Monday, March 31, 2008

Quick Update

Wet Seal (WTSLA) continued its upward move today. Shares popped another 6% on strong volume of 4.1MM shares after Cowen & Company upgraded shares to Outperform citing "increased confidence that significant operational changes and cost cutting initiatives under the leadership of the new management team can fuel earnings per share upside even amid a challenging retail environment."

Altria spin-off is complete, and so now I've got Altria shares (MO) and Philip Morris International (PM) shares.

I was tempted to add more EMC at current prices, but I am holding back for now.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Pivotal Moment in a Game

Earlier today, Jim and I finished a good game of chess. It was a pretty tight match for most of the way despite his useless knight locked up on the edge of the board. Then, there came a point in the game where I could have found the best move and likely ended up victorious. Instead, I missed the move and continued to wallow in the land of mediocrity.

I'm black, and it's my turn to move. Here was my chance to take advantage of Jim's minor mistake of pushing his pawn to e5. It was only a mistake in hindsight, as I clearly did not capitalize and so it didn't hurt him one bit.

If you want to think about this more, stop reading... maybe click on the image, so you aren't distracted.

Okay, so after I had already lost, Jim sent me a message telling me he thought I had missed a good move here... Qxe5+. And, after thinking about it more, he was totally right. I also got additional confirmation of this using the analysis engine.

That's all for now.

Here's the entire game for anyone interested. I also missed a better move on 32 in a similar style as well, which led to a really bad spot and my loss.

[Event "Challenge"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2008.03.16"]
[EndDate "2008.03.30"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Jim"]
[Black "BruteForce"]
[WhiteRating "1476"]
[BlackRating "1488"]
[Result "1-0"]
[GameId "4747605"]

1. d4 d5 2. Bc1f4 Nb8c6 3. Ng1f3 Ng8f6 4. c4 e6 5. a3 Bf8d6 6. Bf4g3 Nf6e4 7. c5 Bd6xg3 8. hxg3 g5 9. Nb1d2 h6 10. e3 Bc8d7 11. Bf1d3 g4 12. Nf3h4 h5 13. Nd2xe4 dxe4 14. Bd3xe4 Qd8f6 15. f3 O-O-O 16. b4 Nc6e7 17. Qd1e2 a6 18. a4 Ne7d5 19. Be4xd5 exd5 20. Rh1f1 Qf6h6 21. e4 dxe4 22. fxe4 Bd7e6 23. Qe2d3 Rh8e8 24. Rf1f4 Qh6g7 25. e5 Qg7g5 26. O-O-O Be6d7 27. Qd3b3 Re8e7 28. Kc1b2 Bd7e6 29. Qb3c3 Re7d7 30. b5 Rd7d5 31. bxa6 bxa6 32. c6 Qg5e7 33. Nh4f5 Qe7f8 34. Nf5e3 Rd5d7 35. cxd7 Kc8xd7 36. d5 1-0

Saturday, March 29, 2008

South Park Studios

For anyone that likes South Park, check out: South Park Studios

It's in beta right now, but you have free access to 100% of the episodes. Really sweet.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Choo Choo

This is probably premature, but I'm gonna toot my own horn a bit. To say I'm chipper right now would be an understatement.

Wet Seal finished today in the #25 spot on the Nasdaq, posting a gain of 11.5%, it had peaked earlier in the day with a 13.9% gain, on heavy volume I might add (~3.5MM shares vs 1.5MM avg). There's no doubt in my mind that part of the run-up was a continuation of yesterday's move based on the earnings release and conference call. But, in addition, there were two Buy reiterations with one firm increasing their price target.

Roth Capital reiterates Buy, and raises their target to $5. When I started buying in heavily, I estimated very conservatively that we were looking at roughly $4 in value. I hope these other folks are right, but I will say now that I will unload a portion of my shares if we do reach $4.

Brean Murray also reiterates their Buy rating. They hold their target at $4.50 and lowered their 2008 estimates to 0.32 from 0.35. They feel that the management's new style of reporting results where Wet Seal and Arden B results are shown independently helps increase value. The firm makes a comment about how the increased visibility is able to show just how strong the Wet Seal unit is, and how badly Arden B has been cramping the company. They say that based on a sum-of-parts analysis, Wet Seal has 'material value' that is not reflected in the current stock price, and therefore they continue to be aggressive buyers of the stock.

