Mr. Sensitive

January 31, 2011

Comprehensive Defeat

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 11:47

I’ll start this time without the obligatory military analogy (don’t worry, it’s coming).  I am scheduled to take the screaming baton from Katie on Tuesday (tomorrow!) on a permanent basis, inaugurating a long civil war.  Okay, I’m ready for that.  I mean I’m not, but I’m expecting 10 hours of fury and so I have ordered my mind such that he is not going to break me with an unimaginative frontal assault.  Then on Friday I had a gout flare, and later that day a scratchy throat turned into a headache and a fever.  Fine, I’ll smack down the gout flare with a 3mg colchicine blast and it’ll be gone by Monday.  The other business will run its course or abate by Tuesday.  Then the hard drive in my Mac died and I lost a year’s worth of data, analysis, rankings and original research, everything from my assessment of the greatest field generals in history to a twelve-year price history of more than 500 stocks to twenty years of print run and pricing data for modern age comic books.  This is data that is not available anywhere, or not for less than $5000, and I can’t replace it or recreate it.  The latter fact is especially crushing: the biggest reason why I can’t replace it is that I can’t even call to mind more than a fraction of what was lost.  For months or years going forward, I will experience over and over again the sensation of wanting elusive information, then remembering that I had exactly what I want, but that it’s gone.  Anyone who knows me, really knows me, is aware of how much of who I am is this making of lists and rankings, and the gathering and refinement of data to draw conclusions, some profound and some less so.  It feels like I’ve lost functionality somehow, because what I see in the world is data and how to use it, and now I’m half blind.  I don’t complain much in this forum.  I understand that I could, because it’s my forum, but I don’t enjoy it, really.  It’s no fun thinking about how bad things suck, and I would always rather think about what I’m going to do to win anyway.  This has really got me, though, because it’s going to take so much time just to size up the loss that I can’t put myself past it.  I have to dwell on it for a while so that I can try to remember everything that I had.  I don’t know when I’ll get another FSX update done, for example, because I lost all the price history and the component weightings and the index average formulas when my market data spreadsheet vanished.  I know I can create something serviceable, but I’m not sure I can recreate what I had and, worse, I’m having trouble getting motivated to redo all the things I’ve done.  The gout and headache and sore throat and fever are partially to blame for that, of course, and maybe when I’m healthy I’ll have my creative drive restored as well.  I went to the doctor today and the quick strep test was negative, but they’re sending off for a culture and I’m getting some Zithromax because it evidently really seems a lot like strep.

Taken together, this past weekend has felt like as comprehensive a personal defeat as I’ve suffered since my recovery (still nothing compared to that, of course).  It probably sounds crazy for me to say that, considering my Mom died in May of last year, but as nasty as that was, I was able to take the full measure of the situation in a relatively short period of time and devise a plan to do what had to be done.  And I’m okay with how I handled it all.  My sister posted this weekend about some unresolved feelings of regret she has, and I understand what she’s saying, but be assured I feel nothing of the sort.  Mom died that week in particular because of medical malpractice, and she put herself in the debased condition that precipitated her death.  We could not have overridden her husband’s authority to take direct control of her affairs, and none of us could have unilaterally changed our relationships with her.  She dominated those relationships, primarily through surprise and sabotage.  I did what I could, and more than was required.  I have the tactical and psychological underpinnings in place to get myself entirely beyond that tragedy.  Am I going to have the occasional sobbing breakdown because my Mom is dead?  Sure I am.  I still have those moments when I think about my Dad and he’s been dead for 17 years.  But this, this loss of a year of my work, could have been prevented by less sloppy data backup practices.  It is my fault.  Well, it’s the fault of Apple, whose products I can now happily boycott, but I could have taken steps to limit the carnage.  And I didn’t.

