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

In a slump

I’ve always been a big believer in momentum.  Or, maybe it’s biorhythms.  Whatever it is, when things start to go south for me, they really tail off.  And in the past few days, it’s been nothing but down.

— My trading has been going poorly.  Or, rather my results have been poor.  Fortunately, what I always preach — stick to your method — I’ve been doing.  It’s just that the market hasn’t been treating me kindly.  But, a slump is a slump.

— Nancy had a rigger stolen at the Head of the Charles.  Don’t know what a rigger is?  It doesn’t matter.  Just know that you can’t row a boat without it.  Even worse? It was BRAND NEW.  As in, never been used.  (Who steals a rigger, for cryin’ out loud??)  High tech, state-of-the-art, carbon fiber.  Gone.

— My tennis has sucked.  Even worse, my practice has been great.  It’s my play in matches that has gone south.  I’m missing something, and I just can’t figure it out.  Frustrating beyond all believe.

— Little things are out of control.  Example: our one dog must be allergic to one of his foods, since he’s barfing and pooping all over the place.  Clean-up on aisle 7!

— The Redskins lost another heartbreaker.  Yeah, we have RGIII, and he’s fun to watch.  And yes, it’s just football.  Still: argh!!!

Things will turn up, of course.  They always do.  Until then, I just have to ride this bad wave out.  Painful, though.


Off…and doing nothing

As of tomorrow, I’m off for a few days, traveling to Boston to see Nancy at the Head of the Charles.  We’ve been doing this since 2003, and it’s just about the only time we spend away from the house.

She has a lot to do while we’re there: coach the Potomac Boat Club Mens’ team, as well as race herself.  My role?  I used to try to fit in a bike ride, do Bulls & Bears from Newton, and make myself busy.

Now?  Now, I try to do as little as possible other than walk back and forth from the hotel to where the boats launch.  We won’t even have the dogs with us, so that’s another list of to-do’s off my plate.

Many folks like to travel, but while I enjoy the time off, I can only take about 3 days of it.  In fact, I have yet to take a vacation which I enjoyed MORE than just staying at home.

I don’t know if that’s strange or makes me the ultimate homebody.  It sure does save money, though.

My God, I’m terrible

I had started this missive today with some thoughts on success.  But, when I was polishing it up, I realized it was fairly nauseating.  Nothing new, really, and just more of “look how great I am.”  I hate big egos, and especially hate it when I’m the culprit.

Even worse, in putting together my thoughts, I went back and perused some of my older posts.  Ouch: one poorly written column after another.  Oh, there a few good lines sprinkled here and there, but overall — honestly — my writing grows worse with age.

Now who are good writers?  I think Joseph Epstein is phenomenal.  Joe Queenan is terrific.  Dave Barry is extremely clever.

On the other hand, I’m not doing this for a living.  Thankfully.

Watches for a penny

Nancy and I were strolling around the mall this past weekend, looking to replace her broken watch.  As I’ve noted in the past, we’re long past the “expensive watch” stage and just wanted something workable with a rubber strap.

While walking through Nordstrom’s I noticed about 20 watches hanging on a stand near one of the registers.  We were in luck: six of the watches were originally $20, but marked down to $8.90.

They were cheap Japanese things, but had the rubber strap and were certainly a good bargain.

The salesperson rang it up, and said we wouldn’t believe it, but the price was a penny.  We thought he meant the price was going to be a penny over $9, but no, he said it was some kind of “last chance” sale and the price was ONE CENT!

I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten anything for a 99.95% discount, but there it was.  I literally gave him a nickel — a nickel! — and got my $.04 change.  We walked around a bit after that, and then decided, for an extra $.05, we’d clean them out.  So we circled back and bought the other five watches they had.

I’m sure this is some kind of record.  Or a stroke of extreme luck.  Whatever: we’re still dumbfounded.

The other cancers must be pissed.

Last weekend, the Washington Redskins were draped from head to toe in pink.  This was to raise “awareness” of breast cancer, I suppose, although I think we’re all pretty much aware by now.

But, I have to hand it to the breast cancer marketing folks: with their various walks, races (, tv portrayals ( )and pink saturation campaign, it’s hard to imagine any other cancer even exists.

So, if you’re involved in one of the other cancer factions, you have to be sitting there and getting a little upset because breast cancer isn’t even the most prevalent cancer.  No, that would be prostate cancer, with lung cancer being the most deadly.  (

Now, this is not to denigrate or make light of breast cancer.  It IS both deadly and terrible.  But, the other cancers need to get on the ball.  Why don’t they have their own color?  Why don’t TV characters ever get pancreatic cancer?

Heck I don’t even know what Endometrial cancer is: why don’t we start raising some awareness for that?

Biden/Ryan debate takeaways

I watched 60 minutes of the debate last night.  When 9:15 is your bed time, 10pm is time to pack it in.

And while I’ll leave the “who won” stuff to the poli sci pundits, a few things hit me over the head.

— Is it a Democratic thing, or do many on the left resort to smirking, dismissive laughs, and condescending remarks?  First Al Gore, and now Biden.  He may have “won” but I think he came across as a jerk.

