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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

It has been a tough year all the way around. The economy has been difficult for most of us. The markets have been confusing at best and dangerous at worst. The Orioles suck and the Ravens are going to need a miracle to make the playoffs. My personal life remains God’s personal comedy channel or at least a warning to others. In spite of that at this time of year it is appropriate to count my blessings and they are many.

Lets start with the fact that I am basically living my dream. I work from home, write every day and invest in stocks and bonds for myself and friends. It does not get any better than this. I moved into a larger nicer place and both kids are here with me now. While that is at times a mixed blessing I truthfully like it MOST of the time. I have dodged the worst of the markets and the economy and life is actually pretty damn good for me.

Yes times are tough right now for many in this country. Truth be told they may well get far worse before they get better. That cheerful breed of cutthroats, thugs thieves and outright fucking idiots that ascended to power are clueless. At times it seems like they are trying to screw up the world. It is amazing to me that the focus on politics and appeasing vote and money blocks allows them to totally ignore the long term implications of what they are doing. If they are considering that aspect of their actions than they are criminals and traitors and should be drug by their carefully coiffed hairdo to the gallows and swiftly and brutally executed. I find myself hoping they are just the vote whores and power sniffers I think they are. The alternative is ugly.

But the truth is that this is the US. I cannot believe that we have become so lethargic and sheep like that we will not see through this at some point. I already see the tea parties and feel the rage of many people in this country. People are confused and scared and they are beginning to realize what a buffoon they elected to lead us. This is change you can believe in all right just not for the better. The 1970s decade of clueless leadership and idiotic fiscal policies gave rise to Ronald Reagan ad 20 year boom and I think it will happen again. If it does not then it is our own damn fault for allowing it to happen.

I think we will again become an America where innovation and industry will be rewarded. Hopefully we get back to a point where a house is a home and not a speculation. Whats wrong with saving your money and making a downpayment and having equity in your home. The American Dream is the freedom to live the life you want not owning a fucking ATM machine with indoor plumbing. We need to change the tax code to encourage savings and investment once again, instead of encouraging debt and insatiable spending.

I do not who John Galt is but I think he is out there. The outcome of the incredible fucking mess we are in and are still facing is hopefully a return to a world where small business thrives and grows. If we do realize our mistakes of the past decade and get our country back on track then its worth it. If we do not take the country that way then we deserve whatever we get from the pocket picking assholes on either side of the aisle.

Those who are aware of my market and economic positions wil be surprised to hear me describe myself as an optimist. True I am bearish on the intermediate direction of financial things but on life itself I remain an absolute cock eyed fucking optimist. There is simply too much that is good and true and right about this life not to be. If life is so awful how can we have summer nights and winter mornings? Look at a smiling child and tell me again how horrid life is. Watch an elderly couple strolling hand in hand down the avenue oblivious of the traffic and crowds swirling around me and tell me that this journey is not worth it. It is.

There is so much to be grateful even in a tough year. There are books of course. Books have made my life what it is so far. They are my biggest source of education but of entertainment. Television is for sport and news. I do not see how people can sit in front of the box having someone else life fed to them in thirty minutes slices of idiocy when so much great literature and incredible stories are at hand. Hell, even if you are broke a library card is free. The lessons of the universe and of history are in their pages, as are the stories and epics of the ages. How someone can note read is just a mystery to me. Maybe not a Parker or Christie quality mystery but a mystery none the less.

There is music. Here’s an idea. Instead of taking anti fucking depressants fill your life with Handel, Mozart and Beethoven. Throw out the goddamn pills and turn on Miles and Coltrane to out out the fires raging in your head. Let Oscar Peterson take you off to dreamland and maybe a little rock and roll to get the blood flowing in the morning. Let me see you be a grouch ass in the morning with John Hiaat slamming through slow turning . Can’t be done. Music is the heart of life and the soul of creation in my opinion.

The next area is one I approach warily. There are women. While it is true that I am coming off a breakup of breath taking proportions even by my somewhat spectacular standards I will always be grateful for the women that I have been fortunate enough to have in my life. Yes, they have made me crazy at times and the source of more than one tear (if I cried of course.Everyone knows I am a tough guy and tough guys do not cry). But there have been so many spectacular moments that any pain has been worth the passion and even love. A first kiss, a lovers touch, the moment you know you are falling in love, these and so many others are the reason I will never give up on women. As with Edison and the light bulb I am aware that I can fail many times with explosions and even burns along the ay but I only have to get it right once for the light to work. I remain hopeful that at some point it does and I can be half of that couple walking down the avenue hand in hand oblivious to the crowds and the traffic swirling around them.

