Friday, December 28, 2007

Best Picture Quest

Some friend and I are on a quest to watch all the Best Picture Academy Award winners. There are 80 in total. Looks like I have 51 movies to watch. My current checklist is below. There are a few movies that I didn't check off, because I wasn't really all that sure I actually watched the movie from start to finish. And, there are some flicks that most people would have expected me to have seen by now, such as Rain Man.

Year Title

2006 The Departed (2006)
X 2005 Crash (2005)
X 2004 Million Dollar Baby (2004)
X 2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

2002 Chicago (2002)
X 2001 A Beautiful Mind (2001)
X 2000 Gladiator (2000)
X 1999 American Beauty (1999)

1998 Shakespeare In Love (1998)
X 1997 Titanic (1997)

1996 The English Patient (1996)
X 1995 Braveheart (1995)
X 1994 Forrest Gump (1994)
X 1993 Schindler's List (1993)
X 1992 Unforgiven (1992)
X 1991 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
X 1990 Dances With Wolves (1990)

1989 Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

1988 Rain Man (1988)
X 1987 The Last Emperor (1987)
X 1986 Platoon (1986)
X 1985 Out of Africa (1985)
X 1984 Amadeus (1984)

1983 Terms of Endearment (1983)

1982 Gandhi (1982)

1981 Chariots of Fire (1981)

1980 Ordinary People (1980)
X 1979 Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)

1978 The Deer Hunter (1978)

1977 Annie Hall (1977)
X 1976 Rocky (1976)

1975 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
X 1974 The Godfather, Part II (1974)
X 1973 The Sting (1973)
X 1972 The Godfather (1972)
X 1971 The French Connection (1971)

1970 Patton (1970)

1969 Midnight Cowboy (1969)

1968 Oliver! (1968)

1967 In the Heat of the Night (1967)

1966 A Man For All Seasons (1966)
X 1965 The Sound of Music (1965)
X 1964 My Fair Lady (1964)

1963 Tom Jones (1963)

1962 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
X 1961 West Side Story (1961)

1960 The Apartment (1960)

1959 Ben-Hur (1959)

1958 Gigi (1958)

1957 The Bridge On the River Kwai (1957)

1956 Around the World In 80 Days (1956)

1955 Marty (1955)

1954 On the Waterfront (1954)

1953 From Here To Eternity (1953)

1952 The Greatest Show On Earth (1952)

1951 An American In Paris (1951)

1950 All About Eve (1950)

1949 All the King's Men (1949)

1948 Hamlet (1948)

1947 Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

1946 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

1945 The Lost Weekend (1945)

1944 Going My Way (1944)
X 1943 Casablanca (1942)

1942 Mrs. Miniver (1942)

1941 How Green Was My Valley (1941)

1940 Rebecca (1940)
X 1939 Gone With the Wind (1939)

1938 You Can't Take It With You (1938)

1937 The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

1936 The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

1935 Mutiny On the Bounty (1935)

1934 It Happened One Night (1934)

1932-33 Cavalcade (1933)

1931-32 Grand Hotel (1932)

1930-31 Cimarron (1931)

1929-30 All Quiet On the Western Front (1930)

1928-29 The Broadway Melody (1929)

1927-28 Sunrise (1927)

1927-28 Wings (1927)

Bull Spread Gamble

Today, I decided to gamble... I haven't really made any gambles in a while. In any case, I've been keeping my eye on SanDisk (SNDK), and I believe that while there are clearly reasons to be concerned about the flash memory pricing environment, the company is starting to trade at a price that warrants some attention.

Yes, I know the stock is making new lows, and that's what really makes all of this a bit of a gamble. It's not a big gamble size-wise, but it'll allow me to scratch my market gambling itch and also to put money where my mouth is. Details of my bet follow.

Options Spread

Long Jan 32.50 Calls (SWQAZ) @ 1.95
Short Jan 37.50 Calls (SWQAU) @ 0.30

Net Debit: 1.65

Basically, transaction fees aside, I stand to lose a maximum of $165 per contract, and I stand to gain a maximum of $335 per contract. Upon expiration, the break-even point is SNDK trading at 34.15, and I lose the maximum when SNDK trades at or below 32.50, and gain the maxium when it trades at or above 37.50. My net gain/loss in between is purely linear.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Quick Update

I am still underwater on the Wet Seal (WTSLA) position. I sold March 2.50 calls at 0.30 covering 40% of the position today to ease the pain a little bit. At the time of the sale, shares were trading at 2.48. I figure this gives me a little bit of cushion without substantially crippling any upside the shares might provide. Effective cost basis on the entire position now sits at 2.86 with 60% of the shares really working for me.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Frustrating Parking Game

So, I just wasted a good amount of time playing this online game called Parking Perfection 3. There are only 5 levels, but it was not all that easy. I played a total of 55 games before I finally beat the five levels in one go.

