Friday, December 29, 2006

Taking stock

I haven’t posted recently, due to a lack of enthusiasm towards, well anything at this point. December was not exactly a banner month for me, my investment portfolio took a beating, and I've not felt well physically either. Here in Maryland, we missed a white Christmas - which I think I've only experienced once or twice anyway - but the decidedly spring weather has made me uneasy.

My big Christmas present was a Stihl BR340 backpack leaf blower, which I used to collect leaves on our acre of lawn. It worked very well, and I'm happy I bought a backpack blower, waving a hand held blower around for three days would have been very tiring. Still, as far as big Christmas presents go, it was a bit depressing. We ended up bagging over a hundred 35 gallon leaf bags, which we are still trying to get rid of. Yipee.

On a better note, I did get Katy a Cannon PowerShot A540 camera. Small package, large LCD screen, very portable, I think she likes it.

We ended up having friends over for Christmas, who brought their dog, Thomas. Thomas is a beagle, and was the center of attention that day - Katy wants a dog of her own now, and I'd like one as well. We'll have to wait until we buy our own home to get a dog.

Investment wise, I'm taking a new direction for the coming year. For 4Q06, I had a very aggressive portfolio, which ended up biting me in the rear. Instead of large positions in five stocks, I may move to six or eight positions, spread over many sectors and cap sizes. I'm thinking three big cap, three mid cap, one gold stock, and one speculative stock. At this point, I have no idea which company’s I'll invest in, but I'm coming up with some ideas.

Other than that, blah. Lets get this year over with already.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Nintendo for the Wiin

I hate Sony. Simply for political reasons, I hate their music division, their instance on propriety technology (nee Memory Stick), their generally overpriced products. That being said, I expected this holiday season to be a Microsoft vs. Sony fight. So far, it looks like the only real combatant is Nintendo, with it's Wii console destroying Sony's PS3.

I could easily drop the cash today and take home a Wii. The PS3 seems overpriced, and with a xbox 360 already connected to my home theater system, why bother? The Wii seems to have uniquely innovative games, an affordable price, and my money will not help subsidize Sony Music, nor lock me into Sony's craptastic BluRay technology. I could buy a Wii, and not feel that it's redundant to the 360 - in fact they are two diffrent game experances. I cant quite say the same thing about the PS3 and 360, other than that the 360 is much less expensive, has more games out, and it's not made by Sony.

I’m no big fan of Electronic Arts either. Aside from their sports games, most of their offerings are crap and they destroyed Origin when they bought them out back in the day. EA bet heavily on the PS3, and now they get to suck it up along with Sony.

/insert HA HA Quaker guy picture here

News sources

Where I keep up to date on current events:

Slashdot (good commentary)
Fark (GREAT commentary)
Digg (timely, decent commentary) (financial news)
Colbert Report (biting satire)
Daily Show (slightly less biting satire)
CNBC (Great news channel, so-so website. I'm a capatilist pig, need to stay up to date *snort*)

And that's about it. Slashdot, Fark and Digg are news aggregator websites, users submit interesting articles, then discuss. Colbert Report and The Daily Show are news satire, but get closer to the real news than CNN or FoxNews ever will. The Daily Show is quite possibly the number one news site for political news, their coverage is excellent. CNBC and cover my financial intrests. Everything else out there is crap.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Review: Black & Decker Alligator

We had a wind storm a few weeks ago, and a rather large tree limb fell in our back yard. Last time we had a limb like this fall, it happened during a snow storm, and it fell over our driveway. The limb was much larger then, and we were 'stranded' in our house until the property manager could send someone to chop it up. I fear the same thing happening this winter. Last winter, not being able to go to work due to a misplaced tree was not a problem, the Navy paid me either way. With my new employer, I'd have to make up the hours - I cant wait a day and a half for our property manager to send someone.

So, I bought a Black & Decker Alligator from Amazon.
Paid $89 for it, and ended up disappointed. It threw the chain twice, and started making nasty metal on metal noises when ran. It was not up to the job one bit, if you are looking for a heavy duty replacement for a normal garden saw, this could work - but if you need a small chain saw, then get one - not this.

I do like the design of the tool, and I may have been asking too much of it - it seems more suited to 2-3" thick branches and weeds, not 5-6" thick tree limbs.

Either way, its going back, and I'm on the hunt for a good gas powered chain saw.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Took a bath with NMX

I jumped on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NMX) bandwagon, mid day Friday. Bought at $139. I thought it had to have more upside. I was wrong, very, very wrong. I bought one point off of its high, and it went right down. I sold today at $125 and change. BIG BIG OUCH.