To not be grateful for my friends would be to mock at the face of God. I have been blessed with friends that are in my opinion the single greatest group of people I have known. Here on the island people like The Tire guy and his bride The Salon Chick, Tic tac and The Peruvian princess, Crackbaby an his girl the wine pusher are the glue of life. People like GQ and Lamie, The Fishermans Guy and the shacked up freeloader along with baldy and so many others are the ones I laugh with, play with and make life so much more enjoyable. When I think I have set a new standard for a whacked out personal life I need merely hang out with the Porsche driver for a bit and my troubles are greatly reduced in scope!We share the laughs, we share the tears and we love our lives.

Then there are the Spec Friends accumulated over the years. How much have I learned from The irascible curmudgeonly options trader and the rest of the disreputable Chicago crowd over the years? How many late nights and last calls have we all shared over the years? Too much and too many to ever properly count. There are the late night calls with the gin swilling Cheesehead who has become one of my favorite people on the planet over the years. The voodoo prof, the VT fan, the Iranian, the Kentucky colonel,all of these and more have added so much to my life over the years that I could never repay it . My fondest hope is that I have added some measure to theirs.

So yeah, it has been a tough year. But we have and will survive; Life will swirl around us with all the attendant highs and lows. There will be laughs and music to soothe out journey and enhance our path along the way. There will be sunsets of unspeakable beauty and storm of unfathomable strength and we shall pass through them all. There is much to love about life and so much to be thankful for even when times are tough.

So raise a glass my friends in toast to all we have to be grateful and all that makes life so wonderful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Life Rolls On

So the time is upon us and the end is nigh. As we all do pass to where we do not know and dare not ask, the regular season is coming to its end. The orioles have been god awful bad this season and again we end on a weak note. There are signs of promise but we need one arm and two bats to actually compete I shall watch the off season closely. Now I turn my eyes north with the fond hope the Yankees kick the shit out of Boston and take it all. Who else would I pull for? The Phillies? LA? Not much chance of that. Give me the legacy of Ruth Gehrig mantle and DiMaggio as we move to the playoffs.

We have play off baseball and football this month. As a sports fan it is hard not to love October. The Ravens are good, Navy is average and Maryland sucks but we shall enjoy it all. Flacco looks like Unitas out there and has the same proud humility. It will be fun watching the season. I have MD season tickets but have only watched one quarter. They are truly terrible. Love the fridge but he may have to go. Navy took one to much if a schedule this year but I think we get six wins and beat Army so that is a good year.

The market? Are you fucking kidding me? I have been wrong since March but right since 2007. The real estate and employment situation are still horrible and they are the keys to everything. How can you be bullish in an economy that is 70% consumer driven and the real unemployment rate approaches 20%? Achieving earnings targets by firing people is not a healthy solution. I catch a lot of shit for being bearish but fuck em. I am up over 60% with my too cheap not to own stocks and I never got over 40% invested. The bulls can buy the ticket and take the ride but do not bitch to me or ask for a loan when it all goes to shit. You have to be a fucking idiot to believe we are okay right not. We are not.

Stick with the cheap shit. You wont lose money with stuff like FLY,CRE and SGI. Cash on the books is comfortable. You can sleep at night and not lose money. Given Marty Whitman’s approach to distressed debt and track record you have t be an idiot not to put money in his new credit fund. But buy the market? Why not just hit yourself in the crotch with a hammer? Might hurt less in the long run.

Enough of those topics. Life rolls on and it is good. The poets rhyme and the singers sing. The books keep being written and the sun sets with a colorful display of life and its possibilities every night. There are smiles and the greetings of friends. Each day there is a daughters laugh and a sons smile to reinforce the feeling of a job done well and right. I do not claim to be a great parent bit I did not fuck up too badly as the lives and determination of those two attest. Soon they won’t need me any longer. Although that has been the goal I may still shed an imaginary tear or two when that day arrives.

I am living a dream I never thought I would have, I write. I trade and life is good. I have friends that most people never will. I have lived my dream the past two years. If it ends tomorrow at least I had it for awhile. I do not think it will as it turns out I am pretty good at this. I will ride it as far as it goes and try to expand it further. We have on going talks about a fund or newsletter or a combination therein, by years end I will figure it out.

