Tuesday, August 18, 2009

So Long And Thanks For All the Fish!

I've been blogging in my head about the Army now for almost two months. Unfortunately that's translated into about two actual blog posts, so I suppose I'm a little over due.

I'm leaving shortly to head for Basic Training and my blog will be silent for quite a while. This will come as a relief to the people who hate corny puns and value grammar.

Basic Training is the same experience for everyone in the Army. It doesn't matter if you're in the Guard, Reserves or Active Duty. There are numerous Forts where training is held, but it's still pretty much the same, with some variations here and there. Check out youtube for some videos/picture collages of basic training set to some "angry music" to get a feel for what I'm about to go through.

I'm hoping to keep some semblance of a journal while I'm there, but I'm guessing I'm not going to have a lot of free time. Oddly enough, blogging isn't one of the skills stressed at basic training.

I'm a little apprehensive and anxious at the same time. I'm ready to start the pain and get the experience behind me, but I'm obviously not really thrilled at the idea of running until I throw up or sitting in a gas chamber breathing in tear gas. I'm not thrilled about missing the births of my best friends' first child and the birth of my first nephew. I'm also not real thrilled about missing the most promising Ole Miss football season since Eli's senior year.

I'm definitely going to miss my family. I've been trying to give the kids extra attention and encouragement. My wife has been incredible and brave. I definitely could not do this without her. She is amazing and everyone should be impressed.

I also couldn't do this without our very supportive family, community and work. Holy crap, y'all are awesome. Small towns are good because they're small towns and it doesn't take a national disaster for people to support each other.

I've been absolutely shocked at the amount of people that have supported me just for making the decision to enlist and I am extremely grateful and humbled for how much love everyone has already shown my family. It really means a lot to me. See everyone on the other side.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Things That Have Changed Since Joining the Guard

And all I have done is enlisted and attend a couple of weekend drills. I really don't consider myself as being a real "soldier" until I get back from Basic. But here is how my perspective has already changed.

1. World politics are a whole lot more important and scarier. Every major conflict I read about now comes with an ominous sense of doom as I judge the probability of myself being shipped to some country for what ever various reason. Hopefully the next country we decide to invade will be the Caymans.

2. I have much more respect for the enlisted man. There are about a million reasons (some good, some bad) why the Army can decide that you're not fit to join. It's much more difficult to join than I had previously thought. It's also a lot more physically demanding than I had really expected. Running 2 miles in under 17 minutes and doing 40 push-ups in under 2 minutes is a lot harder for this 31 yr. old than I had anticipated.

3. 7:00 AM is no longer early. It's actually sleeping in now.

4. I feel like I have been given some sort of secret decoder ring. There are a lot of people that I've known for years who I'm just now learning have served in the military. There are a lot of ex-military.

5. I have an extremely high metabolism. I'm putting on weight and gaining some mass, but it's a definite struggle. I don't see how people could ever think that Barry Bonds was a result of just exercise and nutrition.

6. It's a lot easier to recover from a night of drinking now that I'm exercising so much more.

7. Camouflage gear is suddenly cool.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

First Day of School

Charles starts 2nd grade tomorrow. We had open house today and met his teacher, signed him up for the bus route, and got some information about the cub scouts. They grow up quickly, etc.

I'm extremely proud of him and could not ask for a better son.

I'll try and take some pictures of him waiting for the bus early in the morning. The bus was debatable. Charles has been dying to ride the bus since 4k. Mom and dad were not so excited about the prospect of our kindergartner riding with high school kids on some giant yellow monster with no seat belts. Never mind the interesting corruption that would occur on the back of the bus, what if someone was mean to him?

Anyways, he has friends that ride the bus and do just fine, so we decided to let him try it this year. I'm guessing the time being stuck on the bus (an hour and 15 minutes) each day will eventually wear him down and he'll decide to become a car rider again on his own. We're trying to be respectful of his independence and let him make some major decisions. However, if he comes home with any prison tattoos, it's a deal breaker and he's back to riding in the car.

Edit: Pictures. And since my dad doesn't have facebook, pictures of the truck.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Global Warming the Cockles of my Heart

It's not widely known among my liberal friends, although I believe a few suspect that I'm a closet Republican, but I do not believe in Global Warming in the same way Al Gore believes in Global Warming.

I know that sounds like blasphemy coming from someone who voted for Obama and loves promoting solar technology and electric cars, but it is true. I do not believe that man-made global warming is actually occurring, or at least not in any significant amount to actually impact the environment.

Having said that, let me clarify a few points.

  1. Is the Earth getting warmer? Yes, I think that's easy enough to demonstrate.
  2. Is pollution bad and should we lower carbon emissions? Yes. Nature is a beautiful thing and we should do all reasonable things we can think of to preserve it and ourselves.
  3. Don't you love polar bears? Of course. I've loved polar bears since watching Binky the Polar Bear at the Anchorage Zoo throw a pink bowling ball around like a leaf.
So, why is the weather getting all crazy and why are temperatures so high and how do you explain increased carbon levels and polar caps melting?

A geologist convinced me, quite by accident, that most (99.99%) of the temperature changes we're currently seeing are related to natural occurring fluctuations in the earth's temperature.

The geologist was trying to explain why global warming was man's fault and I was quite eager to believe him. Up until this point, I did believe global warming was our fault.

Using charts and graphs, the geologist explained that every 100,000 years the earth goes through a long cycle of cooling (ice age) and warming (interglacial warm period).

