Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Neat Forced Mate

I finished a game this morning, and I thought this was a straightforward, yet neat, forced mate. So, I'm posting it here. Maybe you'll think the same about it. Anyway, it looked pretty to me. Enjoy.

White to move. Mate in 3.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Day To Remember

I lost a crapload today. Anyone who was long the market lost a crapload today too. These things happen... and, sure, I wish I had further trimmed my exposure. Hindsight's 20/20. Today's the worst I've seen ever since I've been involved with the markets. Watching the Nasdaq Composite lose over 9% was a shocker. Pretty sick, if you ask me.

On a different topic... I wasn't active in the markets in 1987, but my parents and others that I talk to were. They mostly tell me... well, these things happen. And, I know it sounds a lot like those "when I was your age, I used to walk 10 miles to school in the middle of a blizzard" stories. However, the fact is they all felt the horrific drop that dwarfs the one we saw today.

Not that any of this really matters... I digress. Tomorrow is another day.

Anyway, I thought I'd close this quick post with some interesting trivia. Of all the S&P 500 companies (500 of them), only one closed up... that honor goes to Campbell's Soup (CPB).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sushi Zo

When I was in LA last weekend, we met up with a couple people over at Sushi Zo. All I was hearing were rave reviews of this sushi restaurant, and so I was dying to check it out. I always feel that the Bay Area's sushi just doesn't quite compare to what you can get down in SoCal... but, I'm probably just not in the know.

Anyway, we did the Omakase which is pretty much what everyone seems to order over there. I have to say that the fish was fresh and everything was excellent. It was expensive, but you get what you pay for. I'd definitely go back.

Here are a few pictures I took of the sushi we ate. Just looking at these pics makes me hungry. It was fantastic. Yelpers seem to agree, too, as the restaurant is rated 4.5 stars with over 100 votes.

Speaking of sushi... I've been hearing some really great things about Stonefish sushi (okoze). I've never had it, nor have I ever found any place that served it. One of these days I will find me some, and I'll report on what I thought. Hope that day comes sooner and not later. Anyone ever had it or know where I can have a taste? I have also heard that it's great cooked as well.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Lobsters and Indians

Yep, it's been a while since we've talked about Lobsters and Indians. Anyway, the awesome Tiffster made this for us to hang up on the back wall of the bar that we will open up in the future.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bo Burnham

I suspect that most of you have seen Bo Burnham's videos on YouTube already... he's been putting up videos since 2006 I think. For those of you who haven't, you're really missing out. This kid is talented, and his songs are hilarious. Sure, they're a bit offensive to those who are overly sensitive or to those without any sense of humor, but I just find myself cracking up at his lyrics.

Anyway, here's a taste of his style...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Neat Wario Land Ad

Even though I don't know anything about Wario Land and don't own a Wii, I thought this was a really cool marketing/advertisement idea. You'll know what I mean when you watch it. Check it out.

Wario Land: Shake It YouTube Ad

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quick Update

Bought some Wet Seal (WTSLA) at 3.82. Not a large buy, but this is adding to an already large position. This increases my current holding by 7%. I'm not expecting anything, but I'm definitely more willing to let this new batch go if we happen to get any quick move to the upside.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Know It When I Read It

First, I'm going to say that this is NSFW, but it's pretty tame. Anyway, JC and I were just feeling kind of goofy while chilling over at her place in LA. And, I'm not even sure how it started, but we got to talking about how sometimes adult film companies create titles based on famous works. Titles like Forrest Hump or Intercourse with a Vampire are some examples.

Well, we ended up coming up with a list for the literary aficionado. We decided that we'd start with the Charles Dickens collection for obvious reasons, and here's the list that we came up with. Some are pretty bad, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them have actually been used before.

  • A Tale of Two Titties
  • David Cop-a-Feel
  • Oliver Fist
  • Great Sexpectations
  • A XXX-mas Carol
And, there's one Dickens' work that needs no alteration at all... Hard Times -- For These Times. Okay, that's it for now... maybe next time we'll tackle the works of James Joyce or maybe Oscar Wilde.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Domain Name Hot List

A friend of mine recently put up a website (HotNameList.com) that provides interesting, useful, and potentially lucrative domain names that are currently available. The list is updated daily and free to check out.

From Today's 'Hot Name' List, here are a few that I thought were pretty good:


Anyway, whether or not you are a collector of domain names, check it out.

Who Woulda Thunk?