In 1806, the mighty Prussian army marched forth from Berlin to sort out the upstart French Emperor, having been at peace with France since 1796, when Napoleon was a mere artillery commander in the Army of Italy.  This was, after all, the army of Frederick the Great, the terror of 18th Century Europe, and the French should have been terrified.  But Frederick had been dead for 20 years, and those years had not been kind to the institution he employed to such devastating effect.  With astounding overconfidence they rushed to meet the Grande Armee without waiting to be enforced by Russia from the East.  In the resulting Battles of Jena and Auerstadt the Prussians were annihilated and Napoleon marched triumphantly into Berlin.  Upon visiting the grave of Frederick the Great, he remarked to his marshals that had Frederick still lived, they would not be in Berlin that day.  He was right, and anyone who doubted the scale of the Prussians’ folly did so no longer when the 1807 Treaties of Tilsit stripped Prussia of half her territory and relegated her to a vassal of France.  It was as shocking and swift a fall for a Great Power as has been seen before or since.

In 1905, the Russian Empire stood at the end of two centuries of expansion that had made it the world’s largest contiguous state–as it is today.  Russia needed a warm-water port in the Pacific, it’s leaders reckoned, if it was to project naval power around the world.  The Russians found themselves pitted against the upstart Empire of Japan for control of Port Arthur, in China, as well as for overall dominance in Far Eastern Asia.  The Russians sent a powerful fleet around the world to China, and expected to easily defeat a people they believed to be technologically and racially inferior.  But at the Battle of Tsushima Japanese Admiral Togo crossed the T of the Russian Fleet and delivered for Japan as complete a naval victory as could have been imagined.  The Russians lost the war and the shock of the defeat convulsed Russian society, forcing the Tsar to accept a limited constitution.

Why do I mention these two undeniably atrocious defeats in the context of my major setback?  Jena-Auerstadt shocked the Prussian establishment, but when it looked inward it found its intrinsic strength.  Reformers held sway in the military thereafter, and by the time Napoleon’s army was broken in Russia in 1812, the Prussians were prepared to reassert themselves as a leading force in Europe.  Blucher’s Prussians were a decisive factor in slamming the door on Napoleon once and for all at Waterloo.  The reforms continued and Prussia was transformed into the most dynamic state in greater Germany, eclipsing Austria and finally installing Kaiser Wilhelm I on the throne of a German Empire in 1871, in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, no less.  The power of the Prussian military machine was not finally broken until 1945, and even then it took the combined efforts of the world’s two superpowers to win through to absolute victory.  Russia also looked inward after Tsushima, and it saw irreparable cracks in the foundation of Russian society.  The absolutist monarchy was out of touch with the peasantry and unable to recruit and co-opt the educated, largely emigre intelligensia.  When those men returned to Russia during the First World War, Social Democrats, Mensheviks and, of course, Bolsheviks, they came to destroy.  The Tsarist government saw no long-term strength and salvation for itself, and sought only to hold the edifice together as long as possible–12 more years, as it happened.

I’m pretty busted up right now, and I don’t see clearly what I need to do first.  But I am determined that this will be a Jena-Auerstadt moment in my work, and not my Tsushima.

January 29, 2011

How I’m Going To Die

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 12:09

Something is wrong with my reflexes.  My movements are always more forceful and energetic than is necessary or than I intend, and I am utterly incapable of graceful or delicate motion.  A few days ago I was scrubbing the floor in the AFR, working around the legs of the air hockey table, and I slammed my hand into the edge of the table leg.  Ouch, you say.  Well, the pain was not the problem, as I didn’t have much feeling in my extremities at the time.  The problem was the profuse bleeding that made it difficult to clean the floor.  The protrusion on which I gored myself was not particularly sharp, but I hit it so hard that I put an inch-long gash in my thumb.  Recently I was washing dishes in the sink and I reached down into the soapy water so hard that I sunk a knife into my thumb–the same thumb, now that I think about it.  Did you know that you can reach hard?  Just now I was pulling clothes out of the washing machine so hard that my hand flew up and I smacked my thumb–the same thumb–into the drying rack behind and above my head, and I busted it open again.  How I didn’t bleed to death at some point during the years when my blood didn’t clot I will never know.  I am a clumsy person by nature, and I see that nature expressed in my youngest daughter already.  Reagan falls down or runs into a wall/door/table at least once a day, for no other reason than that she is Reagan and her father is me.  I am a special case, though, because I am aggressively and powerfully clumsy.  I’m not reckless, so I don’t attempt perilous feats that require dexterity or precision, knowing as I do that I have neither.  But I still have to scrub the floor and wash the dishes and do the laundry, and I do it all so hard that I think I might fare better in a knife fight than I fare cleaning the house.  Right now I can absorb the damage, being as I am still relatively young and healthy.  But I realize that when Katie and I are planning for our expenses in retirement I will have to factor in paying someone else to do the chores.  Otherwise I’m going to bleed out at 70, trying to sort the silverware.

