Mr. Sensitive

February 28, 2011

Operation Simba – Week Five

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 11:31

It’s difficult to believe that we’re in the fifth week of operations, and yet here we are, my personal incredulity notwithstanding.  The boy is relatively pacific this morning.  His morning routine seems to have been disrupted by a late evening–we didn’t go to bed until after 11 pm–and considerable restlessness throughout the night, but this lack of synchronicity has not coincided with any noticeable discontent or agitation, at least not yet.  For my part, I find myself accosted less by the boy and more by the season.  Spring has arrived in force, with 75 degree days and the unwelcome stirring of life in the Yard Dominion.  It’s as though I can feel the micro-spiders twitching in their eggs sacs, impatient to emerge and engorge.  The Austrian Emperor Leopold must have suffered similar disquiet at the close of the 17th century; having only just driven the Turks back from the gates of Vienna in the East, he had to deal with the pretensions and ambitions of France’s King Louis XIV in the West.  Ah, to have my own English Channel or Julian Alps, a natural barrier to enemy incursions!  I need to move quickly now.  Before the first half of March is past I must retrieve temperature-sensitive archival boxes from the attic, secure and militarize my borders in the basement and garages, rehabilitate Reagan’s bike, and develop a high-level plan for Spring and Summer yard campaigns.  I prefer to move not when I am threatened, but when I am provoked, and the return of life to the yard is provocation enough.

February 27, 2011

New Weapon

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 14:57

He has developed a poop-cannon.  He waited until Katie and Jenny departed for Jenny’s gymnastics meet to unveil the weapon, because of course he did.  I knew I was in for it, and I considered myself prepared, with the necessary field works constructed and the requisite maneuvers drilled to perfection.  He concentrates his fecal forces over several days to generate man-sized loads, so he routinely exceeds the capacity of his diapers and I am forced to air him out on the changing apparatus and contain his muster as best as I can.  I have a nose plug and I can weather a ten-minute volley reasonably well, or so I thought.  I’m not new to this, and I know the risks that come with un-diapered combat.  I am quite adroit when it comes to getting his little unit covered before he gets a chance to spray me.  He’s only gotten me once and that was because I foolishly used a bib to cover him and it slid down to where he had a shot through the neck-hole (which he took, immediately).  But surely he couldn’t poop on me, laterally and at distance.  I believed that I was holding the diaper at the proper angle and that I was well out of range.  But he is strong, my boy.  He hit me with it right in the stomach–hard.  Now there’s nothing to do but retreat and lick my wounds.  And by lick I mean bleach.

February 25, 2011

FSX Friday Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 17:17

The U.S. equity markets pulled back sharply this week, but the catalyst for the pullback—chaos in mid-tier oil exporter Libya—was not, in fact, the reason for the pullback.  The reason that stocks sold off is that stocks needed to sell off.  Losses were broad-based, yes, primarily because ETF trading puts a high degree of uniform pressure on large-cap stocks.  But the stocks that got crushed during the worst of the selling—Tuesday and Wednesday—were the drivers of the recent rally, the consumer technology stocks on which momentum traders have doubled-down and doubled-down again in the last few months.  Does Libya hurt Apple the company?  Not really.  So why did it hurt AAPL the stock?  Because Libya was the catalyst, not the cause.  Higher oil prices will be a huge negative for consumer spending and corporate profits, but Saudi Arabia can and will replace Libyan production by itself.  I don’t view this week’s pullback as anything other than traders taking profits in a market that everyone knows was short-term overbought in the extreme.  The nice rebound we enjoyed from midday Thursday through to the close today was tacit confirmation for me that the selloff was more technical than fundamental.  If the situation in Bahrain goes south or unrest spreads to Saudi Arabia, then we’ll have a bigger problem.  And as I’ve said before, the market is structurally unsound overall because its valuation is underpinned by artificial liquidity.  When inflation takes hold at the retail level, the world’s central banks will be forced to pull the liquidity supports out and we will see a sharp drop in financial asset prices.  Those prices will then be forced to recalibrate based on the real growth prospects for the economy (as opposed to nominal growth), and we will see whether the Fed has been able to use monetary policy to stimulate genuine, sustainable business activity.  That’s Bernanke’s great gamble, and the long-term direction of the market depends upon its success or failure.  I can’t say whether it will work or not because I don’t think it’s ever been attempted on this scale, but I sure hope it does.

