Garybsmith

Trading, Golf, General thoughts. Not necessarily in that order.

Month: November, 2011

I’m not that impressed with myself.

I just got a note from my friend Gary Kaltbaum (http://garyk.com), congratulating me on my “Dow 12K” call I made on the recent Bulls & Bears.

Yet, while I appreciate the sentiment, I’m honestly not that impressed.  I figure we’ve done over 570 shows and since each show has a prediction segment, I’ve therefore made 570 predictions.  Frankly, I’m bound to get a few right.

I’m just thankful I don’t receive many emails dinging me when I’m wrong.  That’d be a lot of messages to wade through.

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Greatest. Treat. Ever.

In the past few months, Nancy and I have really gotten into great chocolate.  Now, I’m by no means a chocolate snob.  And I really don’t have a sweet tooth.  But, I found I do appreciate one perfect piece of candy after dinner.

So, I thought our quest had ended when we stumbled upon a Belgian chocolatier  in Georgetown (http://www.leonidasdc.com/).   Each piece is a slice of heaven.

That is until we found http://www.thetoffeehouse.com.  Whatever exceeds heaven is what this candy is.  (and bonus: half the price of the Belgian chocolates.)

Order it.  You will not be sorry.

 

Woody Allen would make a great trader.

If you haven’t, try to catch the 2-part PBS documentary on Woody Allen.  I watched on TV, but it’s also available via the internet: http://www.observer.com/2011/11/pbs-streams-part-one-and-two-of-woody-allen-a-documentary-video/

I’m fair weather fan of Woody Allen the filmmaker, but I’m certainly a fan of Woody Allen the comedian.   Beyond that, I always applaud someone with a strong work ethic.  And Allen certainly has that, directing over 46 films since 1965.  It’s an uneven, but large body of work.

But what I like best about Allen is that he readily admits just that.  In the documentary he clearly says that he just tries to make a lot of movies, knowing MOST will be lousy, but a few will be really good.  That’s all he asks for.

And that trait — the willingness to go to bat every day — is also what makes a great trader.  Other “great trader” traits he has:

1.  He trusts his instincts to guide him.  As a trader, that’s important: do what YOU think is the right, not what conventional wisdom or others tell you is right.

2.  He doesn’t read his press reviews.  For traders, I think the tranlastion is to not take business news all that seriously.  It’s often wrong, particularly at turning points.

3.  He doesn’t take himself too seriously.  Either it’s the greatest act in the world, or he’s the humblest famous person I’ve seen.  Humility is also a good trait to  have as a trader.  If you’re not humble, you’re usually not worried.  And when you’re not worried, that’s right about the time the market bites you.

4.  He has an outside interest.  Allen plays clarinet.  Buffett plays bridge.  Find something. Anything.  It just has to be something you can pursue with a passion that takes your mind out of the market.

5.  He knows that good movies come in cycles.  Good trading does too.  You just have to acknowledge that you’re often at the whims of the market and good days will follow bad…if you hang in there.

 

End of an era

For the first time in nearly 40 years there was no newspaper waiting for me at the curb.  It wasn’t because the paper wasn’t delivered, but rather because we’ve gone totally digital.

Yes, just 2 few years ago, I was getting 4 newspapers — the Washington Post, NYT, WSJ, and USA Today — delivered daily.

But, everything’s online now, and with the advent of the Ipad, I can read in leisure whenever and wherever I want.  In fact, many of the papers have Ipad specific apps, so I don’t even need to go to their online site.  (although it’s often better than the app.)

Of course, the dogs still haven’t learned to do their duty “online” so my morning ritual hasn’t changed all that much.   But, I certainly don’t miss all that newsprint coming into the house.

What happened to Classy?

I received an email the other day from the fellow whom I displaced as “King of the Mountain” on one of my recent rides.  Totally unexpected, not even necessary, but classy.