I might as well add Credit Suisse's take on this. From a report they released yesterday...

Investment Thesis: We maintain our Outperform rating. Backing out $1.00 in cash, $0.40 in NOLs and excluding a $0.15 loss for Arden B next year, the core Wet Seal business is trading at 3.3x our F08E (at current price of $3). We believe there is further upside as management’s focus on cost cutting initiatives, inventory management and other low hanging fruit continue to pay off.

All I can say right now is... GO SEAL GO!!! What a nice way to end this week!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Catch Me When I Fall

Well, I certainly caught Wet Seal (WTSLA) when it fell yesterday. I took a chance by buying a day ahead of its earnings, but I didn't want to miss out on any potential earnings-related upside. I guess it's obvious that I've got conviction.

Earnings for Q4 were strong, but guidance was a bit weak with the company lowering forecasts. I'm not too fazed, as it looks like a sector-wide issue, and the company is looking solid on a relative scale. Their team has got the right stuff, and I fully believe that they will continue to make progress that will take the company to a very profitable land... or, perhaps I'm delusional.

Anyway, I don't know enough about Ashlee Simpson to give you an opinion about her popularity and what her new line at Wet Seal announced today can do for sales, but I do know one thing. She has a song that loosely describes the WTSLA plight. Here you go!

Catch Me When I Fall
by Ashlee Simpson

Is anybody out there
Does anybody see
That when the lights are off something's killing me

I know it seems like people care
Cause they're always around me
But when the day is done and everybody runs

Who will be the one to save me from myself
Who will be the one who's there
And not ashamed to see me crawl
Who's gonna catch me when I fall

When the show is over
And it's empty everywhere
It's hard to face going back alone
So I walk around the city
Anything, anything to clear my head
I've got nowhere to go nowhere but home

Who will be the one to save me from myself
Who will be the one who's there
And not ashamed to see me crawl
Who's gonna catch me when I fall

It may seem I have everything
But everything means nothing
When the ride that you been on
That you're coming off
Leaves you feeling lost

Is anybody out there
Does anybody see
That sometimes loneliness is a part of me

Premature Resignation

So, I played a few games tonight against some Aussie on RedHotPawn. Here's a position from our final game. I am White, and I just pushed my pawn to c4 thinking I had won a piece. Then shortly after my move, I realized that Black had an escape, which probably hurts my position some. Can you see how Black escapes his current predicament without any loss of material?

Anyway, to my surprise, my opponent resigned. It seemed really premature, but I guess he was tired of playing me. I won our first game after obtaining an early material advantage, and I won our second game on a blunder. I can only assume that he was looking for reasons to give up, since his final message to me upon resignation was "not interested any more."

And, one final note... I'm at an even 1500 rating now on RHP after that last game.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Vegas -- A Different View

Well, Tiff also put up highlights and some lessons learned from the recent trip to Vegas.

Here are two links for you to enjoy:
20 Highlights
Lessons Learned

Quick Update

Bought back half of the Wet Seal (WTSLA) shares that were called away last week at 2.65.

Picked up a piece of EMC at 14.53.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vegas Summary

I'm still dead tired after the Vegas trip. So, I'm just going to make a list of twenty random things all about this Vegas trip. And, yes, it was awesome!

1. Venetian recently upgraded their electronics... there were 3 plasma TVs in our suite, and no less than 5 separate remote controls including one for the DVD player and another for the automated curtains and drapes.

2. Degenerate Gambling > Pokering... basically broke even playing poker (Net: -$30). Lost at 1/2 NL, but I won playing limit 4/8 and a really tiny bit of 15/30 (must-move table at the Wynn broke up in record time). But, craps + blackjack = the awesome, so the trip was solidly positive after all expenses.

