Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Some stuff from the Cato Institute

The Cato Institute is a caonservative think tank-policy institute that I would describe as libertarian-conservative but my sister who is in DC would call 'crazy-out-there-conservative-small-government-know-it-alls'. They have some interesting information available on their website, and I read a few articles. They are short and have a theme of small government and limited government spending. More importantly, they make you think. I enjoyed this one. It is amazing to think of what government spending on the elderly in 2040 will be. We need changes now when there is some time left on the clock, rather than during the final countdown. Unfortunately, that is not the American way.

This article shows how Bush and the GOP Congress cannot limit their feeding at the government teet. I understand the need to shift some spending your home state's way so that you can show you brought home some bacon, but the transportation bill is an example of how the GOP Congress and Bush have turned their back on fiscal conservatism.

Some of the Bush policies and strategy I have not understood at all (defense/foreign policy vaguely). The education bill and hiked spending (60%+ under Bush) possibly were attempts to prove moderate status, but he so quickly drove right and moved to reward the base that it was a waste. The same could be said for the Medicare reform with the prescription drug aid. That will be excellent for the elderly but no democrat/liberal/progressive will give Bush credit for helping the elderly and being a 'big government' president. He gained no additional voters. This was completely useless as Bush won the election because of the war in Iraq, the GWOT, and value voters.

A study as to how the GOP became big spenders can be found here. I think a few quick explanations on this can be that when you control all branches you will help your friends out and that the old saying 'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' (Lord Acton) applies to our Congress.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Funny website article

This article was forwarded to me by a coworker. It is a good extended joke pointed at one type fo male. I dislike these guys, and I avoid wearing my striped blue/white/black shirt because of them despite it's good fit/look and gift status from my little sister. I try to limit its number of appearances.

Click Here for good laughs. You know at least 1 guy like this.

There has to be a female version of this. Maybe those stupid skirts that look really flimsy...pleated...cotton...lame. The skirts make girls with big butts look even bigger yet every girl has one. They work for very few women.

I'm now going to self-plagiarize from my LJ because I heard the song discussed again today....

"we get higher and higher straight up we'll fly...we get higher & higher leave it all behind" - "dreams", van halen (hagar years)

That song, "dreams", will be used during the tennis doubles match montage in the show I am creating with carl. I can't reveal more out of fear of someone stealing the idea, but it will be hysterical. Tennis mixed doubles match - wait, that could be funny, but a tennis doubles match to a rocking 80s song with a funny twist to it that I can't reveal. It will make the HBO come-drama "entourage" look like a piece of shit. "Entourage" is a drama that thinks it is a comedy. The leads suck, Jeremy Piven carries the show and Kevin Dillon of all people is the comic relief. With each episode I watch, I lose faith that it will become a great show.

Monday, August 29, 2005

woody allen's masterpiece, Annie Hall

I often complain about the state of Hollywood and the entertainment industry these days. I miss good, different, and adventurous films. I miss movies like Annie Hall. I am a fan of Woody Allen's work from the inventive What's up, Tiger Lily? to the newer Manhattan Murder Mystery but Annie Hall stands above everything. It is a nonlinear story that uses flashbacks, animation, split screens, and other devices to tell a funny story.

A movie like Wedding Crashers is hysterical and goofy, but it is not anything like the brilliant comedy and observational humor that is throughout Annie Hall (AH). When you watch AH, you get the feeling that you're listening to a great stand up comic being put into odd situations where their genius can shine. This became the basis for so many sitcom ideas in the early 90s. When you listen to Allen's character, you can hear the Billy Crystal lines from When Harry met Sally or Jerry Seinfeld's lines from an episode of Seinfeld and by extension Larry David's humorous circumstances and odd lifeview from Curb your Enthusiasm. This is the genesis of all of that; the acorn that started the tree.

Besides the observational humor that Allen uses, there are obvious sight gags. The scene where Allen hears friends discuss cocaine and its $2,000/oz price and then sneeze, spraying the coke everywhere, is one of these hysterical moments. The clever use of subtitles to show what Allen and Keaton's characters are really thinking when they are talking at their first meeting was incredibly funny. Allen uses a device that is used in foregin language films to explain meaning of the other language to show the motives of the male and female psyche. When flashbacks were used, Allen's character and others would be watching live like the ghosts of christmas past/present/future. The commentary and scenes are out of anyone's childhood/past. I laughed my ass off when watching the scene where his parents argue about the black cleaning lady stealing and why she was fired.