So on it goes. Life is incredible right now. There is a woman who makes me smile every time I think about her. She is very private so I cannot talk about her much. Suffice it to say that the last time I was this happy and thrilled with someone gray hair was nowhere near the issue it is now. No names or details , just smiles.
Life goes on. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it dances. Markets go up, markets go down. The sun rises (so I am told I like sleep too much to ever see it) and it sets. Even when it hurts life it is glorious.

Friday, May 22, 2009

In honor of My sons 21st birthday, a guide to imbibing like a gentleman

1. If heading out for an evening of imbibing, have cab far in cash in your pocket even if using a credit or debit card for the tab.
2. Learn your bartender’s name. No one likes to be called “hey you.”
3. Unless they piss in your drink, tip at least 20%
4. Run a tab rather than pay as you go so they know you tipped fairly, especially if you intend to be a regular.
5. If you can afford it, a little extra tip at the holidays marks you as one of the good guys and will pay off in spades over the years
6. Bartending can be a tough job. They put up with enough drunken assholes. Do not be one.
7. Fighting in bars is stupid beyond belief. Do not do it for any reason.
8. Most bar fights are over women. If someone hits on your date and she ignores it, you do the same. She is with you and he has to live with the burden of being a dick.
9. If she does respond, congratulate him on his skill in identifying a weak willed shameless slut. Tell HER to pay her own god damned bar tab.
10. A wedding ring on a woman not just no. It is not no fucking was not even if she offers blatantly. It will happen at least once in your drinking career and NOTHING good will come from it.
11. Drinking shots until you puke/pass out/become overtly obnoxious does not make you cool. It makes you one more drunken ass hole that only other drunken assholes will want to be around
12. Drunken assholes make poor friends
13. If you have a friend who likes to get into fights. Leave him home. His reputation will hurt yours.
14. If someone asks for your keys, surrender them. If another drunk thinks you are too drunk to drive, you are. Use the cab fare in your pocket.
15. If for some unfortunate or idiotic reason you are asked to leave an establishment, just leave. You are not going to talk your way back in.
16. Go back in the morning and apologize to the owner/ manager if this happens, especially if you are a regular.
17. If you could not dance or sing when you came in, you cannot dance or song later either.
18. Before leaving with a cougar or chubby always run the idea by your friends. You need a two thirds majority before proceeding. Alcohol often distorts perception.
19. Do not get suckered into buying drinks for groups of girls. Cutting one out of the flock is difficult at best and those $8 cosmos add up quick.
20. There is a difference between funny and obnoxious. Learn the difference. It may save you from a horrendous ass beating one night.
21. Never clock block.
22. If someone does it to you, do not drink with them anymore. They will do it again.
23. Never fruit whiskey. It is inelegant and unmanly.
24. Sport fucking women you meet in bars without a condom is like paying Russian roulette with 5 bullets in the gun. I mean really, do you think you are the only one she has ever done this with? Wrap to ride.
25. If someone you do not know wants to play pool for money, you are probably going to lose.
26. Should you bet on anything, pay your losses immediately.
27. Never give someone a second chance if they do not do the same.
28. There is reason the state runs Keno in bars. That reason is not to give your drunk ass money to pay the tab.
29. If you offer to buy a girl a drink and she switches from draft beer to some shit with an umbrella in it, walk away after paying. You cannot afford the kind of leeching this chick will do to you.
30. If a friend buys a round, it is incumbent upon you to return the favor.
31. Should a friend not reciprocate more than once, quit buying him drinks. Introduce him to the girl in #29
32. If you no longer recognize the language you are speaking, it is time to call that cab.
33. Wearing Ravens gear into a bar in Pittsburgh is probably not conducive to your health and well being.
34. If you and your buddies insist on referring to women as cunts, ho’s or bitches, rest assured that the one woman you set your sights on will overhear you. Dead Man Walking.
35. Be polite to friend’s wives, girlfriends and dates even if you think they are unattractive and bitchy.
36. Odds are the bar stool is not wobbly. You are drunk. Think cab.
37. If drinking at a Dock bar determine what number of drinks requires you to stay away from the edge.
38. If you bump into someone, apologize. If you spill their drink, buy them another one.
39. If you spill your own more than once, it is time to go.
40. Unless you can actually sing (see #17) or are Tom Cruise singing karaoke love songs to random hot chicks is not going to work.
41. Talking on 3rd down or a 3 and 2 count in the ninth inning is just fucking rude.
42. Before using a pick up line, ask your sister how she would respond to it.
43. By the time a woman is 25, chances are she really has heard them all.
44. It is true; some women are hopelessly attracted to assholes.
45. Those women are not worth the high price of becoming an asshole no matter how hot they are.
46. Men will swarm around the tens. Somewhere in that bar is an 8 with a better personality who is would love some attention.
47. Do not bet basketball with Travis Coleman no matter what odds he gives you. Little fucker is lucky although he does owe me $20 from the Boston game.
48. More than one martini will probably have an unfortunate ending.
49. The barmaid is probably not going to fall in love with you.
50. Above all do not be THAT guy. If more than one person mutters “oh shit” or the bartender frowns when you walk in, you are on the way to being THAT guy and need to adjust accordingly

