Deep Value Letter - Banner Ad / Email Capture

Friday, December 31, 2010

The year ahead, markets version

Ah the years end prediction exercise. It is of course a mostly useless exercise since not a one of us can predict what shocks, positive or negative, the world and the markets could see in 2011. I find it crack up laugh out loud funny that some pundits come out and offer up earnings estimates, GDP growth assumptions and interest rate guesses to give a precise level for the year end S&P 500 price. You might as well pick numbers out of a bag and rearrange them by lottery to come up with a year end number. In a world where we are fighting two wars, a hostile government holds the majority of our debt and several sovereign nations continually teeter on the edge of oblivion it’s pretty much ridiculous to assume what could happen in the year ahead. Having said that, as my son’s favorite WWE wrestler when he was a little guy used to say “It’s time to play the game!”

Ill start with bonds. I have owned puts on the long term treasury market for two years now. I gave some back in 2010 after a huge gain in 2009 but am still slightly ahead. Ill roll the position forward and buy January 2012 puts and stay short. When I look at bonds I hear some folks talking about rising basic commodity prices and worrying about inflation. They are of course correct. This is happening. I hear some other really smart folks talking of weak real estate, high jobless rates and the potential for falling back into recession. Naturally, they are also exactly correct. So I will predict the one thing no one else is. We are on the verge of good old fashioned 1970s style stagflation. Commodity and basic needs prices will accelerate as QE2 has at least stimulated demand from emerging markets by allowing these wonderful credits to borrow money cheaper than a school teacher with a 750 FICO score. Bonds go lower as rates spike. Our economy and balance sheet are a mess and we have governments run by men in tin hats lecturing us on fiscal responsibility. "How low will they go Tim?" How the hell do I know? I just think they go lower by enough for me to profit.

Nor can I tell you where the stock market will go this year. I suspect we have had it too good for too long for no reason so I think we get at least one spectacular gut wrenching, vomit inducing sell off during the year. Much as lower than expected profits exposed the silly valuations of the new paradigm stocks I think that the darling group, retail , will spark a selloff in the stock market this year. Sales will be up a little bit but except for Tiffany’s (TIF) and that luxurious ilk margins are horrific. Discounting started early this holiday season and grew from there. They will get steeper now that that Santa Claus has given back my credit card and returned to the great white north. The earnings season will see a lot of missed estimates and lowered forecasts and that could well pop the bubble. Once it starts the HFT boys and girls should make sure it goes lower than anyone expects.

Here’s the thing about my prediction. It is no better than anyone else’s. In other words I am talking my book and predicting what I hope will happen. Having learned this lesson over the years I have alos learned that when it comes to market timing and market direction I am probably the dumbest guy in the room. Because of that I have trained myself to always buy the stuff that’s too cheap not to own and hold it regardless. After the rally since September truly cheap stuff is a little scarce on the ground but I have found enough to be about 40% long going into the year. I have a watch list as long as a taller persons right arm but most of it hover above truly cheap.

Here is what I own going into the year and think is still cheap enough to buy. I like Winn Dixie (WINN). The grocery business sucks right now. Wal mart has crushed margins industry wide. That aside WINN trades at 60% of tangible book value and at some point their 514 stores in the Southeast will attract attention from investors. A takeover here would be less than shocking. I will add Presidential Life (PLFE) to the list. This stock is also at 60% of tangible book and I expect to see a lot of M&A activity in the insurance sector this year> this should raise valuations across the board. I like Miller Petroleum (MILL) with their drilling presence in Alaska and the shale field soft Tennessee. This one trades at 70% of tangible book. I'll add Imperial Sugar (IPSU), Syms (SYMS) and Micron Tech (MU) and Avatar Holdings (AVTR) to my list of cheapies and move on for now.

I am going to start building my small bank portfolio this year. Eventually this group becomes the "Fuck you walk away money" trade of the decade. As real estate losses work through the balance sheet and some measure of stability returns to the financial system, perhaps toward the end of the year, the small baileys savings and loan type banks should start to recover. We will also see a mind blowing M&A wave as larger banks look to gain not just market share but healthy assets to put on the books. Right now these names trade at a fraction of tangible book value. They will reach a multiple of that in a recovery or takeover scenario. Right now I own shares of Shore Bancshares (SHBI), a local bank trading at 80% of book value and a reasonably healthy loan portfolio. I have some other mini microcap banks as well that shall remain my little secret and not used to figure how my predictions work out. I mention them because if you have a mini micro bank in your community you should go meet the bankers, review the books and consider investing if it trades below the magical tangible book value and has excess capital. Flagstar Bancorp(FBC) is my super longshot undated call option on the economy and real estate markets.

I will also play the thrift conversion game heavily this year. With the elimination of the Office of Thrift Services under the new financial regulation many of the benefits of being a private or mutual thrift are going away. There are a ton of mutual savings banks that will now convert to publicly traded banks. A lot of these deals will be priced below the pro forma book value that is created by adding all that lovely IPO cash to the balance sheet without a corresponding increase in the shares outstanding. Right now I have Fox Chase Bancorp (FXCB) and Capital Federal Financial(CFFN). There will be more. Deals are happening every day right now and again I would keep an eye out for local deals that you can take advantage of in the next few months.

I also think that 2011 will be the year of the activist investor. These folks took a beating since 2007 but this should be their year. There is a ton of cash on corporate balance sheets but lots of underperformance in the current economic environment. We will see activist drive takeovers, restructures, and special dividends this year in my opinion. Recent filings of interest include strong activist positions in Surmodics(SRDX), SeaChange International (SEAC), and Energy Solutions. Tracking activist portfolios and 13D filings should be a very profitable activity in 2011.

I have been looking at some interesting new stuff with options as well I am not going to give most of it away just yet but I ll give you one stimulated by a recent list discussion. H and R Black is highly likely to go into a private equity portfolio next year. Management has made every mistake you can make and the loss of RALs is a big problem for the company. However the brand has real value. I do not want town the stock just yet but I like the idea of selling the January 2012 at $.70 to $.75. If you cash secure the put it’s a 10% or so return if the stock stays above the strike. If it falls below I’ ll be happy to own the stock with a 6 handle net.

Back in 2008 everyone anticipated a huge default wave to hit the high yield market. Thanks to federal stimulus money pumping programs it did not happen. However in the spirit of "sell the dog food the dog will eat at the given moment" the hedge fund world raised an enormous amount od distressed debt money. Thanks to this high yield spreads are far too low. CCC paper in particular is priced at absurd levels. These things trade like money good paper and much of it is not. Extend and pretend has helped but if the economy stays weak and interest rates rise rolling over the tsunami of paper due over the next few years becomes nigh onto impossible. I am going take small position in puts on the various high yield ETFs. If I am right they will explode when that market implodes. Continuing to talk my book I hope this happens. Among my nightly prayers is “Please God just one more two year period of asset rich companies with current payments having bonds trade below recovery value and I promise not to piss the money away this time. Amen. PS. If you add in risk arbitrage spreads of 30% annualized returns along with this I would not object. Love, Tim.”

I can’t tell you what the markets will do. I do know that I want to own some safe and cheap stocks, some well capitalized small banks trading below book and participate in activist situation. I will be underinvested in equities going into the year hoping my watch list becomes my buy list in market stumble. I will have put positions on long T-Bonds and high yield hoping for a large asymmetrical payoff.

Other than that I am clueless.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christ in Christmas

A well meaning perhaps, but closed minded, soul wrote this letter to a Maryland paper today.


I am responding to the announcement I heard regarding Wachovia Banks decision not to place Christmas trees in any of their establishments because they may be offensive. Offensive to whom? I am suggesting that all Christians remove any and all accounts from Wachovia Bank, because if anything is offensive, it is their Christmas tree decision. It is time that Americans stand up for what they believe and not allow our traditions to become moot because they may offend someone in the minority. This country was founded on the belief of freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. The Christmas season is time for peace and acceptance of all faiths and beliefs - not the time to try and take Christ out of the season.

There was of course no way in hell I was not going to respond once this was bought ot my attention. I doubt they run by my reply was as follws


In response to the recent letter by xxxxxxxx I can tell you as a Wachovia customer and stockholder in Wells Fargo, Wachovia’s parent company, her assumption is simply incorrect. It is the choice of each branch manager to display a Christmas Tree or not. I would also like to make the point that our country was founded on the principle of freedom of religion for all religions, not just yours or mine. Even if her assumption was true, to call for a boycott of a business based on their recognition or lack thereof of your particular religion is completely and totally un-American. Should we boycott the Jewish establishment because he does not put up a Christian symbol? Should we avoid doing business with atheists, Hindus, Buddhists or any other merchant or service provider who does not display artifacts of a particular faith?

We would do well to recall that religious freedom extends to all faiths, and even to a lack of faith. We may choose to do business with whom we wishes but to call for a boycott of any business based on their shared participation in your particular holiday runs against every single value upon which our nation was founded. Christmas is not a time of faith and belief for all religions. Celebrating the birth of Christ is uniquely Christian. Instead of asking for a boycott of a business we should practice some of the tolerance that is one of the hallmarks of Christ’s teachings.

I rather suspect in a world torn by war, poverty, hunger and disease God has more on his mind that where you keep your checking account. Perhaps those of us who call ourselves Christians should focus on those issues and let others bank where they wish without religious interference.