I miss films like this, and they just do not make films like AH anymore. Allen had 10 years of solid Hollywood success behind him and was allowed artistic freedom to do with AH as he pleased....and it worked. There was not a concern with offending any race, religion or group. There was no concern with being too New York/Jewish of a movie. He just wrote a film that people could identify with: the story of a passionate yet failed relationship and the build up through his/her life up to that relationship.

Rent it. I love to watch it, but you only need to see it once.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

China's most dangerous weapon

No, it's not a nuclear bomb. No, it's not the human wave attacks from the Korean War. No, it's not cyberwarfare. It's their US Dollar reserves. these reserves totaled roughly $610 billion US dollars at the end of 2004 and over $700 bln currently; click here or here. War is not just bullets and soldiers, not just propaganda and 'hearts and minds; it is also economies.

If China were to make a move on Taiwan, the US would move to assist Taiwan. Taiwan, with our assistance would most likely repel an attack made by China. But what if we could not help Taiwan, how would we look then? Weak. We'd be breaking a promise to Taiwan and make other countries nervous. This would be the case but Taiwan and China are a special case. The reason....China could economically blackmail us with their US Dollar reserves. If they flushed the market with their US $ reserves, we'd have a panic, market chaos, or some calamity in our economy. China could threaten us with this over an island in the Pacific. Would America defend an island in the Pacific if it meant an economic recession? I think that depends on the president.

Our free spending and loose purse strings have put us in this predicament; not just the government, but citizens. All of those low rate mortgages have been quietly underwritten by the Chinese and Japanese. I dislike Paul Krugman for becoming the shrill political hack he is, but he once wrote that our deficits were just making us more dependent on our Asian allies/competitors. I'm upset with the GOP control of the government because it is working against the very principles of conservatism. Where is the fiscal constraint? The energy bill...the transportation bill...nothing but pork in those bills. If there was a GOP prez and Dem Congress, we'd have head bumping, a presidential veto of those bills, and GOP politicians would have to show constraint so they could point a finger at free spending Dems. A Dem prez and GOP congress would be slicing projects (fat) down to the bone. Reagan is rolling over in his grave.

The Vice Fund

I had not posted on an investment idea in a while, and I was reading up on exotic investments in mutual fund form. I came across a fund that I already had heard of "The Vice Fund". The Vice Fund is a mutual fund that invests in companies that make money off of vices and defense contractors. Think of it as a politically incorrect mutual fund. You can see their holdings here and here. As you can see, the find is 25% gaming, 23% defense, 21% alcohol, 14% tobacco and 16% other (a component of other is Berkshire Hathaway B shares, haha). The fund claims that they might be recession proof because the industries that they invest in see capital appreciation through good and bad times.

I like the idea of the fund but I take exception with the claim of recession proof investing. Movement of stock prices is still greatly affected by the movement of the market as a whole. I like the idea of defense investment as the Global War on Terror is going to be a long term endeavour. Investing in industry leaders like United Technologies, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics is a good way to enter that market (especially since UTC just split). The problem lies in gambling. Gaming is a discretionary spending centered fund, and the moment that hard times come people peel away at their outer layer of spending first. Gambling is usually one of the outer most layers of spending (unless you want to pin your investment hopes on gambling addicts). Gambling has become more widley distributed in locations, but is still dependent on travel for a majority of its patrons. I feel gambling will feel pain when the next recession comes. People might buy a case of Bud when they lose their job and feel down, but they don't buy plane tickets to Vegas for a weekend of gambling.

This fund has only been effective since mid-2002, so we have not seen how this fund acts in a down market. This group also is limited in breadth, as there are only 49 holdings in the portfolio. The fund has a higher P/E than the S&P 500 and many people think that the S&P is overvalued right now. If the market suddenly drops, I would not be surprised to see this fund make a deeper dip. This is a quasi-sector fund so you're puttign your eggs in a smaller basket than a broad index fund. In the next bear market, I will watch this fund closely. If it dips with everything else and deeper, then I will say "It's not recession proof, and that 1.75% expense ratio does not help". If it fights the dip of the broad market and outperforms the market or even makes gains, I will consider an investment in it. I find that high expense ratio tough to swallow with no knowledge of how it acts during a real recession.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Who killed Notorious BIG?

