Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hallelujah, I'm a bum!

I believe in owning up to the things you've done.

So I sent an E-Mail, today, to my financial advisor. I informed him that everything he told me would happen, happened. I said that, if I had taken his advice, I would be a richer man, today. And then I told him that I would be looking for another financial advisor in the coming year.

Monday, November 24, 2008

To Have and Hold

Today, on TSC, Rev Shark and Rothbort were pissing at each other in the Columnist Conversation. The topic for debate was "Should people buy-and-hold, or not?" Both gentlemen brought their grandchildren into the fray. It was not pretty.

My opinion is that we all buy and hold. The difference is in the way you qualify the hold part.

Minnie Pearl told the story about the old boy who wandered into the blacksmith's barn and picked up a horseshoe, still warm from the forge. Well, he laid it back down in a hurry.

The blacksmith laughed and said, "Burned your fool hand, didn't it?"

And the old boy said, "Naw, it just don't take me long to look at a horseshoe."

By this exemplar, I argue that Rev Shark, himself, buys and holds. He just doesn't hold it long.

Myself, I'm a little bit country and a little bit Rock'N'Roll. I do a little of both, which has been my undoing on several occasions this year.

I have bought and sold GOOG repeatedly. I won't tell you where that's gotten me. I'll just say that I would be far better off if I had never sold a single share of it.

During the 2000 crash, I never sold anything and lost 40%, but by 2004, I had made it back. Without doing anything.

This year, I have been selling with a vengeance. Lately, at the wrong times. Even though I have held substantial amounts of cash this year, I'm still down 35%, with no confidence that I'm going to ride it back up again.

The worst thing is, my financial advisor was right. He told me this would happen.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

More from the Bottom

This time of year, when the chilly winds start to blow and the day gives up early for the night, every rat starts thinking of his hole and what he's got to eat and where he'll lay his head down tonight.

The rascally days of summer are fading in the distance. The pig is spare. The bull lies down with the bear. No more fear. No greed. No happiness.

No joy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thoughts from the Bottom

As I reflect on the year, it seems to me a cascade of small epiphanies, giving way to bigger ones, each one more horrific than the last, as we try to grasp the size of the thing.

I've been beating myself up for continually going back in too soon, but it's not just me. Nobody saw this coming. Everybody's beating up on themselves for not seeing how big it was. We still don't know how big it is.

I'm reminded of a short story I read as a kid about a young couple who found a great apartment in a nice building for half the normal rent. It had a creepy janitor, but everything else was just what they wanted.

They moved in and everything was fine for several weeks, except sometimes at night, they could feel and hear a low, rumbling hum and vibration that seemed to come from everywhere in the building. They went out in the hall and downstairs, but they could still hear and feel it. It seemed to come from the walls and the floors themselves. Once, they went down in the basement and discovered some huge, shiny metal engines that seemed to be attached to the building itself.

They went back to their rooms and went to bed.

The next morning, the man said to his wife: "I think that this building is some kind of spaceship."

She looked at him and said, "The whole building?"


They didn't talk anymore about it, but one night, when they were in bed, the hum and vibration started up again, but this time it was louder than ever before and the floor and the walls were shaking.

The young couple woke up in alarm and decided that they should get out of the building as soon as possible. They ran downstairs and out into the street. But the vibration and hum was still there. It was coming from the sidewalks and the other buildings.

The man looked at his wife and said, "My God! It's the whole block!"

That story was written in the fifties. We're way past the whole block stage, now. Yahweh, himself, may have to underwrite this deal. God help us.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Year of Living Dangerously

Money can't buy everything,
That is true

In the summer of 1975, I was detailed by the Federal Government to Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, to take a turn at overseeing the medical surveillance system that had been set up there to process Vietnamese refugees into this country.

Every refugee had to be tested for every disease known to man and given all manner of shots and other injections, plus physical examinations by military doctors. Everything had to be documented, which meant, in those days, recorded on paper. I was in charge of a huge paper mill.

Everything revolved around a xerox machine which copied out a set of medical forms for every refugee who came through. With forms in hand, these hapless exiles were directed through a gauntlet of medical stations where they were abused by modern medical practice. At each station, one form was selected from their handful, and written upon and then placed in a hopper. An army of summer college students - boys and girls - had been hired to run around to all the stations, collect the forms and deliver them back to the Xerox machine where countless copies were made of everything, and sorted and filed, or delivered to some other place.

I remember it being hot that summer. The Pennsylvania outback had the feel of a tropical outpost, like San Juan or Rio. Everybody was running around in shorts. I confess I didn't have much to do. The operation had been set up before I arrived and was running smoothly. The kids did everything. I spent a lot of time in my motel room, catching up on my reading.

I didn't make any money that year, but it was a good year, nevertheless. The IMSAI computer was first introduced in August. And Larry and Sergey were running around in their nappies.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Snappy Story

Larry and Sergey were walking down the street one day and they ran into Eric Schmidt.

Larry said, "Hey, Bubba! What's happening?"

Schmidt: "I've been looking for you guys. I have a question for you."

Sergey: "Great - we love questions."

Schmidt: "How much money would we make if we had everything?"

Larry: "Aw, we figured that out the first day."

Sergey: "Yeah, including Mars."

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Case of Nerves

I watch a lot of TV, so I happened to see that photo op of Obama, meeting with his Technology Advisors. I saw it three times. They were all sitting around a table, with Obama in the middle, the convergence of everyone's attention, including mine.

But on the third viewing, my interest began to shift to the Captains of Industry assembled. A motley group in expensive suits. And in the middle, right across from Obama, was our Googlemeister Schmidt. He's the one, rocking back and forth in his chair, with the loopy grin on his face.

There was no sound so you couldn't tell what was happening, but I figured he was either having a really good time, or he was really nervous.

Then they showed Obama, speaking to the group, and he seemed nervous.

Then I got nervous.

I was already nervous because, last Friday, I bought some SPY and VTI, after I had decided not to. All weekend, I plotted the means to escape from this wily predicament. But then I got lucky - the futures were up big, this morning. I put in orders for the open at the market price, and escaped by the skin of a small profit.

Now, all I have to worry about is, what was making Schmidt so nervous?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Eve

I'm sitting here, watching and waiting, as though the result meant anything to me personally. Actually, it does.

Somebody said, this election would be a rout, if Obama weren't black. I said, Obama's not black, and we're not white. Not anymore.

So, it really doesn't matter how it turns out. Except, one way we'll see the hand of Yahweh, making a rare appearance in human affairs, and the other way, we'll just have to keep muddling through by ourselves.