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Market Thoughts 3-14

Now that last nights ruminating and bloviating is out of my system (temporarily I assure you) let’s turn our attention and focus to more important matters. We finally got a rally in the stock market this week with 4 actual honest to god up days in a row. Hats off to Doug Kass for a brilliant bottom call. Frankly I am amazed it took so long to develop. Every indicator I have ever used was oversold, in most cases ridiculously so. I starting saying a few weeks ago we were probably due for a good little rally in the market. Day after day I watched the market fail to get a bid and just drop lower. There was a global buyers strike in equities. Now, we finally have a little bounce here, up about 10% in just the last four days. Let the rejoicing begin, the Bear is dead!

Umm.not so fast. In my mind to believe the stock market has pout in a bottom you have to believe that two things tha just do not hold up to examination. First, you have to believe that real estate has stopped going down. Plunging real estate prices and soaring foreclosure rates are the major problem in the economy. According to RealtyTrac foreclosures jumped 30% last month on a year over year basi., More than 10% of homes with a mortgage are at least one payment behind. A little basic supply and demand math tells you that all these homes being dumped on the market are going to push prices lower still in the months ahead. We still have a wave of ALT-A and Option Arm loans to reset this year. A very high percentage of these 2006-2007 loans are going to default. The buyers could not afford the reset payment rate if their life depended on it. Design all the government mortgage bail out plans you want. Short of giving these folks the house or charging 0 %interest for the life of the loan, as well extending the loan to 50 years in term, they are going to default.
Much was made of the fact that housing inventories declined a little in January and February. Except, not really. There is an estimated 700,000 homes in some stage of the foreclosure process, including other real estate owned on bank balance sheets that are not officially listed for sale yet. ZI have seen estimates as high as 3 million total foreclosures this year. That would be about a 60% increase in inventory levels if it comes to pass. The only buying we see in housing is on the courthouse steps these days. So far, there is not enough vulture activity to soak up the supply and allow prices to stabilize.

The second belief you must hold if you think the rally is an actual bottom is that earnings will get better in the second quarter. To those of you who hold such a belief I shall simply ask, “ Are you high?” Where will such earnings growth come form. Retail? Not a chance. Any sales truncations consummated these days are done to levels designed to clear inventories with little or no margin. Financials? Didn’t you just love the Citigroup memo the other day that they were profitable on an operating basis nit including speciall items. Special items like credit losses and asset write-down’s. I have to check this but I am sure that Citi was profitable without considering the gargantuan losses in every quarter since the crisis began. It’s the losses that have sucked up the $100 billion or so of private and public capital the bank has used to keep the doors open. Financials still have a lot of real estate related problems ahead of them in my opinion. Energy? Sure with falling demand and lower commodity prices their earnings should just explode this quarter. Tech? Last time I looked technology companies sold products and services to other companies and consumers, both of whom are scared to death, over levered and not spending money. We justput in the first quarterly loss ever for the companies that make up the S&P 500 and I just do not think the second quarter will be a hell of a lot better. Everyone thought I was drunk or insane when I said last year we would put a 6 handle on the S%P 500. I was right. I think I am right this time as well. We have not seen a real bottom in this market.