If anyone enjoys getting frustrated, give the game a try. Despite all the difficulty I had playing, I found the game to be somewhat addictive.

Here are my stats.

Wii Remote Head Tracking

This is a really sweet demo. A friend of mine was so enthralled by it that he bought some stuff so he can experience it at home.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Linguist in the Family

So, I have a cousin, Josh. I'd say that he's well-studied in linguistics; he holds a degree in that subject. Anyway, we recently got talking a bit via Facebook of all places despite us living relatively close to each other.

He checked out a few of my older posts and made a key correction and had a nice follow-up to another.

First the correction... check out this old post of mine regarding a non-sensical sentence. Well, the error lies not in the syntax, but in the semantics. As Josh says, the sentence is completely acceptable syntactically. And, he's right.

And, then there's the old post about the hierarchy of words and how capitalization is an indicator of status. Anyway, here's an interesting follow-up that he put up on his blog: De-capitalization and De-lexication.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Four Day Weekend

I guess this is first day of my four day weekend. I've got nothing to do really, so I look forward to a week of relaxation and possible boredom. Last night I went to a couple neighborhood bars to play have some beer and play some word games (to cover the cost of the beer).

I've only got two things to report. The bars were packed, and my score in the word game tournament is still holding up as the #1 score to beat... top prize is around $700, and the contest ends the first week of January. If I end up winning it, that money will go towards a new TV. I really need to upgrade from the old one I got shortly after I graduated.

Anyway, after I sobered up, I played some poker over at Garden City. It was a really short session, but managed to win a rack. I was on the lucky end of a sick hand... an absolute cooler for my opponent. I get 55 and limp after a couple of limpers, and the button raises. We get to see the flop 6 ways... T55 with two spades. Okay, we get to the turn 3 ways. It comes a K of spades. I go ahead and lead out, a guy calls, and the button makes it two bets. I make it three, and the other guy drops out. We end up getting in 7 bets on the turn, and one more on the river. I turn over my flopped quads, and he laughs and shows his flopped full house with TT.

That's pretty much it... okay, time to continue my relaxation therapy consisting of doing nothing, nothing at all (well, I might squeeze in some time to create shitty grade-school art).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Show Off Your Vocabulary And Give Rice

Crestfallen put this up on her blog, and I think it's fun (and helpful).

Check out: Free Rice. It's a site that tests your vocabulary and donates rice to the United Nations World Food Program in the process. There are 50 levels of difficulty, and the site claims that very, very few ever get past 48. I peaked out at level 42, but I can only consistently reach level 40.

So, all you logophiles out there... give it a try!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Art

I know there are a bunch of you that check this blog of mine to read up about random crap in my life or perhaps to see me give losing stock picks. Unfortunately, you've caught me in the middle of my art obsession.

Two more works from the same series... here are Life As A Door and Life As A Diamond.

I'm not too bored with this newfound hobby yet. So, those of you that hate this childish art might be suffering for a good while longer.

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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More Life As... Art

I got fairly positive reviews of my kindergarten-style artwork. Although it is highly likely that my friends are just placating my ego, I'll pretend not to notice or to care.

So, here are the next two pieces in the "Life As..." series. I present to you: Life As A Drill and Life As A Horn.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Life As... Art

I am now going to show off my kindergarten art skills. Here are the first two pictures in my "Life As..." series, which are appropriately titled Life As Dog Shit and Life As A Shovel. Enjoy my creativity!

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

Daft Punk Video

Pretty cool video... and, it definitely doesn't hurt that the performers have nice bodies.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Getting More Nervous

Not sure what to think at this point in light of the inflation data. If the economy is really headed towards a recession, then the Fed might have its work cut out for it. I would think that it wouldn't be so easy for them to stimulate growth if inflation lurks.

I'm not planning on making any large moves as a result of my nervosity, however. I suppose it might change how I deploy fresh funds for the retirement accounts in the upcoming year. What fun we are all having.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Funny Stuff

Today, I found a new daily comic that I liked... maybe it's popular, maybe it's not. I have no idea. Anyway, it's called Toothpaste For Dinner.

Here's one that is awesome if it reminds you of people you know. Man, it really cracks me up.

And, here are a couple that fall into the generally funny (at least to me) category.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Clandestine Countdown

Revisiting Lobsters and Indians

Okay, so you might recall the lobsters and indians bet from Thanksgiving that I mentioned a while back.

Anyway, Tiff showed me the weirdest thing today related to that phrase. Let's recap... before November of 2007, there was not a single instance of the exact phrase "lobsters and indians" on any page that Google indexed. That is quite some time before that void was filled by both Tiff and myself.

