is really loud. Definitely has a hustle and bustle type of feel. Not sure if they intended that or not, but that's how it was. We started off with raw beef Carpaccio topped with greens and Parmesan cheese. I don't usually have this, but just had a craving for it. And, it was good. QB had a seafood fettuccine dish, and I had a blackened seafood ravioli dish. I thought the food was alright. Nothing spectacular, but it was good and we enjoyed our meals. Not sure I'd really go back again, but to be clear, it wasn't a bad experience.

Here are a couple pictures. Not the greatest looking dishes, but I assure you they tasted fine.

Blackened Ravioli

Seafood Fettuccine

So, after dinner we made it to the city, and we hit up a restaurant bar/lounge that our friends frequented... the place was called PT and it's on Arguello and Geary if I recall correctly. Anyway, the place was nothing special and had a near 100% Asian crowd. We ended up playing pool for a $1 a ball and basically drinking a good amount. I won $12. Yay.

Afterward, we went over the Mel's Drive-in, and got our post-drinking eat on. We pigged out on omelettes, fried zucchini, and burgers. After stuffing ourselves, we went home. And on Sunday, we rested.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Quick Update

Sold Concurrent Computer (CCUR) position at 1.52, which was good for a 7.4% gain.

Sold May 45 calls on Sandisk (SNDK) at 0.85.

Also, I picked up some Penson Worldwide (PNSN) yesterday at 29.04, but neglected to post. Unfortunately, it's down a buck already today.


So, I haven't played that Tower Defense game in quite a while. But, I do check the scoreboard from time to time. And, well... the competition is pretty fierce. Based on my monitoring, the two main contenders keep one-upping each other.

In any case, I don't think I have much of a chance at this point as a real contender. Just gotta love how competition often brings out the best. These are some pretty sick scores.

Here are the top 10 scores in my group (BruteForceX) right now:

Pos Name

1 Spud

2 gaamblor

3 Spud

4 gaamblor

5 Spud

6 gaamblor

7 Spud

8 Spud

9 gaamblor

10 Spud


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Quick Update

Took a 0.25 loss on Silicon Storage Technology (SSTI) earlier this morning. I guess I'm not so hot at revenue release gambling. I could have taken profits prior to yesterday's close for a dime in profit, but I went the greedy, gambling route, and lost. Boo.

Onto something strange. What is going on with Eastman Kodak (EK) shares today? There was a pretty massive volume spike and shot the stock straight up. It's up almost 10%, and there's really no news at all. Wonder if it's buyout chatter making its rounds around again.

Also, today after close FormFactor (FORM), the portfolio's #3 position, announces its earnings results. I'm nervous, but not going to do anything about it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Quick Play

Got a block of Silicon Storage Technology (SSTI) at 4.76. They announce revenue numbers after the close today. Market has been pretty negative on them lately, and my belief is any not-so-bad news could give it a pop.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Warranty Blues

Well, after contacting Microsoft, it seems that my warranty expired 6 days ago. You have got to be shitting me. After arguing and pleading, I got nowhere. I just got pissed off, and agreed to send my unit to Microsoft for repairs. This will cost me $139. Really quite aggravating. I better go check my blood pressure.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Alignment of Mishaps

So, last night might have been the most unlucky night that I've ever had. Don't take this to mean that it was the worst night I've ever experienced. It was just a night where a lot of different unfortunate things happened and continued to get worse and worse.

The freakish thing is that most of these events are independent... a few of them are obviously related, but really, what the heck happened last night. Barber was in town to visit, so we decided to basically go out for dinner, then have some beers and play the XBox360 for the night. It sure sounded like a great plan.

By the end of the night, these all happened:

1) Carrying a case of beer from the car to my place, and the box handle breaks and we suffer bottle breakage and beer everywhere.

2) XBox360 is no longer functioning, as it is now exhibiting the Red Ring of Death, which means I need to contact Microsoft and get it repaired, because I tried all of the fix-it-yourself methods with no luck.

3) Corkscrew on my wine bottle opener basically snapped in half when we were trying to pop the cork off a bottle of Belgian abbey ale called Maredsous.

4) Using pliers to pull the cork off resulted in major beer spillage. Definitely a dependent event, but really, wtf.

5) Cable box started to glitch and now random channels are sometimes flipping between color and black and white. The television, as far as I know, is fine.

6) Middle of the night... 1 a.m. or so, I am contacted by a co-worker who is currently overseas and needs my help. This is just odd... the last time this happened was maybe 6 months ago.