If you'd told me on Wednesday morning that the Citigroup (C) I sold was at the bottom, I'd think you'd be right a good amount of the time. It's just that I was willing to sacrifice selling a portion at the bottom for fear that any more damage might have put me over the edge causing panic, etc.

Now, if you'd told me that the C shares I've got that are currently covered by calls would be in danger of being called away at $20, I'd have thought you were crazy. But, that's where we are today. What a wacky crazy week.

I did manage to add to my Goldman Sachs (GS) position in the retirement account... added some at 104.45 yesterday. So, for the record, the shares have a cost basis of $113.79. I did sell some tech to finance that purchase, but I guess I'm on the good side of that at the moment.

I guess in short, it sure looks like the little guy (me) sells his C at the bottom. On the bright side, I didn't sell off too much of it.

As much as this market jump helps me, I am not necessarily a fan of the outright ban on short-selling of financial stocks. Of course, I don't have all the information on it, but it doesn't feel right. Creating an imbalance like this can't be what's in the best interest of the markets, but what do I really know.

-- Edit #1 --

Okay, the market's closed, and C closed above $20. Come Monday, I will be down to only 25% of my original position. Who would have guessed? Clearly, I did not.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quick Update

Reduced my exposure to Citigroup (C) this morning. Sold 25% of the position at an average price of $14.70. First sale was filled at 14.92 in early trading, and then I dumped a second piece at 14.55. Will continue to watch it carefully.

I really needed to reduce the position so that I am less likely to enter into 'panic' mode, which is almost always a bad thing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Interesting Chess Game

I just played what I felt was an interesting game of chess. I'm not qualified to make that judgment, but I suppose what's deemed interesting is subjective. The game was clean as far as I'm concerned, as neither of us made any obvious blunders.

Throughout the game we were fairly even. Despite the evenness of the game, I really felt that there was a lot going on, and the tension was high. There was a lot of play in both of us as the game went on. Obviously, as the game progressed, we both missed out on some opportunities to eke out a small gain here and there. Adding up all of the small missed opportunities surely cost one of us the game. However, there was no obvious death blow that was missed.

Ultimately, the game ended in a draw, but I was generally pleased with how it all played out. In the end, I was trailing slightly, but managed to play it to a draw. I am sure it's clear to anyone who actually plays well that our endgames need some work. But, without further ado, here are a few snapshots from the game.

My opponent, playing White, is rated 1464 on RHP. I'm Black with a 1527 rating on that site.

Here's the first snapshot. Note that the board is from Black's perspective so notation is flipped. After White makes move 32, the chess engine estimates that we are dead even.

I move Rb2 seven moves later, and the battle is definitely on. Pieces are about to be cleared off the board. The computer still puts us completely even at this juncture.

Now, we're 50 moves into the game, and I push pawn to f5. The situation is precarious looking at this point. Despite this, we're still pretty even. And, to think that we're only two-thirds of the way through the game.

We get to the final position below after a lot of end game maneuvering. I think it was in the end game where we both missed a good number of chances to take the lead, or preserve one that we'd obtained, whichever the case may be. Finally, at this point, I think it became clear that neither of us was going to win. So, I offered a draw and he accepted it. The computer agrees that this is indeed a drawn position. There you have it... a draw after an intense 72 moves.

I think there's a lot of neat stuff that went on in this game that could not be captured by these four positions. If you're interested in chess, I encourage you to take a look at the full game yourself. The full game can be found below.

Here's the PGN:

[Event "Challenge"]
[Site "http://www.redhotpawn.com"]
[Date "2008.09.11"]
[EndDate "2008.09.17"]
[White "MyOpponent"]
[Black "BruteForce"]
[WhiteRating "1464"]
[BlackRating "1527"]
[WhiteELO "1464"]
[BlackELO "1527"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]

