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Archive for November, 2010

Mission accomplished!

Ok, so after an evening where my bowels protested heavily with something I ate, aim feeling much better today. I was still somewhat queasy this morning, so all I had for breakfast was tea and toast. Not a great deal of nutrition but that wasn’t what I was going for.

We went out to visit the ruins of Xunantunich, which are somewhat similar to Chichen Itza, but smaller and with far fewer tourists. Or maybe we get there before tourists arrive… My girlfriend somehow manages to convince me to get up early so we can go out and do stuff.

It’s very warm and humid down here and I find myself feeling sluggish. Whereas last year in Peru at high altitudes I found myself out of breath, I was never all that tired. Here, at around 2pm I am ready for a nap. Anyhow, after hiking around I felt good enough to eat a normal lunch at a rotary club fundraiser where they served spaghetti. At that point was operating at 65% to 75% capacity. After my afternoon nap I am nearly back to normal.

The one confirmation I have is that whenever I get sick, as I pass the worst of it I get a weird rash on my stomach. No doctor can explain this. However I know from history that it means that my body is winning the battle against the disease. Well, today I have that big rash around my belly button. I guess it is not a rash as it is not itchy, nor does it hurt. It’s just warm. And red. Well, I have the red mark so I guess it means I am on the mend. Whew!

On to tomorrow!

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Oi. I am here in Belize and it’s really warm. That type of heat tends to make me feel sluggish during the day and want to do stuff in the cool of the day.

However, today (the second day I am here) I caught something that is giving my stomach fits. I tried to be careful this time and brought plenty of stomach medication, but the initial rush (no pun intended) still sucks. We got knack from a day of wandering around and saw some ruins… And upon my return I had to go to the bathroom. Over the next two hours I had to go four more times. Various parts of my body are sore for a couple of reasons.

How much stuff do I even have in me to force me to go so often? Well, here’s my current goal – go 1 hour without having to go to the bathroom. My body needs a rest. Seriously.

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Heard at the airport

Snippet of a conversation at the airport today.

My girlfriend: I’m going to Starbucks. Do you want anything?

Me: Some yellow cake.

My girlfriend: That’s what you want?

Me: Yes, you know, that lemon cake.

My girlfriend: What if they don’t have it?

Me: Get me something without raisins. I don’t like them. Nuts are fine.

My girlfriend: They have that banana bread with nuts. Oh, but you don’t like nuts… Oh, wait, that’s me!

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Off to Belize

I’m off to Belize and Guatemala for a couple of weeks with my girlfriend.  Hopefully things go alright while we are down there.  The only thing I am concerned about is the plane hitting some turbulence, going down and then getting stuck on an island filled with polar bears and weird underground hatches.

I’ll let you all know if that happens.

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Technology fail

One of the supposed advantages of working for Microsoft is the ability to work from home when required.

Well, as it turns out, that only works when technology is there to support you.  And from time to time, technology fails.  And Microsoft is no different.

  1. Since this past Saturday, I have been unable to check my work email.  The guys who run the mail servers were either doing something or other, or something or other occurred, and as a result a very large percentage of their user base has been unable to check their work email accounts.  I can’t, either.  So, I am in a position where I can not check any of my email from work and thus all communication from that avenue is gone.  I have had to work around this by requesting that mail goes to my personal email account.
  2. One of the fall backs for email is instant messaging.  At Microsoft we have something called Office Communicator (or rather, I am still using it because I haven’t upgraded to the newest version of the latest software because I don’t trust new technology).  I was using it yesterday and this morning when all of a sudden, it stopped working.  It logged me out and refuses to log me back in.  So now I am in a situation where I cannot get any instant messages from work colleagues.
  3. I could go into the office and use my work PC and see if it works better for that, too.  But no, Microsoft controls the weather and caused a huge dump of snowfall on the city of Redmond and the streets are a bit too icy for me to make it in.  So I cannot get to the office, either.
  4. The back up plan is to connect to the network using a remote login, called VPN (virtual private network).  This is something that I have used in the past, I plug in a special card, click an application on my desktop, wait 5 minutes for it to login successfully and access the internal network that way.  Well, that is not working either for some reason of which I am unable to explain (authentication failure? Expired certificates? Huh?).  So I can’t even get to my network remotely.

So you see, four different layers of redundancy have all failed.  I’m stuck at home with no way of getting in and all of the ways that I am supposed to do it have let me down.  What a perfect storm of things going wrong.

Well, I can take a hint when I see it.  I guess today is going to be a very non-productive day.

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Today in Seattle, it snowed.  It was also snowing yesterday.  It’s not a particularly heavy snow, but by no means is it light.