I would love to be proven wrong about this because I am tired of wrestling with the daily dichotomy of a poor stock market and the unbelievably cheap asset values I am seeing on a daily basis. My good friend Corban Bates, a budding value investor and recent grad of Hudson High, sent me a spreadsheet last with week with over 100 companies that trade for less then net current asset value. The last time we were anywhere close to that was the net cash bargains created in the internet blow up and the majority of those paid off handsomely over the next couple of years. You can buy stocks like ADPT, TECD, and ESIO for less than the value of the company’s liquid assets. You can literally build a portfolio of 40-50 of these that have a good credit scores, viable businesses and excellent recovery prospects. That’s enough to make me salivate at the possibilities for gains over the next several years.

DIS trade for about two thirds of my appraisal value. That is provided we give no value at all to the film library or character rights and price the parks as raw land and put a 5 multiple on after tax earnings DELL trade for less than two cash. HTH is a pile of cash in the hands of a proven investor in distressed banks and other financials. As a bonus the company landed aback door bank charter and will be able to bid on distressed assets and institutions. Southwest Airlines is stupid cheap, trading below tangible book value. Oil service companies like RDC and PTEN trade below net asset value at these levels. I like the idea of buying the Forest City senior debentures at a 30% YTM and what looks to be more than adequate asset coverage. Whitman has been a buyer and although struggled with everyone else last year, he is one of the best credit analysts and distressed guys around. Assets are cheap and normally I would be looking to go all in here.

So far I have resisted the urge. It’s worked for me as week after week the market has moved lower. We have seen a few little rallies but they sputter and fade. I am trying to play good defense whole accumulating cheap assets. It would be hard to play the traditional value game of buy and hold here as assets that look cheap drop another 505 or so, No mater how confident you are of your analytical ability that type of loss generates acidic vomitosis and takes a long for recovery to occur. Instead, I have held inverse ETFS to offset my long exposure. I have sold calls on rallies. The worst that happens is that the stock gets called away and I have to buy it back. In my former life as retail broker high commissions made this unpractical. Today, paying less per trade than the cost of an all night drink cup on ladies night in a dive bar, it’s not an issue. In the case of Southwest Airlines I bought 2001 $5 calls for $2 to create my position. Southwest, the best run airline in the country over 7 in two years? Hell, book value is almost seven. I ll take the bet every day.
For the most part I am avoiding the financials. I noted the other day that the giant distressed firm Oaktree Capital has almost no exposure to the most distressed industry on the planet. I agree with the choice. The major banks are just highly toxic piles of shit. Book values are fiction. Some of the community banks like SVBI and ANNB are stupid cheap but the on going real estate problems are going to plague them for a while yet. We have no idea what rules, regulations and restriction the banks will have to operate under going forward. Until we do, it is hard to make an educated investment in bank stocks. I love community Banks and traded them for years. I paid for one marriage and two divorces because of community bank stocks. I look forward to doing so again but not until we see the new rule book. Financials will not lead the market to a new bull. There are so many other bargains it is easy to ignore them and stay out of the minefield they created for themselves.

The values are there and I am confident that over a span of years I will get paid. I am aware however that there will be more downward pressure on prices and it will be some time yet before an economic and market recovery is affected. We have a ways to go as a nation. Before the bubble consumer debt was less than 70% of GDP according to reports I have seen. It is almost a 100% today. When we were great and growing a s a country we saved for what we bought. We used debt for large purchases and paid it off as quickly as we could. Wed id not take a credit card and spend our home equity on a trip to Barbados or a new pair of Jimmy Woos. We put money down on our homes, qualified for a mortgage and lived in the damn things. To really put things back on track we have to work our way back to that again. It takes time.

I ll buy a little here and there as things become too cheap not to own. But I m going to hedge my bets and use options as much as possible to create and protect positions. In my mind it is foolish for an investor not to do so. I have no interest in calling a bottom or executing short term directional trade right now. I have seen two many guys and girls carried out on their shield in the last two years to even think the reward could be worth the risks. Protect capital, find deep undervaluations and be damned careful.

Next time out I will cover really important shit like baseball and why the Orioles have a great team of position players but the usual collection of rag arms and no names on the hill will make it difficult to compete again this year. Maybe talk about why a happy many could make the Dodgers the best of the NL and Teixeira taking the Yankees back to the playoffs. Goes without saying that we will examine why the god damn scum sucking rat bastard Red Sox are the very definition of all that is evil and foul in the world today

Friday, March 13, 2009

Books, Broads and Booze

There are times when one must sit around of a Friday eve and watch basketball, sip whiskey and contemplate, if not ruminate about the world and ones role within it. Such a night would seem to be upon us. Translated this means that there is not much going on around the island tonight and the ACC tournament is on. As I begin my latest epistle, Maryland is leading Wake Forest in the second half, my glass is newly filled and all would seem right in the universe for the moment. Of course, I drink faster and the Terps have blown bigger leads so we shall see how long the world stays so happy a place.