Looking at the graphs, I thought to myself well then surely we must be in the warmest period of the Earth, thanks to pollution. Nope. Warmest period was a while ago (few thousand years ago, way before LA traffic).

Ok, well maybe we can see a trend shift where we should be in a cooling period, but we're not. Nope. We're actually right on schedule and in about 2,000 years should be heading into the dreaded ice age.

Well damn. So what's the problem again? Well there are increased carbon monoxide levels in the atmosphere and this was probably the only compelling chart in favor of man-made pollution having a global impact on temperature.

However, it wasn't strong enough to prove a direct causal relationship between pollution and global warming. If anything, the other charts proved yet again that man has overestimated his impact on the earth and mother nature.

So, I remain convinced that we should stop polluting, but also stop believing that we're baking the earth with greenhouse gases. We should stop polluting because it's killing our lungs and causing us to be heavily reliant on finite resources. However, way too much energy, time and resources are being devoted to something that is probably way out of our control.

Which leads me to the fun part. What should we be doing with those resources? Let's stop for a moment and assume that the extremists on both sides of the argument are correct and the world is doomed (either hot or cold).

Then perhaps we should be figuring out a way to live in that type of environment.

"we must not allow a mine shaft gap!"

Or we should concentrate on getting off the world and onto another planet where we won't freeze/burn and be able to grow something to eat?

Just a thought.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hon Dur As, Hon Dur As, Hon Dur As!!

This was the prevailing Honduran cheer during the World Cup qualifier game in Chicago where the US National Men's Team beat Honduras, 2 to 1, in an excellent match. Daniel and I traveled to Chicago to watch the game and hang out with our good friend Jim and his girlfriend Krista. It was my first professional soccer match and I can't wait to go to another one.

When the taxi drove up to Soldier Field, I could not believe the amount of Honduran fans. The US fans were easily outnumbered by a 3 to 1 ratio. Fans holding baby blue and white flags were everywhere blowing horns and chanting, "Hon Dur As, Hon Dur As!"

I immediately wondered what the population of the country was (7.5 million) and if they all came to Chicago to watch the match (no, a few stayed home). I had to admire the pride and support they showed for their team and country as they jovially wandered about cheering and posing for pictures.

The US fans were hard core as well and deserve a great amount of respect for their level of support.

The whole event reminded me of the Grove and I would randomly shout "Let's Go Rebels!" and "Hotty Toddy!" to add to the chaos.

After the game the Honduran fans remained in good spirits despite the loss to the US team. Satisfied smiles were on every ones faces as we followed the winding river of fans back to the city.

I think about the fans and how their good spirit must contrast greatly with how they're feeling now as they watch their country go through a military coup. I wonder which political side they land on, if any, and how they must worry about their relatives and friends in Honduras.

I'm reminded once again why the United States and the stability and peace it represents makes it the popular landing spot for immigrants across the globe. I remember again not take this country for granted and to appreciate the opportunities I have.


and my heart goes out to you Hondurans.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I Joined the Army National Guard

On May 21, 2009 I swore an oath that "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of Mississippi against all enemies, foreign and domestic," and enlisted into the Army National Guard.

Since enlisting, I've been getting a lot of questions and so I thought I would cover the standard ones here.

1. Do you have to go to boot camp?

Yes. It's called Basic Combat Training and I have to attend that plus Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) training or Advanced Individual Training (AIT).

2. How long will you be gone for?

Basic and AIT will run about 4 months. I will be away from my family for a very long time and miss them dearly. I will have limited ability to contact them and after 9 1/2 weeks of Basic they can come visit during graduation. Other wise, I will not have much contact during that period. I think I will have more freedom to call or possibly even email during AIT, but I'm not sure.

3. Where will you be at?

Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for both Basic and AIT.

4. How long is your commitment to the Guard?

8 years.

5. Will you go overseas?

Yes, it is very likely. I am with the 288th Sapper Company out of Houston, MS. They have been deployed to Iraq at least twice since 9/11.

6. What will you do in the Guard?

I chose 21-B, Combat Engineer as my MOS and I will learn to build structures and blow them up in combat situations.

7. Will you be an officer?

Not currently. I have enlisted as an E-4 (Specialist) because I have a college degree but have not decided about becoming an officer if given the opportunity. Officer Candidate School (OCS) represents a large commitment for both me and the military. I would prefer to learn more about the Guard before deciding on becoming a leader in the Guard.

8. Are you quiting your job?

No. I will return to work with FNC Inc. once I have completed my training. FNC has been extremely supportive of my decision and I cannot thank them enough for everything they've done.

9. Is Corinne ok with this?

Yes. Corinne and the kids are very proud and excited for me. It was a decision we made together and she has always been supportive.

10. How old are you?

Surprisingly, I get this almost every time I tell someone or they find out I have joined. I'm 31 until January. The cut off age for the Army is 35.

11. Was your dad in the military?

Yes. My dad was in the Air Force as a MP during Vietnam and my grandfather was a Marine during WWII.

11. Are you crazy/stupid/suicidal?

Uh, No.

I've been thinking about the answer to this one for a while and have been answering it a little bit differently each time.

Basically, joining the military is something I've always wanted to do. I almost joined right out of high school, almost joined after college and almost joined before my first child was born. School, family and career have a way of moving priorities and setting paths for you. And yet despite all of these things, the desire to join has always stayed with me.

