Sunday, August 31, 2008

I feel punk!

Okay....I overtrained last week. After my somewhat perky morning post, I realize that I really did not feel well. I was overly tired and just lacking in energy. Well...this week, I'll aim for somewhere in between Wk1 and Wk2..

A.M. Post.

As I was researching something for you yesterday, I ran across this website blog forum (click on the image).


I created a blog there called Fit by Fifty. http://leisa.sweat365.com/ I hope that you'll consider dropping by (though you can be assured that I'll be boring you here).

I'm a singular person. I do not like to exercise in groups or even with partners. I think that because I've always had dogs (and dogs like to run more than anything else!), they have been my eager exercise partners. In fact, I would say that they have been my greatest motivators.

Lucy and Greta were my original training partners. When they would see me donn my running shoes they would get so excited--Lucy would tremble all over. Well, when you see that sort of excitement, then even if you were NOT planning on running, their enthusiasm might make you think differently.

Daisey and Macy are no different. Because they are so bad, I have to take them on the road with a leash (26' retractable). If you've never put an English Setter on a leash, you are in for an experience. For the first 1/2 mile, all Daisey does is pull--and pull hard. Once we've set a pace, though, she criss-crosses, minimizing pulling. Macy is VERY GOOD on a leash. She never pulls but her beagle nose (her nose and her bark are the only vestiges of beagle blood) sometimes causes her to be a laggard!

I think I'll update my sidebar later, with some fitness resources. It may seem weird for THIS blog, but....I don't want to have too many blogs going.

And Dr. Bob--it's quite easy to point me to a resource that I don't know about! Thanks for the recent link!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fit by Fifty: The Close of Week 2; and More Penis Talk

Two gold stars-one for each week. While you might find my calorie counting and routine mapping compulsive, it is important to me because if I don't measure these things two things will happen. Thing 1: Without measuring, I'll not be able to systematically map my progress or monitor feedback; Thing 2: I'll lose focus--and likely not do it at all. Having an outcome (a graph etc) ensures that I complete the process.

In order to measure my physical activity in terms of quality and quantity, I set up an Excel worksheet. Here's WK 1. I exercised for 86 minutes. You can see that I've kept track of my time in each zone. (My hrm does this for me).

Because each zone is different in terms of load, I've adopted Sally Edward's point system. I get one point for each minute in Z1, 2 points for Z2....


Here's WK 2. I exercised for 233 minutes--144 minutes longer than WK1. It was a little lower in WK2 @ 2.31 v 2.39. But I had 5 days of activity.



I'm sure that you must be asking, "Why bother measuring time in zones?" It is an excellent question, and I promised in an earlier post that I would discuss the importance.

Your body burns different types of fuel at different workout levels. The fuel your body burns is the same fuel that you stuff in the gas tank: carbs, fats and protein. Protein is nominal in all zones. Your body is smarter than you are and alot more efficient. Accordingly, it is going to burn the most effective fuel for the exercise load. As you can see from the figure below, as your exercise intensity increases, your body switches to stored glycogen (carbs).

You understand, then, why it is important for athletes who must compete at these high intensity levels must carb load. They have to have as much glycogen in their muscles to fuel their activity (to include replenishing it throughout the activity). When the fuel runs out, you bonk (you get stopped dead in your tracks, maybe pass out from low blood sugar).

It is true that you burn more calories at higher intensities and ultimately a calorie deficit enables you to lose weight. Nevertheless, it is useful to keep in mind that if you are fat and not fit then you cannot exercise at a higher capacity for very long--you risk injury to yourself by overloading your heart and your body's infrastructure.

I have to put myself in this category (though no one would call me fat to look at me). Exercising more moderately will help you build a base from which to condition the body. You will NOT be uncomfortable, and you will be improving your fitness. The key is to exercise for longer periods at these lower intensities more frequently.

As I'm building my base, I want to be in the 2.3-2.5 range for at least the first month--maybe two-- to get in the habit of exercising and to not re-injure my foot. Understand that I'm doing the same types of exercise as I did with a 5 year younger body previously. Accordingly, I'm trying to listen to this older body! So far it is not yelling at me.

I've been surprised by my lack of foot pain. Also, my ankles have not rolled in the past two weeks.

Here's my final chart. I took Macy and Daisey out for a 2.6 mile walk/run. I saw a neighbor on the way. He was diagnosed about 3 years ago with Type 2 diabetes. He took control of his health at the time by losing 60 lbs, stopping smoking and exercising. I asked him about how he was doing. Well....he's not doing so much. We commiserated. I evangelized a bit, and I told him that by managing his diabetes, he would help keep his penis healthy. His ears perked up. He was surprised to learn that diabetes contributes to erectile dysfunction. If you'd like, you can read about it here.

As I was going through my cool-down, I encountered two dogs, Toby and RJ....both are un-neutered males and were intent on sniffing my two girls (who are spayed). This could not happen as a dog fight would ensue. I had a nightmarish vision of leashes tangled around limbs (Daisey already had Macy's tangled around her leg) and then great skin burns and bone snaps from them tightening. When we have these dog threats, both M and D start snapping at each other.

You can see the spike in my heart rate. I was already tired, and I was putting a load on my heart by tugging my two girls and commanding "This way". They dutifully followed with the boys wistfully following behind.


A Couple of Things of Interest.

A couple of items to bring to your attention.

First, Barry Ritholtz had a post from MACRO MAN--it was so clever, I visited MM's blog. You will want to as well. You can find it here: http://macro-man.blogspot.com/

Second, Financial Sense Online had an Market Wrap by Brian Pretti called "Stool Pigeons" regarding some interesting trends with respect to previous support of equity prices and how that has eroded. You can find it here: http://www.financialsense.com/Market/pretti/2008/0829.html

Friday, August 29, 2008

Books a Zillion! and Waxing Philosophical on Health and YOUR PENIS!!!

Hang with me on this one dear readers!

You know the little hand held game where you have equal rows and columns of interlocking/sliding squares with only one of them vacant? That is how my book project is going as I move books from bookcase to bookcase. Naturally, before one can undertake such a project, there must be some sort of 'scheme' for grouping books. Let's just say that this scheme is evolving.

Most of my books are non-fiction, so that eases things a bit. I have several bookcases--one being a very deep bookcase. So there is opportunity to place books 2 deep. The occulted books should be those that I don' reference often. I'm electing to put my business/strategy books back there there. Once I get things lumped together, I'll go through the trouble of creating a database for them. Hopefully, I'll not have any insights into yet another scheme that would involve another migration.

I have a pitifully small pile of 'why do I have this?' books. I'll give that to the library. I don't have a library card anymore, so I cannot buy the damn book back for .99 after I've already donated it. I'm always afraid that if I go to a Goodwill, I'll see one of my donated articles of clothing and buy it back. Though I like to think that I'm not attached to things, clearly I've developed some an unhealthy affinity for some of these things. Somewhere between an aesthetic and a hoarder, I'll find some reasonable balance. My husband is even worse than I am.

While, I'm quite sure that I'm not pregnant, I cannot really explain this restless, nesting compulsion. Perhaps, like investing, 'stuff' in my home has suffered from my lack of attention. Frankly, I'm just coming to realize the dual edge of focused will: focus and determination in one or two things can lead to a dozen things languishing. I hope I don't have more than a dozen things languishing.

