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Archive for July, 2007

Today, I finally managed to get rid of all my old university textbooks that I no longer want or use (I kept a couple).  To that, I say "Good riddance."  I gave them all away to a guy whose just entering his first year in the same program I took.

I gave them all away for free.  Now, when I say that statement, some of you may be saying "Wow, you gave them away for free?  Those are worth a lot of money!  You paid such-and-such dollars for them and now you’ve taken a loss on them!"

That’s not the way I see it.  If you have something in your house that you want to sell but you won’t sell it because it would be too much of a loss compared to what you paid for it, it doesn’t matter.  If you are currently not using it, you have already lost the money on it.  For example, if you have an old computer that you paid $1500 for but you never use it, but you won’t sell it because all you could get is $100 and that represents a $1400 loss.  But you never use it anyways, so you’ve already lost $1500.  The fact that it is not being used at all represents a real loss, not a potential one.  The fact that you still have it doesn’t preclude the fact that it’s not being used and therefore isn’t worth the $1500 you paid.

So, here’s my advice to people who have stuff they want to get rid of but don’t want to take the financial hit – you have already taken the financial hit by no longer using the piece of equipment.  Plus, it’s taking up room, so it’s a double whammy.  Get whatever you can for it and move on, it’ll be worth more to you that way.

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The other day, I heard some people talking about how they have a large family, some with 10 kids.  They remarked that the kids always ate everything there was at the dinner table and that they weren’t picky about food, because if they didn’t eat it the next person would.  The general consensus was that this was funny and it was a good thing: scarcity meant that kids couldn’t be selective about what they choose to eat since fussy eaters is a headache for parents.

In my opinion, I didn’t think this was particularly funny.  I interpreted it as the following way: These parents had too many kids without having the resources necessary to feed them all.  The humorous spin on things was the parents way of saying "Ha-ha-ha, you rotten kids!  By not providing you enough food I am manipulating you into eating what I provide, thus demonstrating that adults have more power than kids!"

The way I see it, if parents can’t adequately provide for their kids such that there is scarcity at the food table which then results in competition at the table, this demonstrates a serious lack of foresight on the part of the parents.  The parents are the ones that had the kids and if they don’t have enough resources to have them, it isn’t therefore funny if the children then have to compete for food.  There are a lot of people in this world for whom scarcity is a reality due to circumstance; having lots of kids and not being able to provide enough does not magically turn it into a virtue.

I think the idea that kids have to eat something at the table because there’s otherwise there’s nothing left is a r(poor) ationalization for poor economic planning.

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A few weeks ago I blogged that I had several options for going on a summer vacation somewhere but I didn’t know where I should go. In the interim, it was looking more and more like I wouldn’t go anywhere due to the time inconvenience and other things that have come up at work.

It turns out that the riddle has been solved. I’m going to Las Vegas for a couple of days.

Next week, I am going to a conference in San Francisco (actually, San Jose but I’m flying into San Francisco). I asked my boss if I could take a couple of extra days holidays because I have a ton of holidays to use up by the end of the year. He said okay. My plan was to fly from San Francisco to Las Vegas and, because it’s out of the way, any extra airfare that it would cost to fly to Vegas and then back home, rather than flying return to Winnipeg from San Francisco, I would make up.

As it turns out, it actually costs less to fly Winnipeg – San Francisco – Las Vegas – Winnipeg than it does Winnipeg – San Francisco – Winnipeg. So, my going through this route, I’m actually saving the company a little bit of money. I am still paying for my hotel in Las Vegas (obviously) but the fact that I have saved travel costs is a real bonus and it worked out quite nicely.

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Continuing my custom of talking about my losses than my gains, this week on the market is turning out to be one of those weeks.  You know what I mean, a week when everything just seems to go wrong.

All of my stocks that had made big gains have been taking major beatings this week.  They aren’t just down a normal correction, the selloffs are violent and they are swift.  On the other hand, I can’t say I’m suprised.  The stocks have been moving up for quite some time and a correction is natural.

I don’t like the pain of sitting through a correction.  Gains that take 3 months can often be erased in 5 days.  Still, corrections are good times to look for new buys; the Chinese have a word for this – crisitunity!

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Today, July 22, 2007, was perhaps the hottest day of the year in my neck of the woods. It may have gotten up to +57 degrees Celsius. I don’t normally complain about hot weather, but this was a little too warm. In fact, for the first time ever, I cranked up the air conditioning in my car to full blast.

Where I live, we have to enjoy our hot weather, it only lasts a couple of weeks out of the year. I ended up going to the beach on both Saturday and Sunday, but as is my custom for the past few years, I like to hang out in the shade and venture sporadically into the sun.

Even though the sun is nice to be in, it really is your skin’s enemy. Can’t be too careful!

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For the past decade, there has been a consumer revolution in the world of beverages – bottled water is a very popular commodity. I don’t know what the big deal is about bottled water as opposed to drinking tap water, but for some reason everybody likes to drink it.

Now, many people may not realize this, but at least 25% of bottled water is repackaged tap water. The popular brand "Evian" is "naive" backwards, that is, people who drink it are naive enough to think it is superior quality to tap water, but it isn’t. It’s merely a status symbol. There really is very little in the overall quality between tap water and the stuff that isn’t tap water; they are mostly the same stuff. Water is water.

However, having said that, there is one brand of water that I don’t like – Aquafina. This is Pepsi’s brand. I’m normally a fan of Pepsi, but I don’t like the flavour of water they have in that bottle. I don’t know if they process their water strangely, or if it’s the taste of the bottle, but in any case that kind tastes funny and I do not care for it.