When I turned 30, I realized that I may never join and that I'd regret it for the rest of my life. As it is, I'm very much regretting not joining earlier. This has not been an easy decision nor one that I made on a whim because I was feeling "old" or having some sort of 30 yr. crisis. I have been physically training for over 6 months and we have been financially preparing as a family for over a year.

Yet, this still doesn't answer why.

I love this country. I know the complaints and I have plenty myself but there is no other country that values freedom and equality more than we do.

Many people take this country for granted (both red and blue states), but I am not one of those persons. I love it and I'm willing to sacrifice and fight for it, to keep it safe and to ensure my children have those same rights or even take it for granted if they so choose.

There are lots of ways to serve your country and I make no judgement one way or another. But for me this is the true test of my commitment. How much do I love it? How much do I mean it?

Enough to enlist and to accept all of the things that come along with that decision.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Google's Growing Pains

I've always been a huge fan of Google.  I use iGoogle, Gmail, Chrome, Google Reader, Google News, Blogger and even Google Voice.  I've watched them grow from a quirky search engine in 1999 where less was more to become a verb and the leader in technology and innovation.

Through out their glorious rise and ambitious plans to change American Business and society, I've been an ardent supporter and admirer.

However, lately I've begin to see a few signs that their growth and seemingly monstrous size (20,000 employees) are starting to take a toll.  I also wonder if it's not difficult for the founders of the company to stay focused on world domination when tempting diversions like flying your own private military jet are sitting within in a 10 minute drive from the office.

The end of Google?  Hardly, but I think the culture must be changing because I'm seeing some aspects of the company that in the past would probably not have been acceptable.

Usability is a big thing to Google and is one of the reasons I use so many of their products.  Google has always approached development and interfaces in a very zen like manner.  This leaves the user feeling as if the programs are an extension of their thoughts as opposed to a complicated tool they must get training on to operate.

In the past year or so, I've begin to see instances where Google's normally outstanding approach to usability have seemed to slip.  Google Bookmarks is easily the best example with Google Reader coming in second.  Each one is usable, but not nearly as intuitive as they should be and in some areas almost impossible to manage.  How do you add a label to a bookmark?  You used to be able to use a simple text box, but that has been replaced with some odd process that a user must click around on to discover.  It isn't impossible, but it's a far cry from Google's typical user interfaces.

Usability aside, recently I noticed what I would consider a large faux pas by the Internet giant that truly shows their age.  Google has been doing custom logos for a while now and they've always been met with delight because of their ingenious ways of incorporating the logo in a relevant picture.  On May 20, 2009 Google put up a logo of a fossil.  I thought it was weird, so I hovered over the logo to see what the search would be if I clicked on it.  It was the recently announced Darwinius masillae or as some news agencies are calling it, the missing link.  

This was extremely odd for a few reasons.  

First, Google was clearly choosing a side in a political discussion.  Darwin represents evolution, which for some reason has become a debatable topic among American politics.  Regardless how you feel about evolution vs. creationism, to do a logo clearly showing support of a political point of view seemed odd to me for a company that seems to be very sensitive to not engendering negative feelings.  I wonder if there are any Google employees that believe in creationism and how they felt when they saw the logo.  

Secondly and probably the most disturbing to me, Google was being rash in their support of a such a fossil.  How many times has the missing link been found only to later been debunked as a hoax in American history?  A lot.  And considering some of the circumstances surrounding this particular fossil (i.e. it had two separate parts that were later joined together with one part being the crucial piece proving evolution) I wouldn't be surprised if this fossil later ends up being a complete fraud.  Google with all of their PhD's and rational thinkers should recognize this fact and maybe hold off on celebrating a fossil not yet proving the evolution of man.  The consequences of such may seem minor, but in my eyes it demonstrates another example of Google slipping a little.

I wouldn't short Google's stock or anything, but it is interesting to watch history repeat itself as another idealistic contender begins to make the same mistakes of those who went before them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things That Make You Go WTF!?!?

So, this whole bailout thing only seems to get more comical every day.

Let's outline the chain of events.

1.  Banks screw up and need money from the government.
2.  The federal government taxes you and me and gives the money to the banks.
3.  The banks loan the money to state and city governments because they don't have enough money.
4.  What?

Yes, the banks are using bailout money (tax payer money) to loan to city and state governments.
So instead of the Federal government giving money or loaning money to states and cities, they're giving it to the banks who are profiting off it by loaning it to states and cities.

Ugggghhh.  Please tell me this will stop one day.


Creativity in Unique Places

The internets is great. I would say it's the greatest thing to happen in my lifetime (with the exception of my family of course).

One of the great things about the Internet is that it creates opportunities for mass amounts of creativity and wittiness. Or perhaps it facilitates the exposure of people's inherent creativity. I'm not sure, but this is a great example of finding creativity in unusual places.

Read the comments/reviews for this gallon of milk.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Accepting Stupid

I'm going to speak to a MIS class tomorrow about Project Management. I've been thinking about some of the various pearls of wisdom I can drop on them along with some witty real world experiences. Not a lot comes to mind.

However, one lesson I thought of is learning to accept stupid. I struggle with this a lot, but it's something everyone working in the corporate world will need to come to realize and ultimately come to accept. By accepting stupid, we can deal with stupid with much less stress and irritation. As we rebel against stupid and try to make stupid smart, we only fight the good fight that cannot be won.

Stupid is stupid. It won't change. No matter how much evidence, reason, yelling or process you throw at it, stupid will always be stupid.