Before you ask, I have a great big honker tree in my house and celebrate the holiday with zeal. I also think that businesses and municipalities should be free to place symbols of the holiday wherever they so choose. They should also feel free not to without fear of boycott or discrimination from those of us who celebrate Christmas. That’s the American way I was taught and believe in to this day.

I am off to Wachovia to open accounts for my kids as an expression of the real meaning of freedom of religion. Merry Christmas!

Tim Melvin

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Annual Thanksgving Malarkey

So at long last the Holiday season is just about upon us .I know the malls and stores started playing Muzak versions of Rocking Around the Christmas Tree before we even sent the little ghosts and goblins out to extort candy from the neighbors but to me the Holidays start with Thanksgiving. It is one of the most perfect of holidays with excessive amounts of good fattening food, oceans of wine, lot of laughter and of course football in the extremis. I am not a fan of the retail rush to Christmas. In fact I hate it. There is no evidence it increases sales or profits and in fact it irritates me to the point I want to slap the crap out of fat guys with beards and short people wearing green on general principle. It’s just annoying. As my old partner in the door to door book business used to point out the rest of the year I’m just a grouchy a-hole but this time of year I become some sort of happy-happy ho-ho mother something or another.

I write this every year a day or two before the actual day occurs. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Eve and generally I start cooking the night before. The stuffing gets made and there are onions to sauté, celery to chop and sausage of several varieties that need to be fried and mixed into my savory creation .There will be butternut squash to whip and sweet potatoes that cry out for roasting and smashing. Others will be getting their junk touched by aggressive TSA officials at the airport, or perhaps posing for suitable for framing portraits of their nether regions in one of the new scanners, as the travel back to hearth and home for the occasion. Many others will be enjoying the spectacle of lights a twinkling…brake lights that is as they endure the back up of turnpikes, beltways and interstates on their way back to the bosom of family and friends. Still others will be jammed into trains and buses as they head home for the company of those they could not wait to escape when they left home in the first place.

It can be a special time. It is a chance to renew acquaintance with the obnoxious cousin you have pretty much hated since birth. We share apple pie and the opportunity for Mom to suggest we need to lose weight and change our hairstyle or pester us about grandchildren we have no intention of bearing. Doubtless Aunt Juniper will pass out in the rocking chair again this year have consumed too much of her the fruit of her namesake berries and it’s a safe bet Uncle Herb will pinch your wife on the ass again this year in an annual ritual of shameless buttockal groping. Its a magical time to eat drink and remember exactly why you never liked your second cousins third husband and rediscover all the ways your particular family puts the fun un dysfunctional.

All joking aside it is a time for families and for gratitude. We have a bunch of family and friends coming to Chez Melvin this year and we would not have it any other way. There will be wine, there will be pie, a giant turkey bird and all the trimmings my warped little mind can think of to enjoy throughout the day. There will be football.Above all there will be gratitude for all we have and the life we are so lucky to live and share together. We find much to be grateful for this time of year and here is just some of my list.

How can we not be thankful for the magic that is life itself? We lose track of it all someday but life brings so much to love, to savor and to enjoy. It is critical that we do not let the day to day garbage makes us lose sight of all that makes life so simply wonderful. There are full moons, sunsets and as I have discovered thi year sunrises you can see without staying up all night (more on that later). We live in a world that has books full of knowledge, adventure dreams, hope, answers, questions, poems, relaxation and inspiration. We have music from the soul solacing sounds of Mozart and Beethoven to the gut crunching guitar licks of Stevie Ray and JJ Cale, We can enjoy the melodical pattern woven by John Coltrane and the lyrical twisting of a Lyle Lovett (how can you not love a line like “I’d ride my pony on my boat) song. There is food of every description from steaks on the grill done to a sizzling perfection to seafood fresh from the bay and everything in between for us to enjoy and fuel our journey through the days.

More than ever I am grateful for friends of all stripes. We live in a land of slow breezes, fast boats and quick laughter here on the island and I have been blessed with incredible friends. The mix of people I am fortunate to call friend ranges from the married up tire guy to the Mr Clean look alike firefighter, form the goat and the shacked up freeloader to the bread man, from tic tacs and meatballs to cupcakes and wedding planners ,crack babies to shaky electricians and just about everywhere and everyone in between.

Friends goes beyond the island as well. There is everyone from the irascible curmudgeonly options trader to the cheese head and they have all added much to my life. The world’s only Iranian Jew was just here for a visit just before he went into viral celebrity for a brief but good visit. The handicapper is in NYC running stock market cartoons and projecting some sort of lines on charts, the spread trader stops his fun filled journeys to war torn nations and famine stricken banana republics long enough to check in from time to time. The Wiz and the Professor are still doing exactly whatever it is they do to hammer on the markets and the chairman still does his best to deflate ballyhoo and avoid hoodoos of all stripes. The counter count, the chartists chart and the opinionated opine and I am happy to call them all friend. They have added much to my life and my world.

Of course I am grateful for my children even when I am contemplating locking them in a dank dungeon full of James Joyce novels and leaving them in there until they can rationally explain Ulysses to the average person. My son’s twisted sense of humor and sarcastic mannerisms hide a sharp mind and a kind heart. I probably do not tell him enough but I am proud of him and the success he has already begun to achieve in his short time here on the planet. His mind naturally grasps the concept of business and profits and he is wise far beyond in 22 years in the ways of commerce. My daughter still has her too loud infectious and a voice that climbs a decibel with every sip of wine. She is adamant about being a teacher and has shown a perseverance and determination to reach the goal she set for herself. She has vercome the five years of being sick, worked her way through the first few years of school and is now at 26 finally a full time student closing to reaching her goal of being broke and happy as an elementary school teacher. I am plotting to get Tim Hewson to immigrate and marry her so I don’t have to pay the extras for the rest of my life. I figure it we are going to have an Ayn Rand loving libertarian school teacher in the family we might as well add an Irish trader with good taste in booze and books. I love watching the two of them continue to grow and learn to love life. Now I f I could just get my son to read a book.

There is an addition to the list this year. There is now a seven year old step daughter in the mix and the madness here at Chez Melvin. This energetic young Mensa candidate is either going to keep me young or wear me out in short order. She is a blonde haired, earlier rising sweet heart of a girl named for an Irish cattle stealing Queen and she is a welcome addition to the family. As a sign of her extraordinary intelligence he adores Lisa already, is getting used to her step brother and is altogether unsure about myself. Told you she was smart! She is a reader, with a sharp mind and loving heart who adds much to our family mix.

With a stepdaughter of course comes the person for whom I am most grateful this year. After giving up on the concept of ever finding someone who could put up with me it actually happened this year. I met the one person I really think I was destined to be with for life and maybe even beyond. I will spare all..okay some..of the romantic sappy stuff but when I look into Erin’s eyes I am sure I have had my last first kiss. We met in May, married in September and I cannot imagine my life without her ever again. She is everything I never thought I would have in my life. I was not looking anymore but the universe put her in my life and she has become my world. Above all this year I am thankful for my wife and the love we share and the grand adventure of life we have before us.

Life has its bumps and bruises. Almost nothing is going to go as planned. Life is unpredictable. Quit bitching about it and enjoy the journey. No matter your circumstance of current situations there is much about life for which to be grateful. There are raucous nights and quiet Sunday mornings. We have grand symphonies and party time rock and roll. Here is knowledge to be gained and lessons to be learned. There are bright sunny days for play and majestic rolling thunderstorms to watch in awe. Life is here like or not. Learn to embrace it, to enjoy it and above all to be thankful for it as this holiday of gratitude comes upon us this week.

I will lift my glass to you my friends on Thursday. I wish for you to have laughter and love, a thirst for knowledge, a zest for life and above all a sense of gratitude for the many wonderful moments that make up our lives and I thank you all for being a part of my life.

I am off to pour a glass of wine and begin to slip into my happy happy ho-ho state of mind

Monday, November 01, 2010

Election Eve Thoughts

So here we are the day before election. I am sitting here with the tube on a business channel and the internet running as on any other business day. Over the weekend I watched some football as well as a little bit of the World Series. The news is all about the election and the run of hate and demagoguery filled commercials have become quite taxing on the old brain. This election cycle appalls me. I hate what I am seeing. I love politics but hate what I am seeing develop around me. The overriding question in my mind is simple. What the fuck have we done to our nation?

Everyone is divided along party lines. The Dems adhere solidly to their platform and party leaders statements and beliefs. So do the Republicans. The Tea Partiers are pissed off but a lot them have no clue exactly why they are pissed. Everybody is repeating the party line and it does not appear that anyone is actually thinking.

Here is the problem as I see it. The GOP thinks that we should have more freedom for business and less taxes. I agree. However their definition of freedom applies only to those who think like they do. While deregulating commerce they want to control my personal life. I struggle with why you can support one freedom but not another? You want my business practices to be outside government control but think you should be free to regulate who consenting adults sleep with or with whom they choose to spend their life. The Democrats get a lot of the individual stuff right but think there should be a surcharge on success. The Democratic definition of fair means taking my money to pay for your lack thereof. Freedom means free folks. The logic of both sides has holes a five year old could drive a Tonka truck through with relative ease.

Which brings us to the Libertarians and some elements of the Tea Party. They have a lot to say with which I agree but I have a question. Why is that every time I listen to a libertarian candidate and talk to hard core party members I am left with the impression of a bunch of fucking goof balls who think freedom is best expressed by getting high on whatever is available and doing whatever you want regardless of the consequences. Look people I get legalizing pot. However legalizing crack is just fucking stupid okay? It should be obvious even to a stoner that free speech and free press does not apply to kiddie porn .No laws is not freedom ;its anarchy. Your freedoms end right where they hurt me and mine. Take your basic platform, add some common sense and we can talk.