January 28, 2011

Attritional Warfare

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 19:58

This confrontation is shaping up to be epic.  Brinkley’s poop-challenged and I’m hobbled, so we’re about even in terms of fuse-shortening.  Now my throat is feeling a bit like an inside-out mitten and I’m running a fever.  I thought that would put me in a tough position, needing a knockout blow to compensate for structural weakness–think Russia’s 1916 Brusilov Offensive–but then Katie wondered whether there might, in fact, be more to Brankie’s crankiness than just a loaded colon.  Low and behold, he’s got a fever as well!  Looks like nobody’s coming out of this one unscathed.  It’s the internal enemies that finish you–ask the last Tsar of Russia.

FSX Friday Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 17:30

U.S. equity markets fell sharply on Friday in reaction to unrest in the streets of Egypt.  Sounds good, right?  Sounds perfectly plausible.  Looks nasty, what’s happening in Egypt.  And if those pictures were being taken in New York and not in Alexandria or Cairo, we’d have a problem.  But they aren’t and we don’t.  It is total garbage to suggest that the upheaval in the Arab world caused the Friday downdraft in financial markets in the U.S.  Now, if this was happening in Saudi Arabia or China, that would be a different story.  What is happening is that poor people in poor countries have gotten fed up with multi-decade regimes that enrich the leaders and their cronies and do nothing for the millions of ordinary people to whom they own their positions.  Good for them—they should throw the bums out, and that’s what they are doing.  But the key takeaway for the U.S. economy is that these are poor countries: we aren’t dependent on them for resources (Saudi Arabia, Russia), they aren’t major sources of capital (Europe, Japan), they aren’t key links in the global manufacturing supply chain (China, Vietnam), and they aren’t even major consumers of U.S. exports (all the above).  This is an amazing thing that is happening in Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, and whoever is next.  But it’s got nothing to do with what happened to the U.S. markets—the Nasdaq especially—on Friday.

What’s happening in the U.S. stock market is differentiated reward and punishment.  The broader economic picture is unbalanced and opaque, just as it has been.  We get more and more data—housing starts, GDP, unemployment claims, inflation numbers, and so on—and there’s no clear trend emerging to raise or lower expectations for the baseline performance of the economy.  What happens as a result is that the performance of individual companies relative to the expectations priced into the stock of those companies is the dynamic driving the headline averages.  Some push us up (GE, Caterpillar, IBM, Qualcomm) and some push us down (Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, AT&T—man, ampersands didn’t pay off this week, did they?).  The ups and downs are about even, taking a broad view, and so the market finishes about where it starts.  In fact, that’s what happened this week, with the S&P down just 0.5%.

So it was a nothing week for the Family Stock Index, right?  We closed this afternoon at 1242.40, less than 0.4% above where we were a week ago, and the advance-decline ratio was an unremarkable 13-9-1.  Sure, nothing happened, except that we powered our way to a new multi-year intraday high yesterday, albeit by a few tenths of a point, and we finished above 1273, a record close.  Then we fell of a cliff today, giving back 34 points (2.7%).  At one point on Thursday the advance-decline ratio was 22 to 1, with only poor three-legged Winston in the red for the week.  Today, every stock was lower except for RBY.  Here were the best performers as of yesterday’s pinnacle, with their subsequent losses in parenthesis:

  1. Zondro +11.4% (-3.4%)
  2. Katie +10.7% (-4.6%)
  3. Lisa +10.1% (-3.3%)
  4. Marisa +9.7% (-4.8%)
  5. Lee +7% (-7.2%)
  6. Reagan +6.4% (-5.6%)
  7. Jenny +6.3% (-5%)
  8. Marcus +5.5% (-4.7%)

I’m the only one of that group of erstwhile leaders who was so thoroughly destroyed on Friday that I went negative for the week.  I woke up in the middle of the night with a gout attack, my first in several months, and that’s what you get.