1. d4 d5 2. c3 Ng8f6 3. Nb1d2 Nb8c6 4. e3 e5 5. Bf1e2 e4 6. f3 Bc8f5 7. f4 Qd8d7 8. h3 Bf8d6 9. Nd2f1 Nc6a5 10. Nf1g3 Na5c4 11. Be2xc4 dxc4 12. Ng3xf5 Qd7xf5 13. Qd1a4 Nf6d7 14. Qa4xc4 O-O 15. Bc1d2 a6 16. O-O-O c5 17. Ng1e2 b5 18. Qc4b3 c4 19. Qb3c2 Nd7b6 20. g4 Qf5d5 21. Ne2g3 Rf8e8 22. Bd2e1 Qd5c6 23. Rh1h2 Nb6d5 24. Rh2e2 Nd5b6 25. Ng3f5 a5 26. Kc1d2 b4 27. Rd1b1 bxc3 28. bxc3 Bd6a3 29. Kd2d1 g6 30. Nf5g3 Ra8b8 31. Be1d2 a4 32. Re2e1 Ba3e7 33. Re1f1 Be7h4 34. Ng3e2 a3 35. Ne2c1 Nb6a4 36. Kd1e2 Na4b2 37. Rf1g1 Bh4f6 38. Rg1g2 Nb2d3 39. Ke2f1 Rb8b2 40. Rb1xb2 axb2 41. Nc1xd3 exd3 42. Qc2xb2 Qc6f3 43. Kf1g1 Qf3xh3 44. g5 Bf6g7 45. Qb2c1 h6 46. Qc1e1 f6 47. gxh6 Bg7xh6 48. Rg2xg6 Kg8f7 49. Qe1g3 Qh3h5 50. Rg6g4 f5 51. Rg4h4 Qh5d1 52. Qg3e1 Re8g8 53. Kg1f2 Qd1xe1 54. Bd2xe1 Rg8g6 55. Rh4h2 Rg6a6 56. Kf2f3 Bh6f8 57. e4 fxe4 58. Kf3e3 Ra6b6 59. f5 Bf8d6 60. Rh2g2 Rb6b1 61. Be1d2 Rb1b2 62. Ke3xe4 Rb2xa2 63. Ke4e3 Bd6f8 64. Rg2g6 Ra2a7 65. Ke3f4 Ra7e7 66. Rg6e6 Re7xe6 67. fxe6 Kf7xe6 68. Kf4e4 Bf8d6 69. d5 Ke6f6 70. Ke4d4 Kf6f5 71. Kd4xc4 Kf5e4 72. Bd2h6 Bd6e5 1/2-1/2

Buying The Dip

I generally don't comment on my retirement portfolio, but I'll make an exception today. I picked up some Goldman Sachs (GS) today at $127 even. With the current $1.40 dividend, shares are yielding 1.1%, and GS should fare much better than others during this financial turmoil. Anyway, figured I'd put this down here so I can refer back in the future. I've been very, very wrong about the financials thus far (with C, and some XLF in the retirement account), but I'm sticking with my long-term plan for now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bloody Monday

Dow Futures are currently down 300. Relative to fair value, S&P Futures are down 32, and Nasdaq-100 Futures are down 35. Lehman (LEH) is likely going to fail... Bank of America (BAC) buying Merrill (MER).

This is going to hurt... a lot.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Portmanteau

So, I was having a conversation earlier about random stuff, and of course, the subject of Hurricane Ike came up. Anyway, during this conversation I invented a portmanteau to describe what the government might call for when the certain flooding occurs.

< ... drum roll, please ... >

They might call for a State of Submergency.

Someone thought it was so good that it must have been a fairly common one. So, how can we get a quick estimate on its popularity? Well, you do the Google test and look at the hit count.

State of Emergency: 4.4MM hits
State of Submergency: 3 hits

Yes, that's right... a whopping 3 hits. I'm going to lay claim to that term based on this quick test. Now, it's time to market it... though it's really in poor taste now, I think it'd be pretty sweet if one day we saw a headline that referenced it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Simple Exponential Equations

So, I was asked recently if I could help solve a simple exponential equation. And, while I was able to get an answer, I was only able to do so by inspection. I'm not sure how to go about solving a more general equation without using numerical methods.

Anyway, here's the equation:

SQRT( (3 + SQRT(8))^x ) + SQRT( (3 - SQRT(8))^x ) = 6

When I took a look at this, I was able to solve it by inspection readily...

The equation can be rewritten as:

(3 + SQRT(8))^(x/2) + (3 - SQRT(8))^(x/2) = 6

Clearly, if we had (3 + SQRT(8)) + (3 - SQRT(8)), we would get 6. So, we just want the exponents to be equal to 1, and thus, x = 2.

That's all fine and dandy, but that doesn't really sit well with me.

What if we had the following instead:

SQRT( (3 + SQRT(8))^x ) + SQRT( (3 - SQRT(8))^x ) = C

Now what? How would we be able to solve this in terms of C? Now, is there some sort of identity or trick that we can take advantage of to help us solve this... maybe something related to the conjugate?