What am I talking about? As a project manager you have to deal with all types of personalities and scenarios. At some point during the project something stupid is going to come up. You'll realize it's stupid and object, but stupid will persist. For whatever reason, (and there are an infinite amount of reasons) someone will insist that stupid stay and you'll be stuck with it. It won't matter how right you are or how much better a different way might be, stupid will not leave.

I traditionally fight against stupid and try to move as much stupid out of my process/meetings/life as possible. To me stupid represents inefficiency which ultimately represents waste. I hate waste. Yet, no matter how hard I've tried in the past, I have not been successful in fully removing stupid from any project.

What my experience (aka old age) has taught me is that stupid is unavoidable and fighting stupid only creates more stupid. It also puts yourself at risk of becoming stupid. Instead of fighting stupid, object once and move on. Accept it as a cost of the project and go get a beer and complain with your friends about how stupid, stupid really is.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Inevitable Conclusion of LOST

Ok, maybe not completely inevitable but as LOST continues with a looming deadline, then the range of possible plot lines begin to narrow. Sadly for many naive viewers, this means that a few questions will go unanswered, much like the eternal question of socks and dryers.

WARNING!! MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS AND IF I'M RIGHT THEN A LOT OF SPOILERS. Definitely contains a lot of name butchering since I'm too tired to look up the correct spelling of names for these fictional characters.

However, I'm guessing quite a few questions will be answered if they haven't already. Let's start with what we know.

1. The island is a great place that everyone keeps coming back to. In the last episode we learn that Miles is actually from the island and strangely enough has the ability to speak to the dead. Coincidence? I think not. This only reinforces the rule of all must return at some point and that children are impacted by the island in weird ways.

Potentially this means that Naomi was from the island originally as were other members of the mercenary crew including Faraday. It also means there is a good chance we'll see Aaron or Erin, you know Claire's baby, and Walt show up on the island at some point with some killer Firestarter like powers.

2. We know that the survivors in 1970's dharma village will have to return to the future. Odds are that Daniel Faraday will lead them there since he is the most knowledgeable about time travel. Why? Because you have to join everyone up for the finale. There is a good chance that someone will decide to stay in the past because they like it there better even though they know they will die. Also a good chance someone will have to sacrifice themselves for everyone else to get to the future. Could be the same person, not sure yet.

3. We know that the Dharma people weren't the Others and that they weren't from Whitmore. This one threw me for a loop, but it is important because you have to ask where did they go? The Other's led by Ben killed them all off, but surely they didn't just give up on finding the Island again and all of their experiments. For a long time I had assumed that Charles Whitmore was responsible for the Dharma initiative. However, in episodes 11 and 12 we find out that Charles was a leader of the Others during the Dharma initiative. I think the new terrorists on the Future Island are the old Dharma people back for some revenge.

4. Terrorists? Yes, during the many time leaps from earlier Sawyer, Juliet and others find an outrigger canoe. They start paddling and then getting shot at by some weird group. Juliet explains they are terrorists that they have been fighting for years. The outrigger is the commonality here. The outriggers are sitting on the beach when the second plane crash occurs. A weird group suddenly emerges made up of the woman that had arrested Sayid (sic) and few other randoms. They apparently id each other by asking "do you know what lies in the shadow of the statue?" This is the same group that approaches Miles before he gets started on his little trip and reinforces that we're dealing with at least 3 distinct groups. Others, Whitmore and this Statue terrorist group. The Dharma people could be a 4the group, but plot wise it would be a lot easier to just make them the Statue terrorist group. Oh and apparently they have something really cool in a gigantic aluminum case. My first thought was a bomb, but seems unlikely considering they would have to get it through airport security, etc. I'm guessing it's a survival kit with food, water, communication gear and some kick ass terrorist costumes.

5. We know the island provides a fountain of youth of some sort. Whitmore should be dead or close to it since we see him as a young lad during WWII during the time jumps. Instead he's in fairly good shape all the way to the 70's. Then suddenly he's old because he gets kicked off the island. We know Richard is timeless and on the Island a lot.

So what does all of this new found knowledge get us? Well the past losties will try to re-unite with the present losties (can you say "Back to the Future?") and will have to deal with the new terrorists, most likely all of next season. During their many intense battles where people will die, the truth about what they're all fighting for (eternal youth provided by aliens or "gods") will come out. It's at this point that Jack will realize some meaning in his life and lead/save everyone all at once.

It's my theory and we'll see how well it holds up. I'll update it once the season is over.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Egypt What?

Conversation I just had with Charles driving back from Big Bad Breakfast.

Charles: Did you know Charlie Bird died when he was 22?
Me: Who is Charlie Bird?
Charles: He played saxophone. He did too many drugs and he died.
Me: Ohh. Yeah you shouldn't do drugs.

Charles: And Two Tonka Men died when he was 18.
Me: Who?
Charles: Two Tonka Men, he was a King.
Me: Two Tonka Men?
Charles: Yeah he lived in Egypt.

Me: Ha, yeah. People didn't live very long back then.

I didn't bother correcting him, I sort of like Two Tonka Man better than Tutankhamun and he'll learn soon enough.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Couple of Thoughts on Stocks

1. I know I said no bank stocks, but Citi is not a client and they were too appealing. Citi (C) is extremely volatile. It has gone up 40% in two days and down %20 in one. This volatility if played correctly can lead to a lot of quick gains, as evidenced. Remember, I'm arguing that a buy and hold strategy is bad. So volatility for me is sort of good.