3. When you are giving black chip action, and you get dealt two 8's with the dealer showing a ten, you obviously split, but you do so begrudgingly. When you get another 8, you repeat. And, another... well, you go ahead and split for the third time. How about your 5th 8? Yes, you split again!!! Trick question time. What happens on your 6th 8? You hit, because the casino only allows a maximum of 4 splits. That hand also included a double down, and in the end, the net result was a loss of one bet. Things could have been MUCH worse. So, it was definitely an interesting hand for all of us to witness.

4. Question: What happens if you're a luckbox, and you put down a large bet at the blackjack table? Answer: You get dealt a blackjack, and you get PAID!! Ha ha.

5. $15 craps is really steep, but that's all you can find in the nicer casinos on the strip during prime time. Lucky for us, we are all lucksacks. And, let us not forget some words of wisdom: ALWAYS BET ON YOURSELF, even if you lose, you still possess a winning attitude.

6. At least one person in our party should invoke the "Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" line. And, based on what happened the following night, it should probably be invoked twice!

7. Liar's dice is just as fun when you play with hotel towels instead of actual dice cups.

8. I am not as good at Rock, Paper, Scissors as I think I am. Not only did I lose money, but I was unable to get one of the hotties (yes, really... that's plural, there were several of them) in our group to have another drink, because I lost our best of three game.

9. I am awesome at the Birthday guessing game, however. I won more money there than I lost at Rock, Paper, Scissors... go me!

10. I am really a fan of the food at Landry's. It's the second time I've been now. For this meal, it was, me, Barber, Rowr, Mr. Pet Dander, and his wife. However, I am not that much of a fan of the service provided (this time), and I don't think anyone else was either. And, oh ya... Barber must LOVE fried food. Ha ha.

11. Credit card roulette is fun, but I obviously suck at the game. I lost during the breakfast round. [Note: For those who are unfamiliar, credit card roulette is a simple game. At the end of a meal, everyone throws a credit card into the bread basket. Mix them up, and cover the basket with the napkin. Have the server pick the losing card, which will cover the entire bill. It's a great game, because most of the time you win!!!]

12. Tiff has a golden arm, so I heard. Too bad I had to leave before I experienced the awesome money making that was to be had with her amazing shooting. (First time female shooter... no wonder.) Hopefully, her dude got in on that action (yes, I'm talking about craps).

13. There were 3 lawyers in our overall group of people. There were also 3 lawyers at the table where I played drunken low-limit poker with Rowr. Two of them played well, and one had little to no clue.

14. Unfortunately for Rowr, a fair number of my big hands were against her decent hands. So, I eventually cleaned her out, much to her dismay. But, I am sure she had a good time, despite hearing her version of her sad poker tale.

15. Barber is getting quite a bit more aggressive when he plays poker now, and as a result, his game is certainly improving. So, to the friends who typically write him off as a non-threat, heed this warning: You better start watching out next time!

16. Pelton and his peoples... they love sports and sports betting. Unfortunately, there was no higher limit Cha-Blah to be played. Long ago, we played for dimes (quarters was the 'big' game). I really want to play for $2 or more a point with the special 2's penalty rule in place. Maybe next time.

17. The Palazzo was pretty nice, but the cell reception there was seriously shitty. I'm sure that was by design. I definitely want to see more if it next time.

18. I should have taken the other side of Womper's UCLA bet, but we called it off, because we were too lazy to get an official spread from the nearest sportsbook at the time we tossed the idea around.

19. Good thing it was AD's birthday over the weekend. Not only did we get him sloshed (he passed out on our couch for a couple hours, while I was playing a losing credit card roulette game with everyone else). An added bonus? His girlfriend (one of the aforementioned hotties) had a shot (of Patron) for the first time... ever!

20. And, finally, speaking of ever. Rowr was told by one of the random poker playing lawyers that she was the most beautiful girl to have come from <insert our alma mater here>... ever!

And, that's it.... twenty highlights from the weekend.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Quick Update

Since there's no trading tomorrow, I guess I know the results of open options positions.

Apple (AAPL) March $120 Puts sold at $3.40, expire worthless.

Wet Seal (WTSLA) March $2.50 Calls sold at $0.30, will result in assignment. Based on closing price of $2.65, this represents a gain. Not sure if I will buy back the stock or not, as I still have a rather large position in the company.