I thought about this more, but I got nowhere. In terms of a quick and dirty approximation, we could simply drop the 2nd term knowing that as C tends to infinity, the (3 - SQRT(8))^(x/2) would approach zero.

So, for large C we could get an accurate approximation by simply solving the simpler equation:

(3 - SQRT(8))^(x/2) = C

And, x = (2 ln C) / (ln (3 + SQRT(8)). The value of C doesn't even have to get all that big for that approximation to be accurate. At C = 6, we have 1.65% error. At C = 34, we are down to a tiny 0.0246% error. And, by the time C reaches 198, we have a near negligible 0.000482% error.

Okay, but it's still not that useful. And, for small values of C, we are certainly going to be way off the mark.

Continuing with all of this... what do you do with another simple exponential equation like:

2^x + 3^x = C

I could get nowhere in trying to break this down. Is the only way to get a value for x is by solving for it numerically using known methods?

I've either forgotten a lot of simple math or there's just no clean way to solve exponential equations that contain different bases. Anyway, I'm done thinking about this for now. So, does anyone want to help me out with this?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Great Ziegfeld

My quest continues... the latest Best Picture I watched was The Great Ziegfeld, the 1936 winner. And, I have to say that it was really good. I thought the acting was really quite good, which was surprising to me considering what I've seen in older movies.

I knew nothing about Florenz Ziegfeld before watching this movie and subsequently reading up a bit about his life. The movie portrayed him as a likable fellow with some serious game. He was probably the PUA of his time, plus he went from broke to rich to broke a few times in the movie, which is always good for drama. He was definitely an interesting character, and the movie did a good job developing his character.

He was known for his Broadway productions (and publicity stunts), including what he's most famous for, the Ziegfeld Follies, which involved such stars as Fannie Brice, W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, and Bob Hope. And, the movie certainly wanted to show off some musical productions to its audience. I don't know much about that time period and whether or not Broadway musicals were accessible to the common people or not. I would assume not, and so this movie was probably a nice way of exposing the public to that form and level of entertainment.

Some interesting things that I learned about Ziegfeld from what I read about him... he was married to Billie Burke (not a household name, but if I said she was Glinda the Good Witch of the North, you'd know who she was instantly). He hired Eugen Sandow, the father of modern bodybuilding, early in his career. Here's Strength and How to Obtain It, one of Sandow's books on how to get buff. The Sandow guy was was actually an important character in the early part of the movie. And, finally, Ziegfeld lost his ass in the stock market (due to margin and the big crash in 1929). That, too, was included in the film.

Anyway, if you don't mind watching a movie interspersed with many musical production segments, then I definitely recommend this one. As far as older Best Picture winning movies go, I would have to say that this is one of the better ones. So, go check it out.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

We All Scream For Ice Cream

A friend of mine, Miss V, passed this my way... and, now I pass it along to the rest of you.

Cold Stone Creamery is hosting an ice cream social to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The bottom line is that you get some free ice cream from 5pm-8pm on September 25, 2008. Here's a link to the actual promotion page.

Wet Seal Downgrade

Credit Suisse downgraded shares of Wet Seal (WTSLA) today from Outperform to Neutral with a price target of $5.

The basic idea behind their downgrade was that the seemingly easy same store sales comparisons for 2009 were misleading (WTSLA's 2008 is estimated at -3.5%, making for an easier '09 comp). They believe that the better measure is sales productivity (sales/sq. ft), and for many retailers, comparisons on that basis would be much more challenging.

From their report:

"Specifically, we estimate Wet Seal will achieve sales/sq. ft. of $324 in 2008. While this doesn’t seem high compared to higher price point retailers, for Wet Seal $324/sq. ft. is 26% higher than the average productivity the company achieved over the last five years ($257)."

This puts WTSLA at the top of their list of retailers comparing 2008 estimates on sales productivity to a five-year average (2003-2007 sales productivity average).

Additionally, they also mention that they are not all that bullish on the turnaround of the Arden B division.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Wet Seal Fan Page

Those of you who have used Facebook probably have seen those fan pages where you can become a fan of X, Y, or Z. There are probably thousands of them... you can be a fan of South Park, a fan of Cheerios, etc. Anyway, out of curiousity, I checked to see if I could become a fan of Wet Seal (WTSLA), and the answer was NO.

There did not exist a Wet Seal fan page. And, being the dork I am, I created one a week ago. And, now we're up to a whopping 104 fans! Ha ha. This is so silly, but I get a kick out of it.