As I grapple with the 'stuff' problem (and what an embarrassment it is to say that when there is so much want in the world), I realize the great wisdom of B. Franklin's aphorism: "A place for everything; and everything in its place." There should be an exclamation point there. I at least have a moratorium that we are not to build any more storage space! (I'm still trying to figure out where my 'ethics' books go).

The project, though, is quite satisfying. I've squealed in delight in having put my hands on a few books that I had forgotten about. I started a 'must-read' pile, but I realized that it was growing too rapidly. All things in moderation....I'll just put them on a shelf of their own.

Fit by Fifty Update: I almost went a opened a bottle of wine--I'm writing, and that act seems to 'call out' for a glass of wine. I limited my foraging for dog food, and fed all of the anxious looking canines and felines.

I continued my reclamation efforts of the 'next door' 'upstairs' room (the room over the garage). In doing so, I found my old Callanetics book as well as an extra chest strap for my heart rate monitor (the one that I was using, was a little sagged out). I did some of the Callanetics exercises (which were hard), AND I did my trail running. (Confession--I had to get up, and I was thinking about that glass of wine so now I have it!).

Already I'm seeing/feeling muscle definition in my arms and legs. I'm sleeping better, and I have more energy. I think that my husband is waiting for all of this energy to be channeled into another type of energy!

I did uncover an old fitness binder in my bedroom that I had from some years ago. It had all of my measurements from a point in time--but I don't know what point in time. I think that they are 10 years old--before I was forty, so I would not have been very fit. Yes, the fitness binder traveled downstairs to then go upstairs into the fitness room (yes, I have book storage up there too!).

I was inspired by Doug's recent comment to visit Covert Bailey's website. You can find it HERE.
He (CB) has retired, but there's some great stuff on his website. Do take a moment to read through some of his articles, which you can find HERE. I note that he has a an article entitled, Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Protein?. Do read it. I'm finding that since I picked up my Sharkey book and modified my protein intake on my diet that I'm exceeding my protein goa--an interesting intersection between Sharkey and Bailey.

Since I've been measuring every frickin' thing that I eat, I've become very aware of periods of hunger as well as the profile (calories, prot/carb/fat) of my meals. I'm not starving myself, mind you. That's a foolish way to lose weight. However, I'm very MINDFUL of WHAT I eat and HOW LONG the gas lasts in the tank. (I've several 'mindfulness' books, too!).

Our bodies really are our temples (my Mother always impressed upon me that worthy concept, but I think that it had more to do with premarital sex than anything else. I was a skinny kid, so it surely did not center around food). Nevertheless, I think that it is a useful message to young girls as there seem to be a lot of would-be temple worshippers along the way--they are omnipresent!

Why don't you keep your own food diary for a week? Note your total intake and the amount from fat/carbs/protein. Also, ask yourself, "What am I doing to either get fit or maintain my fitness?" Here's an easy, free way to do it: http://www.thedailyplate.com/ I use my Crosstrainer, but it is not a free service, though it is inexpensive.

I worked in healthcare---and on the ugly side of what the cost of chronic diseases cost. Trust me when I say this: The most beneficial thing you or I can do to help this country's finances is to ensure that we both arrive to Medicare age as healthy as we can be.

The cost of chronic disease is staggering. I know, because I had to work with the data. You cannot change your genetics, but YOU can CHANGE your habits. Proper nutrition (I did not say diet) and appropriate exercise are two habits that can make a huge difference in your future healthcare costs (that taxpayer dollars pay for). I'm a baby boomer, maybe you are too. We're the bolus of folks that are going to hit Medicare and likely bankrupt it if we have metabolic syndrome (which a staggering amount of our population has).

Have you not heard of metabolic syndrome? Well forget the terrorists, metabolic syndrome will do this country more harm than the terrorists! Trust me on this--it will bankrupt Medicare. Metabolic syndrome is obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), hypertension (high blood pressure). It is epidemic in this country. And hypertension and diabetes combined are the 80% contributors to chronic kidney disease. Hyperlipidemia is a contributor of coronary artery disease in addition to diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugar affects your organs--your heart and kidneys are your crown jewels of organs (sorry guys!). Hyperlipidemia affects your heart while hypertension destroys the delicate vascular structure of your kidneys.

Oh...and for the guys...why do you think there is so much erectile dysfunction? Your kidneys have delicate vascularization to remove waste from your body; your penis has delicate vascularization to have and maintain an erection--blood pressure and diabetes control will mitigate this epidemic. If the amount of money was spent to educate people regarding their kidneys as there was to educate regarding erectile dysfunction, we'd be so much further along! Priorities! Sex vs. blood cleansing. Sex always wins! (That has to do with the tenacity of life, so I understand that, though I've no books on it!).

So if you value your heart and kidneys (and if you are a guy, I know that you really value your penis, and please know that in my own way I value it too), then join me by beginning your own personal fitness quest. Like the market, everything is relative. So do something tomorrow that will make your health relatively better than today. Our health investment is an easy one. There are only two choices: diet or exercise. A concurrent choice would be the penultimate.

GaryK from Last night

Here are some 'leading' stocks that GK mentioned on his show last night. I notice the LMT and GD as I was reviewing charts. Glad to know that my eye is not blind!

WMT, TJX, URBN, ROST, ARO, FINL
PNC, NTRS, RJF, AMTD,
MFE, SYMC
LMT, GD, FAST, MCD

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Post sans Wine


Salute I
by Valerie Sjodin


One of the things that I used to enjoy doing is pouring a glass of wine and writing an evening post prior to dinner. I've curtailed that enjoyment--not given it up. But it had certainly become a habit. I'm back to monitoring calories today. I'm not hungry though, and I've not had dinner yet.

I'm still confounded by the market, so I've not much to say. I'll listen to Gary K tomorrow a.m. and hear his take.

My dinner last night was fabulous, though, I had to cook the steaks out on the grill in the rain. I certainly don't melt! I'm still loving my Solaire infrared grill. Those babies were sizzlin'! The cake was well worth the effort--the chocolate-orange buttercream frosting was very excellent. Truthfully, the cake was a wee bit dry--nothing that ice cream couldn't nicely take care of. I had a Barrossa (Australia) Grenache/Syrah. If you've not tried a Syrah with your roasted red meats, it would be a nice change of pace. The wine was a bit 'hot' with an alcohol content of 14.5%. I find that this level of alcohol competes with the underlying flavor of the wine. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my two glasses immensely.

My son has taken over the room over the garage. It is a very large room. It has a Smith machine weight set (along with other free weights) in addition to a very comfy section for viewing TV. He has his X-box up there--so I always shudder to see the soda cans and other crap that he somehow cannot manage to get to a trash can.

I cleaned up there today because I want to begin re-using the equipment. I have so many fitness books and fitness accoutrements, I should be fit. I have lots of cleaning products, too, and my house should be clean. Oh well....I've lots of neat kitchen stuff, and we sure to eat well! Some salvation.

My 30th high school renunion is in about a month. How can that be?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

PM Post


War Pony (LE)
Limited Edition
by Sarah Richards

I have no "feel" for this market. This seems to be the common refrain by many. I've been using this time to look at charts etc, as I don't think that the action this week or even last is useful in dropping any clues. I'm surprised by the durable goods number, and I was surprised to hear a bit of a chorus regarding the recession perhaps not being so bad. I'll just watch the jobless claims and the unemployment number. I'm still among those who think that with the construction industry having so many illegal immigrants that the jobless and the unemployment numbers when compared with other recessions gives a false tell.