Snow in Seattle is an interesting thing.  It’s not so much that all drivers don’t know how to drive in snow (many of them do), but rather, the roads are hilly out here.  Slippery roads and hills make it difficult to navigate.  Even now as I write this, I can hear people trying to get up the hill where I live and they are spinning their tires hard.  The reason that they are spinning is because they mistakenly believe that they can go slowly up the hill and nothing will happen.  By contrast, when I got home, as I pulled on to the hill I ensured that I got a steady head of steam to carry me up the hill by momentum so that I wouldn’t fall back down.  I’ve fallen back down before, it sucks.  But physics is my friend; many other drivers… not so much.

Using that as the backdrop, when native Seattle-ites started celebrating the snow yesterday, I kind of rolled my eyes.  “Oooh, look at that!  It’s snow!  How wonderful! How magical!  Tra-la-la la-laaaah!  Let us all go out from our gum drop houses on lollipop lane and frolic down by the chocolate rivers in this beautiful goodness of snow!”

People have a very romanticized notion of snow.  The reality is that snow piles up on the roads and causes huge traffic back ups.  Many of my friends that were excited about the snow are now complaining/tweeting that their commute back home is taking over and hour and they are still only half way to their destination.  As long as the snow continues to fall, things will remain as is.  Seattle is not equipped to handle snowy weather.  We don’t have a lot of snow plows and the inclines on the roads makes navigation more difficult than in flat Winnipeg.  The reality is that unless you are equipped to deal with it, snow is a major inconvenience.  It costs cities a lot of money to manage each year.  And the locals aren’t really all that thrilled when it falls (except for the snowmobile enthusiasts and skiers).  Most are just happy when it melts in the spring.

Seriously, to the people who are thrilled about the snow, you can’t go sledding in it over here.  It doesn’t fall thick enough.  It’s also too wet.  And you need better hills.  It also kind of glops down, it’s not the light fluffy snow you see in Winnipeg, or on TV (that stuff is fake).  Luckily, most residents here don’t have to shovel it, and shoveling snow is actually tough on your back (I assume it’d be murder on my hip… but I’m not actually sure).  And as to your complaining about your commute – what exactly did you expect?  Snow is not romantic, it’s a weather condition that is celebrated on TV with music and lighting.  But in real life, that’s not the way it works.

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Learning from my errors

This past Tuesday, I made two trades on a bet that the market was going to go down.  I bought a put option on F5 Networks (FFIV) and the Bear fund on small cap stocks.  When the market goes down, both of those positions would have made money.  I based that upon the fact that I believe the market had staged a false breakout two weeks ago and had reversed using a very strong signal in technical analysis.  My second bear fund trade is an index that tracks the inverse of the market.  I believed that it was in a good position to make money.  My other trade was based upon the belief that the stock had run up too far, too fast and was breaking down.  I had other indicators to support this theory.

Unfortunately, two days later, the market rallied hard the other way and forced me out of both of my positions.  I ended up taking a big hit on my options position and a small hit on my bear fund position.  Even today, the market bounced at its 50-day moving average and may be setting me up for a big move down.by staging a false rally before breaking down some more.

And then again, maybe it’s not.

I used up all of the spare funds in my account by buying two stocks that I should have bought a long time ago.  One option position I took a major loss on back in June is Acme Packet Inc, a telecommunications equipment maker.  This is a stock that survived the summer correction with zero loss and has continued to rally.  I had been waiting for a long time to get into it, and on Thursday I did so.  That was a lucky piece of timing because today, the stock moved up very large – 8.8% today.  I ended up making back a good portion of my losses and so I feel good about that.  This was one stock that beat me up (a lot like my girlfriend does) and I learned from that.  I watched the stock for months and it is a very powerful one.  I discovered that I shouldn’t bet against it.

The other stock I bought is Netflix.  If you don’t know what it is, Netflix is a streaming media company that lets you view TV and movies on your computer.  More and more people are abandoning cable and instead getting Netflix which lets you view stuff on demand.  I originally discovered Netflix back in January when it was around $50/share.  I didn’t buy it then and have been kicking myself since that time because it’s now trading at $170.  It, too, got through the market correction with nary a scratch on it.  It’s a very powerful stock and the company is growing rapidly.  I’ve been waiting for a good buy point and this one is experiencing a flattening consolidation pattern.  Hopefully it continues to rally.

Let me get one thing straight, though – I have not given up my lazy portfolio investing.  I am still doing that.  Trading is restricted to 15% of my total portfolio.  Options trading should be maybe 5-10% at the most because every time I buy them I get my posterior handed to me.

With any luck, these stocks that I own (also have Baidu) will hold up.  My technical analysis skills say that this is just a bounce and that lower prices are ahead.  However, I have no capital to take advantage of that unless I buy on margin.  On the other hand, we are in the strongest time period of the year historically (November – January) and we are entering into the 3rd year of a presidential cycle (historically the best year on the market).  So while I think that the market should go down, my goal is to make money no matter what I think it should do.  The market acts the way it acts without any input from me.

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