Anyway, as the admin of that page, I can see the statistics kept for it. Here's a snapshot I just took. The plot at the top shows the growth of the fan base over the past week. They should hire me part-time.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Market Pain

Today, the market is suffering. Jobless claims jumped, and monthly retail sales figures were weak. However, the portfolio is taking a much harsher beating.

A couple reasons why...

Wet Seal (WTSLA) announced its sales numbers, and they were a bit worse than the analysts' consensus. Shares down roughly 5%.

Manitowoc (MTW) is down a good 6% right now after Terex (TEX) announced that its earnings would fall short of expectations for the next two quarters as well as for the current fiscal year. TEX fell a good deal more (-20%), but that doesn't change anything about the MTW pain I'm feeling.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Quick Update

Just got back from lunch, and I saw that an order to sell some covered calls on Citigroup (C) was filled. Sold Sept 20 Calls (CID) covering half the C position at $0.58. The full position now has an effective cost basis of $21.71. Tack on the 0.32 dividend that was paid out recently, and it's not such a horrible loss.

Also, nice to see that the Wet Seal is back above $5. We're approaching striking distance now of the $5.50-$6.00 range that I was targeting. I had a small window before where I could have sold some shares in the 5.50's, but I missed it. Hopefully soon, I'll get a new chance.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Quick Update

My order to sell Hewlett Packard (HPQ) Sept 45 Calls (HPQII) at 2.75 was filled this morning. Good for +120%.

Market continues to be volatile. At least the Wet Seal (WTSLA) is once again closing in on the $5 mark. Still waiting for a better price to unload some of it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Hey, This Beer's Clammy!

I was down in LA over the holiday weekend, and on Friday night, JC and I went to the grocery store to pick up some chips and dip to bring to GZA's BBQ on Saturday. While at the store, we figured we wanted to get some beer for us to have that night. We saw that they were carrying Bud Light Chelada (Bud Light + Clamato), and while we both heard about it, neither of us really had ever tried it nor gotten the urge to do so.

Anyway, we were just talking about it, and we at some point we said something like, "Not sure I really want clam broth in my beer... it'll probably taste funky." It was then that a random guy shopping for his own beer chimed in with his words of wisdom. "You've got to try it, it's really good. It's the beer drinker's Bloody Mary." We were swayed by his praise, and we got a can of it to try out, along with our normal beer (Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blonde Ale, for those that care).

So, after we had Indian food over at Akbar in Marina del Rey (the Lamb Vindaloo I had was very good, by the way), we mustered the courage to give the Chelada a try. We took a video of the experience, but unfortunately, I was too lazy to put on a shirt when we took it and I don't feel like grossing anyone out with a topless me. The drink didn't taste all that bad on the first sip. It was like a less viscous alcoholic V-8, but soon after the first sip went down I had a weird look on my face. The after taste, in my opinion, was pretty strong.

When it was JC's turn, she more or less knew what to expect and she felt the same way about it. She couldn't have any more of it, and well, I drank the rest of it. As much as I wasn't a fan, it was far from the worst drink I've ever had, and who wants any sort of beer to go to waste?

The next day was really chill. We went out to attend a little BBQ that the GZA had over at his new place in Newbury Park. Finally got to see his daughter who is growing up fast. The Tri-Tip was so good that the GZA got a temporary name-change. He was the Ghost Face Grilla for the night.

On Sunday, JC, my sister and her friend ran the Nike 10K Human Race. I did not participate, because I'm a slacker. However, I am planning on running a much shorter 5K in about a month and a half. It was a pretty cool thing to see from the sidelines, as there were over 12K runners in Los Angeles.

There were so many people that it was a full 8 minutes before all the runners had crossed the starting line. I'm not sure how many runners participated worldwide, but it was a lot from what I heard. A total of 25 cities participated. The picture is a blur, but this is just a quick glimpse of the sea of red runners.

JC put in a fine time of 57:34 (Good Job!). I think that was good for the top 20% or so for women. My sister and her friend did alright as well, but neither managed to crack the hour mark. The best time for men in LA was 30:38, and for women it was 35:57. Really impressive. The cyclist, Lance Armstrong, ran in Austin in 98 degree heat and came in 6th in that city.

After the race was over, my sister and her friend watched the Kanye West concert that was the main post-race event. After that was done with, we hit up Hodori in K-Town for some late night grubbing.

That pretty much wraps up the weekend. Hope you all had a nice Labor Day.