Garybsmith

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

Category: General thoughts

Change #3: We wuzz robbed.

All in all, I lead a pretty calm life.  I suppose trading gives me a few thrills, but I try to mitigate those as best as possible.  Certainly one wouldn’t say golf rivals mountain climbing, and raising Poodles isn’t nearly as taxing as caring for Border Collies.

On the flip side, being robbed at knife point (or more accurately, crow bar point) in the middle of the night….in your own home, certainly has to be at the pointy end of the bell curve.

Now as background, I sleep upstairs, Nancy downstairs.  She has trouble sleeping to begin with, and gets up at 4AM anyway to coach.  Long ago we decided “separate but equal” bedrooms was the way to go.

In any event, my bedroom door sticks and as the dogs sleep with me, I always shut it at night.  That was helpful, because about 11:30PM in late July, the noise of it being opened woke me up.  That and two fairly large men wearing ski masks, waving flashlights, and coming towards my bed at a high rate of speed had me screaming.

Now, I’m not Rambo.  I’m not a trained martial artist.  I have minimal defense skills.  But, I do have a nasty — although hidden — temper.  That, combined with a healthy dose of adrenaline, and my first reaction was to  tackle assailant #1.

It was pure instinct, but somewhere along the line I realized it was going to be him or me, so I fought like crazy.  That is, until Nancy heard the shouting, came upstairs and turned on the lights.  She asked everyone to calm down, which was fortunate because the Head Thug was instructing my wrestling buddy to slug me with the crowbar.

So, in orderly fashion we were herded down to Nancy’s bedroom where they helped themselves to all her jewelry, my watch, and a few handbags.  Ironically, they left my wallet, the Ipads and the laptops.

They ordered us into a closet with the obligatory, “don’t come out or we’ll kill you” command straight from The Robber’s Handbook, and left after about 20 minutes.

Wearing gloves, ski masks, and black SWAT team outfits, the Police had no chance of finding them, and so far there’s not been a clue.

A few thoughts, then:

1.  It was scary, but for me, only about the first 30 seconds when I was startled awake.  The rest of the time, I wasn’t scared at all.  I was pissed.

2.  We do have an alarm.  Shame on us for not setting it at night.  If we had, and it had gone off when they entered the house, I would have had at least a minute or so to grab a baseball bat or golf club.

3.  So much for dog protection.  I’m pretty certain ours slept through the commotion.

4.  Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover the bulk of jewelry losses.  You need a separate rider for that.  Playing the odds, we didn’t have that rider.  Ugh.

5.  We don’t own a gun, although I did contemplate and even tried a few out after that night.  Believe me, I’d have zero problem using it if forced.  My concern is that I’d end up shooting Nancy or one of the kids.

6.  Somewhere along the line, I was hit pretty hard with that crowbar, as I woke up the next morning with a 6 inch welt on my side in the shape of a capital J.  Never felt it at the time, and I now understand how a Mother can lift a car off a trapped child.

Post-Sandy

We made it through Sandy with minimal disruption.  We did lose power for about an hour, but there was no damage to the house or exterior.

So, I’m thankful for that, but truly feel for my friends in the Northeast.  But, what can I do to help?  The only thing I know how, and that’s a few words of someone who’s been there: (House-leveling fire in ’03, Deracho, Snowmaggedon…)

1.  Get everyone safe, comfortable, and back on schedule.  For now, don’t worry about your house, the damage, the insurance, etc.  Instead, find friends, a hotel, etc, and make sure everyone is eating, sleeping, and going about normal business as much as possible.

2.  Divide up repair and insurance.  Dealing with contractors, handymen, and all repair folks is a full-time job.  Likewise, making sure your insurance company is on top of everything is also a full-time job.  One person can’t possibly handle both, so divide up the tasks accordingly.  For our house fire, I took insurance; Nancy handled the rebuilding.

3.  Everyone is lazy.  Insurance companies, builders, etc, will all want to take the easiest path possible.  But, no one cares about your welfare as much as you do.  So pester, nag, cajole.  Whatever you need to do to get everyone working FOR you, not for themselves.

4.  Remember, it takes time.  Even the best insurance companies process claims a LOT slower than you’d like.  Repairmen are never as speedy as you’d like them to be.  But, everything will get done.  Eventually.  It’ll drive you crazy, of course, but keep plodding away.

Okay, all the above easier said then done.  There were times when we were rebuilding our house, I just wanted to walk away and settle in Bali.  You’ll feel that way too.  But, some months from now everything will return to normal.  And you’ll realize you can get through anything.

There is no “middle ground.”

The full news about Lance Armstrong hit the wires yesterday and it was pretty damning.  I’ve read a lot on the topic, and for years I’ve thought a) he was guilty and b) a first class schmuck.  So, yesterday wasn’t anything new: he wasn’t just a doper, but a first-class organized criminal.

And yet, there are folks out there still defending him.  He raised a lot for cancer.  He’s a survivor.  It’s a witch hunt.  My God, the list of excuses goes on and on.