This is a theory that was kicked around many times when I was in college. It is all speculation but connect the dots and it makes more sense than most left wing or right wing 9/11 theories or Kennedy Assassination theories. I am not putting Notorious BIG's death on that level, but compare the craziness of theories.

Why March 9, 1997?

Biggie Smalls was set to release his album Life After Death later that month. A tour to promote the album would have made tons of money for Biggie and the usual suspects of hangers on and lesser talented artists (Lil Cease, Lil Kim, get the point). Artists make their money on tour not by record sales; record labels and producers make their money on record sales. I think we can eliminate hangers on & established artists because of timing. Wouldn't an artist dying right before releasing an album offer free publicity......

Who would gain from his death?

Bad Boy Records that's who. They could boost record sales without having to run a normal marketing campaign. Who runs Bad Boy Records? Puff Daddy. Now Puffy would not kill his "best friend"! This is the entertainment industry. You have no friends in the world of entertainment. Biggie had written plenty of lyrics for Puffy. It was well known that Puffy wanted to put out an album of his own, wanted the stardom (see Suge's acceptance speech at the hip-hop award show dissing Puffy's intrusion on records), and wanted to be the face of the new wave of rap. Remember, the death of Biggie ended gangsta rap and let ghetto glam take over. The album No Way Out needed something to push it over the top and be a crossover hit for Puffy. Would not a song about your best friend's death, put over the music of a classic Police song, be just that hit? "I'll be Missing You" could have been made by a retard and gone number 1 with all of the emotion from and coverage of BIG's death. That is what launched Puffy's career. The death of his friend.

It was not only Puffy who would benefit from Biggie's death. None other than Ma$e would go on to hook up with the Bad Boy hit machine. Ma$e showed up first on the song "Mo' money, Mo' problems" and then on Puffy's No Way Out. Ma$e's album, Harlem World, is pure feces. Of course, it was produced by Puffy, so a couple of samples here, a couple of beats there and voila, a platinum record.

Connect the dots. Biggie was out publicly on a night without Puffy. Who would know which seat he usually rode in when travelling? People close to him. Who gained the most directly after and directly from his death? Puffy and Ma$e. The driver and shooter were never identified. Who continually dragged Biggie out from the grave to show up on 'new' albums in the most creepy of ways? Puffy. The theory states that Puffy had Biggie killed and hired Ma$e to do it. His reward was becoming a star, and Puffy could make money off of his cash cow (Biggie) and stay at the center of attention for east coast rap.

This is all a loose theory based more on intelligent Ivy leaguers who were sad to see how rap had degenerated into a crappy landscape after the deaths of Tupac and Biggie. There was always at least one black male present, so it wasn't a bunch of rich, white suburbanites sitting around acting like posers.

......Don't get me started on how J.Lo manipulated and used Puffy to launch a singing career. I'm surprised he couldn't send her to "sleep with the fishes". The fool had to really love her to let her get away with that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

straw poll of american consumer habits

Next time you (smart with your money reader) wonder how so many Americans have large credit card balances and dig themselves in deep financial holes, ask people what they drive. Even better cruise craig's list money forum. A car is the 2nd biggest purchase you'll make behind your home. Here is a straw poll from a cookout with friends of the cars they drive, their lowest MSRP, and what their family unit consisted of.....

Mazda 6 $18,995 single male
Toyota Camry $20,635 single female
Chevy Tahoe $34,115 single male
Ford Focus $13,745 single female
Acura RSX $20,325 single male

I am a single male with a Hyundai Elantra priced at $13,299. Sadly, through my friends' revelations, I am pretty certain I am the highest wage earner of this group. What I cannot believe are the cars purchased which are more suited to families (and more expensive) by single people? Now these same people claim to have credit card debt and constantly discuss money issues. I have a feeling that if they thought about their vehicle as a depreciating asset and not an investment, they would not buy such ill-suited-for-them vehicles.