Today is my husband's birthday. He's 53. He is very fit. He's the kind of guy who can eat all he wants and not gain an ounce. Rather than kill him for that, I secured some rib steaks and baking potatoes to be accompanied with a nice salad. I also made (from scratch) a marbled chocolate cake with orange-buttercream frosting. I've not made this before, and I glommed the frosting from another recipe. I didn't like the idea of a raw egg yolk being in the butter cream frosting, so I found this orange-butter cream frosting.

No calorie counting for dinner. I've eaten very healthfully today. I'll only have a small piece of steak and a modestly adorned baked potato.

My daughter is a junior in college. She is taking a religion class (her second). That I've been rearranging my books is fortunate, for I have some that she will find useful for her studies. It was interesting to be able to share those with her, and to have her interested in talking about her class with me. My family is not generally interested in my arcane pursuits, and I don't foist those pursuits on them.

I'm miserable today from my multiple tick bites. I'm estimating about 75 to 100 bites. Each of them itches rather intensely. But...it is something easily born.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Utilities, redux/Fit by Fifty Update


Moon, Persimmon and Moth
by Anita Munman


I have nothing but contempt for the kind of governor who is afraid, for whatever reason, to follow the course that he knows is best for the State; and as for the man who sets private friendship above the public welfare - I have no use for him either.

Sophocles, Antigone


My hope is that whomever wins the election, that they will be a good governor--be courageous and not compromise our fiscal well-being by pandering for voters. But it is the political silly season--so I'll not hold my breath.

Michael Kahn has an article in Barron's about utility stocks. I first mentioned here that I thought utility stocks looked weak. I bought some SDP (double short UYG) at $58 and sold at $65. I exited and was looking to re-enter. Kahn specifically mentions electric utilities. You can find a list of the HERE on FINVIZ.

~~~~


I've reinvigorated my efforts in getting my books reorganized. Of course you know why: I cannot find a book. Given that I'm on my FBF kick, I particualarly wanted to get my fitness, health, nutrition books in one place. I found Fitness and Health, by Brian Sharkey. If you are looking for a good all-round book on fitness and health, this would be a good one to get. I have the Fifth Edition. I sat down and went through the entire thing again.

What actionable item came from that time? I reconfigured my protein needs (reduced them) for my diet. Endurance thletes (which I am not) require 1.2-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram. Strenght athletes require 1.4-1.8 grams. the RDA is .8 grams per kilogram. I figure with my training, I need 1 gram per kilogram.

The point of interest is that our diets tend to have more protein than our body requires. If you want compute your protein needs you can do so as follows:

Your weight in lbs ______ (a)
Divide by 2.2 (to convert to kg) / 2.2 (a) / 2.2
Your weight in kg _______(b)
Your protein per gram intake based
on your activity level (between .8 - 1.2) _______(c)
Your total daily protein grams _______(b) x (c) = (d)
Calories per gram of protein 4.3
Your daily calories from protein _______(d) x 4.3 = (e)
Your daily calories (based on your BMR click to calc) _______(f)
Your % of daily calories from protein _______(e) / (f)


I provided a link for you to calculate your BMR. BMR is Basic Metabolic Rate--the amount of calories your body needs (based on your weight) to sustain basic functions. Do you know what yours is? If not, I'd encourage you to find out by clicking the link. The difference between what we consume in calories v. our BMR = weight gain. It doesn't take long for it to add up--particular for us middle-agers! Of course, the very next thing to do is to look at the amount of calories that you consume.

As I look at the weight that I've put on, I realize that my enjoyment of wine has contributed to this increase. Prior to cultivating my knowledge and enjoyment of wine, it was unusual for me to have more than 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks PER WEEK. That is far less than the couple of glasses of wine that I began to enjoy PER DAY. Here's a chart

Source: http://www.davidstuff.com/wine/calories.htm

Per week, then, ONE THOUSAND calories (100 x 2 (per day) x 5) v. 200 calories, OR 800 additional calories, is a formula that expands one's body. So every 4.4 weeks, this formula yields an extra pound of fat all things being equal. That's 12 lbs per year.

But all things are not equal--wine sure does taste good with good food.....Sigh. Now you know why I'm on my FbF path. I hope that I inspire you to get on your on Fit by ## kick. Time for another chart that will remove some of that unwanted wine weight!

Here's my exercise from yesterday. I was going to 'rest' but after reading my fitness book, I decided that I'd exercise.

The exercise above represents my running/walking the trail to get to my SIL's to let her dogs out. It is something that I do when I can. She only lives 2 miles away by the road. By the trail, which the above represents, she lives 1.1 miles away. I would have preferred to keep my exercise in the green level. I'll write more on that later as to why.

I elected to cross over my neighbor's dam. It is overgrown with bushes. When I got home, I discovered that I had seed ticks all over me. If you do not know what a seed tick is it is a tiny, tick--smaller than the head of a pin or a grain of pepper. But they bite you. If they get engorged, you can see them easily- as they swell up to the size of a pin head and are much darker (from YOUR blood). Their bites, like that of their larger brethren, are quite itchy. All of them are welped up on me today, but I'm not miserable. I had a devil of a time getting them off. Clearly some had latched onto me during my first pass through the bushes. I used an alcohol rubdown, but that was not enough to get them off.

I stayed within my allotted calories yesterday, AND I was not the least bit famished. I'm timing my snacks better.

I'm debating on whether or not to do this again today. I actually feel fine, so I may try this. What is instructive is to watch how one's heart rate manages the same load over a training period. I used to be able to run comfortably on the trail at 154--that was my pace that I could keep and go the distance. I cannot manage 154 now at my fitness level. But I plan to get there.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fit by Fifty: Week 2

I've completed Week 1 without injury. Seems like such a small thing. I went for a 2.5 mile workout--walking/jogging. There's some hilly terrain, so a couple of times I had to walk to get my heart rate down below 160. When I become more fit, 160 will require more effort to reach and when reached, will feel more comfortable (meaning I will not be winded). A this early juncture, 160 is TOO easy to reach and results is breathlessness. Breathlessness means I'm training too hard. You can see where I was bumping against the orange line.


One's training chart is not much different than a stock chart....you must develop a base from which to accelerate. My goal for developing my base is to train in the green/yellow zones for a couple of months. At the end of two months, I'll see how a easy it is to stay within the green zone without bumping against the orange zone. If it is still easy, I will continue to build a base for another month.

~~~
Here's a chart of HERO. I did not exit my position two days ago when it was up 9%. I'm marginally green--but much will depend on what happens with Nat Gas and a host of other factors in the market. The energy sector was not a good performer on Friday.


Friday, August 22, 2008

2nd AM Post: The Deflation Monster


Trout Fishing, Yangshou, China
by Jacob Halaska

A Rally With Serious Muscle

By RICHARD RUSSELL

A plethora of technical indicators tells me that the great bull market that began in the early 1980s is still intact, and that new highs are coming, maybe not immediately, but in the weeks and months ahead.