The Family Stock Index, high-beta as it is, suffered more than the market overall, and we sunk below 1249 at the trading nadir on Wednesday.  That represented a pullback of more than 5% from the prior week’s highs, but the FSX snapped back strongly from there to end the week down just 2% at 1281.19.  Decliners still swamped advancers 18 to 5, but many of those losers finished at their highs, perhaps presaging a reserve of strength for next week.  As I’ve been saying for a while, we were tremendously overbought, much more so than the any of the major averages, and thus the drop this week should be surprising to no one.  From a technical standpoint, I would like to see us trade between 1200 and 1300 over the next six months, giving leaders a breather and allowing for rotation into some of our laggards, and setting us up for another leg higher in the Fall.  I would not trust any push to new highs that occurs before May, but that’s just me.


  • Zondro (ZRAN) +20%.  So much for ZRAN.  Zondro soared from the start of trading this week on news that British firm CSR is buying him for nearly $700 million.  The good news is that my share of the proceeds (he’s my dog, no?) should more than cover the $200 million or so that I still owe Dustin for the data salvage operation earlier this month.  I owe imaginary market cap gains and now I shall remit in kind.  The bad news is that I’ve got to come up with a new stock to replace Zondro in the FSX.  There’s more than a bit of grousing among ZRAN shareholders concerning the adequacy of the CSR bid, so I suspect I will have time while that plays out.  As it stands, though, Zondro is now the best performer of 2011, coming up on what I believe is his 1st birthday.  Happy birthday, I suppose—here’s $700 million and a one-way ticket to London.
  • Marcus (MCS) +2.6%.  The strongest of a group of stocks that helped us tack on 25 points Friday, but unlike Brinkley, Reagan and Jenny (are they planning something?), Marcus made it into the green for the week.  Blog volume has been strong and the tone is leaning positive–it could be that he put in a bottom in the neighborhood of $11.25 back at the end of January.  Still negative for 2011, but now by 4% instead of 15%.
  • Wilson (WILC) +1.1%.  Wilson and Zondro are outside dogs.  That is what I intended for current and future canines when we bought a house with a big yard and paid a sizable amount to have it fenced in over ten years ago now.  Sometimes the dogs like their outsideness and sometimes they don’t, but the arrival of Spring is an indubitable boon to both, and it’s no coincidence that both have rallied as a challenging market climate has been trumped by a palliative actual climate.
  • Dustin (DST) +0.7%.  Notable for notching our only fresh 52-week high this week, Dustin is presumably counting on a Zondro-related payoff.  Well, as soon as I get my $700 million, the $200 million check will be in the mail.  Hell, I’ll deliver it myself in the hovercraft I’m buying with my ZRAN millions.


  • Mario the Younger (SUP) -4.7%.  Some collateral grousing found its way to my ears last week, and I have but one thing to say in my defense: don’t hate the player, hate the game.
  • Katie (CATY) -5.4%.  Player-hating: it’s a family thing.
  • LULU -6.4%.  Fat and mean is a tough sell in a down market.
  • Zero (FRZ) -6.9%.  Zero was up 32% in the first month of the year and has gradually but inexorably frittered away more than half of that gain since.  This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, bro.  I say it’s time to storm the castle.  Who’s your CEO and why isn’t he you?  I know my sister, and my sister needs clothing made out of lithe, heat-trapping space silk.  You know that’s going to get expensive.
  • Icarus (ICA) -7.5% and Justin (WOLF) -8.9%.  If Katie and Jenny hadn’t talked to Justin this week I would be genuinely concerned about the cliff-falling-off-of scenario.  Admittedly, that would have been more likely to have played out in Switzerland than in Chicago, so maybe I should worry about my brother and his spirit animal falling into Lake Michigan instead.  What was really funny is that Katie had to call Justin because Jenny insisted that he ordered her an 11-inch sub at Subway, not and absolutely not a 12-inch sub, and she was unwilling to back down no matter what Katie said.  Justin was the only one who could defuse the Jenny-Katie bomb this time around, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to save us next time, especially since the market thinks he and his dog are going to drown.
Name Ticker 2/25/2011 Change
Brinkley BCO $30.90 -0.21
Charlotte ICE $126.91 -0.27
Dustin DST $51.13 +0.38
Icarus ICA $9.25 -0.75
Jenny LEN $20.32 -0.73
Justin WOLF $2.76 -0.27
Katie CATY $17.77 -1.02
Lee LEE $2.97 -0.05
Lisa LSI $6.42 -0.33
Lucas LEI $2.00 +0.06
Lulu LULU $76.83 -5.29
Marcus MCS $12.66 +0.32
Mario T.E. PBY $13.93 -0.18
Mario T.Y. SUP $19.71 -0.98
Marisa MOLX $27.58 -0.64
Nicole B. NI $18.95 -0.15
Nicole L. COL $64.76 -2.11
Reagan REGN $37.00 -0.48
Ruby RBY $5.08 -0.13
Wilson WILC $7.52 +0.08
Winston HWD $12.21 -0.09
Zero FRZ $3.12 -0.23
Zondro ZRAN $11.22 +1.90