And I realized how little of that kind of class I see these days.  Another example?  An eternity ago (pre-marriage!), I was out on a date at a fancy restaurant.  A few minutes after we sat down, a waiter delivered a nice bottle of wine.  A good friend had arranged for it to be delivered to the table, knowing it was a special event.

Classy and I never forgot it.

So, sure we all act nice and are often very kind to our friends.  I think of “classy,” though, as one step beyond.  And that one step is something we rarely see.

So, yeah, Class.  I’m going to focus on that a bit more.

 

 

 

Dealing with Pain

I’ve been thinking a lot about pain lately, and how much we try to avoid it.  That’s unfortunate, because the willingness to go through a bit of pain, often leads to great rewards.

Of course, this is true in most endurance sports (ie. http://t.co/SisJUxMN), but also when it comes to trading.  Right now is certainly a painful time in the market, but my feeling is that if you’re willing to endure some stress (buy now and buy MORE if the market continues its selloff), you’ll be more than rewarded later.  But first, you have to be willing to go through a some stomach churning.

Pain is also on my mind with regards to what the Super Committee is doing.  Or not doing.  Even at best, they only want to skim around the surface, never even approaching the truly hard issues.  And, by the way, those hard issues aren’t just about spending and revenue, but rather about the entire role of government.

But, no one in government wants to deal with the pain because everyone wants to get reelected.  So, they talk a good game but really just punt, hoping the “next guy” will handle things.

Too bad, because the real pain will eventually come, and at that point it’ll be tough for anyone to handle.

Assault on Dickey Ridge

For the past few months, my cycling life has taken an unusual turn.  Out went my slightly-better-than-average time trialing career, and in came a (hopefully) podium claiming emphasis on — of all things — hill climbing.

Now, when most people think of hill climbing, they think of off-road mountain biking.  My thrust is even more esoteric: it’s hill climbing, but on paved roads and on a normal road bike.   The most famous is probably the Mt. Washington Hill Climb (http://www.mtwashingtonbicyclehillclimb.org/mwarbh/index.cfm), but there are others scatttered across the country.

Of course, if you follow races like the Tour de France, you’re familiar with climbs like the Alpe d’Huez.  Regardless, they all fall into the same genre: go up a mountain as fast as you can.

Fortunately — and the reason I migrated to this area — is that it plays to my strengths.  I’m not big or strong enough to win flat time trials, but I am strong enough per my weight to do well going up hills.  In other words, for my relatively skinny frame, I can generate a decent amount of power.

Anyway, my training has been going well, concentrating on both getting stronger, and getting as lean as possible.  Out went the cake and cookies, and beer consumption was cut substantially.

But, to give myself a further goal, I started to use Strava.com to pick out a course I thought I could do well on.

It turns out there’s a beauty of a climb about an hour from me, in Front Royal VA.  Many of you know the Skyline Drive as a scenic route, but it’s also a climbers dream: about 6% of steady grade, spread over 4 miles, with very little traffic.  Perfect for a time trial, the route is known as Ascent to Dickey Ridge.  For my purposes, it was going to be an all out assault.

I went out about a week ago for a test ride.  Just good, standard pace on my normal road bike.  As you can see below, I clocked in just under 24 minutes.

You’ll note number one was a Pro, btw….

Now I had a bogey: anything under 20:33 was my target.  It was then easy to figure out what power and pace I needed to hit that number.  I concluded that with a solid — albeit hard — effort, I could break 20:30.

I then spent the entire past week visualizing the climb.  I thought about when I would eat, where I would park, and how long I would warm up.   I also had a secret weapon: an ultralight road bike that’s been so tricked up it weighs barely over 10 lbs.

Of course, when it came to “race day” there was one glitch: the temperature was about 42 degrees with a decent headwind.  I figured when Dickey rode it was at least 80 degrees.  A 40 degree difference probably meant he had a 30 second advantage.

But, I was there and ready to go,  and after a decent warmup I was off.   I concentrated on a steady start, but like always in these efforts, I wanted to quit about halfway through.  At that point, I gave myself the freedom to chuck it….if I could just go .1 more miles.   And then, “tricking” myself, kept going an additional .1 miles until I was within a half mile of the finish.  At that point, the road flattens every so slightly and the pain decreases a bit.  So, I gunned it knowing I could redline and coast over the finish.

