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Sunday, May 05, 2013

Ruminations and Ramblings Upon a Birthday Weekend

Ah the birthday weekend, a fine time to eat too much good food, drink too much wine and pontificate grandly about a wide…oh wait, that sound a lot like the average Tuesday around here. Nonetheless the anniversary of my arrival has passed this weekend. It was of course celebrated with  food, drink and family. These days the celebration is a step or two down from the full on bacchanalia of years past with good reason. Although the inner recesses of my brain tell me I am still 30 and can do whatever the hell I please my body is quick to step up and remind my brain that it is a damn idiot and we are getting older. I cannot run as fast or jump as high, nor recover as fast as I once did, so I tend to walk and skip these days. There was still too much food, too much wine, although only my wife is able to define too much of the latter, and a most enjoyable weekend.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that Erin took me to Chathams here in Orlando for a birthday dinner and it was one of the finest meals I have had in some time. The atmosphere is perfect, service impeccable and the food was beyond outstanding. I highly recommend the joint to those with a taste for the finer things in life.

Now, in no particular order so ramblings, pontifications and ruminations:

The Manhattan may well be the perfect cocktail. No other drink is as refined yet deadly in purpose. It is the John Wayne of cocktails that walks up to the bar kicks the living shot of the wimpy assed martini and takes the cosmo into his arms for a passionate kiss. It’s that damn good. The key is to use really good bourbon although one suspects that Templeton Rye would also suffice. Never order one in trendy bar or downscale joint. It’s a serious drink worthy of a bartender in a tie and red leather seating.

One of the gifts this year was a Phil Robertson bobble head doll. Duck Dynasty has become a runaway hit and I confess I like the show. Some of my more educated friends do not get the joke and lump it in with the rest of reality TV. If you think this is just a show about a bunch of dumb ass rednecks doing stupid stuff think again. These buy are college educated rednecks who have talked the dumb ass TV producers into putting on show that features their view of life. The show features a close family, guns, hunting, hard work, hard play, fishing, honorable military service and even touches on their faith. The joke here is that they are getting paid serious bucks to do it and the pile on impact on their original business is enormous. We could use a few more dumb ass rednecks like this.

I dropped the little one off at a birthday party this weekend and I told my wife later that I feel like I am dropping her off in the lion’s den. It would be more accurate to say that I feel like I am delivering a Chihuahua to a dog fight. At five and six little girls birthday parties are ribbons and puppies with giggle and cake. At ten they are already beginning to establish a social hierarchy with jostling for positions and alliances that form and melt quicker that Phyllis Dillers face in a sauna. From this age until their early 20s packs of girls are just evil shifting social circles of madness where lives can be ruined by liking Bieber instead of Perry or not having the right electronic device in your  back pocket. Such a world scares the hell out of me sometimes.

While we are on the subject I really think we are all guilty of a form of child abuse these days. The electronic devices, asinine television shows, iPods in their ears all day world we let our kids live in cannot possible be good for them. Standardized testing, rewritten history, politically correct madness, and the online world cannot possibly be good for them. I know every generation says this sort of thing but I really do worry about kids growing up in a world where they can sext with each other freely but get arrested for getting in a fistfight or using the wrong word. I see a general lack of original thought instilled by our rigid world of controlled curriculums. There is little Discipline and toughness and it worries me. Even more concerning is what appears to be waning sense of adventure and individualism among our children. The dilemma as a parent is that to do what appears right and remove all the electronic crap and garbage programs turns the child into a social pariah.

Our general misuse of technology is also something that disturbs me greatly. We have device that we can carry with us in our pocket that contain computing power that would have awed Einstein. The internet contains incredible wealth in the form of information, ideas and wisdom. We use these devices to listen to Beyonce, Facebook and play Angry Birds. Sad really.

While I am on the general subject make sure your kids learn statistics and how to program in statistical languages like R or Python. Make them learn another language, preferably given global demographics, Spanish or Chinese. Make them learn to play at least one musical instrument fairly well. These will give them a strong edge over their peers. I did none of these things in my youth and have played from behind ever since as a result.

I have long held that every male adolescent should be made to read all of the Louis L’amour Books. To this I will add the series of Robert Parker Spenser novels and all the John MacDonald Travis McGee series. The boys will learn how to stand on their own, think for themselves, throw a punch, make a quick tasty meal, prepare a cocktail, the right way to exercise, shoot a gun, treat a woman, be a gentleman, be independent, standup to authority, determine right and wrong and to identify good from bad as they make their way in the world. They are outstanding reads but also contain a wealth of information on being a man, being an individual and taking care of ones self. I am sure there are comparable offerings for young women and would love to hear suggestions of such.

There is a new Spenser novel in the continuation series by Ace Adkins due out this week as well as a new John Sandford. Going to be a good week.

My recent experiments with baseball betting using a paper account confirm that gambling is indeed a difficult endeavor. It also makes clear that using a deep statistical method to identify mispriced games and underdogs with an edge would be very profitable. Joe Petas excellent book Trading Bases shows some of the success that could be had using this approach. Edges always disappear but this is one that may last for a while. Shame I never learned to program.