Also, keep an eye out on Amgen (AMGN). It is at a fresh 5 year low. I have to believe that an opportunity is materializing, if not already present.

Well, that's it for now. Bring on Vegas!

1-4-24 Dice Game

Went to the bar yesterday for a little while after a long day at work. Anyway, I learned a new game called 1-4-24. We played for dollars, and I ended up winning enough to cover my drinks plus some. Fun game.

Here's how it works for 2 players.

Someone starts (this person has the disadvantage, so when we played, the winner of previous round starts). That person rolls 6 dice. On each roll, you are required to keep at least one of your dice, and you re-roll the remaining ones. You do this until all 6 dice have been kept. For example, you can choose to keep anywhere from 1 to 6 dice on the first roll. If you kept two of them, then you'd re-roll the remaining four dice, and you can choose to keep 1 to 4 of them. And, so on.

Anyway, here's how scoring works. Of your 6 kept dice, you need a 1 and a 4 to qualify. So, set aside the 1 and 4. The sum of the remaining 4 dice becomes your score. A maximum score is 24, with final dice being 1, 4, 6, 6, 6, 6.

The second person goes after the first one, but has the advantage due to the ability to know when to simply just stop trying for higher score while taking on the risk of getting a lower one. Say the first person scores a 17. And, as the 2nd player, your very first roll is 1, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, you can simply stop right there and claim a win with 18 points.

That's it. It's really simple, and I was entertained. If there's a tie, you ante up again, which builds the pot. When we played, if you don't qualify, you lose an extra dollar. If neither player qualifies, then both throw in an extra dollar for the next pot.

For a 3-, 4-, or more player game, only a single distinct winner can win the pot. So, say in a 4 player game, 2 people score 22, 1 guy scores 18, and another scores a 16. Since there is no distinct winner due to two top scores tying, there is no winner this round. All players ante up again, building the pot. All players are still in the game, and therefore, are eligible to win. You play until there is a single distinct winner, who scoops.

Like I said, fun game... good times.

Edit: I worked on a simulation for this game with some strategy information. Please find a link to that here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

City of Sin

Well, there's a big group of us heading to Vegas this weekend. Gonna be sweet. Plan on sitting in a few mid-limit games with Mr. PetDander, and generally party it up the entire weekend. I've been really working my ass off as of late, so this is going to be well deserved break.

If anyone is going to be out there this weekend that I don't already know about... send me a message, we'll degen it up a bit.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Small Bet On Lehman

Okay, okay, call me crazy... I just took a piece of Lehman Brothers (LEH) at 21.81. It's a fairly small piece, but it's not tiny. If Lehman goes the way of Bear, it'll sting, but won't be a disaster by any means. Looking at my recent track record... you probably want to fade my trade. Heh.

*** Edit #1 ***

Decided to play it safe. I took the money, and I'm staying out for now. Sold off the position at 27.94 for a fat 28% gain. LEH now approaching 30, but I'm not complaining. Have a Vegas trip this weekend, so this does nothing, but help.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hulu -- Awesomeness

There's a site that recently opened up to the public called Hulu. From what I read, it only works for those in the U.S. But, man, it's pretty sweet. They have a decent list of movies that I presume will continue to grow. You get the choice to watch movies with a some commercial breaks, or you can choose to watch a trailer for some other movie and watch the film commercial-free.

Many of the videos are just trailers, but quite a few are full length features, including:

The Big Lebowski
The Jerk
The Usual Suspects

Anyway, here's a link to the entire list.

Well, the site also lets you embed video, so here's a test... Here's Stallone in Daylight. Okay, the white dots mark where the commercials are, and they're not bad. So far, I've run into 15 and 30 second commercials. Not bad at all!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More Oscar Winning Movies

Continuing from my last update... so, I watched 3 more Academy Award winners since then. I have now seen 43 of the 81 films (+1 since the last update with the new addition, No Country for Old Men).

Here are some quick reviews.