Cars are a major purchase and the longer you can put that purchase off, the better. The last vehicle I drove was 15 years old when I traded it to the dealer. I plan on riding this car out to the 10 year mark. Car dealerships have doen a great job of brainwashing people into 5-6 year payment plans. They have persuaded people to accept the idea of always having a car payment. Every dollar that you send out the door to finance your car is a dollar you cannot put to something that can earn a return for you or give your family or community value (education/donations to charity). I'm not saying buy cheap cars and scrimp. I'm saying think about the cars you are purchasing and why? Keeping up with the Joneses adds debt and gives little satisfaction. In the words of Tyler Durden, you're not the car you drive.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

my old home state's 'best' newspaper

This wonderful op-ed column just shows us how awful our work in Iraq is and how "we have lost our way". The logic I do not udnerstand is that women were better off previously, yet I cannot find when, oh yeah, 30 years ago before the rule of that horrible dictator we threw out. In this next passage she contradicts herself, but from reading other columns she has written I cannot trust her writing....

Saddam started to give Sunni clerics more power and political religion and traditional dress became the balm he offered for the national ills he had created.
How strange that the women of Iraq must now try to defend the rights that laws under Saddam Hussein gave them, as America claims victory over him. The silence of Iraqi women's voices and those of democratic nations is deafening as the window of opportunity closes in the developing constitution.

Hold on, so Saddam started to make women follow a more religious way of life and gave power to the clerics. With an elected government, and the possiblity that Islam will be a foundation for law, women suddenly are losing rights they had under Saddam. Hold on, was not Saddam stripping them of their rights and forcing women to obey clerical law more? Maybe my Ivy League education went to waste, but I think she is reaching here to criticize the Bush administration.

Is it not a welcome sign that people protest there, that people now seek grievances politically and not with a bullet? We've made mistakes in Iraq from day one, but building (not rebuilding) a country is incredibly difficult. It is not a model set you buy at Toys R Us. Read The Conquerors for further proof. Small battles must be one and eventually a (cliche alert) tipping point will be reached. Security is a foundation, building the infrastructure, jumpstarting their economy, etc. If only the MSM covered Iraq like my buddy in the Army who emails me....a guy can dream.

something on NY Times front page about abortion

First off, I am a reluctant pro-choice supporter.

I guess the NY Times loves to put on the front page of its website things that support it politics (Forget about the genocide in Darfur). This article reports on how fetuses might not feel pain until after the 29 week period. Score one for the pro-choice crowd. The 4th paragraph of the article is not a paragraph. It is one sentence that states a fact to keep in your mind how many abortions take place a year. This is to remind you how many women would be losing their right to their body so that people get angry if Bush nominates a strict constructionist person to the Supreme Court.

To reiterate, I am a reluctant pro-choice supporter. I am libertarian and believe in everyone having as much freedom as possible and therefore, having freedom over their body. Personally, I find it a tragedy to feel the need to have an abortion; somewhere something has gone wrong. I would never want my girlfriend, female relatives or friends to consider or have to consider one because of circumstances. If you think I'm a hypocrite, I told my sister several years ago that I would gladly adopt her child and raise it until "she was ready to be a mom".

I find a ridiculous juxtaposition of law in this nation is that a person must wait 5 days to purchase a hand gun but can get an abortion with little to no wait time. An even worse juxtaposition is the fact that you must be 21 to buy a hand gun but can get an abortion at any age.

Monday, August 22, 2005

aeon flux

aeon flux was an interesting and different action cartoon. it originated from shorts that were made for MTV's 'Liquid Television'. The things that drew me to the shorts were the lack of dialogue and the rejection of superhero norms. The lead is a brunette female as an agent for some government/group in the future. You never really know if she is on the 'good' side. You never get to know her. The shorts were magnificent because she never spoke, always died in the end, and was always 'recreated' at the beginning of the next short......showing in a way the uselessness of aggression, war, or conflict. I remember that I never knew Aeon Flux was the name of the lead female; I assumed it was latin...possibly translates to "forever passing through".

One of my favorite episodes had her being tracked by one of her home base compatriots. You see the connection that the home base agent starts to build with her, which is also of a physical basis as Aeon was kind of stacked (very early 90s Pam Anderson body). She ends up dying at the end of the episode and the agent back at the base lets out a sigh, presses a button and vaporizes her remains.