7) Almost forgot to mention... so, we went out for sushi, and after about 15 minutes the waitress tells us that they're out of Uni. Okay, fine... just axe the order, since we ordered a bit too much anyway. Then, upon bringing the food, she tells us that there's no albacore either. Ridiculous. I really liked that place too, I don't think I'm going back.

Just wasn't my night. Hopefully, the Conservation of Getting Assed law holds and I will be getting some really awesome news some time soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Earnings Roulette

Picked up a smallish position in eBay (EBAY) ahead of its earnings report at 34.46. Note that this is a gamble and just for some fun. I figure I lose so badly at poker flop roulette (betting on Red / Black flops), I might have some luck this time around when the Wheel of Earnings finally stops spinning.

*** Edit #1 ***

And, the ball lands on Black 33 for a 3 cent earnings estimate beat. We have a winner! Company also raised its guidance for FY07, and shares are now trading in the upper 35's. Yay!

*** Edit #2 ***

No need to be greedy... it was a gamble, and it paid. Sold the position at 35.50 in afterhours session.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Earnings and Buybacks

Well, Linear Technology (LLTC) just announced numbers in-line with estimates, but they did also announce a monster-sized accelerated stock repurchase program. The company has over $2B in cash, and are going to help finance the buyback through the sale of $1.7B worth of convertible notes.

Washington Mutual (WM) reported its numbers today, and their shares are ticking higher. I did get a small piece for the retirement account sub-$39. I rarely talk about retirement accounts, because they are mostly a collection of standard diversified index funds with only a spattering of interesting holdings (i.e. stocks).

Still eagerly awaiting the Yahoo! (YHOO) numbers. I have to admit I'm a bit nervous, since the investors are currently banking heavily on the company's Panama project. And, any sign of weakness or sub-par guidance on that front will be really bad.

*** Edit #1 ***

Well, YHOO came in below estimates, and the stock is down as would be expected. They came in at 0.10 vs 0.11 estimates, and their revenues came in slightly on the light side ($1.18B vs $1.2B).

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sallie Mae Buyout

Well, I just finished rambling about video games, and just as soon as I submitted the post, I heard on Bloomberg that Sallie Mae (SLM) has agreed to a $25B cash buyout ($60 per share). I'm interested to see what this means for a two of the portfolio holdings, Student Loan Corp. (STU) and First Marblehead (FMD).

Student Loan is a much closer comp to Sallie, but I would imagine that all companies dealing with student loans, both private and federally funded, would be affected in one way or another. Interestingly, the two largest FMD customers (JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America) are also taking part in this buyout. Probably not a good thing for us FMD holders.

I guess we'll see how the market reacts to this news tomorrow. Also on a different note, over the weekend, Barron's published a letter that FMD's CEO sent to their editor in response to the recent article bashing the company... the same one that Tom Brown slammed after its publication. And, Student Loan reports earnings in the morning.

*** Edit #1 ***

Okay, it's now 5:30am, and FMD has tanked hard (it's down about 20%). I made an impulse buy at 34.95 in the pre-market, which adds roughly 20% to my existing position. I agree that the uncertainty has greatly increased, but I am not convinced that the partial joint ownership of Sallie Mae by both B of A and JP Morgan Chase should necessarily result in a substantial decrease in volume for FMD. I could be very wrong here. Would definitely want to hear others thoughts on this.

Video Game Workouts

There's been a lot of talk about how the Nintendo Wii has been a fitness positive for gamers worldwide. Although I've yet to play the Wii, the idea of video game exercise is a good one and I'm not sure why the larger fitness chains haven't tried to put a few machines in.

Over the weekend, I dropped by Dave and Buster's for some drinks and gaming entertainment. One of the games that I play from time to time is this motion detecting boxing game. It's not new technology or anything... I think the game's been around for a number of years (looking it up now shows it being released in 2001). It utilizes somewhat heavy gloves and pretty much requires you to throw punches, duck, and sway away from incoming punches.

Even after a few brief minutes of intense activity, I am really exhausted. This has a lot to do with me not being in great shape despite hitting the gym a couple times a week. But, anyway, if my probably-soon-to-file-for-bankruptcy gym, Bally Total Fitness (BFT), were to install a few of these game machines, I think that I'd definitely go more often, and maybe end up less out of shape.

So, I look up the price for the game, and it's goes for about $3500 used (but, fully reconditioned). Nautilus (NLS) elliptical machines run for $2K to $8K depending on the model. Okay, it's late so I'll stop rambling. Just wanted it to be known that I think it'd be neat to combine fun interactive technology with fitness and weight training.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?