In the Heat of the Night

I thought this was a good movie with an decent plot. The movie was racially tense, which kept it interesting. It was basically about a bad ass black homicide detective that somehow found himself helping a racist all-white Southern hick town police department solve a murder. The movie didn't feel dated to me despite its release in 1967.


Okay, so this was the Best Picture winner of the 2nd Annual Academy Awards. Let's just say it was old... and it was silent. Yes, it was a silent film though there was background music and sounds. I'd never seen one before, and I can't really see myself getting into them much. The basic story involves a man who plots to kill his wife so that he can be with his lover. It was a weird story.

One thing that I found interesting was the use of superimposed images to fade out a scene. The film makers really loved using that technique all over the movie. I wonder if it was some new cutting edge special effect for that time period.

I don't really recommend the movie for the movie itself. But, I do encourage viewing it for its historical significance.

All the King's Men

This is one movie that I really liked. It is based on a novel by Robert Penn Warren with the same title. It's about a guy, Willie Stark, who wants to get into politics and do the right things... basically, really help out the people. Well, eventually he makes it, but he becomes just as corrupted as the politicians that he once fought so hard against.

I thought it was a great movie, and the story never got boring. The acting was really good, and the scandalous sub-plot fit well with the overall movie. Anyway, I highly recommend this movie to everyone. There's also a 2006 remake with some big name stars including Sean Penn, Anthony Hopkins, and Jude Law. Maybe I'll go watch that one just to see how differently they did it on the second go-around.

Before I end this, I'll leave you with an interesting and morose piece of trivia about one of the Oscar winning performers in this movie. The actress that played Sadie, Mercedes McCambridge, had a son that got himself into a bit of legal trouble involving finances. Anyway, he ended up murdering his entire family, and then committing suicide. Pretty twisted.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ken Lee

This is pretty funny... it's from the Bulgarian version of American Idol. The song being performed here is Mariah Carey's famous Ken Lee.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Spin The Black Circle Update

I've been playing that addicting Spin the Black Circle game on and off ever since I beat it, mostly trying to better my overall time. So, here's the update. After wasting way too many hours on this silly (but, fun) game, I have decided that I am going to retire. I have broken the 5:30 mark, but I think it's going to be way too much work trying to shave off another 30 seconds to achieve the next milestone.

Here are my best times... and, I don't think I'm going to play the game again. I am done.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Skating On Thin Ice

I recently finished a correspondence game with Jorge that I felt was interesting. I got up a rook early in the game as a result of a few misplays on Jorge's part, but even so, I was often in a dangerous spot. It really goes to show that I need to develop my pieces better, and also not overestimate the danger of certain threats, which causes me to play less aggressively.

I'll put up a few positions showing some dangerous spots, as well as the final position before his resignation. Basically, I was clearly ahead the entire game, except any oversight or slip-up, and I'm toast.

First, for those that prefer to just view the game, here's it is (Online PGN Viewer link):

[Event "Challenge"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2008.02.16"]
[EndDate "2008.03.04"]
[White "BruteForceX"]
[Black "Jorge"]
[WhiteRating "1492"]
[BlackRating "1364"]
[Result "1-0"]
[GameId "4622399"]

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qd8xd5 3. Nb1c3 Qd5a5 4. Ng1f3 e5 5. Bf1c4 Ng8f6 6. d3 Bc8g4 7. Bc1d2 Bf8b4 8. Qd1e2 O-O 9. O-O Nb8c6 10. Qe2e3 Ra8d8 11. a3 Bg4xf3 12. axb4 Qa5xb4 13. Nc3e4 Qb4xb2 14. Ne4xf6 gxf6 15. Qe3xf3 e4 16. Qf3xe4 Nc6e5 17. Bd2h6 Rd8d4 18. Qe4f5 Rd4g4 19. Bh6xf8 Kg8xf8 20. Ra1xa7 Qb2b6 21. Ra7a8 Kf8g7 22. Kg1h1 Qb6c6 23. f3 Rg4h4 24. Ra8a5 Ne5g6 25. c3 Qc6d6 26. g3 Qd6xg3 27. Ra5a2 Ng6f4 28. Rf1g1 Nf4e2 29. Ra2xe2 1-0

Okay, onto the game...