Lets start with assumptions of what freedom means. First start with a basic. I do not owe you shit and you don’t owe me shit. What your daddy did to mine, or the color of our skin or religious practices do not incur a debt on either of our parts. If I fuck up, lose all my money and end up living under an underpass its not your fault or problem. If, out of the kindness of your heart, you choose to extend a helping hand I appreciate it. But you do not owe me anything. If your parents had more money than mine at the time of our birth it just means that I have to study harder, work harder and make my own way. All we are owed is a level playing field. If you have nicer uniforms and better equipment that’s life and I have to deal. That may not seem fair at first. However glance at the back of your birth certificate. There is no fairness guarantee. Freedom means you have a choice to do what you can with what you have to make your life what you wish. It does not mean fair in all things. Life is inherently unfair. Make the most of it anyway.

Lets now talk about business. My conservative friends think that business should be unrestrained. Basically I agree. However this does not mean that corporations should be able to do whatever they wish. Make a profit by all means. Invent, innovate, produce and add to the worth of the nation. However if you treat your employees like shit or make products that harm ,you should not be allowed to prosper. If you are dumping crap into stream and rivers that kill people I am kind of thinking you should be punished for this. If you lie to sell poor or unhealthy products this should not make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. If you want freedom and less regulation you have to accept the responsibility that goes along with this.

If you bet on red and it comes up black do not appeal to your personally purchased legislators to bail you out with money that came from my neighbors and I. You bet wrongly, thank for playing, you lose go, the fuck home. If you make a product that is not as good as a competitors or another country can produce it cheaper do not ask for my money to keep you in business. It’s not my problem. You are in business and have to accept the risks and responsibilities that come with business.

This responsibility extends to consumers as well. Use a little common sense and quit suing or seeking to punish corporations for your dumb ass mistakes. Coffee is hot okay? If you spill it in your lap its going to burn a bit. Giving a bite size toy to a toddler is just fucking stupid so act accordingly. Guns are dangerous, particularly if you leave them loaded where kids can find them. Fast food will indeed make you fat if you eat the crap every day. Booze and cigarettes are not good for you. I am an enthusiastic user of both and would haunt any family member who sued the cigarette companies of vineyards after my death. It’s a choice I made with an awareness of what I was doing and the risks I was taking.

This next is a big one. Lets take the handcuffs of apathy and dependence on government off the invisible hand of Adam Smith. A basic tenet of free markets is that bad companies with poor or obsolete products will be driven out of existence by the marketplace. Hey folks. WE are the market. You and I. Set aside the question of bank bailout for a second. All of us are pissed off by the banking crisis aren’t we? The why do any of us have checking accounts or other products at banks like Citi and B of A that were at the very heart of the mortgage mess? All of us profess to want to shop at local stores rather than Wal Mart but none of us are willing to pay higher prices to do so. We all bemoan the childhood obesity problem but most of us will hit the McDonalds drive through to get the kids six greasy nuggets and a bag of fried potato goodness along with a giant cup of flavored sugar water to wash it down when we do not feel like cooking. I have news for you. If we keep buying their products and using their services then the end result is not the fault of big evil corporations. It’s ours.

Listen people, corporations are not inherently evil . They make most of the stuff we use everyday. They create jobs, invent stuff that makes our lives better and in general do more good than harm. They are not a piggy bank to tax to pay for all your pet projects. Taxing capital and investment income is stupid and non productive. Now corporations keep in mind that along with the freedom to make money comes a responsibility to both consumers and the folks who work for you. Business works best when all three, capital, labor and consumer benefit. If you lose sight of this we reserve the right to quit buying your stuff and laugh as you go out of business. If you really lose sight of it we reserve the right to petition the courts and throw your ass in jail.

Now, politicians, listen up for a minute. The gross domestic production of the US economy is not you personal checkbook. It is our money. We need it to feed our kids, educate our families, build businesses and create jobs for our community. We need the money to invent new products, find new innovate ways to produce. We need it so we have a way and means to create art, write new books and play new music. We need it to do whatever the hell we want. It is our money NOT yours.

While we are at it lets get a few things clear. You have no right to tell me how to live my life. As long as it does not harm someone else leave me alone. I do not really give a shit what my friends and neighbors think about what I read, what I drink or who I sleep with. I do not want to hear that this insults some segment of the populace. I especially do not want to hear that this is not as God intended. GOD IS NOT RUNNING IN THIS ELECTION. I will settle my differences with God at the appropriate time but since I doubt your ability to interpret the wishes of an omnipotent and omniscient creator is any better than my own please quit telling me what he or she thinks of my life. That’s between God and I and doesn’t really involve you.

Next our tax code is an abomination. What the hell are you thinking? Our tax code only serves the purpose of keeping legions of lawyers and accountants in nice cars and good scotch. Lets just have a nice little flat tax and a national sales tax. Not only is that fair its transparent as hell. Nowhere for your eventual successors to hide new taxes the way you can now. Moving the national sales tax up a couple percentage points is something a second grader can understand. Now I realize that take a whole bunch of power away from you and gives it to the voters but if I may : THAT’S HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO WORK! It is government of the people, by the people for the people not a bunch of politicians using the fucking tax code to get what they want and cover up their mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes lets talk about war for a second. No one likes war. I am however aware that people being the idiots they are it is occasionally necessary. Let’s review something for a second. War has to be declared by Congress. Lets stop sending troops in harms way without a declaration of absolute war. We keep sending our young men and women off with asinine rules of engagement and then are shocked when we get our asses whipped by enemies who do not care if they kill 100 as long as one of them is an American. War is neither limited nor politically correct. If you are not willing to fight total unlimited war with all our resources and total victory as the only objective let’s just stay home next time. Those are our sons and daughters you are killing. Please show as much concern for them as your do the cousins of our enemies or the inhabitants of a nation hostile to the United States. I know they are faceless names on a casualty list to you but they are our children, friends and loved ones. Declare and destroy or please just do not bother. After conferring with both liberal and conservative friends on how to destroy society instead of sending young people to bleed and die just send the offending nation the following and allow them to self destruct from within:
1. Rap records
2. Pornography
3. Video Games for their Kids
4. Jerry Springer DVD’s
5. Do it yourself Incorporation Kits
6. Ayn Rand Books
7. Michael Moore Movies

It is real simple. I want to live in the land of the free. More importantly I want my kids and their kids as well as so forth and so on to live in the land of the free. We, as individuals, corporations and legislators need to accept both the freedoms and responsibilities of freedom. We need to tolerate each others freedoms. If you are opposed to gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person. If you are opposed to right wing versions of Christianity do not bother attending Sunday Services at Liberty Baptist Church. Do not abuse your freedom by doing things that hurt other people. You should have a right in the privacy of your own home to guzzle all booze you want. You do not have the right to get behind the wheel afterwards. You have the right to believe what you want. You do not have the right to force me to believe the same. I will die for your right to think and believe as you wish. I will kick your ass if you try to get me to accept them as my own against my will.

When asked the result of the Constitutional Convention Ben Franklin famously answered that we have given you a republic if you can keep it. We can. Take a deep breath. Forget the rhetoric and political bullshit. Get your hand out of my pocket and your version of morality out of my home. I do not owe you and you do not owe me anything. Any assistance we choose to give each other is of our own choosing. Government does not have the answer to our problems. We do. To truly be the land of the free requires an acceptance of the responsibilities that accompanies that freedom. It requires that we tolerate others choice in life as long as they do not harm us. I don’t give a shit if they offend you but as long as they do not harm you to be free we have to be tolerant. It requires you accept responsibility for your actions. The success and achievements are yours to celebrate but so are mistakes and bad choices yours to endure.

You take care of you and yours and I will take care of me and mine. We will let business do business as long as they accept their responsibility to the consuming public and their workforce. A little responsibility and tolerance and a decreased dependence on those power hungry idiots dumb enough to run for federal office and the republic can be saved, and more importantly preserved for those who follow us. Quit indentifying with a particular party or group, take a good look around at what we have done in the last fifty years to our nation. Partisan politics on both sides have taken us to the brink of losing what our forefathers gave us so many years ago. Take it back before it’s too late.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Happy Fourth 2010

Let Freedom Ring indeed. Let it resonate across the land and down the valleys of this great nation as once again celebrate the birth of our nation. Let the smell of freedom mingle with the wondrous odor of hot dogs and burgers and the grill and fill the skies across the United Sates this weekend. Let the sound of freedom ring out in the sound of boat engines firing, fireworks booming and rock and roll bands rocking the dock. Watch the celebration of freedom explode across the towns and cities of America and high school bands and politicians (yeah it’s an election year. The hacks will be out. Guard your babies , they may be contagious) along with American Flags and tasteless floats of all varieties shall block up the streets for a few hours.

America, that great shining city on the hill ,is 234 years old this year. What changes we have seen as we have grown! We have welcomed generations of immigrants who have helped remake our nation, usually for the better. Too many times we have seen our sons and even our daughter grab their rifles and head off to protect our life, liberty homes. We have gone to battle to preserve our ideals and to aid the world in retaining their freedoms as well. This nation has been the source of the industrial revolution, the technology revolution and been the driver of economic global growth for decades. We have risen from a small nation yearning to be free of taxes and religious restrictions to what I truly believe is the greatest nation in the history of the world in less than 300 years.