Thought I'd have some fun with Google's earth mapping program. So, I'm putting up seven satellite shots of famous structures and landmarks. Your job is to figure out what/where these are in the world. Have fun!

(click on images to zoom in)

Location #1

Location #2

Location #3

Location #4

Location #5

Location #6

Location #7

Earnings Again

Didn't have too much time to compile a more interesting list, so the following includes only those companies held in the Trading and Long-Term portfolios (except for HERO, which was included due to the THE buyout). Kick-off for me is on Friday with GE reporting before the opening bell. The street is more or less prepared for not-as-stellar earnings, but I think we should still see good numbers being posted up, generally.

Date Company Estimate
4/13/2007 General Electric (GE) 0.44
4/17/2007 Linear Technology (LLTC) 0.32
4/17/2007 Yahoo! (YHOO) 0.11
4/18/2007 Kraft (KFT) 0.42
4/19/2007 Altria Group (MO) 1.04
4/19/2007 International Game Technology (IGT) 0.36
4/19/2007 Amgen (AMGN) 1.08
4/19/2007 Capital One (COF) 1.98
4/20/2007 Concurrent Computer (CCUR) -0.03
4/20/2007 Sun Bancorp (SNBC) 0.24
4/24/2007 FormFactor (FORM) 0.29
4/25/2007 Montpelier Re (MRH) 0.44
4/26/2007 First Marblehead (FMD) 0.84
4/26/2007 SanDisk (SNDK) 0.19
4/27/2007 Chevron (CVX) 1.65
4/27/2007 Coventry Health Care (CVH) 0.80
4/27/2007 Fortune Brands (FO) 0.86
4/30/2007 Hercules Offshore (HERO) 0.87
5/4/2007 Eastman Kodak (EK) -0.02
5/4/2007 TODCO (THE) 0.89
5/8/2007 CompuCredit (CCRT) 0.21
5/10/2007 Kongzhong (KONG) 0.08
4/16/2007 Student Loan Corp. (STU) N/A

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Quick Update and a Superior Stock Idea

SanDisk (SNDK) is back in the Trading Port at a cost of 44.25.

Now, a friend of mine recently clued me in on Superior Energy (SPN). I am still in the process of researching it more thoroughly, but so far I like what I see. The company provides a wide range of oilfield services and through one of their subsidiaries, they acquire and produce mature oil properties.

The company made a major acquisition late last year when they picked up Warrior Energy Services. That purchase has allowed them to further expand their land-based reach and also diversify their business. Yesterday, the company announced a much smaller acquisition of Advanced Oilwell, which provides cementing and pressure pumping services for drillers out in Eastern Texas.

They are also aggressively expanding their international business. This could be a great area for growth with International revenues making up less than 15% of their total sales. Their margins are fairly strong, and there's always the added kicker that the company is in a sector that is undergoing consolidation.

In any case, I think the company is worth a serious look. The stock has been on a bit of a heater since it recently bottomed in late February. I will probably buy shares on any significant drop, and maybe start nibbling on any small pullback.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Darker Side of Variance

Well, today sucked for me... you should know that suck is a business term. So, the market was relatively flat today, and the numbers show that the decliners just outpaced the advancers by a slim margin. Looking at the Long-Term Port today, you'd get a completely different picture.

A whopping 21 of 24 positions closed down today. The only ones that went up did so in paltry fashion. These were Glatfelter (GLT), Constellation Brands (STZ), and Capital One Financial (COF). Ugh. I don't mind too much when my stuff tanks, so long as the general market does so in kind. But, when my portfolio is the only one to bleed, it hurts me. Double ugh.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Gears of Time Suckage

I spent an inordinate number of hours this weekend on Gears of War. The blame for my lack of productivity over this weekend can be placed, in part, on Jorge who writes up the Programmer's Alamanac. Anyway, it's a really cool game, and if you play it live, you'll hear some pretty nutty things... not all of it was trash talk.

It also makes you wonder if live online console-based gaming is a potential new area for online predators to exploit. In a few of the online sessions I was playing you could hear kids (some of them were discussing what grades they were in, and often it was junior high up to early high school) chatting about all sorts of stuff ranging from experimental drug use to sexual (in)experience. On more than a few occasions, these kids would exchange information including their e-mail addresses and their MySpace addresses.

Many parents out there are probably aware of the dangers of online chatting, etc... but I would be willing to bet that there's a number of parents out there who are not aware that the XBox360 or whatever console system they purchased is basically a computer.