How did I screw up? I tried to play a momentum game, after the momentum had passed. I lost $500 on the whole debacle, a good portion of the gains I made in the previous week on CSCO and AIG. Stupid, stupid, stupid. You cant loose money in your cash account, and if you don’t have total conviction – or can get in BEFORE the move – don’t jump into a stock. Total amateur move on my part.

I sold, and put some of that money into Goldman Sachs (GS).

I’m feeling rather ill right now, but hopefully because of the pain I felt, this lesson will stick in my brain. If you play a momentum move, do so BEFORE it starts to move.

My current portfolio:


ALL of which I have great conviction towards. If I’m smart, and that’d debatable right now, I’ll let that portfolio ride until the first of the year.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


WYNN is up to 95. I should forbid myself from looking at that ticker again. On an up day, my portfolio got hammered; NYX, MA, SHLD, GME - all in the red.

All of my trades have cleared (it takes 3 market days for a sell to "clear", you can use that money to buy stocks, but you cannot sell stocks you bought with unsettled cash until it settles).

Down six points on SHLD from my basis (175.10). GME is not doing jack, but with three new consoles on the market for Christmas, I expect GME to do great this winter.

Old Friends

I met this person, I won’t name names - but work with me - back when I was in High school. A very, very long time ago. We were best friends – as “best” as you could be, living 3000 miles away (and I had the phone bills to prove it! – no joke, this was before long distance was essentially “free”.. Ever write a check for $1200 to the phone company? I have!), then got romantically involved, which crashed and burned (I swear, if I were a writer, I could have sold ten years worth of scripts to one of the daytime soap operas). Anyway, after the breakup, we stayed in contact pretty well; I had hoped we could have salvaged our friendship. (*) Naive of me, perhaps, but I figured it was worth a shot – I’m slow to make friends, and once I develop that sort of a bond, I’m not one to casually let go. Anyway, for various reasons, that did not work out very well. She got married to someone; I got married to someone, etc, etc. She moved, I moved, etc, etc. Today I sent her a letter, asking if she wanted to get back in touch. I hope it’s received well.

(*) Many, many, many, many details left out – nobody was innocent – but for my own sanity I heavily edited history. The sort of editing that you would need to do to compress Hamlet or Othello into a single sentence. Either way, in 2006, none of that matters much. I’m happily married, she’s (I’m hoping) happily married – I’d just like to see if I could get my old friend back.

Anyway. I hope it’s received well, I do miss her.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


In case you thought the ED209 was not real.

Watch the video after the article, it's worth it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Another flashback WYNN

Ouch. WYNN is up to 87, with a $6 dividend comming. My reasons for selling originally are still sound, I cant regret I followed my plan, but - obviously this rise, and the dividend, was unexpected.

Oh well. Today I bought MA (Mastercard) and CSX (railroad), sold CSCO and 1/2 of my AIG.

I'm not touching my portfolio for a week. I need to let this ride, see what happens.

I currently own: AAPL, AIG, CSX, GME, MA, NYX, SHLD, ORCL.

Friday, November 10, 2006


AIG blew its numbers away. However, watching the share price rise is like watching paint dry. It hit 69.97 early today, while I was away from my desk, then dropped down to 69.50'ish, now it's been raising at a snails pace. I hope to sell 30 shares at 70 today. Hell, I may sell all of it at 70. I know the stock still has some upside left, and it's a stable investment, but I need faster action. I need NYX. Up huge today, I've made close to 10 points since I started my position. Wow, Cramer got that one right, bigtime.

Once I sort out AIG, my portfolio will be set for the next two months. With the drop in copper prices, I dumped LMC from my Roth IRA account and picked up ORCL. I'd still like to have some exposure to commodities, and I think LMC is still a good investment, but I'm not willing to suffer the short term consequences of owning a copper mine while copper is going down. A gold stock, like Yamana, may be a good choice, and a nice hedge on inflation, but at this moment tech is hot, so I'll stick with ORCL.

Drug stocks continue their free fall. I’m watching SGP and ARNA, if SGP drops below 20, I may pull the trigger and start a position. One angle with ARNA, if its share price is depressed enough, it may become an attractive takeover target. I think, with the Democrats in office, and P/E’s depressed, we may see some consolidation in the drug companies. Biotech may do better than big drug, DNA and AMGN could be attractive.