But, his supporters will not be swayed.  If anything, they now seem to feel MORE secure in their support.

I see the same thing with President Obama.  I think the last 4 years have been a disaster.  In fact, I think any objective view would rate him one of the worst Presidents ever.  He’s a Big Government guy, and yet I can find few people who’ve had a good personal experience dealing with government.  Where are the folks who like the DMV?  Who’ve found it easy to get a building permit?  Who think our mail service is wonderful?

And yet….Obama supporters are dug in.  He’s their man, no matter what!

On the other hand, maybe I’m just as dug in on my positions.  You can’t convince me “Breaking Bad” isn’t the best show on TV!  Ronald Reagan was a great President!  The Nationals were right to sit Strasburg!

So, maybe all this talk about people liking “compromise” in government is total BS.  People don’t like compromise.  They like to be RIGHT.  I mean Lincoln is hailed as a great, if not the greatest, President.  And rightly so.  But, he sure didn’t compromise with the South about slavery!

The truth is we don’t seek the middle.  What we seek is to finally, eventually strong arm our opposition into seeing our side.

My strange body

A few days ago, I fell on my wrist while playing tennis.  I didn’t think it was anything serious, and I popped right up and continued playing.  That was about 3pm.

By 6pm, though, my wrist was throbbing.   On the NIH pain scale (http://painconsortium.nih.gov/pain_scales/NumericRatingScale.pdf), I’d say I was at “6” so I put some ice on it.  Strange that I barely felt a thing for the prior 3 hours, but whatever.

By 8PM, though, the pain was intense.  I had already taken ibuprofen, but was feeling so badly, I hunted around the house for something stronger.  ANYTHING stronger.  At that point, I thought for sure my wrist was broken and I was at a solid “10.”  Hurting so much, I thought about going to the emergency room.

Instead, I gritted my teeth, propped my wrist up on a pillow and tried to sleep.  Oddly, I was out immediately and woke up about 4AM.

And the pain had vanished.  Yes, my wrist was still a little sore, but I was back at “2” level.  Almost nothing.

The weird thing is, I’ve gone through this before.  Stomach aches so bad, I couldn’t stand them, only to be fine the next morning.  Headaches so intense, I thought they were migraines, only to have them vanish within hours.

I’m certain science has an answer.  Or maybe I’m just psychosomatic.  Strange though.

The lunacy of Olympics frustration

Like the vast majority of you, I’ve been watching the Olympics both online and televised.  And yes, I’ve found the “embargoing” of some of the premier events to be both silly and frustrating.

But, if I’m reading the press correctly, there’s a lot of people spending a good deal of time venting about their frustration:  the hastag #NBCfail is apparently  very popular.

This always makes me wonder if people have enough to do during the day.  Yes, I also wish I could have watched the Phelps 400IM in real-time.  But, NBC dictated I couldn’t.  I wasn’t happy about it, but that was it.  It was on when it was on.

But, folks are taking to the streets like they were when much of the DC area lost power.  They’re outraged!

But, my gosh, it’s just a sporting event.  Yes, it’s interesting.  Yes, it’s filled with drama.  And yes, it’s very enjoyable.

But, not watching EXACTLY WHEN THE ACTION OCCURS?  In my list of things to worry about, that ranks about #1237.

 

 

 

Missing the old days of the Olympics

The Olympics started in earnest today, and I’ve been spending the morning watching tennis, cycling, swimming, and even a bit of the air rifle.  All on-line via my Ipad

I also spent about 10 minutes reviewing the day’s schedule and then 15 minutes setting my DVR to record stuff throughout the day.

Frankly, it’s exhausting.  In fact, there should now be an Olympic sport just for watching the events, never mind participating.

Now, obviously I’m a fan of the games, but I kind of miss the old days of Olympic telecasts.  Young folks might not remember, but there was a time when the only sports you saw were what the network decided to show you from 8 to 11PM.  You loved fencing?  Sorry, you were out of luck.   Skeet shooting?  Uh…no.  Ditto, cycling, judo, canoe, soccer, and the thousand other sports offered today.

In fact, other than track & field, swimming, and gymnastics I really can’t remember seeing any other Olympic sports until about 1988.

On the flip side, though, there weren’t any decisions to make.  If you liked the Olympics, you watched.  If you didn’t, you watched something else.

Now, I need an excel spreadsheet (which the NBC Olympic apps pretty much give you), to figure out when and where I’m going to watch.  And while I appreciate all the choices, I really think it’s too much.

But, naturally I’ll tune in.  China’s squaring off against Malaysia in the mixed doubles badminton this morning.  I don’t want to miss it.

Unsentimental

My daughter’s car was broken into a few nights ago and, of course her purse (lying on the front seat) was stolen.

Canceling the credit cards, getting a new driver’s license, and all the other stuff is a real pain in the ass, but she was more heartbroken that the purse itself — the first “big ticket” item she had ever bought — was stolen.  That, and a ring her boyfriend had given her.  Sentimental stuff that had her in tears.