We have not always gotten it right. There have been missteps and errors along the way. Just in the last few years we managed to export enormous piles of toxic financial crap to send the words economy reeling. The Marx Brothers could not recreate our tumultuous and almost always incorrect steps in the Middle East. We have developed a nasty tendency to elect our politicians on sound bites and some kind of mythical ideology. Yeah, I admit it, we gave you the Shah of Iran, leading to the Ayatollahs, Jimmy Carter ,George Bush the Second and our current President Dum-Dum. Slavery was a horrendous stain on our national soul that took far too long to eradicate. We also gave you Ronald Reagan, FDR and Abe Lincoln as well as a free Europe and the exported economic wealth in unheard of degrees so I think we are still way ahead of the game. The good we have done far outweighs our historical contributions. I will always be proud to be an American and celebrate the Fourth with a vengeance and ice cold cocktails.

In this year’s misguided missive on the joys of freedom and liberty I want to examine some key thoughts expressed over the years. The first comes from HL Mencken a fellow Marylander and enthusiastic imbiber of a wide variety of distilled beverages. Mencken observed that most people want security in this world not freedom. Coupled with Benjamin’s Franklins observation that they that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety and we find the most important threat to liberty we shall ever see. We were told for example that social security would give us safe and secure retirements. Instead it has turned into the largest Ponzi scheme in the history of the world and threatens the economic freedom of each of us.

Providing for the security of my family and myself is MY job not the governments. Get your hands out of my pocket and we will be just fine. I am not your responsibility and you are not mine. Leave me free from your ponderous taxes and my kids will eat well, go to college and achieve their dreams. I will retire or not as I so choose. That my friends if freedom. Do not I beg you allow freedom to vanish in the name of some mythical security the government can NEVER provide you, me or anyone else. Freedom comes from taking responsibility for your own life chasing your own dreams and controlling your own fiancés and destiny.

It was Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who observed that “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding. I get it. Feed the People! Save the Whales! Whip Inflation now! All that is well and good except that when you take money from me to fund your cause be it homes for the poor or a study of saving the microscopic weeping wood zit of Outer East South Cleveland it is theft at gunpoint. Think it’s not at gun point? Trying not paying taxes for a few years. I promise the agent that shows up too politely discuss the matter WILL be armed.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity do order and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. That is the preamble to the constitution of the United States constitution and outlines rather clearly the job of the federal government. Note that it says promote the welfare of the people not provide. The job of the Federal Government is to provide for defense and promote commerce in the eyes of our founding fathers. It is in my eyes as well.

The rest of the stuff that make up our lives was supposed to be in the hands of states and local communities. We along with our friends and neighbors were supposed to set community standards for education (anyone want to argue that the establishment of the Department of Education as a cabinet position in 1980 led to a quantum leap in the quality of education on the United States?), living and working conditions and social rights and wrongs. The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. So too is the road to serfdom as Hayek pointed out years ago. With cumulative tax burdens on the most productive members of society well north of 50% can we say that were free?

I really do not want to come across as a ranting right winger. I am not one. In fact over the years I have been very generous with my time and my money to assist those less fortunate than I. In fact if you would stop taxing me and put down the gun I would do a lot more. So would most of us. In addition I believe in all freedoms. I really do not give two halves a shit who you sleep with, what substances you ingest or who you marry. As long as your actions do not infringe on me or mine I do not care what you do or who you are. The land of the free has to mean everyone is free to define the happiness they choose to pursue in my opinion.

Celebrate this weekend. At some point raise that frosted cocktail class to the skies and praise all those who defended that freedom and in some case died for her. Say a silent prayer of thanks for the men and women who built her with their labor and their genius. Be grateful for the steelworkers, the farmers and the business people who provided her literal and economic backbone. Scare the living shit out of neighborhood pets with the most over the top display of pyrotechnic devices your warped mind can conceive. Gather your loved ones close and light the grill. Skip over the waves at excessive speeds and dance your ass off at the dock bars. Splash in the pool and don your red white and blue. Celebrate this grand experiment 234 years in the making of freedom and individual rights. It should be celebrated with much noise, many imbibings and all the excess that earmarks being American.

Indeed celebrate the United States of America. However keep in mind the debt you owe to all those who came before you to protect and preserve the freedoms they worked, struggled and even fought to pass along to you.

God Bless the United States of America.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day

From an article originally posted in 2006

But at sometime this weekend I will raise my glass in a silent toast to the reason for the weekend, those who gave their lives in the service of their country. They fell on the green at Lexington, at Trenton on Christmas Eve and in the snow at Valley Forge. They gave up their very lives in the peach orchard at Gettysburg, the cornfield at Antietam, the wilderness outside Petersburg and at Shiloh and Chancellorsville. They left their future behind in the Beleau woods, at Château Thiery and at Ephey. They lie fallen on the beaches of Anzio, Normandy, Guadalcanal and Tarawa. They died at the frozen reaches of Korea at Chosin and Pusan. They paid the ultimate price in the jungles of Khe Sahn and Da Nang. They are buried in Arlington and veterans cemeteries all over the country..or in graves in France, Belgium or some obscure south pacific island.

They are the reason I have the right and ability to work hard and play hard. Because of them and the blood they shed, we all have the right and freedom to work for own destiny, to be that which we would aspire to become. Because of them we can trade for a living, write books, study numbers. It is their sacrifice that allows us to enjoy our lives and our loved ones. And Although I suppose this is more so for those of us in the United States, their sacrifice made it possible for many other nations to enjoy unprecedented levels of freedom and democracy. Memorial Day. Remember them as you celebrate the start of summer. Some enlisted willingly. Some were drafted kicking and screaming. But in the end they wore the uniform of their nation and died fighting under that flag that we may continue to be free and prosperous. I raise my glass to them in a salute of their honor and the sacrifices a grateful nation can never repay. To fallen comrades. We remember you.

The words may be a few years old but the sentiment remains as strong as ever. This weekend the haze of backyard BBQ grills smoking as an endless supply of burgers dogs, chicken and other tasty dead animals will dominate American skies in the ritual of the unofficial first day of summer. Here on Kent island the skies willl fill with the sound of music form the dock bars and the growl of high performance engines let losse for the first time of the year. The pack of fast boats will doubtless run to Tilghman island for the bash at Captain Buddy’s that has been a Memorial day ritual for many years (This year broken rib Tim will remain firmly terra firma). There will laughter, music, fiends, excessive aduly distilled beverages and a general damn good time. Enjoy the weekend but at some point recall why we are celebrating.

A bunch of us went out to see the blue Angels the other day as they put on the annual Naval Academy Graduation air show on Wednesday. I could not help but think about the graduates the air show honors every year. They all signed up in 2006, five years post 9-11. From the very first time they raised their hand on the first day of plebe summer they knew they were entering a war time military. Those who choose the marine option on commitment day last year were well aware they were probably going to face combat during the five year commitment. Those who similarly tossed their caps in the air early this week also knew that they would probably see duty in Afghanistan or Iraq in the next five years. Yet they joined anyway. Most of them could have gone to any school in the country. They chose to serve their country.

I think of the enlistees. Regardless of their individual reasons for joining they have volunteered to serve and if necessary fight for their country. They are all too aware what they are getting into. They are over worked, underpaid and they go to serve anyway. As you party and enjoy the comfort of family and friends this weekend, take a minute to honor them and think of those young men and women who have joined the ranks of those who gave all for our country over the centuries and decades.

The bravery and honor of all those who have ever put on the uniform of the United States of America deserves nothing less.

Monday, May 17, 2010


It is almost here. Occasionally we have dreary rainy days with the death throes of winter on the edge of the air but summer is almost here. But there are days like this past weekend when the sun is overhead and the breeze carries a savory olfactory hint of the season to come. There is a hint of the mix of sub tan lotion, high octane gasoline and fermented and distilled adult beverages of a wide variety. Here is a far off rumble on high performance engines and outdoor rock and toll that comes in on the wind foreshadowing the good old days of summer. Wine drinkers are starting the annual switch from wine to perfectly chilled whites and scotch is retired for good old G&T’s and orange crushes. The smoke of a thousand grills and the poolside laughter of children will soon fill the air all over the island.Summer is almost here.

Unfortunately for us baseball fans, summer also means the Orioles have already dug so deep a hole that it is highly unlikely they have even an outside shot at the playoffs. From here they need to win almost 60% of their games to be a .500 club and with their current sparkling .300 win percentage the chance of that are about on par with a tax reduction this year. This cannot be blamed on the front office as in years past. Andy McPhail put a better team on the filed in terms of talent. Unfortunately that talent has been playing like bumbling idiots. Missing signs or the cut off man, getting caught in rundowns ad hanging a curve ball to the leagues best hitters is just stupid baseball. I still watch and root for the Birds but it can be physically painful.

The kids birthdays are next weekend and find it hard to believe they will be 22 and 26 this time around. I have been informed that I am cooking a spaghetti dinner on Sunday for however many show up as their celebration with an request, or perhaps demand there be lost of vino available. Ill bitch and mumble as usual but will actually be delighted to do it. The house will be filled with their friends and a few of mine with lots of laughter and food, and of course the aforementioned vino. I often wonder what happened to the little girl in the pom- pom get up and the little boy with bloody knees and dirty face but time stands still for no one. Still does the son of a bitch have to sprint? It is not all bad of course. They have turned into to amazing adults who are a pleasure to be around. Now if I could just get Tommy to stop going into the tire shop in his PJ’s.