This position is right after 19. ... Kxf8. I'm up a full rook, and I'm feeling really good about my spot.

This is after 25. ... Qd6. I need to do something about the mate threat, and so I pushed my pawn to g3. I knew that his Queen could just take the pawn, because the h-pawn was pinned, but I figured I'd be okay to follow-up with Ra2. And, that's exactly what happened. In hindsight, the better move was pawn to h3, which effectively blocks out his rook completely. I guess I just like making things harder for myself.

Lucky for me, Jorge overlooked a pin of my own, and got himself in a bit of a pickle. Here's where he should have resigned (after 28. Rg1), as the game is clearly over. But, he fired one last shot at me with Ne2, setting up a trap that I did not fall for. And, after Rxe2, he resigned. I thought this game was full of precarious spots, and very tense. We both walked a really fine line, and I'm just glad I did not slip badly at any point.

Friday, March 07, 2008

New Move: Inducing the Bet Out of Turn

So, get this... there's a new rule at Bay101. I don't quite understand the reason for it, and I think it adds more problems than it solves. The new rule is that if a player bets out of turn, then if called on that mistake, that player may only check or call. He may not bet or raise.

This rule was called on someone today, and I thought it was pure horseshit even though I was not a part of the hand in question. What's crazy is that the dealer was required to announce the situation along with the new rule and give the other players a choice as to whether or not they wanted to call the 'bet out of turn' rule into play (much like how it is the player's responsibility to call a string raise).

This rule introduces a new angle to the game. You can try to induce the bet out of turn (to get a free card or showdown)... maybe by feigning a quick bet, where your opponent might beat you to the pot calling, or by the much more questionable action of obscuring slightly your cards from view.

I thought about this for a bit, and I really couldn't think of any reasons why this rule would be a good one. Like, I can see how calling out of turn poses a problem... say, 3 of us were in a hand. And, I know full well that the bettor has a weak hand, and I also know that you feel the same way. However, neither you nor I have a hand that can overcall. So, I call out of turn, effectively shutting you out of the call. I can understand this. But, I do not understand how betting out of turn is the same... is there similar reasoning behind the rule?

Anyway, that's the latest.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Teen Retail Blues

My large position in Wet Seal (WTSLA) is taking a beating today. It's down about 5.5% following the release of its monthly sales figures. The only consolation I have is the block of covered calls I sold on shares back in December, which are now worth less than I received.

In any case, I am not worried about anything company-specific. It's not the only teen retailer that took a beating today. In fact, I think every single teen retailer that I track dropped significantly today.

A smattering of teen retailers, and the changes in today's stock prices...

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF): -5.5%
Aeropostale (ARO): -5.7%
American Eagle Outfitters (AEO): -16.5%
Bebe (BEBE): -5.5%
The Gap (GPS): -4.9%
Guess (GES): -6.3%
True Religion (TRLG): -3.0%
Zumiez (ZUMZ): -14.3%

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ma Po Tofu

Well, someone cooked me up a meal last weekend... Ma Po Tofu! Good stuff. I must say it was really tasty. The dish made use of actual Szhechuan peppercorns, too.

Here's a picture of the finished dish for all of you to enjoy.

Quick Update

Sold a single Apple (AAPL) March $120 put contract for $3.40. I have been nibbling at the stock in my retirement account, and I'm willing to buy it my normal account at $116 and change. So, if the shares get put to me, great.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Movies: Ebb and Flow

This is a cool visual representation of box office hits from 1986-2007.

The Ebb and Flow of Movies

Chupacabra and Felons

Well, I recently learned a not so often used definition of the word, felon. Apparently, in addition to the common definition, it can also refer to an inflammation of the fingertip near the end of a nail. I just find it really odd that this sort of physical ailment would be given the same name as a criminal. Or, maybe it's the other way around. Anyway, that's the word of the day.

Another thing I heard about recently is the Chupacabra. I have never heard of it before, and I've asked quite a few people and most had never heard of it before either. It is some sort of urban legend / mythological vampire beast that feasts on the blood of goats. Now, you've got the monster of the day. Anyone come across the term for this beast before?