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If you’ve been following my writing for any length of time (upwards of three years) you would know that I write a lot about the stock market. Before I had this blog I had a discussion board where I would write weekly updates about the market as well as the status of my current trades.

I eventually abandoned that board and started a blog (actually, two of them) and widened the focus but still planned on writing about the market. If you go back in the archives a few months you’ll see a lot of entries about the market. You also might notice that I don’t write as much about anymore.

This is not because I don’t follow the market anymore. On the contrary, I still follow it quite closely but my trading style has changed a little bit so I make fewer trades. However, that’s not the reason I don’t write about it. The reason there is that I have decided to reveal less and less about the particular trades that I make, that is, I prefer to keep the status of my trades to myself. I read in Practical Speculation that traders shouldn’t talk about their trades and should instead keep quiet about it. I read that over a year ago and did not heed the advice right away but started to work it in gradually.

I’m not sure I don’t want to talk about my trades anymore; I don’t want to go quite that far. I think from time to time I will only mention a trade here and a trade there. And, I think I’m going to put more emphasis on my losing trades so it appears that I am not boasting about my current win/loss rate or how much my portfolio is up or down. So, in the spirit of learning from my losers, the last big losing trade that I had was American Oriental Bioengineering. I bought this stock at around $11.20 and watched it bounce around. I thought that the financial statements of the company were strong and that it looked good, technically. However, while I was up about 5% at one point, I eventually sold the stock at a 12% loss. I got tired of waiting around for it to move and eventually I gave up. It turns out that was the correct decision because it has since moved down from there.

The 12% loss on the stock is one of my biggest losses (percentage-wise) in the past two years. I usually cut my losses shorter than that but this one got away from me. I was clearly wrong about this one but at least I only had about 1/7 of my portfolio in it so the loss didn’t hurt too badly.

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As I have mentioned in this blog previously, in my upper inner leg I have been experiencing pain whenever I rotate my leg inwards or outwards. A few weeks ago I went to the doctor, had it x-rayed, and then went for a followup appointment. The result? There’s nothing wrong with my leg that they can tell from the x-ray.

"Great," I thought. "I’m experiencing all this pain and nobody knows what the problem is?" The doctor said to give it time. Well, time passed for five months and it had shown no improvement whatsoever. It was actually quite frustrating because the discomfort came on very suddenly. It was there one day and I had no idea where it came from, I was just standing and turned to the side as my foot was planted and felt the sharp pain in my upper leg. I had not hit anything at all in the prior few days to cause an impact injury.

Then, one day last month, I rotated my leg again without really thinking about it and it hurt. But, it didn’t hurt quite as much as it had before. In fact, I’d say that the pain was only 50% what it was before. It seemed to go away (half of it, anyways) almost overnight. I then planted my foot and continued to step off of it to test to see if that was just a fluke, but sure enough, the leg wasn’t hurting as much anymore.

So, I guess time was all it needed. It’s not back to normal yet, but it’s getting better.

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There has been an odd phenomenon going on in the world of television since the turn of the century.  Reality TV is replacing sitcoms, especially in the summer time.  There’s American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent, some pirates show, The Bachelor, Big Brother, Survivor, two more musical-themed shows… and some others I am sure I am forgetting.
 
That’s an incredible amount of TV shows where the main actors are not even paid!  Combine that with the explosion of different game shows in prime time and the time of the paid television actor appears to be in decline.

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I signed up for Facebook a couple of months ago and at this point I have around 100 friends.  I now have to ask myself how many are enough?

Facebook’s a good way to keep in contact with people, but at the same time, so is email.  So are blogs.  So are chat programs like Live Messenger.  I certainly don’t IM 100 people, and I don’t converse with 100 people either, but at the same time, I still like to keep track of people’s happenings in their lives every so often.

On the other hand, there are people on Facebook with 500 friends.  Sheesh, that’s a lot of people.  Can a person really keep up with 500 people?  It’s hard enough to keep track of the lives of my current friends who I see in person on a regular basis; how could I expect to do it when the complexity increases even more so?

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This afternoon I went and saw the movie Ratatouille. It’s the latest release in Pixar’s computer-animated movies, and the second computer-animated movie I have seen in the past month.

I can’t help but compare it to Shrek 3, and I have to say that Ratatouille is significantly better. Shrek 3 lacked character development, moved along too quickly and wasn’t nearly as funny (as its predecessors). Ratatouille is different; the characters have a nice backstory, there is conflict in the story with an evil chef and food critic and the main characters see their relationships build. There is a central resolution in the movie and then a plot "twist" that puts the main characters in jeopardy that requires resolution. It moves naturally, unlike Shrek the Third. So, overall, I liked the story.

The thing about Pixar movies is that while they are meant to be strictly comedies, they are usually quite funny or include a number of funny lines. For example, while Toy Story is a comedy, it’s not especially so. The same with Finding Nemo, it’s not especially funny but there are some funny moments. It is the same with Ratatouille; it has some funny moments but they do not overshadow the movie. Shrek is supposed to be a funny movie and it largely failed, but Ratatouille’s jokes work.

Finally, the animation in Ratatouille is amazing. The hair on the rats looks incredibly real. At some points I began thinking "Why do a computer generated movie if the characters look so real?" I guess the answer is that the computer-generated characters can do things physically that live actors cannot. Still, Pixar’s animation studios do an incredibly job, possibly better than Dreamworks.

So, overall, I liked Ratatouille. I didn’t really have any expectations but I liked what I saw. I give it a thumbs-up.

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