The adventures of the island have been accelerated this winter at an unusually weird pace. I thought I had seen everything but we hit new lows this year. The breakups that some of our merry little band experienced hit new highs on the really fucking strange o meter. I saw things happen between various couples happen this year (including me of course just to get the season of what the fuck just happened off to a roaring start but at least mine was early enough I had drank it pretty much gone by Christmas) that would not even be believable as Monday night ABC sitcoms. Still we made it though and the summer is starting to show signs of better times ahead for all. The abnormalities of the past harsh bitch queen of the past winter is fading as temperatures rise for which I merely say thank god. Summer is almost here at long last and the perhaps the oddness will be behind us all now.

The markets have been even more volatile in recent weeks. The problems in Europe have made trades jittery and we are seeing downside action again. In spite of today’s snap back rally which smelled of serious short covering to me I think the market may have finally run out of some of the steam that pushed it up. I suspect some of the HFT guys have cut back after being blamed for the mini crash of last week and want to leave less of a footprint on the markets. The flight to quality rally is offering a great chance to re-enter or establish a short bond position as a long term trade. It looks and smells like agrat trade to me offering outsize returns without much risk to me. I saw today that Wilbur Ross commented on the other trade of the decade. He thinks banks will struggle for some time to come as a result of coming turmoil in bonds and commercial mortgages. As investors begin to realize this bank stocks are selling off. Eventually these stocks, especially smaller community bank stocks will reach levels that make them a must buy for long term investors.
All in all it’s a pretty good life. I am listening to Oscar Peterson and looking forward to tomorrow night and the weekend ahead. The kids are well, the friends are incredible and in spite of the fucked situation in the country today there is much that is right in my life. There are good books, good wine, great music in the future and best of summer is almost here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Parties, Baseball and Life It's Ownself

I will be heading up to the tea party later this afternoon here on Kent Island. Like so many others I am disgusted with the current situation with pour government. The ever growing stream of taxes, fees and regulations flowing out of Washington is incredible. The government is bailout banks car companies and just about anyone else that represents a large chunk of cash or block of votes. As I read the constitution much of this is outright illegal and yet no one intervenes. The Supreme Court remains almost eerily quiet on the subject.

Want to get depressed? Sit down sometime and add up all the taxes you actually pay. Income tax, sales tax, liquor tax, cigarette tax, gas tax. You pay a tax on your electric bill, and both your phone bills. Then there is real estate tax, luxury taxes, car registration fees and taxes, alternative minimum tax, investment taxes and estate tax. If you have worked hard and done well you get to pay all kinds of extra taxes to help spread the wealth. Sounds socialist doesn't it? It should. It is. No wonder we drink.

My anger is not aimed at just barrack O dumb-dumb. Georgie W. spent money like a drunken hippie and entered into not one but two illegal wars. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the actions in the Middle East. I, for one, think militant Islam represents the greatest threat to global freedom since the insane fellow with the little mustache. However, the fact remains that we never declared war. We have not declared War since December 8, 1941. In spite of that we have had 4 wars and countless military actions and conflicts. We call then limited conflicts or police actions. The key affect of our limited action is of course rules of engagement that lead to more deaths amongst the brave men and women who wear our nation’s uniform.

The Federal Government grows stronger as the state and local governments weaken. This is exactly the opposite of what our founding father intended. The big joke is that there is almost no way in hell they can ever pay back all the money they have borrowed in our name and children’s name. Congress passes expensive bail out bills and healthcare reforms with not so much as one actually reading the legislation. The government is drunk on power and we are stuck with the bar tab.

Let me say that I am not without charity. I give often of time and money to certain causes. But they are of my own choosing, not the mandate of a vote seeking government. Lets get this straight. I do not owe you or anyone else one damn thing nor do you owe me. I will take care of me and mine and you do the same. If you won’t, do not ask me to pay for it.

The Tea Party has a chance to become a real political movement in this country. The biggest obstacle to the movement is similar to my problems with the Republican party. Many of those in the tea party forefront are conservatives. When I look at the speaker list for the Kent Island event I see some seriously hard core conservative politicians. The problem with conservatives in my opinion is that they want rights and freedoms that are beneficial to free trade and business. I am all for it. However the social values they represent are the exact opposite of the definition of freedom.

I have often said that I want the Democrats out of my wallet and the Republicans out of my bedroom. If we are going to push for a free country then let’s really push it. Why not gay marriage? Why should we hetros be the only miserable ones? I do not care if you screw goats as long as the goat consented and it’s not my goat. We cannot support economic freedoms and yet move to suppress individual freedoms. Relax the drug laws and tax the stuff for Christ sakes. People that want to will get high. We might as well tax it and balance the budget. Think of the reduction in law enforcement and prison expenses if we just legalized pot! Freedom should have the same meaning for a billionaire business man as it does for a 21 year old clerk who wants to toke up a little after work.

Now on to more entertaining speculations and musings. Lets start with the stock market. I confess to being dazzled by the continued rise. The near zero interest rate policy from the Fed has literally pushed money into the stock market. The liquidity and asset allocation fuled rally has been breathtaking. This ain’t going to end well. I have benefited from the action generously as the sheer number of cheap stocks last year forced me into the market. I was underinvested ,for sure, never getting more than about 50% invested by the number of stocks in my portfolio that have doubled and tripled is amazing. The only thing I would even consider buying right now are the net cash stocks like Actions Semiconductor, and Hilltop Holdings. I have two bank stocks right now as well, Shore Bank and Abington Bancorp as special situations. They may go lower if the market implodes. If they do I will buy more. Beyond that I am hesitant to add much money at these levels.

It goes without saying you should be short bonds. I own puts on the long bond ETF. Anyone who thinks the world at large will continue to lend money to the US at current rates for 20 and 30 years is smoking crack. They will eventually demand a higher rate. The Fed can control short rates but the market controls the long end of the curve. Eventually we will have inflation and that will also pressure bonds. The CPI report earlier this week was pointed to by many as a sign that inflation was subdued. Does anyone besides me actually read these reports? Equivalent rents are 40% of the CPI number. If real estate was not so deppressed that report would have shown inflation. God knows we are seeing it in food and energy prices. Bonds are the sell of a lifetime.

The Orioles. The 1 and 7 damn freaking Orioles. What can you say about a team hitting .156 with runners in scoring position? We have a team average of .237. On the bright side we have hit 9 home runs as a team. That’s tied for fourth in the AL. On the dark side our pitching staff has given up 10 to fall second in the league. We have a team ERA over four and are three from the bottom of the barrel. Can’t hit, can’t pitch. It’s going to be a long season.

I touched off a bit of a controversy the other day by posting a friends comments that he had a hard time finding a woman who wanted to be treated well. It is an interesting thought worth consideration. I see the seeds of a truth in there. All too often I have women tell me they want a guy with a sense of humor, who is intelligent and kind. The next night I inevitably see them out with Larry the Lounge lizard or Theodore the Thug. I spent a little time contemplating this remark and came to a conclusion. The majority of the time I am actually a nice guy. I think I have treated the women in my life fairly well. I cannot change this. I grew up with three sisters and I have a daughter.

I am well aware of my own faults. I smoke, I drink and I gamble to start. I make more than my share of my mistakes and have plenty of dummy moments. I am human and male. Once in awhile I will screw up and make an ass of myself. But on balance I think I am a nice guy and I will remain one. Even in the face of evidence that it works I will not become an asshole to land a girlfriend. Years ago I wrote the following. It was true then and it is now.

Being part of what is demographically called the middle aged divorce crowd,
I often see these failed models working out in the great American laboratory
known as the cocktail lounge, bar or pub. The young lady who professes to
value a sense of humor, kindness affection and romance will quite often
leave the bar with the lounge lizard who looks like Richard Gere, or the
overly muscled steroid biker freak with the long hair and will then spend
long hours lamenting these failed relationships over white wine and
cosmopolitans. Men are the worst here. In our desire for companionship, sex
and romance we are a sucker for the surgically enhanced temptress, long hair,
long legs and parts that do things the creator never meant parts to do…..We
forget so often that those who are appealing to the base desires, who dress
to look the part of the dream are most often looking to do exactly that…to
tempt us to do something we should not for reasons we usually would not and
its much more about their desires than ours…the muscle happy freak and larry
the lounge lizard are looking to get laid…the tight jeaned barroom queen of
our dreams, in my experience is looking for this month’s visa card payment
and a move up apartment. Those who initially profess interest in something
more meaningful fall into their traps and find all the attendant miseries.
Every time I have allowed a gin soaked brain to fall for a cosmetic package
that took my breath away…my wallet usually followed my breath. While all the
while their sits a decent respectable guy out with his buddies who would
like nothing more than to fall in love with the right girl and end up in a
Louisville airport in 30 or 40 years, arthritically shuffling for his
beloveds coffee, and an attractive women sits..without the surgical
improvement, dressed in clothes that actually fit but with more flashing
behind her eyes than even she realizes who only desires the right man and
dreams of wearing purple sundress and red tennis shoes on the beaches of her

Now I am off to get ready for the tea party. Afterwards perhaps I will drink and smoke too much and watch the Orioles find a new and exciting way to lose a baseball game.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Annual St Pats Instructions

St. Patrick's Day: the one day of the year when the 2% of the world's population that's Irish gets the other 98% completely shitfaced. So i figured i'd help everybody prepare. Its closer than you think.

