Thursday, February 25, 2010

Couple Trades

Today, I picked up some Linear Technology (LLTC) at 27.07 and Form Factor (FORM) at 16.30. LLTC will probably end up a longer-term hold, especially with its nice dividend. I'll have to see what I do with FORM. I think it's at a reasonable price now to get in, but if it moves higher in the near-term, I'll be willing to take quick profits.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Faraway Land of the United States

Once in a while I check out the USGS Site to see what earthquakes hit the U.S. recently. One recent earthquake (2010 February 21 02:54:15 UTC) that I looked more closely at was a 4.6 that hit 55 miles south of Shemya Island, Alaska.

Now, curiousity got the best of me when I read that the quake was 1500 miles west of Anchorage. I'm thinking, wow, that's really out there. So, I looked up this mysterious island, and as I read a bit about more it, I kept reading more and more. Also, it's interesting to note that it is part of the Aleutian chain that causes the kink in the International Dateline.

I guess there have been a number of folks (primarily military) that have called that island their home over the past 65 or so years. There is a radar and refueling station on Shemya, which used to be an Air Force base. Anyway, other than what I read, I don't know anything about it, but I think it's really neat that we have such a distant and hardly populated land that is officially a part of the United States.

Here are a couple images I snagged showing a close-up of the island and also where it sits in the grander scheme of things.

Here are a couple links with more information, including some personal stories about life on Shemya.

Shemya Island - Apparently, there was a female Air Force Captain (Barbara Nowak) that was sent there as the only woman out of about 1500 men. This is her story about life on Shemya.

Shemya in the 1940's - This guy (Bruce Watson) was stationed there in the 1940's and he's got a lot of old photos and stories. Really pretty neat. Also, there's a picture of some good old fashioned gambling too!

What a fascinating place to have lived for some time... man, you'd definitely come back with some stories, I'm sure. Anyway, hope you all find this as interesting as I did.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Light Cycles

I've been spending a bit of my free time recently on an internal programming competition being held at work (there's a top prize of $250, but it's really more of a pride thing). The goal of the competition is to create the artificial intelligence for a computer to play a game that resembles the Light Cycles in Tron. We were allowed to compete as a team, but as it turned out, my partner and I are the only team. The other five entries are competing as individuals.

The game is pretty simple. You have a square grid (N x N). Your computer player and the opponent's computer player will start in random squares, but it will be symmetric to ensure fairness. Every turn, both players move to an adjacent square. Squares previously occupied become walls. Your goal is to survive longer than your opponent.

The game itself is turn-based, but simultaneous moves are made on each turn. That is, each player is given a board state submits its move (Up, Down, Left, Right). Both submitted moves are then issued simultaneously resulting in a new game state.

If two players decide to move to the same square, it is a draw. Similarly, if two players crash on the same turn, it is a draw. If one player crashes (presumably having no possible safe moves) and the other does not, then the crashing player loses and the survivor wins.

Anyway, we've made a lot of great progress, and the computer player is highly competent (on larger boards, we lose to it almost always and once in a while we are able to draw). It's been a fun experience so far, and we've definitely learned a lot from it. The official competition is going to be held next Friday at work, and we're hoping to see some good stuff coming from the other competing entries.

The winning entry will be determined by a round-robin tournament. I think each pair of teams will battle on several boards, and the set of boards will be identical so everything is fair. Scoring is going to be the sum of results, where you get 1 for a win, 0 for a loss, and 0.5 for a draw.

If anyone wants to give our program a whirl, let me know. We really do want some help spotting obvious exploitable patterns by our computer player. I can only provide an executable to be run in a Windows environment, so if you're on a different OS, sorry.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

RIMM Puts Sold

Looks like a poor move on my part selling the Research In Motion (RIMM) Feb $65 calls a couple weeks ago. Shares are now trading north of $70. Anyway, barring a large drop in the next few days, my RIMM shares will be called away at $65.

In an attempt to re-buy, I sold Feb $70 puts for 0.88. If shares don't dip, I'll pocket the premiums and figure out what to do next. If shares do drop below the $70 threshold by Friday's close, I'll end up with my original shares with a new effective cost basis assuming the following.

Original Effective Cost = $61.90
Called Away Price = $65.00
Sold $70 Put = $0.88
Put To Price = $70.00

So, if I get the shares put my way, then I'm looking at a new effective cost basis of $66.02.