Advancers

  • Zondro (ZRAN) +7.6%.  The breakout star of the week, even after a 3%-plus drop on Friday.  I can say with a high degree of confidence that Zondro has no interest whatever in the baby, and so he is very probably not going to be killed for looking at Prince Brinkles funny.  This leap should exhaust the short sellers, and Zondro will have to perform on his own merits going forward.  Probably time to sell.
  • Katie (CATY) +5.7%.  Tuesday will be rough, but the Empress actually likes her job and it won’t be a terrible thing to go back.  The real kicker here is that we’re getting honest-to-goodness smiles out of Brinkley over the last three days or so, and Katie saw one first.  I’ve gotten a few glimpses since then, and Jenny says he’s even smiled at her, but his first real smile was for his mommy, as it should be.
  • Lisa (LSI) +6.4% and Ruby (RBY) +2.9%.  Rallying along with Katie as the much-neglected mommy sector gets a broad-based lift.

Decliners

  • Brinkley (BCO) -3.4%. Hasn’t pooped for another four days now and I’m convinced he’s saving it all up for Tuesday morning.  I’ve got no proportionate military response for a week’s worth of poop.  Worse still, containment is out of the question when you’re dealing with an actual poop river; many very serviceable sleepers have been drowned over the past five weeks.  I have no field works, no redoubts, no reserves: he won’t poop, he won’t nap, he won’t sit by himself for more than 30 seconds, and I will be alone against him for ten hours a day, five days a week.  I say against because it is against.  It is his will against mine, the son against the father, III against II, constipation against gout.  This will be my greatest challenge.  No, that was detox in the psych ward.  This will be my second greatest challenge.  My only advantage is, I hope, the decisive one: I’ve done this before and he hasn’t.  He thinks he can scream forever but I know he can’t.  He thinks he can’t sleep anywhere but on his mother, but guess what, son?  That’s what Jenny thought, and it’s what Reagan thought, and they found out that they were wrong.  Well, not Reagan; I had to sleep in her room with her when Jenny went to New York last month.  But Jenny was wrong, and that’s one out of two.  I like those odds.  I mean, I don’t like them but I don’t not like them.  Not not liking the situation is going to have to do, at least between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm Monday through Friday.
  • Winston (HWD) -6.1%.  When Marvel asked Stan Lee to create its first superhero team, he went with the Fantastic Four, not the Thrilling Three.  The rest, as they say, was history.  Fours up, threes down.

Name Ticker 1/28/11 Change
Brinkley BCO $26.56 -0.93
Charlotte ICE $116.91 +0.32
Dustin DST $46.69 +0.02
Icarus ICA $9.85 -0.34
Jenny LEN $19.66 +0.19
Justin WOLF $2.90 -0.01
Katie CATY $17.12 +0.92
Lee LEE $2.98 -0.02
Lisa LSI $6.13 +0.37
Lucas LEI $2.27 +0.01
Lulu LULU $68.61 +1.66
Marcus MCS $11.71 +0.06
Mario T.E. PBY $13.98 -0.17
Mario T.Y. SUP $20.06 -0.19
Marisa MOLX $25.81 +1.10
Nicole B. NI $18.61 unch
Nicole L. COL $63.81 +0.10
Reagan REGN $33.45 +0.17
Ruby RBY $4.96 +0.14
Wilson WILC $7.01 -0.09
Winston HWD $10.52 -0.68
Zero FRZ $3.59 -0.10
Zondro ZRAN $9.53 +0.67