I’m not very knowledgeable on the drug’s and biotech’s, so I’m hesitant to place a big bet in this sector, but I have enough conviction with SGP to pull the trigger. DNA, AMGN, and ARNA would be more speculative, but if they start to look more attractive I may do a bit of research and see if any are interesting.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Flashback - WYNN

WYNN broke 80 today. Quite obviously, I should have held on to it for a while longer. I'll track how CSCO runs, and see if I need to adjust my tactics when playing earning's reports.

A month ago, I played Starbucks and Oracle well, getting out before both stocks gave back some of the initial run after their earnings reports. Both stocks eventually held their gains, after people like me got out and took profits. If I had held them, I'd look pretty good at this point, but I seem to be a bit hyperactive for that. WYNN, so far, is the anomoly at this point, it's post earnings report slump lasted for a few hours, not a few days, like SBUX or ORCL.

If you buy a stock as a trade, decide what your exit price is, hit it, sell it, you "won"; your plan was executed. But, that may be a too short term view, if you really have conviction towards the companys long term results.

I sold WYNN to fund my bet on CSCO. I missed $3.50 worth of profits to fund CSCO. If I had held WYNN until today's high, I would have made an additional $133 on the trade. I turned a $348 profit on my CSCO trade. So, based on that, selling WYNN and buying CSCO was a great move. I could have sold other stocks to fund my CSCO buy, and held WYNN, but since WYNN did not beat estimates, I had little conviction.

So, in the end, my tactics worked out in my favor. We'll see how I play AIG tomorow.

Doubled down on AIG

AIG reports earnings tomorow morning, I raised my stake to 59 shares. I expect them to beat estimates, but I cant expect a big move like with Cisco. I'll take two points, my exit point tomorow will be $70.00. If I get two points, it'll raise my week to 8.4%. I may sell 1/2 my stake at 70, and see where the stock goes from there. I'm not planning on keeping AIG after its next run, may put funds into ARNA (drug stock) or even Halliburton.

I swear, after this week, no more posts about stocks.

CSCO - made the trade

Sold 173 shares at $26.92, turning a very nice profit. Bought up SHLD, NYX and initiated a position in GME. AIG is on deck to report tomorow, I'll sell into Monday's strength and firm up my cash position. My current portfolio:

Stock Shares
AIG 44
GME 38
NYX 23

I'm not sure how good of a play CSCO is for the rest of the year. I could sell CSCO into any future strength, and buy a drug stock - possably Arena (ARNA). Overall, a blow-out week for my portfolio, up 7.5% this week.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

CSCO beats numbers

Big time. Woot.

Doubling down

I doubled my stake in Cisco. Analyst's estimates are $.29 per share. If CSCO meets or beats those, it'll be a great day tomorrow. If not, we'll see. My game plan is to sell CSCO tomorrow into strength, paring down my holding so it fits into my $2K per stock allocation.

Profits will be used to buy up my positions in SHLD (Sears Holdings) and NYX (New York Stock Exchange), and initiate a position in GOOG (Google). Once AIG reports on Friday, I’ll pair back that position to 2K, putting my profits into my cash position, so I can take advantage of any buying opportunities.

I’m still looking for a place in my portfolio for GME (GameStop).

Quick math:

2K x CSCO, SHLD, AAPL, GOOG, NYX, AIG, that will leave me with about $1500. I need to either cut one of my other holdings, or place a smaller bet on GME, and give up on having a cash position.

If I had to cut, I might cut AIG; I cant see it move that much this winter.

By the way: I’m VERY VERY overweight in tech. If I called Mad Money, Jim Cramer’s investment show, and gave him my portfolio, he’d yell at me for not being diversified enough. Realistically, I should drop two tech’s, and pick up Altera (MO).

I still have not settled on my eventual stragity for this quarter, my ideas may (and most likely will) change. We’ll see how it goes.

Cleared WYNN off the books

Sold 1/3 of my shares today at 77.40, watched it hang out in the 77.80-.90's for an hour, ended up missing the stock's high at 77.97, went to lunch, ended up selling the other 2/3 of my shares at 76.40. I missed a buck fifty worth of action because I wanted the stock to go up .03 more before I sold. Stupid.

However, when I came in today I was fully expecting to lose money on this trade, and ended up making a little. Cant beat that. I've now covered all of my commission costs from last week's spastic buy/sell orgy. Now, I get to book all the profits I make.

Cisco reports today at 4:30PM. We'll see how that goes..

WYNN on a run / future plans

WYNN is up three points so far. I want out, but I'll see how it looks in a couple hours. My intent is to sell WYNN and buy GOOG. I have a solid position in AAPL, and I have a huge position in CSCO, ahead of their earnings report. I'd like to add ORCL as well, if I can fit it in.