— What was the “now you’re Jack Kennedy” remark all about?   Ryan was referencing Jack Kennedy, not pretending to be him.  Nothing worse than a zinger that ends up being a non sequitur.

— Admit it: Biden has the worst fake teeth in the world.

— I’ll hand it to Biden: he comes across as an old school politician.  Too bad.


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.

Tennis jerks

I’ve played a lot sports in my life and found that each sport has their own class of jerk.  In golf, it’s usually the guy with the huge leather “tour” bag and bag tags from every elite club around the country.  They’d regale you with their great matches against Phil and Tiger, and tell you about the time they took $1000 off Nicklaus while shooting 63.

Racquetball was a bit different: those jerks would simply arrive at your match about 10 minutes late, warm up for 5 minutes, and then blow you off the court while somehow never acknowledging you existed.

But, since I started playing tennis, I’ve been introduced to an entirely new breed of jerk: the contemptuous player who looks down his nose at you when you hit a few balls wide.

I’ve now met 2 of them in my brief existence as tennis player and the scenario was the same.  Someone from my club asks if I want to hit with “John.”  John then asks me directly, “what kind of player are you”….while somehow making you feel you’re a nasty object on the bottom of his shoe.

Mind you, John doesn’t play any USTA tournaments and has no bona fides other than at THIS club, he’s a pretty good player.

I don’t know what to answer to “the kind of player I am.”  Hitting partner for Nadal?  NCAA doubles champ with McEnroe?  Gave Agassi lessons for a few years in Vegas?

Instead, I just shrug my shoulders and start hitting.  Now, I do take a few minutes to warm up and in that 10 minute period can hit some wild shots.  But, 10 minutes is all John needs to realize I’m a complete waste of his time, so he sidles  up to the net and announces he’s going upstairs to “work out.”

Wow: that’s pretty in-my-face!  I mean at least pretend you’re late for an appointment and beg off.  Or say you’re not feeling well.  Or pretend to twist an ankle and hobble off.

But no, I heard loud and clear: I was taking up far too much of his oxygen to remain on the court.  Noted, for future interactions!

Now, I’ve met folks like John in other sports: the guy who only ever plays with his buddies, develops a fairly good game, but beyond his little envelope is a relative lightweight.  And I’m not above saying I took special pride in schooling them, just to wipe the smirk off their face.

But in tennis I’m not good enough to do any schooling…yet.  Instead, I have to stand there like an idiot while John goes off to “work out.”

John will get his time, though.  Of course, he won’t remember our first interaction — they never do — but I’m seriously hoping we have an eventual outing where he’s reduced to tears.  And I can them ask him what kind of player he is.






I think there are 3 types of people in the world: those without nicknames, those with nicknames, and those with pretty good nicknames.

Barack Obama is definitely not a nickname kind of guy.  Folks have tried silly things like “Barry” or “Bam-Bam” but they never stuck.

On the other, Bill Clinton was ripe for nicknames, and I thought “Bubba” fit pretty well.

Athletes and entertainers should be right in the nickname wheelhouse, but most come off as lazy (A-Rod, J-Lo) or more marketing hype than anything else  (99% of the names on this list:

Personally, I’ve had a run of nicknames and all seemed to fit the moment.  When I was very young, I somehow got tagged with “Snuffy.”  I didn’t like it or hate it.  It was just kind of there and lasted well into my teens.

Once I hit college, I picked up a few: Schmitty, of course, and the off-shoot, Smitty.  But, mostly I got G-man, which I kind of liked.  I’m not sure whether I had that before or after Mike Gminski (we were at Duke together), but he was definitely the more famous G-man.

After college, I seemed to pick up “G” from my golfing buddies but it didn’t get wide circulation.

About the time I started writing for, though, I adopted Gary B. Smith as my byline (there was a Gary Smith writing for Sports Illustrated when I was writing for them and my SI editor added the “B” to my name.  From then until now, “Gary B.” seems to have stuck and even Nancy calls me that at times.

Naturally spousal nicknames fall into a completely different category, most of which are endearing but silly to anyone outside the family.  I call Nancy “Bunny” all the time and she calls me “Dad” a lot.  I guess that’s something you pick up when you turn about 50.  I find it sweet.

In looking back, I’m glad I had nicknames and really glad I never had mean or nasty ones.  If “Snuffy” is the worst I’ve been called, I made out pretty good.

Sometimes capitalism is baffling.

There’s a golf tournament outside my house — — and I just don’t get it.  It’s part of the tour and unless you’re an uber golf junkie, I’m betting you’ve never heard of or its tour.

What I can’t figure out is why this event (or tour, for that matter) even exists.  There are literally ZERO people in the gallery.  (the biggest “name” in the tournament is Lee Janzen.  And even though he’s won TWO U.S. Opens, you still probably haven’t heard of him.)

The event is on The Golf Channel, but I’m betting the audience is only a few hundred.  Heck, the Washington Post has barely mentioned the event.

So where is the win-win that capitalism is supposed to provide? seems to be throwing away money.  The Golf Channel ratings have to almost zero, so advertising is a waste.

Oh right: the winner gets a cool $100,000.  Some things I guess you can’t explain.