On May 4 I wrote a post entitled "New Tablets from the Dow Theory Gods". The quote above was from that post--and it was from an article in Barron's (see post for link). If you'd like me to e-mail you that article--get your people to contact my people at leisa-va@cox.net, and I'll send it to you.

One of the most satisfying things about blogging is that you keep a rather easily indexed source of "stuff". It's easy to set up a blog, and you can make it private so no one but you sees it. You, too, can then write what you like and then search for it easily.

I've not seen this rally yet. Now, I see some rather dour news from Russell as quoted in Barron's (again, if you want this article, rinse and repeat from above).


"From what I see, the markets are telling us to prepare for hard times, and a global spate of the worst deflation to be seen in generations. This is why gold has been sinking, this is why stocks have been falling -- big money, sophisticated money, is cashing out, raising cash, preparing for world deflation," Russell writes.

The Inflationary Fever Is About to Break

By RANDALL W. FORSYTH



As a lay person, I've tried to wrestle over these past three years (2 years publicly on this blog), and I think mostly successfully, with market concepts that are foreign to my education and experience. I've been feeling for a while that we were at a crossroads of our global economy choosing hyperinflation v. deflation. My particular feeling was that hyperinflation was unlikely given that the Central Bankers could not duplicate the amount of liquidity (well, perhaps fractionally). Regardless, it seemed to me that investment strategies under either scenario were markedly different and that choosing wrongly could be trouble for one's portfolio.

Deflation is not a pretty prospect with respect to those heavily invested in assets that will deflate. My own vacillation has been expecting that with money supply tight, interest rates would go up. But given that everything is valued on a relative basis, I may rethink that.

A. M. Post


Cranes Over Moon
by Keiichi Nishimura

I didn't seen any cranes over the moon last night though I had the opportunity. My old, deaf, blind poodle started to bark last night around 2:30 a.m. It is not a polite, but rather an urgent, bark. It means that she has awakened, and she's not sure where everyone is.

It reminded me of yonder days when my children, then babies, would wake up in the middle of the night and snuffle around and cry out a time or two. I'd lie there hoping that there wouldn't be an "and three". I never believed that you should let a child cry out in fear, hunger or other need more than three times. I always ignored the well-meaning, but I believe misguided, advice that you should just let an infant cry. If they are crying, they have a need. If there needs are not met, they get anxious. So every time that infant awakes with a need, it just by-passes the snuffling and crying part and then goes straight to shrieking.

My experience is that if you go to an infant during its initial stages, then s/he is assured that whenever it awakes it will not be lying there alone in the dark. And with that assurance, when the infant awakes, it does so more peacefully and stands a better chance of going back to sleep without your ministrations: a little investment in the beginning, pays off big sleep dividends! The anxiety of an elderly poodle who cannot see or hear is even worse than an infant's. I don't believe that she should be left to cry too long (though one night I unceremoniously dumped her on the other side of the house and closed all the doors when she would not shut up--my compassion has boundaries!).

Both my husband and I lay there hoping that Chloe would stop barking. She did not. I got up. My getting up incites my entourage to get up: Macy and Daisey as well as the two kittens. I found Chloe on the sofa, barking into her darkness--there is always a light on downstairs, but she cannot see it. As I picked her up, I could feel that she was wet--a little incontinence dribble from each bark. I put her outside--and of course the entourage promptly bolted out.

I managed to gather the kittens (who have found that the newly mulched front bed is a "dream box"). Macy and Daisey finally came in, but there was no poodle. I peered about. No white cloud moving over the ground against the moonlight. I went up to bed expecting to hear her at the door soon. Nothing. She has a circuit that she makes. I was remember the story that my neighbor told me the other evening about witnessing Chloe's encounter with a board (newly placed) that was in her way. Because she cannot see (and she is small) she was having some difficulty negotiating it. Tim called to her, but she did not respond--he didn't realize she was deaf.

As I lay in bed, I imagined Chloe negotiating untold obstacles in darkness and silence--but her nose is quite good. I felt guilty. I got out of bed a got in the car to look for her. My neighbors were not home (taking last child to Va Tech), so I drove up in their driveway to look. I rousted their two dogs, Ginger and Lacy. But they know me and my voice, so they calmed quickly. No Chloe there. Nor on the road. Nor in the woods. I positioned my car's headlights in as many positions as possible to see her. Nothing, though I did see two pairs of red eyes from one of my woodpiles.

I went back to bed. I had the window open listening for the familiar clicking of her nails on the sidewalk or driveway pavement. When I heard it I got up and went outside. It was something in a tree outside. I imagined that it was an owl tearing at her carcass. They've been very active.

Back to bed again. Twenty minutes later I could hear another click, click. Then I saw the cloud floating above the pavement in the moonlight. As soon as she hit the bricks, she started barking. I scooped her up and brought her inside. She had all sorts of twigs and leaves in her velcro-like fur. Not a peep from her for the balance of the evening.