January 25, 2011

Heated Foot Rags Needed

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 13:37

The Silesian Expedition has bogged down in cold and sogginess.  When I mop a floor I begin with my shoes on, but this is invariably a tactical dead-end for me.  It is probably a lack of mopping skill on my part, but I can never get my shoes to stay clean enough to avoid making little shoe-prints all over areas of the floor I’ve already cleaned.  A natural tactician would undoubtedly size up the terrain and make the appropriate dispositions so that it wouldn’t happen this way, but I can never manage to position my bucket, rags, and mop-rinsing facilities such that I don’t track back over the ground I cover.  I have solved this problem in the house by mopping in my stocking feet.  My socks function like little rags and facilitate the mopping process, and it’s also weirdly fun to mop in socks.  The house is usually somewhere between 62 and 65 degrees; the Apple Floor Room, in contrast, was a brisk 45 degrees when I began mopping this morning.  I abandoned the shoes almost immediately, but as soon as my socks were soaked I perceived my error.  I finished the job, but in the end I judged that I was better off ditching the socks and the mop and scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees, the latter being somehow impervious to cold.  I dispatched the equivalent of a brigade in the direction of the patio furniture, but it was only a martial display and a means to test my new pressure washer.  The test was successful and also cold.  The enemy holds the patio and will have doubtless re-manned his undamaged investments, but he is welcome to them under these inhospitable conditions.  I took a shot at the chest freezer with the pressure washer but that was only a Dolittle Raid of sorts.  It did make me feel a little better, and also cold.  I have retreated to the house to thaw my feet.  I want to do more below and outside, but the blood in my veins is French, not Russian.

My Silesia

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 10:21

The central pillar of the German military ethos from the time of King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia to the transformative defeat in the Second World War has been a simple one: get them before they get you.  Germany occupies a central position on the European continent, with France and Russia poised on either side, eager to exploit German weakness separately or in concert.  Friedrich Wilhelm built a fearsome army, but his loyalty to the Habsburg Emperor meant that he made little use of it.  His son, Friedrich II, had no such compunctions.  One of the most audacious commanders in all of history, the man we know as Frederick the Great spent his life in the field, leading his army against each of the great powers in turn and elevating Prussia to the level of France, Austria and Russia.  When he ascended the throne, Prussia was vigorous but poor, and her territories were dispersed throughout northern Germany.  Friedrich wrested Silesia from the Habsburgs and that triumph allowed him to take part in a partition of Poland that finally unified electoral Brandenburg and royal Prussia into one contiguous state.  On the way to greatness he was almost annihilated, and it took the sudden death of the Russia Tsarina to save him from oblivion, but those are the chances one must take to transcend.  Friederich was an artist of warfare and his legacy was a Prussian, and later Imperial German, military willing to take risks that no other nation would take and to do so as a matter of course.  Peace was not a luxury the position of the Prussian state allowed; she was built through war and only through war could she survive.  It was an approach to statecraft that worked spectacularly, except when it failed spectacularly.  When Friedrich took Silesia from Austria, and likewise when Bismarck annexed Alsace and Lorraine from France a century later, Prussia deliberately put itself in a position of natural weakness—holding vulnerable territory in defiance of a powerful enemy—that could only be offset by a martial vigilance that, over time, developed into pathological aggression. So it is for me in the Apple Floor Room.  The basement is nearly impossible to defend: it is poorly sealed, poorly insulated, unpopulated and lightly held.  Every natural advantage belongs to those who held it before the wars of last spring.  In the winter it is too cold, in the summer it is too hot, and I have no permanent sentries to hold its marches against spider incursions.  By annexing the AFR and declaring it an intrinsic part of the Empire I have created my own Silesia.  And that is, of course, exactly what I intended.  It is dirty and cold down there today, but I am mounting a cleaning expedition nonetheless.  Not only that, as one of the last major operations of the week remaining to me before I become a full-time baby slave, I will rehabilitate the pond furniture and add it to the AFR.  I can hold this territory.  But from the AFR, of course, I can see out to the patio and to the yard beyond.  That adventure will have to wait.  Beyond the remnants of Poland lies the Russian Empire, and I need reinforcements for that.