As they do so often on quiet nights my thoughts turn to the formative forces and times of my life. By any counts it has thus far been an interesting journey with twist and turns worthy of a novel, provided Hunter Thompson, SE Hinton and F. Scott Fitzgerald had collaborated on such an adventure. I would love to include Hemingway but I haven’t boxed in over 35 years and hunting and such bores me shitless. The 16 year old high school drop out I once was had no idea that life would turn out the way it has. It’s been fun, it’s been educational and quite a ride. Like all thrill rides it has had some bumps and scary times. (Although I am blessed with that special stupidity that is rarely afraid. More like curious as to just what the fuck else is going to go wrong). Somehow I have managed to have a career in an industry no one in my neighborhood had any idea existed. Hell, working on the line at GM or Sparrows Point, maybe a nice government job was the height of our ambitions. Somehow I got form there to hear and one has to wonder what the chief forces have been that drive such a life. The answer of course lies in the 3B’s of my existence. Books, Broads (yeah, yeah I know politically incorrect and all that shit but female acquaintances and companions doesn’t have the same zing does it?) and booze.

Books have been the chief driver of my intellect and what paltry accomplishments I have achieved. I cannot claim that I did anything to spur my love of reading. I was just born this way. My mother encouraged it and each week through my youth we made the trek to the Drug Fair parking lot to check out books form the bookmobile service provided by the public library. I loved that damn thing. Just a big old bus full of books free for the taking. Mom never told us what we could or could not read. Whatever struck us was fair game I could check out some Alistair McLean adventure novels , Churchill’s histories or even some racy Harold Robbins novels. I read everything and anything. I almost looked forward to being grounded when I was a teen. In the summer I would climb a tree in the yard and read for hours, hidden from the world. I was a teenager when I read Solzhenitsyn. I read damn near everything he ever wrote the summer between 7th and 8th grade. I still remember poor old Mr. Taylor calling me a liar when we did the first day of school what did we read over the summer role call. There I stood in cuffed jeans, greasy hair and Chuck Taylors talking about the Gulag Archipelago. The class ended, as did a lot the rest of the year with the hood and the teacher arguing about books while the rest of the class fucked off.

Books have been a driving force in my life. Both parents were brilliant people who were big readers. I was literally born a speed reader. To this day I read just about a book a day. I read everywhere. I have read in schools, churches and jails. I read on the beach, on planes, wherever I find myself. My apartment is a literally cluttered with books most of the time. As my son says “ya know Dad, I feel like I live in the worlds messiest library.” Without them I would probably still be that high school dropout.

Who influences me the most? I think they all did. Shakespeare who opened my eyes to the romance and excitement of words and the world they described. Hunter Thompson ,who taught me to embrace the weirdness of it all. Ayn Rand is how I finally figured out that I was responsible for my own actions. She has some fucked up ideas about relationships and has the compassion of a damn stone but she does exude a passion for life and achievement.

COMMERCIAL BREAK” Maryland did it. We beat Wake and go to the semi’s. The NCAA doesn’t put us in the dance now they should be horsewhipped like the brainless, soulless dim witted fucktards they are. We should play Duke next and I cannot with for another shot as those bastards.
Books eventually set my career. As a young salesman I read all the Ziglar and Hopkins I could find. I read the Norman Vincent Peales and Napoleon Hills to discover the power of the mind. Back in the days of my door to door sales career these helped keep me focused on the next door and forget the last three slammed in my face.

A lot of value investors tell me that Ben Graham’s writings were their epiphany. For me it was when my mentor to be (reluctantly I promise you. I was a pain in the ass) gave me a copy of Marty Whitman’s Aggressive Conservative Investor. The concept of asset based investing just made an enormous amount of sense to me. From there I moved on to Graham and Ed Altman and learned equity and credit analysis. I loved Victor Neiderhoffers Education of a Speculator. His unusual and unique way of thinking about markets helped me avoid getting stuck in my ways and approach. My eventual friendship with the author after email exchanges was one of the most positive influences in my life and my career.