If shares are not put my way, then the RIMM trade is done with (until I figure out how I want to get back in)... $65 - $61.90 - $0.88 = $3.98 gain.

As far as the size of the missed opportunity goes (from selling the $65 calls in the first place) -- $5 - $1.60 - $0.88 = $2.52. Oh well.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Toll Free Humor

So, I had sent a message to APMEX (American Precious Metals Exchange) just to get some confirmation information from them. One of their representatives called me and left me voice mail message with a number to reach him.

That number was 800-375-9006. Due to my illegible scribbling of this number, I wound up calling 800-325-9006. Don't you hate how a 7 with a trail leading to a 5 can look like a 2?

Let's just say that you don't want to call the same number that I did on a speaker phone especially if you're at work. It's some sort of sex/porn line with no opening message or anything. It just goes straight to sounds and dirty talk. Needless to say, I was initially shocked until I realized that it was likely that I had dialed the wrong number.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Johnson Matthey Silver Bar

I bought a single Johnson Matthey silver bar today to add to my small, but hopefully growing, stash of bullion (almost entirely in the form of Gold and Silver Eagles). I was able to lock in when silver was at $14.85. I paid 0.79 over spot, which seems to be pretty good.

This is the first bar of any kind that I've bought, so I'm looking forward to seeing it in person. It will probably get to me in a couple of weeks, as I opted to pay with a personal check to avoid the extra charge when using credit card. In any case, I'll probably post a picture of it once I receive it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Secret Messages Via HTTP Referrer

Here's how you can send me secret messages. Do an Advanced Google Search for "Adventures of BruteForce" and include your secret message in quotes where there is the unwanted words field. You can also use Yahoo! or other search engines in a similar manner.

Now click on any link that shows up that leads to any of this blog's pages.

Once you do that, I should be able to see the HTTP Referrer URL when I look at the blog's traffic logs. I sent myself a couple secret messages using this technique. Here they are.

February 2nd 201008:50:37 of bruteforce&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=%22this is a secret message%22&num=10&lr=&as_filetype=&ft=i&as_sitesearch=&as_qdr=all&as_rights=&as_occt=any&cr=&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&safe=images

February 2nd 201008:52:15 of brute force -%22another secret message%2C this time from yahoo%21%22&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&fr=yfp-t-701

You can see the two messages clearly in the links above, or you can click them to see the exact referral page (resulting from my specific searches).

So, go ahead, send me whatever secret message you want.

I do wonder what would happen if you had a long conversation with your secret lover or whomever using this method. Would it eventually stop working due to the search engines modifying the Referrer URLs to stop the silliness? Who knows.

Monday, February 01, 2010

An Incongruous, Yet Acceptable Pronunciation

As if I need to tell anyone, I'm really a bit particular when it comes to words. Some things just bother me, and I feel the need to get them off my chest.

Everyone knows the word mischievous. It is generally pronounced mis-che-vuhs. So, why is the pronunciation, mis-chee-vee-uhs, acceptable? According to several dictionaries, it is one of the pronunciations provided. And to make matters worse, it seems that a good many people do, in fact, use this pronunciation.

I understand that there are a lot of -ious words out there that might bring about some confusion such as devious or previous. But, the word mischievous does not end in -ious. On what world is it okay to insert a syllable where nothing in the spelling of the world would dictate it. There is no i or e in the -vous part... so how can anyone think it is right? Argh. This just makes no sense to me.

I don't mind if there are alternate pronunciations for a word. I just very much prefer that the word's spelling can make some logical sense of the alternate pronunciation. Another thing... if we're allowed to say
mis-chee-vee-uhs, then how come we aren't allowed to say gree-vee-uhs for grievous? After all, they both come from base words ending in -ief.

Anyway, how about we all just agree to say mis-che-vuhs in the future and work towards a better future by removing this abominable pronunciation from our language. It's just horrible, and it kills me to know that it is acceptable.

While we're paving the way for pronunciation changes, I'd like to add A-pathetic (long A sound) as an acceptable alternate pronunciation for apathetic. I don't understand why it isn't already acceptable given that so many a- prefix words are correctly pronounced with the long A, such as aseptic, amoral, or asexual.

Some More RIMM Call Selling

Sold Research In Motion (RIMM) Feb $65 Calls for $1.60 covering the entire position. This effectively puts the cost basis of my shares at $61.90. What to do if the shares get called away at $65? I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.