Naturally, I was consoling, but I kind of felt like that villain in the one of the James Bond movies who couldn’t feel any pain:  I can’t think of one item I’d lose where I’d even think of shedding a tear.

I mean we had a fire that took the whole house down a few years ago, but once I had my laptop I was fine.  Other stuff — the odd photo album, a few paintings, a decent watch — I really didn’t care.

Oh, there’s a few things I scramble for if they go missing.  Nancy gave me a silver pendant of  the Madonna del Ghisallo (the patron saint of cyclists), after I was t-boned by a car.  I never take it off and I was frantic for a few days when it mysteriously went missing (It fell off when I was wrestling the dogs. )

But, even then, I wasn’t heartbroken and figured I’d just replace it in the next week or so.

I guess in the end, all this would make me a good candidate for witness protection: I could literally pack up in 15 minutes and be out the house with no regrets.  Well, maybe I’d bring Nancy.  And the dogs.

 

The evolution of a “watch guy.”

For the better part of the last 15 years, I’ve been a “watch guy.”  You know, the kind of man who took pride in having a nice (read: expensive) watch.  I wasn’t particularly proud of this trait, but I did like having something nice on my wrist.

Now “nice” wasn’t something in the 5 figure range.  But, it was a very solid Chopard in the mid 4-digit area.

However, after about 10 years of solid effort, it simply refused to work.  So, I dutifully took it to the nearest “Chopard Service Center”….who then turned around and sent it to Chopard.  So much for customer service.

Four weeks rolled around, and I finally got a call telling me it’d be $490 to fix my watch.

Now in the past, I guess I would have paid that.  Figured it was the price for having something nice.  Kind of like taking Nancy’s old Jaguar in for service, which usually required a small homeowners loan every 6 months.

But, given that we are “on the cheap” like a lot of other people, I politely declined.  Instead, I scouted around and found a perfectly good Timex that was 1/10th the price of the Chopard…repair!

Perhaps in the future, I’ll get the Chopard fixed.  Or maybe not.   For whatever reason, being a “watch guy” doesn’t seem to matter that much any more.

Completely out of it.

About 30 years ago, when I still lived in the eastern PA area, I dated a girl who lived in Philadelphia.  On our first — and subsequently, last — date, I casually mentioned something about “Dr. J.”  To which she responded, “who?”

I was stunned.  I mean the 76ers were on the rise, they had a great team, and Julius Erving (Dr. J.) was already an icon.  How could anyone still breathing — and particularly living within 10 miles of where he played — not know who he was?

It wasn’t the last time I met someone “out of it.”  Unfortunately, in most future encounters, that person was most likely….me.

I clearly remember the first time I had apparently entered some sort of time warp.  The year was 1983, and I was riding in the car with some of my IBM cronies.  A song comes on the radio and I love it. “Who is that band?”  “OMG: they’re fantastic.”  “Are they new?”

The song was “Good times roll” by The Cars…released in 1978.  I must have been asleep that year as a) I had never heard of The Cars until that day, and b) had never heard the song.

After that episode, I found I was really starting to fall behind on cultural “things I needed to know” but didn’t feel too badly.  Certainly when I hit my 40s, I didn’t mind missing the whole rap thing, and by the time I hit my 50s, I couldn’t name any of the important vampire movies.  Or TV series.  Or even tell the difference.

Anyway, I was minding my own business this past weekend, intently watching the Men’s final at Wimbledon, when they zoomed in on the Royal Box and showed this woman:

 

 

Now, of course I knew who it was: Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Whatever.

But — and here’s the important point — somewhere along the way I completely missed that this woman is….absolutely gorgeous. (No, Nancy doesn’t mind me noticing.  It’s not like Middleton’s available….)   I mean she’s been in the news, what, a year?  Two years?  Ten years?  I really don’t know, but it was like discovering The Cars all over again.  Only Middleton is a lot more attractive than Ric Ocasek.

Anyway, I really should start reading People Magazine.  Or, at least turn the news on every once in a awhile.  I don’t mind not knowing Flo Rida’s current hit, but missing out on stuff like this?  Unforgivable!

 

Best book of the year…so far.

If you get a chance, I encourage you to pick up (or, for many, download) “Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind.”

Of course, your first thought might be that you have no real interest in magic.  Or Math Geeks, for that matter.  In fact, my own interest was limited, but something about the title caught my eye.

Of course, I’m glad I read the book, although the real takeaway wasn’t the magic part.  That was interesting, but what I really learned was just how hard magicians work at their craft.  Really, I had no appreciation that top magicians practice constantly.  And by “constantly” I mean that many carry a deck of cards around, for example, and practice almost throughout the day.

And that made me think how lazy I am when I’m trying to get good at something.  Sure, I may devote a few hours a day to something like my trading. (Although, now it’s more like a few minutes a day.)  But, in thinking about it, I could do a lot more.

Granted, we all have a lot going on in our lives.  Still, if you want to get really, REALLY good at something, you have to put in the time.

This book revealed that I’m really kidding myself: whether it was golf, or trading, or preparing for TV, I could do a whole lot more.