The lessons of history are there for the taking. Jefferson to Churchill. Thomas Paine to Ronald Reagan. He stories of the patriots, pioneers and ner do wells that birth a nation. The seriously demented authors of Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto who sought to destroy a world. All available for the taking merely by opening a book. Hell, you can damn near learn history by reading historical novels. WEB griffin for one has made the story of the US Military for 1940 through current time’s fun to read. Bernard Cornwells Sharpe novels make European history interesting. Patrick O’Briens Jack Aubrey books bring the life of the British navy alive and understandable.

Then there are the just for fun writers that I read just to escape. Robert parker (although truthfully one could learn to cook and fight reading the Spencer series). Randy Wayne Whites Doc Ford series has become a favorite. Travis McGee remains my hero and role model. If Christopher Moore is not the funniest son of a bitch whoever set paper to pen, he is a candidate. How can you not love a drunken lecher like Charles Bukowski? Dorothy Parker could have easily been the great love of mu life if not for that multi decade difference in birth dates. The poems of Cumming with their aggressive sensuality, Yeats with his lyrical quest for love and freedom, Baudelaire’s Be Drunk, all of these delight the mind and inflame the inner mind.
Books taught me romance. They taught me history, math, passion, and an appreciation of life.They have entertained me. My career path was shaped by them. They are easily the most dominant of the B’s.

Which of course brings us to broads. Women, the fairer sex, the delight of my soul and bane of my existence. Nothing else in life can take you as high or lay you as low as a woman. From the majesty of a first kiss to the soul crushing wine drenched break up that leaves you a blithering idiot for days on end, they are the best and worst of life. It has been my experience that it is far more the former than the latter. I have finds that have been crushed enough times in the dance of romance that they give up and avoid anything that might look like a relationship. Fuck that. There is always a chance that I find the Bacall to my Bogart and that will always be worth the risk of heartbreak (although I could do with out the lawyers and the judges when it turns out to be Sinatra and Gardner instead).

I will always be an Irish romantic. To give up on romance and the mere possibility of finding that perfect partner, she with whom I match on all levels, a partner and lover, would seem to me to take much of the meaning out of life. I confess that at 47 at times the search is a pain in the ass and I have come to loath the early stages of the dating process but sometime there is a click for however ling that continues to offer a glimpse of possibilities. If I never find it, at least I ll have a lot of fun, nights of dancing at the dock bar to blues under the stars, dinners with eyes sparkling in the candlelight,, that first anxious clumsy fingering enrobing, the comfortable sensuality of a familiar lover and all the other moments that are forever frozen in my memory.

Like everyone else my age and still single, there have been successes that did not last as well as spectacular fuckups along the way. Some were my fault. Some were not. From each of them as time passes and the scars fade I find that there are memories that I would trade for the pain of the aftermath. Quit? Not going to happen. Ill take the scars if I can have those moments that do work. A rainy Sunday morning with the coffee and New York Times, Nat King Cole on the stereo playing footsie at the breakfast table. Lying on the beach together barely touching but deeply aware of the touch. A long conversation about hopes dreams and desires over a bottle of three of wine. Goodnight kisses and passionate awakenings. Finishing each others sentences, laughing at private jokes, slow dancing with no music playing, love letters and late night phone calls. Are you telling me the me risk of getting hurt outweigh these, or the possibility they last the proverbial forever? What a chicken shit way to live.

Bringing us of course to booze. Like so many other Irishman before me I am an unabashed drinker. I really don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about it. I laugh out loud at people who tell me that drinking alone is not good for me. Shit I like MY own company. A book with a glass of wine and I m a happy fucking camper. Put a baseball game on turned down low at the same time and that about as happy as I can be with my clothes on. Bring me a bunch of friends and a long boozy dinner at the bar with lots of laughter and I consider that a great evening. Long conversations with old friends over a cigar and a good scotch are among my favorite things. Cruising down the bay with a frosty gin and tonic as the sunset paints the sky is a joyous occasion. I have toasted my weddings with champagne and endured divorce with Rumpleminz( okay so maybe that wasn’t such a good idea). I made the final decision to switch career paths last year over a glass of Famous Grouse. I have fallen in both love and lust over a bottle of wine. I have lifted a glass in a final toast after too many wakes. I miss the days when booze and cigarettes were an accepted part of life I don’t miss work because of the prior night with the exception of March 18th and the day after a jimmy Buffet concert. . I tell every first date I smoke and I drink and I have no attention of stopping. I don’t drink until I can’t work, I have never needed a drink but I do enjoy one. In the poetic words of my Celtic forefathers, fuck you I drink.