January 24, 2011

Ducal Standard

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 15:29

Before the long years of decline the territory administered by the Empire extended to the limits of the yard.  Five years ago the pond was well-tended and full of frogs and fish.  I would sit by the side of the pond in the summer and feed the koi and the goldfish, and I would listen to the frogs chirping, coming then as close to peace with the outside world as I have ever come.  The frogs would usually jump into the pond when I came near, but sometimes they would stay out of the water if they were confident in the hiding places they’d chosen.  There were times when, if I could spot a tiny chirper nestled in a clutch of leaves and could sit down myself without disturbing him, I might find myself watching him for what seemed like forever.  Maybe he knew I was there, maybe he didn’t.  Of course, before long I began to take a glass of cognac out with me every time I visited the pond, and then I stopped going out all together.  Now it is in ruins, my Grand Duchy, once so bound up with the business of the Empire and now as remote as though there were an ocean between here and there, not just a lot of dead grass and dog poop.

Today I retrieved a table and chairs from the thorn snares raised around the pond’s perimeter by the Yard Dominion of the Spiders.  Beside them I found this ornament:

It is affixed to the end of a six-foot pole, and on the other end is a dirty stake.  I have no memory of this thing despite the evidence of its having been planted by the pond’s edge once upon a time.  It’s upsetting that I don’t remember, but also entirely fitting.  What this thing was and whence it came are lost to me, but no matter.  It will now be my ducal standard, and I will plant it again by the edge of the pond when I restore it to the status of Grand Duchy under the aegis of the Empire.  I will see this done, although I can’t say with certainty that it will be soon.  I can accept whatever delay is necessary to do the job properly; time is, finally, on my side.

January 23, 2011

Baby Barbarossa

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 13:52

Conventional wisdom seems to be that each with each successive baby the labor and delivery process becomes easier, ostensibly because the mother’s body has been conditioned to do what must be done.  There is inherent lady functionality, of course, for baby incubation and ejection, but you never really know if a piece of complex engineering is going to work until it does.  Sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s why there are caesarean sections.  What I like to see in a doctor is a sense of judicious trepidation: I don’t want the doctor to be confident that the lady parts are going to work as they should, I want him to be confident that he can work around any malfunction of said lady parts.  Probably, almost certainly, a mother having her third baby will deliver without incident and without extraordinary assistance, and it’s helpful, from a stress and tension standpoint, for the mother and father to assume that will be the case.  The doctor, on the other hand, should assume nothing regarding probability of success and should certainly not convey to the excitable father that he is doing so.  There is a fine line between confidence and nonchalance, and you cross that line at great peril.

There was a comprehensive plan for the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.  Objectives, contingencies, logistics, all of it.  The German General Staff was arguably the best in the world, even allowing for the Führer’s incessant meddling.  But behind the plan was an assumption that the plan was, itself, entirely unnecessary.  “The structure of the Soviet Union is rotten,” Hitler famously told his generals.  “All we have to do is kick in the door and it will come crashing down.”  He was certain that the people of the Soviet Union did not believe in their government and that they were right to doubt, because that government was so incompetent that all the resources of Russia would come to nought owing to the Bolsheviks’ inability to use them.  This had been Germany’s experience in France, after all.  The French army was not destroyed by the Wehrmacht; it died of shock.  So what if Operation Barbarossa doesn’t work?  It doesn’t matter, because the Soviet Union will collapse before any flaws in the plan could be brought to bear.  Flaws such as, I don’t know, overextended and vulnerable lines of supply and reinforcement, or gross underestimation of the mobility and scalability of Soviet industry, and so on.  The ‘plan’ had just three elements: (1) we hit them, (2) they fall down, (3) and they stay down.  If a general asked Hitler what would happen if they didn’t stay down, the answer was, “they will stay down, and you’re fired.”