My strategy for the next two months: hold six positions, each around $2K each (like I said, I have a modest portfolio). Heavy in tech, possibly four stocks, with the other two in consumer stocks that I think will do good during the holiday season. GME is a good stock, as well as SHLD.

At this point I'm not sure how things will look, but I could foresee this portfolio:


AIG is a conservative play. I could swap out of AIG, after their earnings report, and move into ORCL.

I'm not thrilled with MSFT, I think the delay in Vista will hit them this Christmas.

My “wildcard” is my Roth IRA account. I currently hold LMC, and I’ve been very pleased with its performance so far. Once the run in zinc and nickel pans out, I may swap out of LMC for another commodity driven stock. Gold? Oil? Don’t know at this point.

Odd opening

GOOG, CSCO, ORCL, SHLD and AAPL opened down. AIG and WYNN up. Very odd. I planned on dumping my WYNN post haste, but I'll watch what it does this morning. I may shave off a bit by noon, but so far its doing great, I'm auctually positive on this trade. Amazing.

Great buying oppurtinuty for GOOG.

I do fear that most of my portfolio will be in tech, which is a huge risk, but I think that is the key sector for the rest of the year. I still want some MO, but I cant ignore the performance of the tech stocks.

Swing, and a miss, on WYNN

WYNN missed estimates.

Now I get to find a gracefull way to dump my shares.

I now regret buying WYNN, I knew nothing about the company, and never would have invested in the company long term, speculating on it beating the estimates was a roll of the dice. Bad move.

But, on the brighter side, CSCO and AIG report this week, and I auctually like those companys. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

XMSR / Earnings Reports

Huge move on XMSR today. Apparently their earnings statement was well received. I bought 225 shares this morning, and rode them up to $13.20, selling them at around noon. Not a huge gain - I wish I had owned those shares since Friday - but enough to cover the cost of some of my broker's commissions from last week.

Playing earnings season is a blast. Find a stock that you think will beat the analysists estimates and watch the fun. I've put my money on WYNN, CSCO and AIG, all reporting earnings this week. I know that AIG will report a great quarter, we had a very quiet summer, huricane wise. Cisco is looking great as well. WYNN is a purely speculative play, Jim Cramer mentioned a report in a local newspaper in Macau that released early numbers from the new Casino's there, and the numbers looked great. Wynn reports tomorrow at 3PM, I plan on selling my shares mid-day on Wednesday.

Cisco reports on Wednesday, and AIG reports on Thursday. I plan on selling both once the prices spike. I've held AIG as a core holding in my portfolio, but I don’t think the stock will see much upward movement for the rest of the year, I'll put that cash to work in a stock more levered towards holiday consumer shopping.

Bang bang

At the age of 31, I've decided to take the bold step and exercise my 2nd amendment rights and buy a rifle. My plan is to buy a .22 caliber rifle for target practice and sport shooting. I cant see myself going hunting, and with a .22 the largest game I could take would be a squirrel or rabbit, both of which are too cute to shoot. But, compared to my involvement in Autocrossing, sport shooting is very inexpensive, and it will give me a reason to wake up early on the weekends.

I’ve narrowed down my search to a Ruger 10/22. There inexpensive, accurate, widely available and have a huge aftermarket. Since I can never leave well enough alone, I hope to modify this rifle to increase its accuracy and ergonomics, the 10/22 has a bewildering array of custom parts. You can actually build one from scratch, just from custom parts, and build yourself a very nice target rifle.

Last weekend I visited Bass Pro Shops, Dicks Sporting Goods, and a local gun shop, OnTarget, and surveyed the market. Locally, the 10/22 carbine is on sale at Dicks for $159, the 10/22DSP (Deluxe) model is for sale at Bass Pro Shops for $179, and the 10/22T Target is $360. Bass Pro Shops lists the base 10/22 rifle for a low $149. I’m split between buying a 10/22T or a base model 10/22. If I plan on replacing most of the components anyway, the base model would make more sense, I’d have a rifle I could shoot for a low purchase price. The 10/22T is over twice the cost as the base model, but the trigger, stock and barrel are of a higher grade, I could possibly sell those items for decent money once I start to buy aftermarket parts.