Brusilov Brink

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 14:39

In the annals of war between great powers, especially those that have evolved into wars of attrition, we see many examples of a tactical virtuoso whose performances, while stunning, are simply too costly in terms of men, materiel, and political and diplomatic credibility to be borne by the nation unfortunate enough to have produced such an inappropriate military genius.  These are commanders who win battles and lose wars.  Alexei Brusliov, the most distinguished Russian general of the First World War, was such a commander.  Brusilov conceived and executed a massive 1916 offensive, showcasing a level of refinement in combined arms tactics that would take two more years to be paralleled in the West, and in so doing virtually disemboweled the Austro-Hungarian army and forced Germany to divert considerable strength from the battlefields of Verdun and the Somme in the West.  The Brusilov Offensive turned Austria into a mere military appendage of the German Empire for the remainder of the war.  Unfortunately for Brusilov and his commander-in-chief, Tsar Nicholas II, the 1.5 million casualties suffered by Russia in bringing off this triumph were more than she could bear, and the tsar’s government was overthrown just a few months after the offensive ground to a halt.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated completely in 1918 but Tsar Nicholas didn’t live to see it happen, having been murdered with his entire family by the Bolsheviks in 1917.  The Brusilov Offensive was an even greater tactical success than its architect had expected, but his nation could not afford that success, and so the war effort was fatally undermined and centuries of Russian history and culture were overturned.

The lesson of Brusilov’s offensive (and that launched by German General Ludendorff in the West two years later) is that you must win sustainably.  The energy needed to deliver a knockout blow is almost always enough to produce a knockout, but not always in the way you would expect.  So Brinkley had me nearly beaten Wednesday, and I realized that it wouldn’t take much of a push for him to run me off the field the following morning.  He didn’t need much, but as it turns out, he didn’t have anything.  He slept and ate with embarrassing docility all day yesterday and, if anything, he’s even less belligerent today.  He just fell asleep in his swing, for God’s sake—he never does that!  Instead of the triumph Brinkley nearly seized mid-week, I have a clean house and a tapped-out baby.  Take that, Alexei.

New Business Cards

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 09:58

I had business cards when I worked for the bank.  I’m not sure why I had them, seeing as I had no client contact whatsoever.  I thought seriously about filling out the last business card order form with the wrong phone number so as to avoid altogether the already unlikely scenario that anyone might obtain one of my cards and use it as it was intended to be used.   I would’ve liked the business cards better if they were about me and not about the bank.  Best Bank In Town Since 1872, or You Can Tell We Want Your Business, or We Really Overpaid For First Virginia, or whatever, and then my name and title–boring.  I still have some, inexplicably, in a box in the attic, in case of nothing at all.  Stupid little cards are not necessarily instruments of commerce, however.  My uncle Taze has business cards for his house (house cards?) that he keeps by his front door.  Presumably, you would have had such a lovely and enriching visit with him that you would want to send a thank-you note, and so Taze has considerately furnished his name and address to facilitate your gratitude.  I think I should have house cards.  We all should, in fact.  Mine would say

Maréchal-général L.B. Eure the IInd

Cheez-Its In The Toilet Since 1977

My Dream

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 09:36

I want to live in a world of silence and bleach.  I wouldn’t mind having a mountain of the bones of my enemies upon which to sit and reflect, but that’s really more of a nice-to-have than a need-to-have.