I did not sleep very well afterward. Hopefully, I will not be too tired and cranky today.

~~~~~

HERO has gone up almost 9% since I bought it 2 days ago. Energy stocks appear to be in vogue again. Who knows what it will be today. I'm having lunch with a friend. I've been so good on my diet that I'm not going to be parsimonious in my eating, and I'm not going to worry too much about the market!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

FBF: Progress Report

I've lost two pounds. I always weigh myself in the morning. It's a bit of a cheat because your are dehydrated. But it's a good baseline without noise for comparative purposes.

I have a fat monitor scale. I've not stepped on it yet. You have to be hydrated well for it to give an accurate reading. I will do that today. I'm quite sure that my body fat % to lean mass is north of 30%. The woman to the left has somewhere in the 15-18% range.

Does that % give you some picture of a blubberous person? I'm sure that it does. And I assure you that I'm not. But weight in and of itself can be misleading. One can be seemingly thin in absolute pounds, but have too high of fat/lean tissue relative percentage. Conversely one can be seemingly heavy but have a low fat/lean tissue relative percentage. Muscle really does weigh more than fat! And...you can weigh more with lean muscle tissue and wear a smaller size than if you weighed less with greater fat%.

Here's a table from the American Council on Fitness on recommended body fat.


What stings is the "obese" rating on 32% plus (I pulled the table AFTER writing the introductory line). I'm sure that I fall into that category, but no one would ever look at me and say fat much less obese. My mother was always thin, but I'm quite sure that her body fat % was high because she did not exercise. Not a whit. Do you know YOUR body fat percentage? If you don't, it would be worth your finding out. In the spirit of transparency, I'll post mine here. (I'm secretly hoping for the batteries to be out or some other technical difficulty!) [7:51 a.m update: There were NO technical difficulties, I'm sorry to report. I'm sorrier to report that my reading was 32.9%]

While my caloric intake goal (1311) is not unreasonable, that I've had such a hard time staying within that limit tells me that my previous intake was considerably North of that. My stepmom struggles with managing her weight. She is also a much larger person than I am.I'm 5'5" and she is about 5'9" and much bigger boned (she's German). I remember that she was on Jenny Craig. They had her on a 900 calorie diet. I can say this: at 900 calories, you can barely keep your body functions going.

Personally, I think that it is pointless to try to lose weight without incorporating exercise. BUT, I know how easily activity eludes us in our everyday activities. Everything in my life that I need is no less than 15 steps from my office chair. The pedometer does not lie. I've worn that pedometer and have registered less than 1/2 a mile. Yesterday, though a rest day, it registered 3.04 miles, only because I consciously made myself get up.

Many years ago I served as a committee chair for the VSCPA. There was another chair who I had worked with who lived in the VA Beach area--so I only saw him once a year at our annual leadership meeting. In a one year interlude, he had transformed himself remarkably. commended him on his sveltness. He was very proud of what he accomplished. He did it by simply incorporating 2 habits into his daily routine:
  • Each hour he would get up and drink 8 oz of water;
  • He would walk around for 10 minutes.
What could be simpler? I incorporated this habit into my own routine. When you have a desk job (as I always have) it is too easy to sit for long periods. Trust me---I've set records. But it is not good for your body nor your brain.


I was so ravenous last night, that I cheated. I had 1/2 a roll and a beer with my dinner.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

HERO

HERO has had a fall from grace. I had some calls that expired worthless on Friday. Sniff. I bought a few shares today. These stocks have been decimated.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

P. M. Post


The Sun, The Moon and a Basilisk, Around 1512
by Albrecht Dürer

It's dangerous to be long; it's dangerous to be short. Sectors rotate overnight. I at least felt a little more grounded in market direction earlier in the year. Now, I think that it is just chaos as things sort themselves out--a mele in which I've no wish to participate. I feel guilty that I've nothing of substance to share with you. I'm just in wait and see mode.

The credit markets are breaking down yet again. How many times have we heard that the worst is over? As there is no transparency, how could any know?

I'm done bitchin'. Sigh.

I'm into my "FBF" (Fit by Fifty) quest. Day 2. Counting calories. I've been vigilant in writing everything down. My CrossTrainer program tells me the damage. How many calories--where from--fat, protein, carbs. It adds up quickly. Too quickly.

I went over on my fat gram allotment by 4 g. I've another 168 calories that I can eat. I'm going to pass. I've elected to try to keep fat as a % of calories to 20%. Didn't work today. That 1/2 a bar of Nature Valley Sweet/Salty Peanut Bar was part of the culprit. According to my calorie intake plus expended (I did work out today), I lost .08 lbs.

Though my Crosstrainer and the food panels for stuff I eat have nutrition information, I found the USDA site that has a program that you can download that tells you the nutritional composition of many, many foods. You can find it here: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=7783

Actually, it feels good to do this. And the tools that I have are familiar ones. I've one more graph to show you. It is my heart rate print out from my workout on Monday. Tomorrow is a rest day.



Looks like most of the stocks!

Blast from the Past

Squirrels, 1512
Albrecht D�rer




You will remember that it was a year ago when the first body blow of the credit crisis landed. Reasonable people were not surprised, and in this space, we explored the notion of systemic risk and debt that lurked in the recesses of the market not reflected on any exchange.

Coincidentally, I was organizing some reading material in my bedroom when I came across a page from The Economist dated 08.18.. Here's what I highlighted:

Because this crisis taps so deeply into the newly devised structures of finance, anyone who says the worse is definitely over is either a fools or someone with a position to protect.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Market Close


This map shows a sea of red---though Utilities had a respite.

I'm listening to Gary K now--he's gone back to cash.

He thinks that there is a decent chance that we retest lows. He's a comforting voice during this market storm.

Fit by Fifty

I've a new countdown widget to the right--it's to countdown to my 50th birthday. As I undergo this odyssey, I'll make posts here under the "Fit by Fifty" label. Perhaps it may inspire a person or two to improve their own fitness level alongside me. As I mentioned earlier, I'm going to start out slowly. I don't want to injure myself--I'm still recovering from a broken foot and some residual pain/weakness in that area.

I don't get any promotional anything from stuff I'm recommending here, and I'm not a fitness expert. But I've more than a passing knowledge of fitness and diet. And I know that knowledge without the commensurate discipline is not worth squat! Nevertheless, I do want to share with you with you some tools that I've used and had success with--tools that enabled the discipline to stick.

I'm a huge advocate of heart rate monitor (HRM) training. Sally Edwards' book, Heart Zone Training, is one of my stalwarts. I had to poke around a bit, but I found it in a bookcase. As I was re-reading her introduction (I've had this book for about 8 years--and have read it many times) she wrote it at the age of 48 (She would also be about 60 now). Yep....one of those coincidences! I have a friend who says there is no such thing as coincidences. If you don't know who Sally Edwards is, she's an elite athlete. I'm sure at 60 she is still in fantastic shape.

I'm in the process of setting up my Excel worksheets to record my workout information. I don't wish to "cheat" by impressions about how I'm doing. Rather, I want the cold hard facts--like what my scale and my jiggly body give me! Eight years ago, I had a very sophisticated worksheet--but that died in some hard drive crash, so I must duplicate it. My HRM transmits my workout information via a sonic interface. I spent about 30 minutes yesterday trying to get that to work. I finally got it working. I had my first workout today, and I successfully uploaded it.

If you have any interest in learning about Heart Zone Training, I would recommend your taking a few minutes to read this article. I truly believe in the miracle of effectiveness for this training. It is not one-size fits all, but rather, it is YOUR SIZE. You create your zones based on your physiology; further, you create your fitness program based on your fitness goals. And best of all, you get constant feedback on how well you are doing on your plan AND whether or not you are over or under doing it. Overtraining can be dangerous. It can make you tired and/or sick. If you are really overweight and out of shape, I think that you should not exercise unless you get a heart rate monitor AND get cleared by your doc. The monitor will help you stay in a safe zone as your heart and body get stronger.

My worksheet is to record my time in these zones and insure that I build an exercise base before moving to the next level. (Really, it is not different than stocks. If they advance too quickly without forming a base, they crash. Your body will do the same thing).