First of all, you got to start preparing your liver 3 or 4 days in advance. Warm up to the idea of whisky by drinking it all weekend so that your body gets used to the strong and powerful effects that it induces on your body and behaviour.You must excercise your liver and body into shape and raise your tolerance level so that you don't pussy out and pass out before the party even gets started.


7a.m - 9 a.m. Rise and fuckin shine, its an early start to this day!!. Take a long, hot shower, and liberally use aftershave, perfume, cologne, deodorant and powders afterwards, because by 3p.m., you will be excreting raw alcohol and other poisons, and without proper preparations, you will smell like a three-day dead cat wrapped in a fraternity carpet. The bars open at 9, so use this time to prepare. Collect the following supplies and put them in a place where you will easily be able to find it in an impaired condition.

We recommend the bathroom floor, between the toilet and the baseboard heater, since that's where you'll probably end up: 1 quart spring water 1 bottle aspirin 5 pairs Depends undergarment 1 bottle Percocet 1 gram morphine sulfate 1 oz. human adrenaline extract 1 pre-charged electric defibrillator 4 Cardiac needles 1 trauma surgeon you MUST also be in the proper attire so gather your greens and get in the spirit.

Brew a strong pot of coffee. Add 9 oz. Jameson Irish whiskey, drink. Note that coffee should be drunk liberally throughout the day. There is a reason that the Irish invented Irish Coffee; unless you ingest a large volume of artificial stimulants throughout the course of St. Patrick's Day, you are going to die. Arrange to be picked up to be taken to the bar by 8:45 a.m. We cannot stress enough that you should not drink and drive. There is no reason to chance losing your license or killing someone in a drunken state when you have plenty of idiot friends willing to take that risk on your behalf.

Step 2:

9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Arrive at the bar right when it opens. Make sure this is an Irish bar if at all possible. Secure a barstool and do not leave it under any circumstances. The bar is liable to be packed by noon, and real Irish people do not wait in line for drinks, no matter what the consequences. While we do recommend the use of an adult undergarment to mask unpleasant smells, it really doesn't matter. By afternoon, you'll be sopping wet with spilled beer anyway, and your mild urine smell will be completely overpowered by the toxic stench of vomit.

We recommend starting out with a few more Irish Coffees to spike the stimulant level, however, you should not order an "Irish Coffee," as you will be given a fruity little glass mug topped with whipped cream and a cherry, and some guy named Seamus will call you a yuppie poseur while putting a cigarette out on your neck. Ask for coffee with whiskey and ask the bartender to leave the whipped cream can, as nothing will add spice to your day like the occasional whippet.

Step 3:

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's lunchtime! You may not be hungry, but it's important to eat something, because like Sheriff Bart said in Blazing Saddles: "Man drink like that and he don't eat, he is going to die." If you want to maintain your buzz and not get that hideous, bloated feeling that could slow down your drinking, there are only two options: popcorn or Pop Tarts. Both have the carbohydrates you'll need to give you energy, both will soak up excess bile in your stomach, and both have names that are hard to slur. If you start slurring your words too early, you'll hear the most frightening phrase in the English language on St. Patrick's Day besides "I'm pregnant": "You're cut off". By now, you should switch off of coffee drinks to beer. You have only one option here: Guinness Stout. You may be tempted to order green beer, but remember: beer doesn't always turn green because of food coloring.

Step 4:

2 p.m. to 7 p.m. By now, the bar is definitely crowded as people take long lunches and bail out of work early to tie one on. If you're doing your job correctly, the bar should look twice or three times as crowded as it really is. By now, you may be in conversation with some real Irish people, since the person you came with has likely been taken away by ambulance. Some conversational points to remember when talking to the Irish are: Football really means Soccer, and you should be more passionate about it than you are about your girlfriend or boyfriend, AND The English are all piss-assed, pig-fucking bastards who should be lined up and kicked into the Liffey. If you remember those two points, as well at least three derogatory names for Margaret Thatcher, you can talk to the Irish for hours.

You should continue to drink Guinness throughout this leg, although you may want to have another Irish Coffee if your heartbeat has become irregular. The Home Stretch: 7 p.m. to Closing Your goal, of course, is to be the last person to leave the bar at closing time. This will be impossible, since a blood alcohol content of .50 usually equals death, and you should be pushing a .35 or .40 by now. The only way for a true Irishman to leave a bar before closing time with honor is to be hauled away by the police.

Throw a punch. It doesn't matter who you hit or why; no one's made any sense since 3 o'clock, anyway. You will be beaten mercilessly, since your fine motor control has been gone since the late morning, but it doesn't matter since you can't feel anything. Depending on your community, the police should arrive within fifteen minutes to scrape you off the floor and clap you in irons. The final impression you leave is the most important: as you are being dragged from the bar, begin screaming that you want to take your drink with you. You will be a legend! Besides by now the friend who took you to the bar should have had his or her stomach pumped, and will be able to bail you out.

By following these simple guidelines, your St. Patrick's Day experience would be one you would never forget if it weren't physically and biologically impossible for you to remember any of it. And I am not to be blamed if you end up waking up naked In a Dumpster

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Random Ruminations and Ponderous Ponderings

A good whiskey and a good book are not a bad way to spend an evening and indeed that is how much of this one will pass. Of course a good whiskey and a good woman would be even better but at least I don’t have to make dinner for the book. As a bonus it is highly unlikely that my copy of The Young Lions will look at me in six months and want to talk about my smoking drinking and gambling. Of course that only the ones I have met we were drunk smoking outside the casino so perhaps there is hope for me yet on that front. But I digress. It is not my point this eve to ramble on about my many wonderful characteristics and fine character but to think a little about the world we live in.

I am sick of even thinking about this economy but I have to from time to time. I keep hearing all these proclamations from inside the beltway and between the rivers stating that everything is better and the crisis has passed. If this is the case how come no one I talk with out here in the real world thinks so? I make it a point to talk to a cross section of people as I go through the world and all of them are still concerned. Their friends and loved one are getting laid off and they are underwater on their mortgage. The revenues at their businesses are declining and they are worried about the ever rising tide of regulations, fees and taxes being proposed at every level of government. They are far less optimistic than the talking heads on the boob tube.

It seems to escape the attention of our elected officials that we cannot tax and regulate our way back to prosperity. Keep in mind that the entire stimulus is your money given to someone else to decide how to spend. Even worse the government is borrowing in your name to spend money. Instead of looking for ways to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, the very engines that have grown our economy for centuries ,we are going to spend money on green energy projects that will actually raise the cost of living and going business. Instead of reducing taxes for the small business owners they buy bankrupt car companies and give a third of the equity to the Union that was much of the reason for the bankruptcy.

Part of the reason we got where we are has been our national apathy about our politics. I am convinced that if every American of voting age watched a few hours of C-Span a day the world would change very quickly. When you see the decisions being made and the process by which they are made you cannot help but be outraged. The deal making and pork barrel spending are outrageous and morally corrupt. We need for more folks to be mad, stand up and run against the professional politicians. I want a guy or gal in office who has sweated out a payroll. I want people in office who have gotten up at the crack of dawn to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids lunches while simultaneously balancing the checkbook and making coffee. I want someone who has worked 16 hour days to build a business. Even better if they failed a time or two along the way.

Someone has suggested before that I run a time or two. What a great speech that would be! I not only inhaled, I snorted chugged and imbibed my fellow Americans. Citizens of this great state, you should be aware that yeah, chances are I DID sleep with that woman. Let me tell you why you should vote for me and make me the very first congressman who spent much of his teenage years in the city lock up for an incredibly wide range of activities. For some reason I do not see that playing well. Incredibly we seem to expect our politicians to be pure without a single trace of humanity or reality in their souls. It is one of the reason we are where we are in my opinion. I would much rather have a skirt chasing womanizer who knows how to balance the budget than some character who has never had a real job and lived his entire life behind closed doors.

I was talking with a friend of mine last night who runs a good size business that is struggling in the weak economy. He talked of some of the same fears I have, rising deficits, increased taxes and regulations. He said something to me that I think brings us to the heart of the matter. “Tim I am not worried about me. I am worried about my kids having the same chance I did.” BINGO. That what I worry about. I look at those two incredible young adults who I am privileged to have call me dad and I worry about the world I will be giving them. Will they be able to take the chances, experiences the thrills and the spills of life the way I have. Will they be free to take an idea or their creativity and drive and use it to make a life for themselves? Not if we do not change things and quickly.

If we continue to remove creativity, drive and determination from our society we will become a nation of bureaucrats, functionaries, lawyers, and fast food workers just waiting on each other. What kind of world are we leaving our kids if the Army is seeing increased enrollment because employment opportunities are so bad you are willing to take a risk of being shot on sand dune or frigid mountain just to get some kind of paycheck? It is happening. Look your kids the eyes and ask if this is theworld we want to leave them? If you don’t have kids and are extraordinarily brave come look at my two little capitalists in the eye and tell them the path we are moving down, mortgaging not just their future but their future kids is okay.