Now, look at the search... Google search for "lobsters and indians." Seriously, WTF. How is it that some random Russian independently creates a page with that never-been-indexed-before word triplet within weeks of Tiff, Rowr, and I coming up with it? I mean, this is beyond mere coincidence. The Russians are obviously tapping into our collective wisdom. This is intellectual espionage. I just might have to write my congresswoman about this.

On a serious note... W T F? That's really got to be up there with respect to weirdness level. Okay, I'm going to bed now... hopefully, I won't have any nightmares about this.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Italy Trip Report: Florence

I was not really in the mood to put up the rest of the Italy trip report due to recent life events. But, for the sake of completeness, I felt obligated. Maybe that's a sign of OCD.

So where were we? Here are the past installments to get you caught up in case you forgot:

1) Rome
2) Naples and Pompeii
3) Siena

Now, we are in Florence. We arrived at the train station fairly late, so we didn't have the luxury of speaking to the tourist information folks; their office was closed. We ended up in an internet access joint right at the station to figure out the best way to get to our hotel, Hotel Giada. Turns out it was easily walkable from where we were, so we get there by foot. It wasn't easy to find, and many of the shopkeepers nearby were not familiar with the hotel, so it took us a while.

The hotel is not much to write home about, but the staff was friendly, the room was clean, and the location was decent. It had more of a hostel feel than anything else, but it was definitely a hotel. We couldn't really go much nicer on hotels in Florence, because the prices were really sky high. But, I thought it was good value for our money.

One of the first things we saw was the controversial Fountain of Neptune located at the Piazza della Signoria. Apparently this is an inferior work of art. I guess you need to have a trained set of eyes, because I have no idea how they figure this.

The inferior Fountain of Neptune

Next, we checked out Palazzo Vecchio. This grand palace was once the home of the Medici family. Here are a couple snaps of art inside the palace.

We tried out an authentic (but, touristy) neighborhood restaurant called Buca dell'Orafo when we were out there. We had the stracotto e fagioli, which is a dish of beef braised in vegetables and red wine with beans in tomato sauce. And, one of my favorite dishes from the trip was the Florentine tripe. Despite the visual similarity. I recall it having a much lighter taste than the Roman-style tripe. I really miss that dish. I know I've said this before, but if you like tripe, you have absolutely got to try it the way it's prepared in Italy.

stracotto e fagioli

Florentine Tripe

Here is a shot of Ponte Vecchio where you can find a ton of merchants selling all sorts of gold and jewelry.

Here is Giotto's Bell Tower, which we climbed. It was a hell of a workout.

The view from the top was worth the climb, as you can see here...

We also visited the Uffizi Gallery. It was really an impressive museum with a ton of awesome art inside. What's crazy is I saw the GZA's sister there, but I wasn't 100% sure it was her. So, I didn't say hi. I felt that if it was a case of mistaken identity, it would have been really odd for me to bother her and her companion while they were viewing art. The GZA then confirmed upon my return that it was in fact his sister. Such a small world we live in.

They had a special chess exhibit during our visit. Here's a snap of an old book talking about some chess strategy.

We took a side trip to Pisa. We tried out one of those walking tours, and afterwards we felt strongly that we could have had more fun for a lot less. So, if you do go travel, I would recommend you just do side trips on your own. It's more flexible and also cheaper.

Piazza del Duomo in Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Pulpit inside Pisa Duomo

The pulpit is neat, as it has columns made of different materials. The materials were imported from various regions, and if I recall, it was to show the powerful reach and influence of Pisa. If you look closely at the columns of the Pisa Duomo, you'll notice there's a column made of an entirely different material. Legend says that by staring at this column, you can help protect yourself from your spouse's infidelity for some limited time.

I have a close-up for all of you to see here...

While Pisa provided a few nice photo opportunities, I don't think it's really worth the time. It's definitely not a must-see in my book.

Another great dish I had while in Florence was this stew. I don't know what they called it, but it was really good. I loved it. I have a shot of the stew itself, and also a picture of one of its components.

On one of the nights, we hit up this really chill lounge called the May Day Club. I liked it a lot, and they served a wide variety of drinks. They even had this one Kiwi Vodka cocktail that was really refreshing. The place had all these old radios as decoration, too, which definitely added to its charm, I say.

Inside May Day Club

Amazing Kiwi Vodka Cocktail

Here is a picture of part of a golden door of the Baptistry in Florence.

Okay, that's it for Florence. Next stop... Bologna.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Sick Session

So, I just got back from playing some cards... I sat in an 8/16 with half-kill. Anyway, I think I just experienced the most disgusting live poker session I've ever had. I mean, seriously, it was so sick that it was starting to get funny. If you don't want to hear me whine, stop reading now. Otherwise, relish in my misery, and think about this session of mine the next time you are running badly.

