Garybsmith

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

Month: January, 2012

The art of trying less

Nancy and I were watching the Winter X Games this past weekend.  Ironic, because I do zero winter sports and really don’t know much about any of the events.  But I do know who Shaun White is, and have seen his brilliance on the half-pipe quite a few times.

What caught my ear, though, was that one competitor — Louie Vito — had decided to really REALLY focus on his training, foregoing alcohol, working on his fitness, etc. etc.

When I heard that, I knew he was doomed.  You see, Louie Vito was already a top contender, and it’s been my experience that when top contenders try to get to the next level by “outworking” the competition, something usually breaks.  And normally it’s their own success.

I saw the same thing with the Olympic Marathon trials (trust me, I’m a connoisseur of esoteric athletic events on TV): a bunch of top runners who decided that in order to move from say 10th, to the podium, were simply going to train more.  Inevitably, they did worse.

In fact, I noticed almost all the athletes who trained less, whether by design or something like injury, did outstanding.

What’s this all have to do with anything?  I think when you’re in the formative stages of development, throwing more and more effort at something is a good thing.

But…once you reach a stage of solid competence, less is usually more.  This is particularly true of trading.  You work, study and experiment until you come up with a satisfactory way to make consistent money. And then, in some vain attempt to be “the best trader ever” you decide to do MORE: more analysis, more trades, more complexity, until finally you succeed…in losing money.

So, I guess my point is this: it’s fine, of course, to try to be at the top of the heap.  But, once you get pretty good, it’s usually not MORE that will get you there.  Instead, it’s either “different” or even “less” that’s the key.

30 years from now

As part of our regular shopping trips, we occasionally pass a retirement home called The Ring House.   I looked it up, and the average age there is 85.

http://www.hebrew-home.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ring_homepage

Personally, I want something a bit nicer when I get to that age , but Nancy says I won’t know any better, so she’s putting me there.

This got me thinking about life in my 80s, and the way it’s always portrayed in the media is pretty sad.  Elderly people are always shown doing arts & crafts, or sitting around playing something like the recorder, or maybe — if they’re adventurous — doing some square dancing.

And the clothes they show people in?  Did someone mandate every old person has to wear a track suit — always in some awful pastel — throughout the day?

Seriously, every 80+ person is shown as some poor kid in kindergarten, where going to the bathroom alone is cause for celebration.

I don’t know what life will hold for me 30 years from now, but if I reach my mid-80s and a big day for me is making a wood box, I’d just prefer to Nancy put a pillow over my head and let me go in peace.

 

Reunions

Next month my Father-in-law will attend the 58th reunion of his graduating class at Dartmouth.  That’s pretty remarkable just from a longevity perspective.   And for as long as I’ve known him, he’s attended a ton of reunions ranging from college down to grade school.

On the flip side, I’ve had the opportunity to attend probably 30 college reunions, a handful of graduate school reunions, and maybe 7 high school reunions.  My attendance remains at zero.

It’s not like I had a horrible time at my various education stops.  To the contrary, I fit into a variety of high school cliques (nerd, athlete, thespian), so I had a fair amount of friends.  In college, I was in a fraternity with a good group of guys, and enjoyed my four years.

Still, I never found the need to keep in touch with anyone or re-live the “glory years.”  I did have lunch with my old college roommate a few months ago — ironically he lives no more than 20 minutes from me — but it was a one-off thing and I didn’t find any pressing need to do it again.

Reunions, I think, would be even worse than a lunch.  There’s all that talk of things you did when you didn’t know any better, and then tedious discussion about what everyone is doing now.  Well, at least it’d be tedious to me.   Finally, having to explain to your spouse that yes, you were a complete goober way back then, would just drive me crazy.

Anyway, I’m happy for my Father-in-law.  He really seems to enjoy these get togethers.  Me?  I’m fine where I am for at least another 20 years or so.

 

Boy, am I fussy!

In an earlier time, I would best describe my current mood as “annoyed.”  But, Nancy has always used the word “fussy” so I’ll stick with that.

And boy, I have been fussy in spades lately.  As usual, the reasons are trivial, but I suppose they add up.  Here are just some of the things bothering me.

— The traffic around DC.  I pretty much only drive into the city to do TV, and that’s 3 times a week.  Going in is never a problem.  But, returning home?  For a lousy 10 miles, I can sometimes spend over an hour in the car.  Ridiculous.

— My kids.  Yeah, I love my kids.  Really do.  But, sometimes some of the boneheaded things they do drives me insane.  And my kids are old enough — in their 20s — to know better.  You have kids?  Enough said!

— Twitter.  Lately, I’m becoming sick of it.  Same lame-brained comments posted over and over.  I’m thinking of going on Twitter-strike, just like I did Facebook.  I probably won’t though, because I’m addicted.  (and that makes me fussy, too!)

— Sound-editing on TV.  Am I getting old, or do most TV shows have muffled sound?  Or maybe they have so much background music, the dialogue gets drowned out.  Whatever it is, I CAN’T HEAR A DAMN THING!

— The weather.  This has been the mildest winter since 2006.  Terrific really if you ride a bike.  But, it’s still gets cold and it still gets windy.  And I still loathe it next to the Spring and Summer.  (and I’m not even that wild about the Summer.)

—  The Presidential race.  Do I need say more?  My G*D, 10 more months of this??  Can we just vote and get it over with?