When a nation is not growing, it is indeed dying. I apply this statement not just to our economy but our culture. When I look at the best seller lists and realize that it is almost entirely composed of vampire books and instruction manuals on losing weight on the fast food diet I worry about the future. I worry even more when I realize that the vast majority of Americans are waiting for the movie about vampires and cheeseburger diets to appear on pay per view. The music charts contain songs that have worse language than me with two snoots full of whiskey doing my best Hunter Thompson imitation and I worry. Do not get me wrong. I love good loud rock and roll and a trashy novel is like mind candy from time to time. I acknowledge my John D. McDonald, Robert Parker and Randy Wayne White addictions. At least those books have important lessons on mixing great cocktails, cooking good food and throwing the perfect punch. A nation of television drones drowning in booming bass beat is probably not learning to think and imagine the way previous generation were able to experience.

I want to leave my kids and potential grandkids a world that still has great music and great books. I want them to be able to take an idea and run with it. I want them to deal with life’s bumps and failures that occur by going back to work not looking for a government bail out. I want them toexperince the magic celebratory nights of victory, champagne and laughter. I want them to be prepared to deal with the cheap whiskey and cheaper tears when it doesn’t work out as intended and be able to get up the next morning and start over. I want them to savor their achievements and not watch an avaricious government come in and take more than half the fruits of their labor in the name of income equality and social justice. I want them to have a life of first kisses and broken hearts, of good friends and great times, of loud laughter and soft tears and most importantly to know that is all theirs on their own hook and effort.

We live in a great nation in an incredible world. I have been blessed with an incredible life. I have failed in my usual spectacular fashion along the way and their have been highs and lows of equal proportions along the way. I have had my share of first kisses and broken hearts. I have danced all night under the starry skies of the local dock bars. I am surrounded by friends and two incredible kids. I have read great books and trashy ones. We have a world with everything from Beethoven to the Rolling Stones and back again. While all of this will undoubtedly still exist if we keep going down the road we are going the kids will not appreciate it as much as I did. It is hard to notice the arrangement and tone of the many hues in a multicolored sunset when you are taxed to the breaking point to finance spiraling debts not of your own making. When the opportunities to build your life as you want it are gone because of an array of regulations and social claims John Coltrane and Miles just do not sound as sweetly complex.

It’s not just the current bunch in office that is to blame, although God knows they are not helping. It’s decades of poor partisan politics and above all it is our fault, each and every damn one of us. We cannot enjoy nor preserve the fruits of liberty from a position of apathy.

It is time to ask ourselves a question. What kind of world do I want and what am I willing to do to make that a reality for myself, my kids and the future?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Okay, before I move on to the usual suspects and subjects, and I will get to them all sports, markets, life its own self and such, I have some thoughts rambling around in the brain that need to be purged by spilling them onto paper. I have used several Hunter Thomson quotes as my Facebook status of late and it was only a matter of time before somebody reminded me that he had killed himself with his wife and kid in the next room. All right now lets be honest. Filling yourself with the better portion of a bottle of Wild Turkey and taking a huge fucking 45 and blowing your head off with family in the house is a pretty shitty thing to do. It is simply not nice, I will agree.

Now lets look at it from a slightly different point of view. He was getting older. He had lived a long interesting life and mow his health and probably his brain were starting to fade. If you read his Hey Rube columns on ESPN you knew he still had something left but the end was near anyway. He went out on his own terms in his own way with his family in attendance. Now look, that’s going to leave a mark on the wife and especially his son. His wife seems to have dealt with it okay. She probably expected it. The son perhaps not so well. For both of them there will be emotional and mental scars. It was selfish on his part I will grant.

But is it any more fucked up and selfish than things we seem to do to each other every damn day? More selfish than cheating on a spouse or lover? Trust me that shit leaves a mark as well. More selfish than fucking over a business partner for a bigger percentage of the pie? More so than taxing the living fuck out of productive people to give away to those who accomplish exactly jack shit in this world? More selfish than giving the wife and kid a smack because they won’t shut the fuck up while the TV is on? More selfish or harmful than the things people do every damn day to each other with no one blinking an eye? I do not really think so.

HST will go down as one of the last of those who lived his life as he wanted. He avoided the tepid conformity that seems to entrap so many. I didn’t always agree with his view points but admired that he was pretty equal opportunity about spilling his vile onto to the leeches and demagogues that have taken over inside the beltway. He was one of the best sportswriters I have ever read when he was on top of his game. He was equllay good at political wirting. Fear and Loathing on The Campaign Trail was classic. How can I not like a guy who loved women, whiskey and college basketball?

Enough on that. We are now into the what the hell is going to happen phase of the sports year. The Olympics are on and while some of it moderately entertaining I am just not enough of a winter sports enthusiast to work up a good interest level. I am more concerned about Maryland locking in a couple of more conference wins and securing an NCAA berth. If it wasn’t for the miserable fucks down at Duke I would like the Terps to take the ACC tournament this year but Coach K’s pack of rabid quick footed bastards are in the way this year. I am interested in seeing Kentucky go deeper into the tourney that Villanova so I can get within a thousand bucks of having an even ledger with that lecherous little munchkin Coleman.

The Orioles are another what the hell is next equation. I think they are better and if the young pitching staff steps up a year better and stronger they may actually be good. New York slipped a little but a little is not enough. Funny that a guy like Johnny Damon can sell his Red Sox soul to go to New York and they let him go. Those goddamn soul sucking rat fucking bastards in Boston actually improved and are going to be tough this year. Tampa has a good young team again as well. In the pit bull pit that is the AL East good just is not enough. Memo: I looked at single game ticket prices for the orioles and I have a question. Are you out of your scrambled motherfucking mind? How about we actually have a winning season before trying to charging me $60 for club level box seats?

Now to the big bitch mother mistress of them all, the stock market. More people out of work? Great news, buy them up. Fighting two shitty little wars that aren’t going well? Take the offer across the board. People walking away form their home because they cant sell if for half what they paid? Buy em boys. Revenues down double digits? Fire a couple thousand people and watch out stock double on cost cutting moves. Sovereign nations in danger of default? Best fucking news I have heard all year so I am going to buy some stocks.

This is getting stupid. The economy sucks like a hooker with a hoover and the geopolitical situation is unstable at best. I am watching companies get back to pre bubble levels and just wondering what the hell these people are thinking. Paying up 30 and 40 times earnings for mediocre companies and 60 to 70 times for the really good ones is not a recipe for success. I am finding very little stuff that trades below book value and I am not adding to a lot of positions right now. I did buy two banks for the first time in years. I bought Shore Bancshares here on the eastern shore last month and this month I scooped up a little Abingdon Bancshares. ABBC has struggled a bit and has a much higher percentage of troubled loans that I usually accept but they have outrageous capital ratios.The equity to asset ratio is 17 so I am confident that at 70% of tangible book I am okay buying it. My net cash stocks are working well and my portfolio is up almost double digits in spite of being under invested on the year. I will take it but I am being pretty damn careful.

I find myself agreeing with Doctor Doom that every living American should be short treasury bonds, especially the long term issues. Since no crack addled hobo would lend money to a broke ass for 4% a year how can we expect the world to keep doing so for the US. Our deficits are out of control. We are printing money like Tom Clancy novels and the people in charge of this shit show appear ever more clueless. China has cut way back on purchases. I suppose the Japanese could keep buying them but how many more newly printed yen do we want? At some point this will have one bitch ugly ending and I am willing to tolerate time decay to hold my puts on the TLT until it does. I made 40% on this trade last year so I only have house money left in the game at this point anyway.

I am also looking at some ideas on the net cash front. Solitron Devices (SODI) is a tiny little company that makes solid state semiconductors primarily for the military and aerospace markets. The company is squeezing out a profit right now and the book to bill is still above 1. They have $2.57 a share in cash with no debt against a current price of $2.51. Peerless Systems is also still profitable and trading for less than cash and securities balances. The current market cap is $41 million and they have cash and securities of $49 million. They sold all their operating business and just have royalty stream form OEM licenses at this point.

As long as I can find little dinky crap like this to buy I can continue my long standing policy of ignoring the absolute fucking mess we have made of our markets. We have turned our capital markets into short term casinos filled with algorithmic betting systems dominating the scene. Thank god for microcap value or none of this shit would make sense to me at all.

It is winter here on the island and we have been hammered by snow and I hear there may be more on the way. We have already had an epic snow party here on at Chez Melvin and I suspect we will get the chance for more before it is all over. Just fucking great. I hate snow with a passion usually reserved for ex wives, the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Eventually it will be spring they tell me. I sure as fuck hope so. I need some sunshine and open water. We have seen an outbreak of break up fever here on the island so at least there are a lot of depressed motherfuckers for me to drink with so far. Some one had to take Tic-tac and Tire Guys place since they became nannies and got married respectively.

On the personal front there are no changes to report. It figures that about the time I decide I really want to settle down there are no takers on the horizon that would match up well with my personality. I am at that point where I really would like to settle into a long term relationship. Now although I have slowed down a bit I am not ready to say my skirt chasing days are over forever. Until I find that one person there are still nights when a look of languorous sensuality in a woman’s eyes, a swirl of skirt, a flash of thigh, a twirl of flesh can raise those demons for a return visit. Hell I am a guy. But in all truth I would trade a million of those nights for ones of partnership, with a friend, a bonding of the emotional, mental and physical. I get glimpses from time to time. Hell I thought I found it forever less than a year ago. The again I though I had it with the little Southern Maryland firecracker and the Soft Kentucky Drawl in the last decade. There have been a couple more that I thought might be contenders but for some reason they just do not see how fucking wonderful I actually am! Truthfully hope may spring eternal but I can be a difficult motherfucker to put up with it so she will have to be a pretty damn special person. Until then I have good scotch, good books and incredible friends. I will get by.