2. If I had kept Wal Mart when I first bought it, I'd be up roughly 5%. If I had kept Yahoo, I'd be up 9%.

3. There are some tax considerations when looking at my current gains. I believe that anything I make will be considered short term capital gains and I'll pay something like 33% on it. Ouch.

4. Buying and selling stocks is much more nerve racking when it's real money. Captain Obvious, I know, but the level of stress I experience when I try to make a decision about buying or selling is somewhat amazing. I can't imagine what kind of stress people like Bill Gross must go through.

5. My method works for me because I'm not trading thousands/millions of dollars at a time. If I were trying to play this same game on a larger scale, it would not work as well because the impact from selling large amounts of stock at once would immediately lower the price. The same applies to buying. When I sold 400 share, the order was broken up into two orders of 150 and 250. Luckily I was able to get the same price for both, however if I had tried to sell 10,000 shares at once there is no telling what the end result would look like.

6. The dow has hit a weird ceiling of 8000. It can't seem to stay above that mark. Eventually it well, but until then it's a good indicator as to when to buy and sell.

7. I'll probably quit posting my progress if I actually hit 25%. I don't like talking about money publicly. I grew up in one of those weird protestant households where money was not something you ever discussed outside of a whisper. If I hit 25%, then I'll feel that I've proven my point and the game is done.

8. This is fun. It's thrilling, much like roulette.

9. I have a great roulette strategy I'd be happy to tell you about sometime. I won a few hundred dollars the last time I used it. I ended up giving it back playing slots, but it was fun none the less.

Quick trip to the Citi

Bought Citi yesterday at 3.36 x 1000. Sold progressively through out the day at:

300 x $3.42
300 x $3.67

and then today

400 x $4.42

Puts me with a $4522.71 balance including all trade fees and the handy new federal tax on trades.

I'm up $522.71 which is roughly %13. I checked my 401k yesterday and I'm down -6% for the first quarter. Awesome.

I'll post some more thoughts later.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Form 1, Tae Kwon Do

I haven't added video yet, so I'm curious if you can download after I upload.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Seeking Perfection

One of the endearing little quirks of my personality is that I am a conceptual perfectionist. I just made that term up, so be sure to think of me if you see it in print some where.

What is a conceptual perfectionist and why does it drive my wife crazy?

My sister is a perfectionist of the more traditional sort. Everything has to be perfect and she'll go to great lengths and expense to make sure that's the case. When preparing an omelet she'll want the right pan, the right cheese, the exact amount of cheese, etc. All conditions must meet a certain predefined quality level or else we're going to go to the store to buy the proper ingredients. The traditional perfectionist borders on OCD.

I differ in that I see the ideal situation, but I'll go forward with what I have all the while beating myself up about the fact that conditions aren't perfect. This omelet is good, but damn it would be better if I had more cheese, etc. My weirdness isn't as apparent to the casual observer, but for people that know me well, it can be maddening. I don't accept the fact that the perfect omelet can't be obtained, which if I did it would disqualify me completely as a perfectionist.

I'm completely delusional and I think that the perfect omelet must be around the next corner. However, I'm not going to make a gigantic effort to make the perfect omelet, the conditions must occur naturally. Maybe I'm just lazy....

So a conceptual perfectionist tends to have a highly addictive personality. Yeah, that would be me again. Because that ideal situation is always just around the corner, we'll try over and over and over again until we reach that wonderful moment of zen or until our wives's tolerance level is reached and we abandon our efforts in hopes of continuing our marriage.

Well my conceptual perfectionism is coming out in my little stock game. It's driving me crazy that I'm not hitting every single money opportunity. I could have sold high and bought low. I could have made 3% more if I had just stayed in one more day. These thoughts occupy my brain way more often then they should and ultimately could cause a lot of trouble if I don't deal with them.

In poker, we call it "going on tilt". A player will become obsessed with missing a huge pot or throwing away a great hand and will go on tilt. They'll go crazy and start betting all of their money at once or chasing cards that they shouldn't because statistically it'll almost never happen. But once on tilt all you can do is focus on the 1% chance of it happening, not the 99% chance that it won't.

How does one get off of tilt? Usually one of three ways.
  1. You lose all of your money.
  2. You win a crapload.
  3. You get up from the table and take a walk.
Obviously trading stocks is not like poker, but I could go on tilt with thoughts of missing opportunities. The biggest thing that I have going for me is that I'm staying in a cash account and I have to sit out 3 days each time I sell. I could get around this in many ways, but I'm making myself get up from the game each time to keep my conceptual perfectionism in check.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

See ya YHOO

Sold 270 at $13.30.

This basically makes up for the Wal Mart stupidity from earlier and with the trade fees ($28.00) I'm even.

Why sell today? I didn't want to get too greedy. I had already missed opportunities twice to sell at this level and was waiting for some bigger gains that I'm not sure are going to happen. Also, I don't think this rally is going to hold past today. So I'm taking my gains while I can.

I'm in timeout now for 3 days.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

North By Northwest

North By Northwest is an Alfred Hitchcock classic starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.

I watched a few Hitchcock films (The Birds, Lifeboat) and his TV show when I was about ten. The TV show freaked me out and I gave up on watching him for a while. However, there is a decent chance that at some point I watched North By Northwest and just don't remember it.

Watching old movies to me, no matter how timeless, is like doing the dishes, eating Brussels sprouts or doing your math homework. It's not so bad, maybe even enjoyable once you do it, but the build up sucks. North By Northwest has been sitting on my TV for over 3 weeks as a testament to my reluctance.