On a lighter note, I think that XBox360 Live should allow you to filter gaming sessions based on age groups. This is because it is really, really, sad that these 13-year olds kick my ass in the most ridiculous manner. A teenager with a virtual chainsaw is a serious threat to your online survival.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Quick Update

I've (finally) taken a position in CompuCredit (CCRT) in the Trading Portfolio at 33.20. I suppose this is not really the greatest price, as CCRT was trading in the mid to high 20's just a couple of weeks ago. But, catching a real bottom is so rare. Anyway, this stock idea pretty much came from both No-Limp and Gaamblor. And, it does not hurt that Tom Brown's bullish view is backed by some positive data points.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Neat Word and Its Sidekick

Okay, so a friend of mine told me about a cool word today, and I'm dedicating this blog post to it.

The word is: CHIASMUS

Here is the definition according to Merriam Webster:

Main Entry: chi·as·mus
Pronunciation: kI-'az-m&s, kE-
Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin, from Greek chiasmos, from chiazein to mark with a chi
Definition: an inverted relationship between the syntactic elements of parallel phrases (as in Goldsmith's to stop too fearful, and too faint to go)

There are a few famous quotes that make use of a chiasmus. The most commonly quoted one is JFK's "... ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." And, it turns out that this particular chiasmus belongs to a special subset known as an antimetabole. I find this all really neat.

Anyway, here's's definition of that word:


\An`ti*me*tab"o*le\, n. [L., fr. Gr. ?.] (Rhet.) A figure in which the same words or ideas are repeated in transposed order.

Now, I'm not sure if antimetabole really exists in lower case form... most references to the word capitalize it. For those of you who haven't been reading the blog since June of 2006, you might want to check out my thoughts on the lexical pecking order.

And, that's it. This post honors chiasmus and his sidekick, antimetabole. Also, don't think I'm that crazy... one guy dedicated an entire site to chiasmus (it's a slow site, so be patient)!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Portfolio Checkpoint - 2007 Q1

The first quarter has come to a close. Here is the portfolio's allocation at the end of Q1. Jjust to be absolutely clear, since someone asked me about this recently... % changes in the table reflect % allocation changes and not changes in the value of the holding. In other words, -1% change does not mean that the stock went down 1% in value from Q4 2006 to Q1 2007.

Generally speaking, the portfolio became less concentrated for a number of reasons. I added to existing positions, and the position count increased by one (added YHOO and GLT, sold off HD). Also, some issues fell in value such as Student Loan (STU) and Constellation Brands (STZ). Anyway, I'm not too displeased with the current portfolio, and I'm looking forward to the fresh new quarter.

Company Ticker Q1 Q4 Change
Altria Group MO 18.0% 18.6% -0.6%
Student Loan Corp. STU 6.9% 8.1% -1.2%
Form Factor FORM 6.4% 5.7% 0.7%
Yahoo! YHOO 5.6% * * * * * *
General Electric GE 5.5% 6.1% -0.6%
Capital One Financial COF 5.0% 5.5% -0.5%
Int. Gaming Technology IGT 4.5% 5.5% -1.0%
Eastman Kodak EK 4.4% 5.3% -0.9%
Fortune Brands FO 4.3% 5.0% -0.7%
American Eagle Outfitters AEO 4.1% 4.5% -0.4%
First Marblehead Corp. FMD 4.1% 3.2% 0.9%
Linear Technology LLTC 4.0% 4.1% -0.1%
Amgen AMGN 4.0% 3.9% 0.1%
Constellation Brands STZ 3.8% 5.6% -1.8%
PH Glatfelter GLT 3.2% * * * * * *
Montpelier Re MRH 3.1% 3.6% -0.5%
TODCO THE 2.9% 1.3% 1.6%
Chevron CVX 2.7% 2.9% -0.2%
Coventry Health Care CVH 2.0% 1.9% 0.1%
Lifetime Brands LCUT 1.5% 1.3% 0.2%
Deb Shops DEBS 1.5% 1.5% 0.0%
Sun Bancorp. SNBC 1.4% 1.7% -0.3%
Kongzhong KONG 1.0% 1.5% -0.5%
Home Depot HD 0.0% 3.1% -3.1%

Percentages do not account for any cash held in the portfolio. During this quarter, additional shares of the following existing positions were purchased: AMGN, FMD. Home Depot (HD) was sold off completely. Also, the table does not reflect the Kraft (KFT) spin-off from Altria Group (MO).