The three B’s. Now if I could just find a smart romantic sensuous woman who likes cocktail and books, life would be complete. Until then, I ll have a drink and finish my book.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts on snow

from the archives but captures my thougts on the white stuff

About 11 I decided that a nightcap was the just the thing and off to bed. Pouring a tumbler of Irelands finest single malt I stepped out on the deck to see what changes the weather had wrought. The snow was falling fast and furious, racing through the lights on the edge of the grounds, dashing to and fro in a jumble of flakes, the flaky confusion resembling an airborne version of the original mosh pit at a grateful dead concert. The ground now was covered, each fallen morsel piling on the other, flake by flake, stitch by stitch, weaving a soft white blanket over the earth, the mundane parking spaces now a snow covered playground. The trees off in the distance, those stark, bare branches that usually cut the sky with slashes of winter grey ugliness, now almost majestic in appearance, branches bending into intricate patterns, ice sculptures carved by a maniac snow queen for a winter celebration. Over the frozen waters of the creek off to my right, the snow continued to fall, swirling patterns of ice shaved off some celestial diamond bouncing and skipping with the wind as they covered the icy layers of Thompson creek. The watermans work boats, usually hulking industrial looking crafts covered in netting and cages, now rose like snow covered hills off some surrealistic arctic landscape, these white masses rising from the ice, the harsh workday edges rounded off by the falling snow.The piers extended over the water ways of ice, fingers of whiteness untouched as yet by footprints, just suspension bridges of snowy symmetry and perfection over the ice.

I paused and sipped my glass looking at the newly formed wonderland of wintry excellence, listened to that unique lack of sound that comes on snowy evenings, as the snow covers and muffles the earth and the clouds hang low to earth, disgorging sound baffling clouds of wintry wetness over the earth.

As I stood there, beholding the changes upon the earth, the mundane everyday turned into a painting by some heavenly currier and ives, breathing in the quiet and dampness quality of suspended noise from the world, regarding all that had happened to the world with just the arrival of one small winter storm, I had but one thought at regarding such sights


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Letter to an adult daughter

written after reading what I thought was horrible advice form a man to his daughters.

I too am big on the randy pausch book and thinking of getting a "be a tigger" tatoo. But with the exception of being competent and kind to children, my daughter would be in deep trouble should she take the rest of the advice. think horse whipped.

Tims words to a daughter:

marry a man you love and consider your equal, your friend and your partner. To marry for comfort or money demeans you, my daughter, and implies that you are capable of achieving neither comfort or financial independence on your own. Should that be true, I have failed you as a father. Dress to please your self, but if you choose to dress sexy all the time, understand that some if not many men, will treat you as a sex object and never see who you are. I would suggest a stylish and classy manner of dress that while not deemphasizing your sexuality, allows the rest of you to show through as well. A real relationship will involve your mind and heart as well as your body. Trust me, any man worth his salt can still tell you are sexy without dressing the part. Personally your father finds blue jeans and a tee shirt on a smart woman just enjoying her self and her life about as sexy as it gets.

as an side, unless I marry again, your future husband will NOT have an attractive mother in law. sorry . thems the breaks. some of us age better than others.

your sexuality is YOURS. If you prefer direct then be direct. If not, dont. The man who loves you will not only respect your sexuality but probably help you develop it along with his. Under no circumstances act like gennifer flowers. Although many men may like the accompaniment of an occasional trashy slut, as she found out we dont keep them long.

Never , under any circumstances divorce, romance from the life affirming and practical matters of your life. Do not for one millisecond dismiss a single fraction of who you are or what you believe to get a damn man. I am one. Most of us are not worth that kind of sacrifice. One who is will not ask for it nor desire it.

Indeed judge all men by what they do and not what they say.all women too. dogs and cats as well for that matter

be yourself my daughter. In all things. You are a smart capable young woman who is also beautiful. Be who you want in all things. Live, as dagny taggert did, to your highest ideal and purpose. The man who belongs with my daughter will see all that and want to be a part of it, not in control of it.