So it goes on. I never thought I would have this life. Shit where I grew up staying out of jail was considered a major accomplishment and more weekends than not I failed miserably at that. Thank God for books and Ken Morrow. Ken died in the last month or so and it hurt to hear it. Although I have spent the last twenty years waiting for my old friend and mentor to step out of the shadows and shoot the shit out of me for past transgressions (okay so the friendship didn’t end well) that man taught me to grow up, he taught me business and how to be a man. I have not seen him in 20 years but he will be missed. I have friends, incredible children and memories that most will never have. It has been fun. With any luck someday in the next bar I ll run into Hunter and he will tip his hat at a life lived almost as well.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New ramblings

So here we are a few week into the New Year. So far so good as the old adage puts it. I thought several times of doing a year in review piece similar to years past. Then one night as I sat sipping a delightful 18 year old bottle of the grouse it I had a (no doubt scotch induced) epiphany. Why the pure fuck would I want to that? For many 2009 was a nasty brutal year. Professionally it was a good year for me but otherwise not so much. Add a 98 loss season for the orioles and the decarnation of the last incarnation of the one true love of my life and it was not much of a year. So lets just wish 2009 a fond goodbye and fuck you then move on.

So here we sit in Mid January. The cold spell is over and the Ravens are still in the playoffs. In a few hours we will find out if the defense is up to the task of stopping Peyton from turning the game intoa track meet. Its almost impossible to confuse Manning so we are going to have to knock him around all day. Our guys got to Brady so they can get to Manning. We will know in a few hours. Whatever happens that was a pretty good late season push to get in the playoffs.

Island life is slowing down to the winter pace after the holidays. Ah, who the hell am I kidding? The only thing the season change means around here is that we do our drinking and gathering indoors instead of on the docks and boats. Instead of boat rides and outdoor bars we fill the time with poker games and bar trivia, to say nothing of football. This is a great place to live and is populated with some of the best people I have ever met in my life. It is an eclectic group with a wide range of ages and occupations, I also have to say that it is one of the few places I have ever lived where no one gives two and a half shits what you do or what you have. You either fit or you don’t. Hell, we even have Redskins fans in the group.

Looking at the economy I wish I could say something real positive and that it was going to get better soon. Sadly I just do not see it. If you live inside the beltway or between the rivers you might try to twist up some of the pure bullshit flowing out of the economists and politicians mouths into a green shoot. Out here in the real world I hear tales of layoffs, foreclosures and furloughs. Business is slow for most and I am not hearing much chatter about any up turn just yet.

The stock and bond markets are priced for stone cold perfection. With real unemployment nearing the 20% level and real estate prices still falling I do not see much on the level of perfect going on. I know cost cutting is holding margins up for many companies but it is not really possible to shrink your way into growth. Sales for many key industries are still dropping and my ever reliable mall Spies tell me not much new is changing with the advent of a new year. Add in carbon taxes and health care surcharges and the profit picture gets even dimmer in my opinion.

I am quite confident in the ability of those shitheads on both sides of aisle in the mental cesspool of the Potomac to blow up the markets. None of these goddamn idiots should be entrusted with a fucking popsicle stand much less a nation. Our children grandchildren will be paying for this mess. We can’t have the type of bullshit bailouts and handouts we have been doing. If you and I fuck up and make bad decisions and stupid bets we go broke. The sheriff takes our shit and they auction it to pay what we owe. When Wall Street and Congress do it we just print more and send them away with a pat on the ass and a promise to do better.

We have a government that starts wars and doesn’t finish them. What a dishonor to the men and women who serve to send them in harms way with ridiculous restrictions. Further how we can continually do it with such blatant disregard for the constitution. This nation has not declared war since December 1941 yet every day we have casualties from armed conflict. We send them out with ridiculous rules of engagement. Collateral casualties cannot be a consideration if we are going to fight a war. Train them, arm the, then turn the m loose to fucking WIN the damn thing. Where the hell is Georgie Patton when you need him?

An economy in disarray and a unstable geopolitical situation is not perfection. There is just so much that can go wrong on so many levels and none of this is reflected in the markets. We have seen a massive forced asset allocation trade put on by the government. Keeping rates low and flooding the economy with cash has literally forced money into stocks bonds and commodities. This will end badly. It has to. There is not some super fucking genius kept in a closet in DC that knows how to unwind this trade. The same dipshits that created the mess will be the ones at the helm. I am sure they will drive the ship right up on the goddamned rocks and am investing in anticipation of this. I am short bonds again this year and intend to remain so throughout 2010.

Thank God for cheap stocks. I don’t think I ever got over 40% invested last year and in spite of that had one of my best years ever in absolute percentage terms. I enter the year with positions in several of my near or below cash book value beauties and am quite content to limit my activities to these stocks. I also just bought the first bank stock I have owned in several years, adding shares of a local bank to my holdings. I just stuck my toe in the water picking up a few shares of Shore Bancshares but I expect to add to the position throughout the year. The local bank trades below book value and has a solid loan portfolio and balance sheet.

This is the type of trade I am hoping begins to develop in earnest in the first half of 2010. As commercial and real estate woes continue to fall I am looking for the market to wake up to the problems facing the small banks. When it starts the stock market, being the bastion of irrational insanity that it is ,the baby will go out with the bathwater. This type of activity created a situation back in the early 1990s that allowed many [people to literally get rich over the next decade. When the god get sold with the bad I am looking to buy up a portfolio of small banks below tangible book value that have low loan losses and adequate reserves. As real estate improves-and it will someday- we will start to see a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the banking community. These transactions will occur at multiples of book, not at a discount. Those solid bank stock bought in this next sell off will show tremendous gains for those bold enough to step up.

Sam Zell, the grave dancer of the real estate industry, recently said that hotels would be the first commercial real estate he will start buying in 2010. I think he is right and am watching the hotel REITs carefully. I am spending time digging though the numbers at looking at every piece of the capitalization structure to find opportunities in the common and preferred equity as well as debt securities of these companies. It is still early on the CRE game but I want to have a buy list and a deep understanding of the industry when the time to buy arrives. It may be closer than we all think for this segment of the market.

Back here in the real world life may not be perfect but its still so damn good I cannot stand it at times. Both kids are living with me now and although I should be encouraging them to move out and on I am selfish. I like having the little shits around. They are both smart hard working people with a great outlook on life and I like having them around. It is not uncommon for the two of them to be my first choice for dining and drinking companions. For some strange ass reason they like hanging around with my friends and me and I love every damn minute of it.

As always I am blessed with that wonderful excess of friends that has made life so interesting and just flat out fucking fun at times. Things shift around as people marry, get married, move in a different direction with their lives but at the core both on the island and in the after dark spec group a core remains. The cheesehead may be in Wisconsin freezing his ass off but we still drunk dial from time to time and catch up on the latest adventure. Tic-Tac may have found a new career as a nanny but we still find time to meet for drinks and an episode or two of pure stupidity. The Porsche driver has become a fast friend and is just hysterical to be around. He is one of the very few people that has as fucked up a personal life as I do. Add a sense of humor and sense of adventure and he becomes a dangerous companion of the finest kind. The tire guy still plays keno as a battle to the death and bleeds purple and black as always. His wife just opened a new hair salon so I may actually have to start getting a haircut on a regular basis. The curmudgeon is splitting time between Chicago, Tahoe and the state of contusion but we still talk markets, sports and life several times a week. A good friend os one who bails you at 2 am. A great friend is one sitting in the cell next year saying, “Holy shit that was fun.” I am blessed with many of both.

So what does the year ahead hold? Hell if I know. I know there will be laughter and there will probably be a tear or two along the way. If you live full out and head on as I try to do it is pretty much inevitable. I have always held that he who dies with the most scars, in or outside, wins. Life is a contact sport nad I will play until the game ends. I win some I lose some and so far I have been able to win the important ones. I love what I do, I have incredible children who I count among my best friends, and friends in evry walk and phase of life. Doesn’t sound too bad to me.

Yeah okay so finding someone to share I with is not a game we put into the winners category just yet. Doesn’t mean I will quit playing. Yeah I have take a few good sharp shots over the years of the relationship variety but there have been more than enough moments of great romance and deep passion to make any tears or heartbreaks worth the price paid. Either that or I am just too stupid to quit. Whatever the reason the search continues. Hopefully this is my year. Probably won’t be because apparently I am a difficult man! But as with Mr. Edison and the light bulb I can fail in my endeavors to find a permanent incarnation of the one true love of my life many times and get right just once to win.

So let life roll on. Pour the wine, deal the cards, start the engines. To the best of my knowledge we get one shot at this thing sol endeavor to make it a good one. There are books to read, music to hear and adventures to be had.It is not always going to be perfect, nor it will always be fun. But there will be many moments that are both.I doubt that any of us will lie on our deathbed recalling the times when we struggled to pay the bills or drowned a broken relationship in cheap gin and tears. We will instead be recalling those wild nights with great friends or as I once heard it put nights we will never remember with friends we will never forget. We will think of the first cry of a child. We will recall a first kiss on a frozen winter’s night or perhaps dancing into the early hours on a dock with a new love. Perhaps it will be a little boy at his first big league game or a cherished friends wedding. It will be those memories we embrace at the end and they will bring a smile to our weary faces. It is those memories that make life worth living. It’s a new year. lets go make some.