So the doctor comes into the triage room and he says, “so are you ready to have a baby?”  We were, in fact, ready to have a baby, and we said as much.  “I’m just sitting around here watching ESPN,” he says, “so I figure I’ll just break your water and you’ll have a baby.  It’s your third, so that ought to do it.”  The Empress was thrilled to hear this news.  I was horrified.  “Holy shit,” I said, once the doctor had departed.  “We’re going to just see the spires of the Kremlin and that will be it.  There’s no plan.  We’re going to be stopped 15 miles outside of Moscow.  This is 1941.  This is a nightmare.”  “It’ll be fine,” she said.  “And you’re crazy.”  “Maybe so,” I allowed.  “But crazy is not a synonym of wrong.  It’s Operation Barbarossa and our doctor is Hitler.”  This is what I said, because this is what I thought, because this is what I am.

As it turns out, what ought to have happened after the doctor broke the Empress’ water is what happened: Prince Brinkles was born a few hours later.  So why was I wrong?  What I failed to consider in assessing the impact of historical precedent is that this same doctor also happened to deliver both Jenny and Reagan, and thus the fact that he was, by chance, on call just then locked us into a delivery window of destiny stronger than the curse of medical nonchalance.  My apologies, Doktor Führer; I will not doubt you again.

January 21, 2011

FSX Friday Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 17:18

What happened this week is not what I expected to happen—a straight drop—but it is what I should have expected to happen.  I predicted that the market was expecting a sell-off, but what the market was actually expecting was a buying opportunity.  Sell-offs and buying opportunities look the same when you’re watching the ticker, but they are very different creatures.  Let me explain.

  • Monday Apple announced that Steve Jobs would be taking a medical leave of absence.  AAPL, having run up from $320 to $348 in just two weeks, sold off 20+ points in the pre-market.
  • However, the topical buzz decisively and almost immediately went the other way at the open on Tuesday.  What a great buying opportunity! the pundits shouted.  A great stock at a $20 discount?  Sign me up!  And up they signed.  AAPL rallied throughout the day, closing at $340, down barely 2%.
  • Apple destroyed earnings estimates after the close on Tuesday, and it jumped after hours to above the $348 where it had traded before the Jobs announcement.  This, as it turns out, was when the suckers started piling in.
  • On Wednesday, AAPL opened at its all-time high of $348.  Then it sold off gradually all day, ending down at $339.
  • On Thursday, the selling continued and the stock finished below $333.
  • On Friday, AAPL dropped even more, sliding below where it had opened on the negative news Tuesday morning—$326.

This action in AAPL is similar to what happened to the Family Stock Index.  I predicted a drop at the open on Tuesday, and what we got instead was an apparent extension of the powerful Friday rally.  The FSX closed at a new high of 1276, but it was as false as the AAPL rally turned out to be.  I could have seen it in the breadth, had I looked.  On Friday advancers beat decliners 18 to 5, yet on Tuesday, when the average added 10 points, decliners actually outnumbered advancers 13 to 10.  I was the trickster on Tuesday, soaring 17% and adding 13 points to the index.  Without that head-fake, we’d have been down slightly.  Then the bottom fell out on Wednesday: four of us dropped between 3 and 4 percent, four more lost between 4 and 5 percent, and Reagan, Zero, and I gave up 6%, 10%, and 11%, respectively.  Decliners swamped advancers 20 to 3 and the FSX slid 43 points, or 3.4%.  The next day the selling continued and we yielded another 13 points, bottoming around 1220 before firming up on Friday.  We end the week at 1237.10, down just 2.3% when all was said and done.  A full-fledged correction would take us down below 1150 on the FSX and there’s a part of me that would still like to see that happen.  44% straight up—the move in the index from the end of August through this past Tuesday—isn’t healthy, even if it is fun.