February 24, 2011

Battle Of The Brinkley Towel

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 15:19

Some kiss-ass consulting firm sent the Empress (in the context of her management demesne) some monogrammed stuff for Brinkley, including a tote bag, a bib, and a large, plush towel.  Brinkley is a baby and he doesn’t need a giant towel for bathing purposes, but he does puke in his sleep sometimes and a nice, soft, absorbent towel might, I thought, be useful for napping and coincident vomit absorption.  Yesterday I led with the Brinkley Towel, and disaster ensued.  I won’t describe the Battle of the Brinkley Towel in detail, having already done so yesterday.  He hates the towel, and now, so do I.  He got towel lint all over his fat, sweaty face, and I fared even worse.  His longest nap during the 10 hours of the battle was, I believe, 18 minutes in length.  My hussars relieved me briefly but they were as unreliable as ever, and the last 90 minutes they left me unsupported against him was a period of despair and a near catastrophe.  I was done in by 6:30 last night and I knew that if he pressed me at all today, I could very well be overrun and destroyed.  As it happens, he was nearly as done in as I was.  We were lying on the couch together this morning, half-alive, when the others left us to our own devices, and I honestly think neither of us had any offensive elan whatsoever remaining.  He gave up a poop at 8:30–he holds those in when he wants to marshal his constipated fury–and he ate unreservedly and on schedule.  He then napped from 10:00 to 12:30, albeit under considerable protest at the beginning.  I improvised a variation of the Drag-Out (the Drag-Out and Rub-In) whereby I rubbed his back gently whilst applying  subtle and almost undetectable pressure to forestall the neck-craning and trunk-contorting that he used to such devastating effect yesterday.  When he awoke he ate again, and he did, as he has this entire week, refuse to be entertained or distracted by any and every contrivance of mine.  However, he proved to be as lacking in follow-through this afternoon as this morning, and he fell asleep again at about 2 pm.  He has been down since then, and while I have had to re-insert his pacifier several times during that stretch, it is a small price to pay for his quiescence.  He is waking up now, but the girls will be here in about ten minutes and I am going to foist him upon them so that I can go upstairs and exercise for half an hour.  They will take the baby, like it or not, and the devil can take their maddening, dilatory intransigence.  I’m going to watch CNBC, listen to Katy Perry, and pedal my behind off on the stationary bike.  So there.

Lessons Of Defeat

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 09:50

I lost the battle yesterday.  The Empress relieved me around 5:40 pm, and in the moment I felt such a sense of relief that it seemed as though it hadn’t been so terrible, after all.  An hour later my error was clear: the army had been shattered and I wasn’t interested in anything but sleep.  Naturally, I couldn’t sleep, and it was not until after midnight, long after the house was quiet and the downstairs was deserted, that I finally succumbed, alone, on the couch.  The victor of the battle was insultingly chipper throughout the evening and the Empress reports that he slept like a champ.  If he presses me today he can scatter my army and drive me wherever he wills.  And yet he is idle.  Either he doesn’t realize the scale of my losses and the parlous condition of the forces I have remaining—barely suitable for the parade ground, let alone the battlefield—or his triumph was more costly than it seemed.  In any event, I am preparing his room for active use today.  Yesterday I was made bitterly aware of my inability to defend in depth, and I must address that deficiency before I attempt anything else.  He is tearing me to pieces in close-quarters fighting and that has to stop.  I have baby monitors and I’m going to use them.  The monitor, you see, has volume control, whereas the actually baby does not.

February 23, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 16:39

The boy is awake and strapped to me–again–and both girls are playing outside.  Once a hussar, always a hussar.

Promotional Restraint

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 16:30

Jenny has gotten him to sleep.  It’s all I can do not to make her a Field Marshal right now.  I won’t, but only because there’s so much more war to come.  If he doesn’t wake up before the Empress returns home, I will give her the Order of Merit and she can pick what she wants for dinner.

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