It was, I admit, a strong effort.

Now, in deference to Mr. Dickey, I’m guessing he didn’t go all out on his ride.  In fact, he probably went at cruising speed.

On the other hand, he’s almost 20 years younger than me.

Now, was it fun?  Well, during the climb, never.  No, it hurts like a son-of-a-bit*h.  After, though?  Well worth it!

Real climbing in real races isn’t for another 4 months.  Until then, this is about as close as I can get but after days like this, it makes it all worthwhile.

Simple things

We just completed our annual “plumbing repair day.”  That is, I like to save up all our plumbing repairs for one, massive service call.

You know, all the niggling things that can wait: toilets where you need to jiggle the handle to turn off; shower drains that work slowly enough you gain an additional bathtub; garbage disposals that get bogged down on a piece of soggy bread.

So, the plumber shows up and about 3 hours later and $700 richer, departs.

But, you know it was worth it because those little nagging repairs take just a bit of luster off each day.  Seriously, I’m not making this up: I’m almost giddy about taking a shower now and seeing the water not accumulate!

 

Give the Government more money? Baffling.

I’ve been keeping my eye on what the Super Committee comes up with, but I’m not encouraged.  If anything gets done, I think we’ll see minor cost cutting, while taxes will rise.

Both have me concerned, but particularly the tax part.  When you step back, I can think of few organizations that are as bloated, inefficient, fraud-ridden, and dysfunctional as the Federal Government.  Examples pop up every day, from Solyndra to the $10b (BILLION!) overrun for Boston’s Big Dig.

Details on just how truly terrible the government is at spending OUR money can be followed at @DownsizeTheFeds and http://www.downsizinggovernment.org.

Of course, inefficiency and bloat happens in both public and private organizations.  The difference is that private organizations go out of business if they get too fat.  The government?  It just grows fatter.

So, this isn’t a class warfare argument or even a libertarian argument.  Instead, it’s a “doesn’t make sense argument”: why give MORE money to a government that is so inept at spending what it already takes in?

But, I’m betting that’s how things will turn out.

 

My people skills must suck.

I guess this isn’t my month for people interaction.  First my d*ckhead experience https://garybsmith.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/how-to-be-a-dck/, then my no-wave ride https://garybsmith.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/what-no-wave/.  I guess we can now add my dog park experience:

Yesterday, we decided to take our 3 dogs to a neat dog park Nancy had found.  It’s not far from the house, pretty big, and on a nice day, packed with dogs.  When we don’t feel like walking them, it’s a good place for them to get an hours worth of exercise.

Well, I was minding my own business, when a woman came running up to me,  and asked, “Is THAT your poodle?”  I nodded, which brought on a rant about picking up my dog’s poop.  I wasn’t nuts about the attitude, but I said, “okay, show me where he did it.”  Well, that brought on a sermon about watching my dogs, having a permit, etc, etc.

Now, I will say that, yes, we didn’t have a dog permit to be in the park.  But, neither did 95% of the other dogs there.  Still: guilty.

And, I also did give her some attitude because she was one of these people that can charitably be called a “dog park nazi.”  I’m sure you’ve seen them and they pop up everywhere: the cyclist on the group ride who’s always yelling at you to keep up the speed, or stay in the pace line, or some other idiotic “infraction.”  Or the self-appointed policeman who’s telling your kids to be quiet in a restaurant.  Or, the guy on the golf course, who’s yelling at you to “pick up the pace.”

With those people, it’s not so much the request, but rather their attitude: they always come across as people with way too much time on their hands.

Anyway, the dog park Nazi ended up calling the DC Park Police, and I had to get some sermon on being a bad pet owner.  Kind of ruined the whole outing.

But, I’m going to get a permit and am going back to that park.  Hope my dogs poop all over the place.