Advancers

  • Mario the Elder (PBY) +7.3%.  Something big is happening in Hilton Head today.  Mario was down 6% through yesterday before spiking by as much as 29% this afternoon.  I don’t know what bag of fun he’s emptied down there, but two things are clear: (1) the effects are localized and (2) Ruby is out of town.
  • LEE +4.2%.  I have been all over the place the past six days after going nowhere for about a month and a half.  Just look at these numbers: Thursday 1/13: +13%, Friday 1/14: +4%, Monday 1/17: market closed, Tuesday 1/18: +17%, Wednesday 1/19: -11%, Thursday 1/20: -5%, Friday 1/21: +5%.  It is really hitting me that I’m about to hand over the next 5 ½ years of my life to Prince Brinkles, the angry baby who doesn’t like anyone but his mommy.  My new job starts February 1 when the aforementioned mommy returns to work.  Sometimes you carry a life change around on your skin for a while before it permeates and you feel the impact on your innards.  Then it all soaks in and you trade down 11% in a day.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself and the market clearly doesn’t know what to do with me, either.
  • Nicole L. (COL) +2.5%.  Has been trending up for weeks and, unlike many other momentum plays, continued moving higher this week as well.  Merger rumors have been swirling around here, but I can’t confirm anything as of this writing.  It’s also not clear who would be taking over and who would be taken, but the market is putting the acquisition premium on Nicole.
  • Winston (HWD) +3.2%.  And a little bit on the dog.

Decliners

  • Reagan (REGN) -3.5%.  Reagan really believed that one of her friends was going to buy her an iPod Touch for her birthday, and she sold the market on the impossible dream coming true.  Up 3% to a new 52-week high on Tuesday, REGN collapsed on Wednesday and finished sharply lower on the week when her friend bought her a $10 doll instead.  The lesson is here is that it’s best to UPOD: under-promise and over-deliver.  Reagan OPUDed and she paid the price.
  • Katie (CATY) -6.4%.  Preparing to have an emotional breakdown when she leaves Mr. B after next week.  We will all be crying together on the 1st, albeit for different reasons: Katie because she won’t be with Brinkley all day, me because I will be, Brinkley because he still can’t poop without a suppository.
  • Mario T.Y. (SUP) -6.7%.  Takeover arbitrage definition: simultaneous purchase of stock in a target company and sale of stock in its potential acquirer.  I’m not saying anything, I’m just saying.
  • Lisa (LSI) -7.4%.  This slump goes out to all the East Coast parents who’ve been spending way too much time with their kids during the recent inclement weather.  I feel your pain.
  • Marcus (MCS) -10.4%.  The sell-off has now deepened to the point that it can’t be just the Millennium Newspapers—Marcus is down more than 20% since Dec. 10 and now languishing in bear territory.  I was hung up on the newspapers, but Katie figured out what’s really happening: no meat and no blog posts.  Time to have a steak and give us an update, Teach.
  • Ruby (RBY) -15%.  Again, I don’t know what’s going on in Hilton Head, but Ruby might want to hurry home before it gets out of hand and/or she misses out.

Name Ticker 1/21/11 Change
Brinkley BCO $27.49 unch
Charlotte ICE $116.59 +0.32
Dustin DST $46.67 +0.12
Icarus ICA $10.19 -0.06
Jenny LEN $19.47 -1.16
Justin WOLF $2.91 -0.07
Katie CATY $16.20 -1.11
Lee LEE $3.00 +0.12
Lisa LSI $5.76 -0.46
Lucas LEI $2.26 -0.12
Lulu LULU $66.95 -4.86
Marcus MCS $11.65 -1.35
Mario SUP $20.25 -1.46
Mario T.E. PBY $14.15 +0.96
Marisa MOLX $24.71 -0.08
Nicole B. NI $18.61 +0.04
Nicole L. COL $63.71 +1.54
Reagan REGN $33.28 -1.22
Ruby RBY $4.82 -0.86
Wilson WILC $7.10 +0.20
Winston HWD $11.20 +0.35
Zero FRZ $3.69 +0.11
Zondro ZRAN $8.86 -0.41

January 19, 2011

Sleep Smile!

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 22:07

I worked on this for about fifteen minutes just now:

I also got sleep grump:

And sleep outrage:

And now my job is done.

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