— Every DC sports team.  They all stink.  And yet, a mere 40 minutes away the Baltimore Ravens are playing great.  Typical.  Seriously, just once I’d love to live in city with some kind of contender.

— My own fussiness.  I think part of my total funk is that I’m getting old.  Or at least older.  And I find that annoying.  Can’t wait to see what I’m like in my 80s, should I get that far.  Probably a barrel of laughs….

 

 

Enough with the 3-day weekends!

I guess today marks the end of the 3-day weekends for awhile and I have to tell you, I’m happy about it.

Early in my life, I used to relish an extra day off.  Now I find it takes me completely out of my rhythm.  It’s not that I spend so much time trading or even looking at the market, but I do spend enough time here and there throughout the day where a void makes a noticeable difference.

In any event, I’m always happier when the market opens up Tuesday morning.  Gives me something to do post-breakfast / pre-workout.

As for the market and my trading, my rear end is catching a lot of splinters.  I did finally do one purchase on Friday (KO), but that’s about it.  And while I’m certain we’ll get a selloff at some point (let me guess: European crisis of some sort…), I really have to wait until things fall into my buy zone.

Right now I’m looking at MA, VZ, GOOG, and PEP, but all those need to drop a bit further.

Until then all I can do is sit and watch.   I see the next 3-day weekend is Presidents Day, and that’s only a month away.  Ugh.

 

 

Year of the Hat

For many people, 2012 is a big year for Politics.  Or maybe it’s a big year for athletics (ie. that Olympic thing…).  Or maybe it’s a big year for Tim Tebow.

For me, though, I’m proclaiming this The Year of the Hat!

Yes, I’ve been looking for something to get me jazzed for ’12, and while shopping with Nancy we stumbled upon a nice collection of headwear at Nordstrom’s.

Now I’ve always been somewhat of a hat wearer, but I never took it seriously until the past few years.  This year, though, I’m all in starting with the piece below.

 

Of course, mine is in black instead of that off-putting green, but the message is the same: I am now a full-force stylin’ guy.

Next up, I think, is my pick for summer wear.  I’m partial to the Breaking Bad porkpie, but I may just stick with some Fedora style.

 

Whatever direction I go, it’s gotta be more exciting than excruciating talk about Bain Capital!

 

There’s this guy, then everyone else

I settled in last night to watch the latest episode of “Top Chef” and a fellow named Nathan Myhrvold pops up as guest judge.  The name was familiar, but then Nancy remembered he was a big shot at Microsoft.

So, what was he doing on Top Chef?  Well, other than authoring a new series of books entitled Modernist Cuisine, it turns out he’s a renowned chef.

A chef?  I thought he was a technology guy, so I enlisted Wikipedia to give me the low down.  The highlights:

— PhD in theoretical and mathematical physics by age 23

— Held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge working under Stephen Hawking, studying cosmology, quantum field theory in curved space time, and quantum theories of gravitation.

— Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, is co-founder of Intellectual Ventures. Myhrvold, usually with coinventors, holds 17 U.S. patents assigned to Microsoft and has applied for more than 500 patents. In addition, Myhrvold and coinventors hold 115 U.S. patents

— Prize-winning nature and wildlife photographer

— Master French chef who has finished first and second in the world championship of barbecue

And remember, those are just the highlights.

So, what doesn’t this guy do?  Well, he didn’t seem particularly funny.  And judging by his build, I’m guessing the only sport he might excel at is bowling.

But, beyond that, whatever game we’re all bringing to the table, it has to pale beside this guy.  Humbling!

 

 

A desert island and my Ipad

I’m beginning to think that all I really need if stranded on an island is my Ipad.  I get up in the morning and read all my newspapers on the Ipad.  If the site doesn’t have an app, it always has a website.

Check email?  Ipad.

Read twitter? Ipad

Play Word w/Friends with my daughters? Ipad

Read books?  Ipad (I will rarely even order a book now if I can’t get it electronically.)

Newest addition?  Just about all my magazines via the Zinio app on Ipad.

Last minute check of market stuff for TV (usually while I’m in the studio chair)?  Ipad.

Peruse all my favorite websites via Google Reader?  Ipad.

Catch up on TV I missed (via Netflix)?  Ipad.

And this from a person who thought the entire idea was a big zero!

Friends

For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about friends a lot lately.  Or rather my lack thereof.  I guess everyone talking about “going to a friend’s party for the holidays” got me thinking.

But, truthfully — and I say this without a hint of sadness — I have very few friends.   At least how I think of friends.  Now acquaintances are not friends.  People seem to talk about them similarly, but I don’t think they’re the same.  Acquaintances I have a ton of.

No, my definition of a friend is simple: it’s someone I’d share a very personal matter with.  Like if I had a harmful addiction.  Or if I was having marital troubles.

And by that count, I have one friend outside my wife.  (It’s sappy, but Nancy is also my best friend.)

Now, when I was younger, I did have more than one friend.  Even then, maybe I maxed out at 5 at any one time.  Not a lot.

Again, I’m just noticing, not complaining.  Honestly, as a “friend” (and by that, I mean acquaintance) said to me: “Gary, you’re an acquired taste.”  I’m certain he’s right.  At age 54, though, I think I am who I am.

Guess that locks me in, then, at one friend.  And, you know, I’m okay with that.