Archive for September, 2008



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Gut level instincts

I’ve had some weird going ons the past couple of weeks with regards to my investing.  Normally, I like to do tons of comparisons and then pick the best option.  For stocks, I look at growth rates, relative strength, earnings per share, sometimes return on investment, and so forth.

For my real estate investing, I did pretty much the same thing.  I ran the numbers, checked market rents, calculated out of pocket costs, and made offers based upon seeing what was the best deal.  I did all of that… and I’m still going to lose quite a bit of money at the end of the month, each and every month I hold onto it (sigh).

But that changed a bit when I started looking around to fix it up.  Case in point – when I wanted to get the condo painted, I interviewed a couple of people.  The first guy gave me a quote that was slightly less than the second guy.  However, I got a better vibe from the second guy.  It just "felt" better.  I can’t really describe this phenomenon, it was more of a gut level instinct that the second guy would be a better choice.

Similarly, I’m currently interviewing property managers.  I talked to one yesterday (Sunday) and another today (Monday).  While I’m sure both would do a good job, I definitely got a better "feel" for the first guy.  Again, it’s a gut level instinct.

I don’t normally like relying on my guts and intuition.  After all, how can I be sure my emotions are not influencing my decisions?  But on the other hand, my cold calculations and logic haven’t treated me well this year either, so I suppose changing things up a bit couldn’t… much.

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So I know that I’ve griped a bit about my stock trading this year and how much it has sucked.  Of course, the rest of the market has sucked as well so misery loves company.  But at least I didn’t do what my co-workers did.  These are true stories.

  1. We all know that banks are failing left, right and center.  Before they all went belly up, one of my co-workers decided to speculate that the Fed was going to bailout a bunch of banks and pseudo-private companies.  So, he bought shares in Lehman, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and AIG (I think).  The next day, Lehman went bankrupt and Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the Federal gov’t and their shares went into the toilet. 

    Ouch.  That’s gotta hurt.

  2. But not as much as this next story.  One of my other co-workers is thinking about day-trading.  I really advise against this unless you are a professional because you have to be at your desk glued to the screen.  You also have to have a a rigid stock trading system.  My other co-worker has neither.

    He bought shares in Washington Mutual.  He IM’ed me the other day and asked me for my opinion on WaMu.  I said that it was a penny stock and was very highly speculative.  He said he had bought shares the other day and the stock was making money for him, quite a significant amount.  He then asked what he should do.

    I said that he should sell a portion of his profits.  When stocks are that cheap, it’s tempting to be greedy.  After all, a shuffle of $1 up or even more can reap huge profits!  But, they are also very unstable.  I said if he wouldn’t sell it all, at least sell a portion.

    He declined to listen.  He said "Nah, I’m going to be greedy.  You make sense but I think that there is more upside."  Well, last week, the bottom fell out on WaMu and they declared bankruptcy.  I think he’s SOL with regards to his shares.

So, while I admit that all of my decisions in the past year haven’t been great, at least I haven’t made the horrible mistakes my friends have made.  It’s like someone smart once said – penny stocks are very inexpensive securities that are worth significantly less than they cost.

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Market returns to date

Here’s a look at stock market returns from around the world:


The rest of the world is getting killed… yet somehow, the USA looks to be performing among the best!  And the US is going through a financial crisis!


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Today, an incredible coincidence occurred.

September 18, 2008 was our Microsoft company meeting.  It’s an all-day event where we rent out Safeco Field (where the Seattle Mariners work) and all of the executives get up and motivate the employees.  They also have some product demos and stuff.

It finished about 3:45 pm, and they said to stick around for the after party.  They were giving out free beer.  I don’t drink but I decided I would like to wander around to see if there was anyone else there I recognized.  Maybe they were also giving out other free stuff.

Well, I was making my way through the crowd on my way to get some popcorn when I was tapped on the shoulder.  I turned around.  "Excuse me," said the person who stopped me, "but did you used to work in England?"  I recognized the guy immediately.  I used to work with this guy at Lucent Technologies when I was living in England back in 2001.  I was like "Steve?  Is that you?  Are you now working at Microsoft?"  It turns out he was and had been for 3 and a half years.  Heh, I’ve been here for four years if you count my one year of pre-acquisition time at Frontbridge.

We chatted for a bit before parting ways.  But can you imagine?  I hadn’t talked to this guy in about 7 years (I was laid off in September 2001 and left England in July 2002).  And now, we run into each other on the east coast of the United States at a company meeting where 20,000 employees were.  How’s that for a coincidence?

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This past Sunday, myself and a friend went down to a local electronic store, called Fry’s.  A bizarre thing happened in the parking lot.

I was driving in the lot on the right hand side between the rows of cards.  The parking lot was somewhat full and I was looking for a space.  I was coming up to an empty one so I slowed to a stop and put on my signal.  I was waiting for the car on the opposite side to pass by me.  He was further away from the space than I was.

It was very obvious that I wanted that space.  Besides, I had to make a left turn into the space and he wouldn’t be able to make the tight turn, he would have had to turn right.  I was on the opposite side of the space so I waited.  I, of course, had my traffic signal on.

That’s when it happened.  This guy creeps up and then pulls into the spot!  That’s right, I was signaling, waiting, and he pulled in!  Not only that, as he was doing it, he flashed this dumb smirk on his face, indicating that he was so proud of himself!  I was incredulous!  He clearly saw me waiting for it, yet he took it anyhow.

What a jerk.

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An odd prescription

Usually, whenever I get sick, I get this weird rash on my stomach centered around my belly-button.  It’s about 4 inches in diameter.  The rash is very warm, but that’s all it is.  It doesn’t hurt nor make me nauseous.  This happens every time so long as I can remember.

Well, this time was no different.  I got the rash so I decided to head down to the doctor and ask what it was.  So I got there and I told them I got sick so they started checking me out for that.  It turns out I had a fever of 102 (and I think it was worse last night because last night really sucked).  My throat was swollen and I looked like I was in rough shape.  I was also suffering from dehydration (apparently my body was 3% dehydrated) and to compensate for that, my heart was beating at 100 beats per minute.  That’s about 1/3 to 1/4 above the normal adult standing heart rate.

And here’s what the doctor told me to do: drink plenty of fluids.  But, he told me not to drink water or orange juice, in fact, those were the worst things I could drink.  I said I’d been drinking milk… but he shook his head.  He told me to drink fluids with electrolytes.  Translation?  I was told to drink Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, etc.  And not that diet stuff, I had to drink the real thing.  Water with sugar, and lots of it.

That’s a bit of a switch for me.  I don’t drink those types of drinks, but because I’m sick I’ll make an exception.  So I went to the office and swiped a bunch of can drinks and have proceeded to consume them.  To be sure, this prescription was a little stranger than I am used to.

As for my rash?  The doctor was stumped, he had no idea what was causing it.

Update: All of these sugary drinks are starting to make my stomach woozy.  Excessive sugar does that to me.

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