However, I know it's important to always understand your history and be knowledgeable of the classics, so I made myself watch it over Bottle Rocket last night.

The movie wasn't bad, but I'm afraid that's probably about all I could say for it. It reminded me of a 1950's version of the Bourne Identity, which I realize is backwards and not the best analogy. The plot was interesting, the acting typical of the period and Eva Marie was a hotty.

There were a few moments where I think Hitchcock showed some of his quirkiness and genius and oddly it was at the very beginning and the end of the movie.

During the credits (old movies did credits first) Hitchcock does a cameo where a bus door is slammed in his face in the fast pace world of 1950's NY City. I'm not sure of the meaning, but it was interesting.

At the very end when a love scene is close to developing, it cuts to the cliched image of a train running through a tunnel for 2 seconds and then the movie ends. I literally laughed out loud at this part thinking about how it was funny they were poking fun at this cliche when I realized that this may be how the cliche developed.

Which highlights part of my reluctance to watch old movies. I don't get them. It's difficult to pick up on the subtle humor or the social issues they may be trying to point out when you watch films like this without a knowledgeable guide who has studied the film from a historic point of view.

Who the hell wants to watch a film with a talking know-it-all anyways, which means I'm usually left to my own sense of history to catch the cultural references.

This also applies to film techniques or special effects. To us, a person driving a fake car in front of a movie screen is a hokey technique, but may have been revolutionary at the time. I don't want to have to research my movies to see how groundbreaking they were, sort of ruins the fun.

However, I know doing so will build strong bones and bigger muscles, so I force myself to watch classics to see what all of the fuss is about. North By Northwest is worth seeing and more enjoyable then a lot of modern movies, but that's not really saying much.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

M for Mississippi

During the Oxford Film Festival, I had the great pleasure of watching a documentary on the Delta Blues in Mississippi. The film was called "M for Mississippi".

I've been watching a lot of documentaries lately, since Netflix streams a wide selection of them online, so I've really begun to appreciate the fine art of filming the "real world" without making it boring or over dramatized. It's a fine line to walk and takes a talented group of movie makers.

"M for Mississippi" walks that line perfectly. Jeff Konkel and Roger Stolle mix humor and beer with a deep appreciation of a music style that is slowly becoming a lost art. They go to where the music lives and interview the musicians without a filter.

Yard parties, juke joints, cigarettes and crazy people. This is the true Mississippi blues, in all of it's poverty and muddy music.

I liked it well enough to buy the dvd and the soundtrack and I encourage everyone else to do the same. By far this was the best movie at the film festival and is probably the best documentary I've seen in 5 years.

Friday, February 27, 2009

YHOO Still Hanging

So YHOO is currently hovering around 12.98. I bought it at 12.83, so it's about 1% over where I purchased it. It initially dropped after I purchased it and got as low as 11.98, which will definitely make you sweat.

The last few days have been positive for the stock because of rumors around a Microsoft sale, a large investor buying a lot of stock and organizational changes. This has pushed it up as high as 13.33 at one point. Yet I'm still not selling.

Here's why. The Dow is about 7,150 which is pretty damn low. It's as low as it was about 10 years ago, which means if you had just bought the Dow average back then you'd be a little over even assuming you received some dividends.

There is a lot of pressure building up for a rally. General consensus is that the floor for the Dow should be about 8,000. What's good is that YHOO is out performing the Dow, relatively. This means that YHOO went up while the DOW remained flat or went down. When the rally occurs, this should make YHOO jump up pretty significantly.

So what if the rally doesn't happen? Heh, that's why they call it gambling, uh I mean investing. If it doesn't happen you sit on it and hope for the best.

I'm convinced the rally will happen, because it's been going down for so long that mentally people are ready for a rally. As soon as any indicator occurs, people will jump on the bandwagon and drive that puppy up. It's called a sucker's rally. Which means the suckers drive it up and the non-suckers sell and take gains.

This approach is probably the most unholy, anti-academic approach in history. Real investors, smart investors hate people like me. I'm calling the stock market for what it is, an emotional response of slightly smarter than average people to CNN and Bloomberg. It's a bunch of sheep following other sheep leaving a trail of cash in their wake. I am the wolf that has discovered the pasture and am here to take my fill.

I guess I had too much coffee this morning. You may think I'm an idiot or a blowhard, we'll just have to wait and see what the money says.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Movie Review: Burn After Reading

A while ago, we canceled DirecTV because we found ourselves watching TV just for the sake of watching TV. I like TV, but it became the only thing the kids wanted to do and it was much too easy to just let the TV babysit them. So we canceled it.

However, we didn't become completely Amish and we kept the TV around for movies etc. This could have been a mistake, because we eventually signed up for Netflix.

Netflix streams over the internet to the Xbox which is a little too convenient. In addition, we get three movies through the mail. Needless to say, I've been watching a lot of movies, some good, some bad.

Since watching movies is sort of a waste of time, I figured I 'd try to balance the uselessness with some helpful reviews.

I watched Burn After Reading last night. It's a quirky Coen brother's film with a fairly famous cast. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich and a few others all star in the movie.

It's sort of a weird spy movie. If you've seen any of the other Coen brother films; "Raising Arizona", "O Brother Where Art Thou", or "The Big Lebowski", think same type of comedy except with a spy like plot.

There were moments where I laughed out loud, but there were definitely moments where I was less than entertained. I'm not a huge Coen brother's fan, so you might have more luck.