I’m planning on going to a gun show in Virginia later in the month, if I can pick up a used 10/22T for a fair price I may pick one up, or settle for the cheapest 10/22 base model I can find.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sometimes selling is winning

*note: I am not an investment professional, my opinions are absolutely worthless, always do your own homework before buying a stock, your mileage may vary, etc, etc..*

I invest in the stock market. I have a modest portfolio, some funds I rolled over from an old 401(K) - actually my Thrift Savings Plan from the Navy, but it works just like a 401(K). I actively manage a portfolio of about eight to ten stocks, buying and selling as needed. My current focus is on domestic retail, financial, consumer staples, and technology stocks. I had a good position in drug stocks, but I sold them in anticipation of next week’s election.

So far, I’ve done pretty well, netting about a 7% gain for the month, soundly beating my current 401(K), which is invested in mutual funds. I got a bit to greedy, and last Friday gave some of it back. Come Monday, I ‘panicked’, and went all to cash (sold all of my shares). I did book some profits from my stocks that were doing well, but much less than if I sold the Thursday prior.

Yesterday, I expected the market to rebound from the past two day’s bloodletting, and bought up some shares. Wrong move, Tuesday was a down day as well. Today looked bad in the morning, and once again I went back to all cash, and spent the day watching those stocks tank. My frantic buying and selling has racked up a bunch of commissions from my online stockbroker. If I had planned this better, I’d be in much better shape right now. As of 3:48PM today, the stocks I track have been hammered, I got out this morning just before the real damage was to be done. I got lucky.

My original plan was to go to cash on Monday, and keep my powder dry until next Wednesday, after the election, and then come out guns blazing. I fully expect the Democrats to take the house, and perhaps the senate; the market will not be happy. But, I got antsy with such a large cash position, and bought back in anyway. Dumb move.

Right now I hold shares of Altera (MO), Level 3 (LVLT) and Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (RIO), a mining stock in Brazil. Mercifully, those three held up today, with RIO going up a couple percent. I held MO on anticipation of good news from their appeal of a huge lawsuit, that stock will tick up on any good news from that front. LVLT is speculative, I have a small holding, and I’m comfortable letting it run its course.

So, my game plan is this: stay in cash until after the election, buy up my favored stocks at what will hopefully be a large discount. Hopefully..

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I have to figure out what my plans are for next year's Autocross season. Autocross, or Solo2, is a form of motorsport where competitors race on a closed course, typically in a large stadium parking lot or airport taxiway. It’s much like a time trial, one car races at a time, shortest time to complete the course wins. Its fun, and as far as motorsports goes, it’s pretty inexpensive.

I have two cars that have autocross potential; a 1994 Mazda Miata and a 2005 Mini Cooper S. I just now need to decide which car I plan on running next year. I’m leaning towards racing the Miata, it’s inexpensive to maintain, performance parts are cheap, and its fun to drive. The Mini has superior handling and performance (in my humble opinion, many will disagree with me), but if it breaks its expensive, buying performance parts is expensive, the Mini’s larger tires are expensive – the whole effort will cost quite a bit more than with the Miata.

Over the next week, I’ll estimate the cost of building my Miata into a “Street Mod 2” car, and the Mini into a “Street Touring X” car, do a bit of a cost-benefit analysis, and come to some sort of a decision.

We all need therapy

YTMND ("Your the man now dog") is a website that hosts user-created flash animations, with a social networking element. Many of the animations are very entertaining, capturing current trends in popular culture, internet memes, and contributing to long-running YTMND-specific “inside” jokes. The site is addictive, I can find myself spending hours checking out the latest posts. The “up and coming”, “hall of fame” and “worthwhile YTMNDs” sections are all good places to start. Warning: some of these may not be safe for work (NSFW).

Best YTMND ever.

Photo Album

I've set up a Picasa photo album (screw Flickr and Yahoo!), where I'll post picture's I've taken in my travels.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Thesis: AAPL

Apple Computer currently trades around $80 a share. Unlike other computer hardware companies, its completely immune to Microsoft's problems with Vista. Apple's products are dead sexy, clearly best of breed in MP3 players and laptops, both which should sell great this Christmas. Apple cleanly transitioned to Intel based CPU's, helping to keep high margins and continue to improve processor performance. As a brand, Apple ranks up with Harley Davidson - Apple fans are not quite ready to get a tattoo, but Apple is synonymous with hip. Apple blew away its numbers last quarter, and exposure to the options backdating scandal has seemed to blow over. Apple has plans to offer a set-top box in early 2007. Everything points to massive profits and growth, I'm very bullish on this stock, mid to long term.

Price Target: $90 by January 2007.

Possable Issues: Poor holiday sales, rise in gas prices, further bad news from options scandal.