In addition to my exercise routine I have to invoke the dreaded "d" word: diet. But when I say diet, I mean diet as in nutrition. I want to eat healthfully (not parsimoniously). I've got another program that will help me monitor that. It is called Crosstrainer. I've been using it (off and on) for years. If you truly want to shock and surprise yourself on how poorly you eat, just write down everything. I mean everthing---every morsel of food that you pop into your mouth. This program allows you to record all of that fairly easily. If you want a little techno help, this is an inexpensive, but powerful program. You can find them on-line here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympic Spirit--Mind over Body

I've been watching some of the Olympics. My bedtime is 10 p.m., therefore, a couple of midnight and still rising at 5:45 a.m. sessions left me a bit tired and cranky during the day.

My favorite competition over the years has been watching the women's gymnastics. I saw the team competition, but I missed the individual all-arounds where our team one the gold and silver medals in addition to snagging the silver for the team. The team competition was very dramatic with several faults (falls, out of bounds) dashed the dream of gold. What is remarkable is that Russia and Romania, once the powerhouses in gymnastics, were never serious contenders for anything above bronze. How things change.

The Michael Phelps story is certainly an interesting one, but I think that it often-times dominates the stories of others' accomplishments. His apparent modesty certainly makes the attention wholesome. I'm sure that his story attracts people like me--people who typically do not watch swimming. I'll attempt to stay up for the next Phelps event.

[Sunday a.m. Update: I didn't "post" this prior to walking out the door Saturday morning (8:30 a.m) for my dog transport . I did stay up (barely) to see Phelps. I had a very long transport that had me out of the house from 8:45 through 3:30 (lots of summer driving traffic!) I also watched the women's marathon and marveled at Constantina Tomescu-Dita's ( of Romania) win. She is 38 and the second oldest athlete in the women's marathon. Further, I watched Dara Torres, 41, swim and win two medals (indiv/team). It was really tremendous to watch these older athletes perform well. Mind over body. My new mantra. But I did forget to 'post' this yesterday, so perhaps neither my mind nor my body will cooperate.]

I never watched track and field competition until Michael Johnson took it my a storm--same thing: an extraordinary athlete that piques the attention of the inattentive! I was mesmerized. I've not watched track and field since.

But in the spirit of the Olympics, I found this pictorial essay by Sports Illustrated that I thought I would share with you. Click on the image to be transported.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

1001 or T minus 1



Three Asian Horses
Edo Painters



Somehow I let my 1000th post slip by without noticing. Here's a "whoo hoo" to my 1001st post.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I'll be 48. I hope that I'll always feel comfortable giving my age. On that day I will embark on a quest to enter my next decade in a better shape than I am in currently. I've mentioned that goal in this space earlier. Now it is here and I must make good on it.

When I turned 40 I had no angst. Honestly, none. I embarked on a bit of an odyssey to be more athletic. I live in my head, not through my body, so to reorient myself in this way was quite a change for me. I had a very disciplined plan. I ran (road/trail) rain, sleet, snow or shine. I lifted weights. Did my yoga. Road my mountain bike. Though I had a gym membership, I like doing all that stuff at home. All was well and good until 2 years later I sprained my back. It was a bad enough sprain that my regimen was sidelined, and even though I eventually recovered (about 1.5 yrs), I never regained that discipline.

So here I am at T minus one day desirous of starting my 24 month odyssey toward becoming a buff 50 year old. Despite this enthusiasm, I plan to treat my body gently as I move into this new routine. While I'll honor my body, I do plan to transform it. I plan to do cardio, strength and flexibility. Naturally, I plan to bore you with progress.

Now I'm off to find my heart rate monitor. It will keep me from over training. After 3 months, I use it to start kicking my performance up a notch.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Passion, Facts and Opinions

I had lunch with a friend today who manages money. I wanted him to tell me that my ideas about the markets were wrong. That they were free, that the average investor does not get fleeced by the financial institutions (in terms of passive management, fee grabs). I was not wrong.

We talked briefly about politics. Same general consensus as last week's lunches---grave issues with both candidates, a feeling that the choice was not robust, but that anything would be better than what we currently have. Not very heartening.

I've no plan to discuss politics here. Political and religious discussions are difficult ones to have. My theory is that most discussions are long on conviction and short on fact. Political discussions around securing voters require the most votes for the buck. So while the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, the quickest way to a voter's heart is through his/her standard of living. Accordingly, you promise to increase the standard of living OR show how the other candidate will reduce it. It appeals to fear, and we know how effective that is.

A passionate opinion and an informed opinion can be very far apart. The ideal would be a passionate, informed opinion. A passionate opinion absent fact is most likely more potent than an informed opinion without any passion. I've never thought about it that way before. That's the nice thing about writing....it rather forces you to make such comparisons and juxtapositions. Like thinking out loud, one can commit an embarrassing act. At least it is just ideas and not dancing about both naked and drunk at an office party--of your spouse! (I've no experience with this should you be wondering).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Perceptions, Perplexions and French Incredulousness



Osmosis
Marlene Healey


When dealing with the insane, the best method is to pretend to be sane.
Hermann Hesse (1877 - 1962)


Marc Faber said two things in his commentary (Bloomberg interview that I referenced here

To Paraphrase: (1) Whenever global liquidity tightens, it is bad for stocks, but good for USD; (2)
Time lags between economic events until the markets perceive them.

It's the second item that really resonated. One of my perennial perplexions has been this lag, as the market is somehow a perfect discounter of information. If I were to have understood this as it is (lag) v. as it is theorized, I feel that my learning curve would have had a steeper trajectory. Best to learn sooner and better to learn later v. not at all!

I watched some of the Olympics last night, managing to keep the lids pried open long enough to see the men's 400IM and the Americans win by 1/2 a stroke. It was certainly one of the most memorable moments in sporting events--particularly given the intemperate boasting of the French. The French team was stunned--I've never seen such blank, incredulous expressions---and that looked caused disappointment to pale in its comparison.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wondering Out Loud

There are three public traded companies that are identified as through this SEC Code:

SIC: 6111 - FEDERAL & FEDERALLY-SPONSORED CREDIT AGENCIES


FEDERAL AGRICULTURAL MORTGAGE CORP (AGM)
FEDERAL HOME LOAN MORTGAGE CORP (FRE)
FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION FANNIE MAE (FNM)


Sallie Mae (SLM) USED to be part of this consortium of agencies until it was privatized (which took several years).

My "Wondering Out Loud" is about Farmer Mac, a/k/a The Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corp. Haven't heard much about them, have you? Farmer Mac creates a secondary mortgage market for farm loans. You may be transported to their website by clicking their logo below.


The Farmer Mac secondary market for agricultural mortgage loans accomplishes that public policy mission by providing liquidity and lending capacity to agricultural mortgage lenders by: gfc
  • purchasing newly originated and pre-existing (“seasoned”) eligible mortgage loans directly from lenders through its “cash window” and seasoned eligible mortgage loans from lenders and other third parties in negotiated transactions;
  • issuing long-term standby purchase commitments (“LTSPCs”) for newly originated and seasoned eligible mortgage loans;
  • exchanging newly issued agricultural mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Farmer Mac (“Farmer Mac Guaranteed Securities”) for newly originated and seasoned eligible mortgage loans that back those securities in “swap” transactions; and
  • purchasing and guaranteeing mortgage backed bonds secured by eligible mortgage loans, which are referred to as AgVantage bonds.


Here's a chart (CTML):

As you can see, they've not suffered much from the credit debacle. Here's FNM chart for comparison:


My specific Wondering is this: Were similar excesses experienced in this market? What happens when the agricultural boom becomes long in the tooth with crop prices coming down?

I've no opinion on it, but it did cause me to wonder.

The Farm Credit Administration is the independent Federal agency. From their webage which you can find here.