Tonight, I played for roughly 4 1/2 hours. I won 4 pots. Yes, that's right... 4 pots. On average the game was 7-8 handed, and I would think close to 25-30 hands were dealt each hour. That means I was winning around 3-4% of the hands. I surely don't expect to win 1 out of 7 or 8 hands, mostly because I play a lot tighter than the rest of the players. But, I definitely don't like it when I win less than one pot per hour.

Gross. Final tally was -50 bets. In reality it was a little less due to the kill, but normalizing for that doesn't change the amount I lost in absolute terms. I guess I'll give you some highlights, because I have nothing better to do right now. What sucks is that I've been playing well and running OK lately too... what a brick wall I hit tonight. It's like the punch you don't see coming. That's the one that really hurts you the most.

Anyway, I had a total of 11 good draws (8 or more outs) that missed... I hit none of them. I started counting them after I missed the first 4. Of the 11 draws I missed, 4 of them were to the nuts, and as far as I know only one flush draw was actually drawing dead (QTs vs K9s on a spade draw flop). I had to pay off two missed draws (one straight and one flush), because I hit my overcard on the river. Both times this happened, I lost. Once to an overpair, and another time to two pairs.

I had KK, QQ, and JJ once each. In the QQ hand, an Ace flopped, but my hand held up. The JJ hand, a K flopped, and the KK hand, an Ace flopped. I paid off the JJ, but let the KK go on the turn. My hand was not good both times.

I had AK once, AQ twice, and AT once. AK flopped A 9 3. A 2 came on the turn, and the river came a 5. No bets went in after the turn, and the big blind showed down 23o for the win. One AQ hit nothing and I gave it up on a K high flop after there was action. The other time I had AQ I gave it up on the turn after I c-bet and got everyone to call me. AT hit with a T98 flop. I raised the flop, bet the turn, and the river went check-check. A guy with 89s took that one.

I suppose I should also mention that I had at least 10 small pocket pairs (22-77). I never did flop a set. Not that unusual, but you would think I deserve to hit a few seeing how badly I was brutalized.

Okay, enough about the losing hands... here are only other winning hands in addition to the QQ hand I mentioned above.

JQs flops Ts 9x 4s. Checks to me, I bet the flop and get a single caller. The turn brings a T, I bet and take down a small pot.

J5d in the BB. I call a raise getting 7 to 1. Flop comes 5 4 2 with 1 diamond. The raiser bets, and I am the only one to call. The turn brings an offsuit 7. I don't exactly put him on a pair, so I go ahead and check-call. If he has one, good for him. The river is a 9, and I have to make the call. He shows ATo and I win.

A8s in the big blind. I flop top two pairs. I check-raise the flop. There are two callers. Turn puts out three clubs, I bet and there's one caller. River is a blank. I bet, and she folds. And, that was the last time I had chips pushed my way.

What a brutal night. To make it even worse, I won the first two pots in the first half hour or so, which means I won 2 pots in the next 4 hours. There were probably a few bad calls on my part, but thinking about it a bit now... nothing really stupid. Oh well. There is always next time.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wet Seal SSS

Sometimes it's nice to get a dose of good news. This is especially true when you have been getting beaten up. Same store sales numbers for Wet Seal (WTSLA) came in at -1.7%, which was quite a bit better than the consensus estimate of -5.3%. Overall sales increased by over 15% from $46MM to $53MM.

The position is still underwater by a lot, but let me tell you... down 20% is a hell of a lot better than being down 30+%. I'm still optimistic and I still believe that the company is worth a lot more than it is currently trading at.

Anyway, I do know that a few of you bought in... for those that bought in around the time that I did, you're stuck like a pig. But, I do know at least one of you scooped up some shares in the 2.0x range. So far, so good. Just don't forget to buy me lunch next time I see you. Haha.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Quick Update

Sold off the last of my shares of First Marblehead (FMD) at 22 and change. It has sold off even more after my sale. Brutal drop.

Not sure what to do with the funds, probably nothing for now. I'm satisfied with the sizes of all my other positions at the moment.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Wet Seal Analyst and Investor Day

I did listen to the replay of the Analyst and Investor meeting over the weekend. It was a lengthy presentation and Q&A session, and it went over a lot of material. While there were many areas where details were light, the bottom line is that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit to be picked with respect to improving the company's profitability and margins.

I think that despite the near-term pummeling that I've received, I still feel good about the prospects. In my opinion, the plan, as it was laid out, has a real chance to make a difference. To me, their analysis of the weaknesses of the current business was good... maybe not great, but the new CEO has been in charge for less than 2 months. This turnaround plan sounds a hell of a lot better than the one that Hot Topic proposed in the past.

I'll be holding all my shares... good luck to me.


This is merely a congratulatory post to recognize someone on the team that helped get the Vivendi-Activision deal done. Congratulations... you know who you are!