Orioles play Central Division teams this week. Need a strong showing to gain ground.

Speaking of gambling I missed the damn Derby Exacta by a length as Calvin Borel took too long to let Revolutionary loose. I still think he and GoldenCents are the fastest horses on a dry track and look forward to the Preakness.

The baseball season is shaping up with some strange weirdness so far. Boston is supposed to suck by now but there they are. Tampa so far is much worse than they should be. They simply are not hitting the baseball when it counts. Colorado is a huge surprise thanks to some fortunate outing by their pitching staff. They are 21st in Walks and hits per innings pitched but just 10th in ERA so far. The Dodger and Angels pitching staffs are just disasters so far and neither team is anywhere near what was hoped. The Braves and Nationals are going to be a nasty battle all summer long.  The Orioles are where I expected and should get better as the years goes on. We should be in the mix as the summer goes on.

There still very few lazy pleasures as perfect as a good novel with an afternoon baseball game on the TV in the background.

Nor are there many things as good for a peaceful mind as going to a game by yourself and just focus intently on the drama that plays out over nine innings.

 Watching a game in bar with an old friend is one of life’s most perfect social experiences.

I am not an environmentalist or tree hugger by any stretch of the imagination. Resources are here to be used. If there is a snail darter on a piece of property that contains a chance for me to make money said snail has darted his last. However I see no need to walk around screwing up the planet and being an asshole about things. I walk my dog around the neighborhood several times a day. I enjoy a cigarette often on these walks. However you will not find my cigarette butts or dogs crap left behind. Simple matter to field strip the cigarette and throw the butt in a garbage can later.

As for picking up the steamy shit piles you folks who delusionally think its okay to just leave it because it is natural you need a reality check. In nature dogs roam their territory leaving their shit fairly widely disbursed. There also would not be as many dogs if they did no live comfortable lives with regular medical checkups and no larger prey trying to eat their furry little butts 24 hours a day. In a neighborhood it tends to become fairly concentrated. Now go read the ingredients of your dog food box. Most of that shit doesn't exist in nature and really does not need to be transferred into our groundwater and aquifers. Not to mention that all the dog shit lying around is just ugly. Nobody hates picking up steamy piles of shit more than me. Do it anyway.

The planet is here for us to use. That does not excuse screwing it up out of sheer laziness or malice.

Those of you who insist on calling the trappers to catch every alligator or snake you see need to follow some basic advice. If the idea of alligators, coyotes, snakes, bears, bugs bothers you do not move to Florida. Especially do not move to Florida and choose a community with 15 lakes and ponds. If we shot everything was scary and ugly there would be no politicians or NFL players left in the world.

The Buffett bash in Omaha s over and as usual the wannabe Warrens went batshit crazy over the affair. Warren did make one astute observation about quantitative easing with which I agree. The first move by the Fed to raise rates will be the shot heard round the world and rattle the market pretty hard. No knows how all this ends according to Warren and he is right. There are predictions that the end of QE spells the end of the world. Some think there will be magic growth that brings it to a successful conclusion. Personally I have no clue how they wrap all this up and have a real hard time imagining a conclusion. Of course most who observe a heroin addict in the throes of addiction cannot fathom them ever escaping the clutches of the stuff but some do and go onto a full recovery. We shall see how our current addiction to cheap money plays out.

My mountain climbing friend from Seattle nailed the whole Buffett phenomenon in one phrase. He has sold himself to the world an image of a kindly grandfather making wise investments while operating with the mind of a gambler and soul of a loan shark. The world buys it hook, line and sinker and lines up to give him their money.

Beef prices just hit an all time high. If grapes also begin to spiral out of control higher this could be problematic this summer.

My wife is a saint. How that woman has not stabbed me to death in my sleep with a rusty serrated knife just escapes me.

My children need to get over the illusion they are grown ups able to live their own lives and move to Florida so I can keep a closer eye on them and correct their inevitable plethora of mistakes.

When running a series of screens for a recent series of articles it is really clear that the pool of safe and cheap stocks is shrinking in number and size. Only 16 names had prices below book and high Z and F scores with market caps over $100 million. Only 67 stocks passed at all and most of them had market caps below $50 million.  This is mildly troublesome to me. However some of the names are just too cheap not to own at this price.

I can find lots of shit to worry about. Greece, Crete, The Middle East, covenant lite junk bonds, High frequency trading, criminal big banks, Putin, China. The list goes on forever. All of this appears to be trumped by Zero Interest Rate Policies. Best just focus on individual valuations. The low number of opportunities keeps underinvested while preserving my upside. All that macro cap is bad for my indigestion and interferes with my real life.

As I look at the results of 52 years of weird living I have to say that I am a lucky man. I have wonderful family, fantastic kids and am married to the only woman on the planet who could ever actually put up with me. She is not just a trophy wife but my best friend and partner in this adventure of life. I have the best collection of friends one could ask with as wide a variety as you could possibly imagine. I have a career that suits me and keeps me interested and involved all the time. I have my books to entertain and educate me. I have baseball to obsess over, wine to enjoy and a dog to walk for exercise. It is all in all a damn good life. Happy Birthday to me.

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