Would I recommend it? Ehh, maybe. It's worth watching if your options were "Burn After Reading", "Power Rangers", and "Margo at the Wedding". Other than that, I wouldn't seek it out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

I wish I was back on the coast, freezing my tail off, drinking beer and catching Mardi Gras beads.

Mardi Gras on the Coast of Mississippi is an incredible experience, I think. It's been a while and I was usually inebriated. Despite the libations, Mardi Gras in Mississippi is a far cry from Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the two should never be confused.

Things have changed, I'm sure, but I remember Mardi Gras as a family experience to some degree. As a family we would head down to Biloxi early in the morning loaded with chairs, coolers, and blankets. It was like tailgating, except no football game. Instead you'd setup along the parade route with more family and friends and wait for some drunken fool on a float to throw you beads.

In between each parade you'd wander around the city looking for more friends and decent places to pee. Food was always available and shared freely and everyone was always happy to see everyone else. At least during the day. Once the sun set, it was time for the kiddies to go home as the drunks would be in full swing and a little out of control. This caused problems, but was all part of the mischief that is Mardi Gras.

I'm obviously not going this year, but maybe next year. Either way, Bon Temps Rouler!.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Since It's Friday

Friday the 13th no less. Here is something fun. An artistic, eclectic version of "Cribs".

The Selby

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yahoo! 270 shares

Bought 270 shares of Yahoo (YHOO) at $12.8388 a share. I'll probably sell tomorrow.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why You Should be Upset About the Bailouts

There are plenty of reasons, but here is an excellent graphic representation of why Obama is trying to cap salaries for executives.


And if that fails to convince you, then think of this fact. Bank of America has received over $40 Billion in TARP (Bailout) money. They're currently worth $25 Billion. We could have bought every single share of their stock and saved $15 Billion dollars. Instead, we own about 7% of the bank.

Yay for treasury secretaries who used to be CEO of Goldman Sachs!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sold Wally World

Sold Wally World at 47.25 with a "Limit" sale I had put in last night.

This represents a loss of about 3%. It had been down 5% at one point and I decided to cut my losses. Obviously not the start I was looking for but I'm not overly concerned.

I have to adjust my strategy a little to account for a few things:

1. I'm on a cash account, i.e. not margin, which means it takes 3 days for the funds to settle before I can buy again.

2. I need to be patient. Wal Mart is still a good buy if I don't mind sitting on it for a month. I don't really want to sit on anything for a month, but this may be what I need to do.

3. I can't trade bank stocks.

It's definitely been interesting so far and I'll post some notes on the whole process later.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wally World

I just bought 72 shares of Wal Mart (WMT) at $48.6301 a share.

- $7.00 (transaction fee)
- $3501.37 (72 x 48.6301)

= $491.63

I'll have to figure out a better format for these posts so it's easier to follow. Also, I only spent $3500 because of transaction costs, etc.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Money Where Your Mouth Is

I've been known to talk about the fact that fund managers are a rip off and we're basically getting screwed when we deposit money in things like 401k's and IRA's. It's the best available option for working class folks like ourselves, but an option making rich people richer and not very good in terms of value for the consumer.

I usually follow up this boastful talk with the fact that when I play the market with hard rules, but fictional money, I tend to outperform my most aggressive 401k by 10-20%. In my convoluted mind, this proves that we're over paying for a service that does not provide much value and isn't that hard.

The very good counter argument is that I'm using fictional monies and if it was real money I would make different decisions and would probably not out perform guys who were trained to do these types of things.

Marsalis has taken the argument one step further and said it must be an amount of money I'm not comfortable taking risks with.

So now we'll settle the score. It's a new year and an excellent time to try this out, especially given the fact that my 401k looks like shit anyways.

Given the fact that I was immediately losing 10%-25% of money every time I made a 401k deposit, I have reduced my contributions and set some money aside for savings. I've been doing this for a while and I know it goes against typical financial advice and the "dollar cost averaging" theory, but it's Friday and I don't give a @#!%$

I'm going to take $4,000 (I assure you Marsalis, that I'm not cavalier about that much money and Corinne is especially concerned about it's well being) and begin placing trades through an online broker.

The sort of fun part for y'all is that I will list out every time I make a trade, how much was made/loss and where I stand. Because I am not a day trader, each of my trades will likely span weeks, not hours, etc.

My prediction is that I should be up %25 by the end of the year, not including taxes, but including trade fees. Really, my goal will be to outperform my ING account which is currently making about 2.5% annually. I'm %100 sure I can beat that.

I, of course, highly recommend that you don't take any of my trades as financial advice or insight. I also won't be trading any financial stocks since I sort of work in the industry and don't want anything to look inappropriate.

I will try and remember to label each post as "stock" so you can view the history over time and provide summaries occasionally. At the end of the year, I'll also show what would have happened if I had just stayed with the stocks I bought as opposed to trading them.

Let the grand experiment begin.

Part 2 Will Have to Wait

Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes and the great party. It means a lot to me and I really enjoy every minute of it. Sorry I don't have any pictures, which is probably good. I do have a ton of vodka to drink, which means we'll be having a vodka tasting party soon. Cab rides home will be the party favor.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blah, Blah, Blah humbug...

You may have noticed that I seemed to lose some steam on that last blog post about the economy. I could honestly go on forever about the economy, money, etc. I abbreviated that last section to end the suffering. It was a mercy post or maybe a courtesy post. You decide.