Welcome to FCA. We are the independent Federal agency responsible for examining and regulating the Farm Credit System (FCS).

The FCS is a nationwide network of borrower-owned lending institutions and specialized service organizations that provide credit and related services to farmers, ranchers, agricultural cooperatives, and other eligible borrowers.

According to their 2007 report, which you can read HERE. If you are interested in farm commodities, it's worth your time to get a lay of the landscape. I think it is a well done report. Here's a couple of things (I admit that I've only given this report a cursory view):


Loan demand grew in 2007 for the following reasons

But the biggest driver of loan demand in 2007 was the sharp run-up in commodity prices, including oil. This development led to higher land values in the heartland; increased input costs for fuel, fertilizer, and feed; and a greater need to finance grain elevator inventories and attendant hedging operations.


With respect to Farmer Mac, the FCA notes that their statutory capital requirements exceed regulatory requirements. It's worth noting that their capitalization is about 4.5% of their obligations and when you add off balance sheet items, that becomes 1.9%. Seems to me that with this level of leverage (98:1) a small problem can escalate quickly. Their loan loss ratios are low (which means the only place to go is up).

My point is not to make any prognostications, but they've a balance sheet heavily invested in GSE mortgage backed securities. They had some rather large losses due to investing/hedging/deriviative write downs, but have chosen to focus on "core earnings". I consider that a red flag. GAAP/Non-GAAP income disparities seem to be quite the rage. GAAP is GAAP in Leisa-land, and admittedly, I have a prejudice here. This year it is ths anomaly, next year it is that anomaly, and pretty soon you've anomalied yourself out of business, but "our non-GAAP income is terrific". I get so disgusted by these ruses.

Anyway, I wanted to bring them to your attention.

Transport

Yesterday we had 27 passengers on our transport. 23 or so of them were puppies. This is a picture of a pup that has arrived safely at its destination in New Jersey after starting out in Kinston, NC. There were two litters with 10/11 puppies. That's alot of pups, but at least each litter can be processed by ganging them together in the same portable pen without having to change the consumables (water, towels/paper) so that both they and their traveling crate can be cleaned.

Apparently they were also recently dewormed. "Stuff" flows out up puppies when they are de-wormed. There was much of this stuff to contend with. Let me tell you that puppies are unconcerned with being covered in pee and poo. Despite their condition, they are quite eager to give you the sweetest kisses, without the slightest notion that anything is wrong with that.

The 95N traffic was bumper to bumper. With the summer traveling season coming to a close it will be much easier to drive on the roads. My definition of hell would be to have 16 puppies in your car (I did) and have your car overheat. Thankfully the weather was temperate yesterday, but on another run, the temperature was 97, and the traffic was crawling. Not good for keeping an engine maxed on AC cool!

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Lazarus USD


Mid Day Tulip
Peggy Abrams


I believe in general in a dualism between facts and the ideas of those facts in human heads.
George Santayana

Is that quote not the truth?

I've been abandoned by my family (overnight river float) and left to my own devices. I'll state that my devices are a bit more benign than those of John Edwards. I'm still of the mind that private matters by public people are still private matters. I'm sorry for the pain of his family. They will certainly be determining the strength of their bonds and their capacity for understanding and forgiveness. I hope that they are allowed to do that, if they can, in privacy.

Nevertheless, it is disappointing to be reminded that our public officials are human. Worse to be reminded that because they share our DNA and accordingly our proclivities to the baser side of our humanness. Perhaps that why we expect more from out government than we can muster ourselves. There's a lesson there, I'm sure. I'm not excusing it. But the older I get, the less surprised I am by anything.

I've got cherry & grape tomatoes coming out of my ears. The plants that my husband planted are like nothing I've ever seen. I got the idea on another blog (Real Money) about drying the tomatoes (someone had mentioned buying sundried tomatoes and another would not think of purchasing them but making them). It never occurred to me that you could make them. So this morning I picked a bunch and sliced them in half. I put them on a cookie rack over a baking sheet. I put them on 175 in the convection oven. They are now the size of dried cranberries (10 hours later). Oh my are they good! It was easy too. Hopefully I did not use $50 of electricity for the small bounty of dehydrated jewels.

We've many cross currents in the market. I've had a thesis about some of this which I've shared here. First, I believed that there was no way that decoupling was anything but a myth. There's just no way that the world's largest economy could not effect the rest of the world when it slowed down. Second, I believed that the oil was being driven not from fundamental forces, but rather from speculative forces. But as commodities are the last to top in a business cycle, it was not unusual to see it goosed (as I've learned during this market cycle). Third, I believed that despite how bad things are (and I think that they are as bad as I'll see in my lifetime), on a relative basis our market may appear stronger because
  • stable government
  • strong central bank
  • transparent markets
  • our currency being the reserve currency (we are too bid to fail)


(Yes I realize that each of these items have some indictments against them). Money ultimately has to seek yield/return---witness why CDO's and their derivative cousins were so popular! With global money having to not only find return but avoid currency deflation, I surmised that if our USD were to get stronger, then in combination with the points above, we would have a decent chance of seeing our markets appear more attractive to foreign money.

I'm seeing lots of warnings on the commodity stocks from different respected venues. I saw a video on Bloomberg with Marc Faber (you can access it here). He makes a distinction that while he is long the USD he is not long US stocks.

There is much euphoria over the drop in oil. I think that the consumer is still underwater, but it makes sense that we'd see some knee jerk reaction in the heavily shorted areas. We've seen these areas rally hugely before. While I don't see the oil as being a tailwind for the consumer, I think it ceases to be a headwind.

I was listening to Gary K's show. He says:

  • still in a confirmed rally.
  • stay out of commodities
  • watch oil

He's watching an probing. He mentions these stocks:

MCD
TJX
URBN
BLK
JBHT
AZO
CONWAY
ODFL
FRED
STJ
MTH
WGOV
PRXL
FSYS (don't buy, though--just look at it)
PNRA
CEC (gapped up and sitting around for 2 weeks, watch list)
IBM (watch, unusual that it was down while market was up)
NSC (better on the pullbacks rather than ramps)


I'm off to transport dogs. We've some glorious weather (meaning cooler and less humidity). Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Did You Know?

You can download a PDF of Ludwig Von Mises here (click below).

A Tear in my Hermetically Sealed Life


Bat, 1522
Albrecht Dürer


Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are.

George Santayana



On Tuesday I had the happy circumstance of having lunch with my former executive assistant (FEA) and my former boss (FB). It was FEA's birthday which I thankfully remembered last week and called my FB to suggest an outing. I also called another former colleague to see if he'd be available for drinks--so long has he could meet me around 4 p.m.. The intermission (between lunch/drinks), I stopped at my Dad/StepM's home. (1)

Our conversation turned to politics, and Virginia is in an interesting position as she has two sons who are being considered by both candidates as VP with the Democratic choice being our current governor. Our current governor used to be my corporate attorney in the late 80's through the mid-90's prior to his seeking political office. He's one of the finest people I know.

Over lunch I had the best fried softshell crab sandwhich I've ever had. They are in season now. The batter was perfectly seasoned, and it was fried to penultimate crispness. I'm sure some of you are reading and cringing at the notion of eating a fried crustacean. Somethings it is best not to let the mind linger on too long. This is one of them.

We came to a unanimous conclusion that whomever was the successful candidate, the change would be for the good. It was good to visit with them.

My Dad lives just 15 minutes away. I had pinched H's laptop to take with me as my Dad has a wireless router. It was Fed decision day--and I likely would not have made lunch plans had I known that. BUT I'm glad that I had my day instead. My dad was not home, but I visited with my stepmom. (I was also unable to log on as he had a security encryption on his network!). I was able to see the reading of the decision, but missed most of the afternoon extravaganza. My Dad arrived home shortly afterward.

My Dad tends to have a very negative outlook, and I try to quell any urges to jump off of bridges after visiting with him. All I can say is that he's gone from bad to worse of late, and I'm not sure that I would have ever thought that possible! But his color looks good, and I suppose that piss and vinegar possess curative properties.

Next week I will be 48. You'd think that would qualify my being considered a grown up and capable of thinking through issues and forming my own opinions on most matters (and that I'm college education, enjoyed a successful business career etc). Somehow, my Dad (from whom I certainly get my pig-headedness from) seems to forget those small matters, and proceeds to tell me how much worse things are now (people, finances) than they have ever been. And he reads and believes all of the conspiratorial press, and it only deepens his disgust.

I can literally write the script of every conversation, but even with that familiarity, the conversation is unpleasant. And you don't think for a minute that I'm not going to express my opinion! I reminded him that if he really thinks people and things are worse, then he is no student of history. (I should just keep quiet at times). He of course proceeded to tell me HOW he knows they are worse (and there was NO empiricism in that). While we agree that things are bad, perhaps I'm naive enough to believe that more time spent toward action and influence and less time spent toward bitching about it would yield a more productive result. I'm all about the "step into the conflict and reconcile". That is my general reaction to conflict/disagreements, which is why you don't/won't see me rail much.

Thankfully, the clock saved me from hearing the last chapter of the financial Armegeddon story, and I was able to go onto my third and final visit. It was a very pleasant evening, first with my friend and drinks where I had the best fried oysters. Later I visited with he and his wife. They were expressing alot of anxiety regarding 'stuff'. My friend said that he had not even looked at his investment statements. I stated that he was likely to be down 20% or so. I had lunch about 2 weeks ago with a friend (he wanted to discuss a Soros book with me and understand the financial crisis) whose accounts were down 30-40%.

I don't normally discuss personal financial issues with friends. It came up in both instances because, in Summer of 2006, I sent a letter to my friends (after thinking long and hard about it) suggesting to them that they sit down with their financial professional to discuss appropriate financial strategies to employ in the event of a bear market. My friend who is down 30-40% did that. Fidelity informed him that he was well diversified and that they would not suggest any changes. My friend is in his mid 60's. a 30-40% hit is alot. I'm not in the camp that there is a giant bull market just around the corner.

So it was only because of this letter, and my friends' realization that indeed this bear market (and the collapse in real estate) is upon us that these matters came up. One friend (whose port. is managed at Wachovia) wanted me to look at his portfolio. I declined. I'm not qualified, plus, I don't want to know the financial business of my friends. But there was an article on Market Watch, that forwarded to him. I think that the article is a little late and that strategies should be developed beforehand. But likely if you are reading this blog you are interested in the market. Further, you, too, have been faced with the dilemna of how wide-eyed to be in describing potential losses. So perhaps, you'll find this article useful as a resource for your friends.




I arrived home a 10;30 p.m. which is late for me. I had been gone for almost 11 hours (and my animals are used to having me around), so while my family was in winkie-land, I was exuberantly greeted by my dogs--almost too exuberantly! I did not notice until I went upstairs that Daisey was limping. That dog is an accident going somewhere to happen (as my parents would say of us as we were growing up). I took her to the vet yesterday. She has an indeterminate soft-tissue injury. I had left her out while I was gone. I'm not sure what she got into.

The day was a pleasant diversion from my heremetically sealed life. While I feel very connected via the computer and do much communication in that respect, during the day, I don't converse (except to the animals, and I do keep that to a minimum). Hopefully, my engagements did not think me too much of a monologue!



(1) While I would like to be able to say "parents' " home, I could not. My dad and SM have been married for 17 years, and I love her like my own mother though having acquired her into life at the age of 31. She's been the only maternal grandmother they know as my mother died when H, my daughter, was 18 months old. But, she is not my parent, so I backspaced over ""parents' ".

Monday, August 04, 2008

Utilities


Above is a chart of the XLU (weekly, 10 year). I noted in THIS POST on July 23, 2008 that I thought that utility stocks looked a little weak. At that time I initiated a small position in SDP which is the double short ETF for utilities.

If the chart looks odd to you, it is a Renko chart. As you can see there is a very distinctive (and symetrical) head and shoulder pattern. Helen Meisler who writes a technical analysis column on Real Money pointed this out today. You cannot know how thrilled I was that I was two weeks ahead of seeing anyone talk about this. I don't say that to sound boastful, but I've worked pretty hard to hone my skills. So to have some affirmation was, well, affirming.

The commodities are falling hard. I was expecting this fall in the spring. On May 28, in THIS POST, I commented on the Industrial Metals Chart. That chart showed a close of 450. It has since fallen to 430. I've found it useful to look at these indices charts because the media will report the information later rather than sooner. For me, it is a good way to keep my ear to the ground by keeping my eye on the chart.

I think that the commodities crashing will help the market overall. We cannot truly bottom until this group gets taken out.

I wrote a letter to Barron's--I'll let you know if it gets published.

Morning Post

Little Owl
Albrecht Dürer





Life is a series of collisions with the future; it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be.

Jose Ortega Y Gasset


This weekend was one of relaxation and reflection. My father has been ill, not having fully recovered from his health bouts in May. My sister and BIL drove in from Bedford. I and my two kids visited with them and my father over a meal at a Mexican restaurant. My father's color looked good, and he seemed to enjoy the company. My BIL has not seen my son in some time. My son, 17, is over 6' tall. He wears a 12.5 shoe.

There is an owl in residence in my woods. Last evening, Macy caught sight of this wide winged creature, silhouetted against the evening sky, flying from tree to tree last evening. She was very agitated by it. I ensure that my kittens were inside. I heard it outside our bedroom window last evening, and caught site of it tree hopping this morning--long after I expected it to be in winkie-land.

Our weather was quite pleasant--a break from the heat. We had little humidity, and there wa a pleasant breeze blowing. I did not look at any charts, nor do any market-related stuff. I did write a letter to the editor of Barron's. I wrote a letter a couple of years ago, and I was pleasantly surprised that they published it.

Meredity Whitney was on Squawk Box this morning. I've laughingly called her and Dick Bove's contrasting calls 'a smackdown'. So far she has been correct. I appreciate her courage to make these bold calls. That says much for her and for her employer, Oppenheimer. Here's a link to the Fortune interview. She's a wise owl!

Did you know? She's married to a former pro wrestler. I didn't know until a moment ago.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Some Levity

Everything on my blog is of my own design--for good or naught. I bumble my way through certain design elements. I was looking for some inspiration (just to see what is out there!) and I found this website. I'm unsure as to whether or not this is really a product--but I couldn't help but chuckle at it. If you find bathroom humor offensive, you'll not want to go here. But if you find humor in advertising a product that would be an outdoor necessity, you may experience a moment of levity.

http://www.thebrowncorporation.com/

Institutional Voyeurism



Flower Garden (detail) Gustav Klimt


The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.

George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)



I'm preparing an institutional voyeurism spreadsheet for you. I'll post the link in the header once I add some more institutions. I'm only including new holdings.

I did want to call out Zebra Capital Management. It's a 'quant fund'. Here's the header which shows LOTS of activity.
I include this 'snapshot' for each of the Institutional Investors included on the spreadsheet. I will also have a 'summary' worksheet so that you can see the list of IV's and click to the tabs that you are interested in.

I've no parameters regarding who I include. This information is from the Nasdaq website (images are used with their permission). It's a wonderful website to go to to see short interest and institutional holders. Frankly, I randomly go through and enter ticker symbols, sort the list of new holders by date (still lots of 03.31.08's) and choose those that have a decent enough money under management to provide some interest. Very unscientific--but a serendipitous way of finding out new information.

Later this a.m. I will include the link. I will keep adding to this worksheet, using the summary worksheet to denote the date that I've added to it. I thought this a better way to manage new additions (so long as the upload links don't change--a technical issue that I'll get figured out), rather than continuing to create new worksheets.