Well, enough about markets, let's talk about family for a little bit. Christmas was good. The kids woke up to Razor scooters under the tree. We had tons of family in town to enjoy the Christmas morning. Participants, besides the Jackson Four, were:
Christina (Kent's Sister)
Pop (Corinne's Dad)
Mimi (Corinne's Mom)
Mawmaw (Corinne's Grandmother)
Lindsey (Corinne's Sister)
Austin (Lindsey's Husband)

Needless to say our little house was packed, but cheery. Corinne and I have made Coors Light a Christmas Eve tradition and mimosas and bloody maries a Christmas Morning tradition, which tends to add to the Christmas Spirit for everyone.

I got Corinne an iPhone for Christmas and she has yet to set it down. If they had those things 10 years ago, I would have given her one with a picture of a diamond ring on it and I'm sure she would have still said yes. It's pretty incredible and I'm looking forward to getting one some day when Apple learns to share with other carriers.

Corinne gave me a very special gift by framing 20 Morgan Silver Dollars of mine. These dollars were my Grandpa's and have made their way through the family and into my hands. They have quite a few stories attached to them and mean a lot to me. They mean even more now that they were framed by my thoughtful wife.

After Christmas, the Oxford Jacksons packed up and headed to the Coast to visit the Jacksons of D'Iberville (My parents and my brother).

The Coast is a strange and mystical place and it always tugs at my heart strings a little when ever we go down. It's the true dirty South, but damn if I don't miss it sometimes.
We had a great visit and managed to take some money from the Beau Rivage, catch an Ole Miss vs. Southern basketball game, visit with Grandpa and Mimi Cheryl, built a bear and a dinosaur, saw the Batton's and their newest addition, and visited with the Guices and Casey. So much to do and barely enough time to do it.

After the Coast we headed to Clinton to see the Kellys and spend New Year's Eve before heading to the Cotton Bowl. Stay Tuned... I have to go watch ' Margot at the Wedding'.

Some Technical Difficulties

I had to switch layouts when my last one suddenly went crazy. I'm not sure what caused it, but I checked my blog and there was a big dark page with crazy looking text everywhere. I switched the template and it seemed to correct everything. I'll probably just stick with this template as opposed to switching back.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Economy..

It's shit. It'll get better.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Capitalism, Sort Of

Capitalism is the economic philosophy that all money making entities and resources are privately owned. As a result the wealth created from those entities is privately owned as well.

Capitalism in itself is not a big deal. It's just stating that the government shouldn't own all businesses and people have the right to own wealth individually. I think this is probably something most people can get behind.

However, over the last few decades capitalism in America has become synonymous with ideas like free markets, laissez faire and the invisible hand. These concepts being that in addition to the government not owning wealth and the wealth producing companies; the government will not interfere with the privately held, wealth producing companies or the markets that these companies play in.

The idea is that in a free market, multiple competitors will find the most efficient path to producing a good or service which will ultimately benefit the consumer. In addition the consumer will choose the most beneficial competitor, creating a suitable level of quality. Market conditions and competition will create the best option as opposed to having the government interfere and force options.

For example, lets say Toyota started offering unlimited gas for the life of the car to attract buyers. Other car companies would have to offer the same the deal or something similar to remain competitive other wise the consumer would buy mainly Toyota's and they would all go out of business. This is good for the consumer because they get free gas for life.

Now this would be opposite of the idea that the government stepped in and said that car makers should offer free gas for life because the government sees it as beneficial to the consumer. The government is interfering with the market by requiring a condition, which may have the same result, but will be less efficient if the market was left alone.

What's interesting about all of this is that America has been in a sort of testing stage for the last 50 years or so. We've been toying with this idea that markets should be free and without government intervention and slowly moving more towards this direction. As the markets created wealth in our country and we continued to lead economically it was hard to argue with this approach.

Countries with heavy government intervention like Russia and Cuba failed over and over again resulting in economic meltdowns. This only bolstered the idea that unfettered greed and competition was the best way to go. This hubris ultimately was our undoing and has resulted in the last few stock crashes and now our current economic situation.

The housing crash and subsequent global economic meltdown will be a major part of history. 2008 will be considered the year that the curtain was pull back on American Capitalism and shown to be a fraud. Capitalism in pure free markets may work in theory, but the reality is that there is nothing that is pure, including free markets.

Financial giants that have been around for 85 years have been bankrupted because they bought wholly into this idea. This is a big deal. These are companies that once represented America wealth, stability and superior economic theory. They went bankrupt over night whimpering into the dark like some crappy start up as opposed to the financial stalwarts they were supposed to be.

Now did America's theory of capitalism cause all of this? No not entirely, but this notion that markets shouldn't be regulated definitely helped it along its way. Banks have lots of regulation and there are a lot of rules in place for them to follow. As banks started making more money, the regulators who enforced these rules start backing up. As banks started making mountains of money, the regulators all but disappeared. Poor financial decisions were justified with stacks of money and high stock values. Greed was left unchecked and unregulated and ultimately destroyed many banks and investment firms. We're still dealing with the fall out and there is no telling what other consequences there will be.

What is certain though is that we've reversed our theoretical direction as a country, even if it is only temporarily. Unfettered capitalism has proven to be a loser and we're moving back towards more regulation. Hopefully at some point our leaders and government officials will realize that a balance must be achieved. We shall see.

Next post, my thoughts and predictions on the economy. Where we're at, where we'll be and when will we recover, if at all.