When the show was turned into a series, my friends and I would call each other to say the obvious, "Put it on MTV, superbabe is on". I thought the silent secret agent theme would continue, but I was let down by the creators need to give Aeon and her world voices. There was something wonderful in the silence and the imagery used to convey emotions, atmosphere and oh yeah, plot. Some of you may think I am a 'fireman' from Farenheit 451. No, I love books and dialogue rich movies. I just thought that Aeon Flux tried something different and did a good job with it. It was an odd show that tried to tackle big subjects with comic book metaphors. I felt that Samurai Jack tried this and did it much better. Would I buy the complete Aeon Flux on dvd? Not for $15 or $20, but when they re-release the series/shorts when the movie comes out for less, I might pick it up.

does anyone know.... i raise the profile so that it does not start all the way at the end of my postings?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

thoughts during a commercial break

Kansas sold out for an SUV ad, friggin Kansas, who's next Toto?...Back to back ads for SUVs. I wonder why are gas prices $2.70?...ELO is releasing another greatest hits album or is this just a 1-800 number for the old greatest hits?...I better get those verizon ringback tones so people can hear a real song when my phone rings (that's money well spent)...Kelly Preston looks 20, not 40, and god forbid a woman ever have wrinkles....Swiffers, seriously, are people suppose to act amazed when they see swiffers collect dirt. 3 mins of commercials of lame-osity.

good article in press herald

This article points to a problem with Maine. Heck, I left there because of the limited job market. I also went to an Ivy League school, competing against the NY and Boston schooled kids that the writer fears have an advantage over Maine kids. I feel he brings up great points and offers nice solutions. I also think he does not say what a bunch of like minded individuals think but would never say in public about Maine. That is that kids in Maine shoot for the lamp post rather than the moon because of their homes, schools, and Maine culture. My mom has said the same thing for years this guy wrote.

I had a greta history teacher who had a bad habit of saying we could not compete with NY or Massachusetts students. I went to Cornell and saw those kids struggle just as much as myself or other small state kids. I resented that teacher's attitude and felt it fed the inferiority complex that Mainers have. I wish a governor would step up to the plate in Maine and turn us into a US version of India or Ireland. Both countries had location problems, infrastructure problems, and government problems, but they have become economic tigers. Education is part of the solution as are incentives for businesses to choose Maine as a location for operations. I just hope they can do something soon as me and my friends all leave for the states where the good jobs are.....

Fight Club

my girland I just finished watching Fight Club. This would be the second movie (Rounders was the first) with Ed Norton that I have watched today, and yes, I think he is an outstanding actor. American History X was the other great movie he made in 1998. I hope that he sticks to acting and stays away from directing. Leave directing for when you are too old for the lead parts like Eastwood does.

To get back to Fight Club, it is an excellent film which adapts the Chuck Pal...nuik book of the same title very well. I have read several of his novels and been impressed by his craft. I enjoy his assault on modern American culture. I enjoy the way protagonists are always unsatisfied with their lives, not fulfilling their full potential, and dealing with broken homes or tough family situations. In other words, I enjoy how his characters seem real.

The movie adaptation of the story Fight Club is a good one directed by David Fincher because it stays true to the book. It follows the book's storyline, except for the ending, almost to a T. The mood and atmosphere feel right. In Fincher style, there is plenty of rain. many shots have that disorienting feel to them, which fits in well with the insomnia that afflicts the narrator. I enjoyed the acting from everyone but I feel Brad Pitt put in a great performance that is overlooked oftentimes because he is 'handsome'. He absolutely becomes Tyler Durden and I bought it from his first scene. This movie review is much shorter than my Boogie Nights review because I feel much deeper about it as a commentary on society.

Fight Club made me think, and the book made me think even more about so much of the BS around us. There are two quotes that I love from this movie......

Tyler Durden: You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

I love this quote because of its message. It is a rallying point for me with how I view things and behaviors of coworkers, friends, family, etc. Seriously, your posessions are just that posessions, objects, things, inanimate objects. So many people get caught up with what others have, how does their stuff match up, and what kind of new things can they get. We put ourselves into debt in order to keep up with the Joneses. You are 25 and single, you do not need the 4 door top-of-the-line sedan to take you to and from work. How much money you have does not determine your worth? I went to college with countless rich kids who were miserable people. Rich people have the same problems and flaws as poor people; they just have the money to pay for rehab, therapy, and good clothes.

Narrator: You had to give it to him: he had a plan. And it started to make sense, in a Tyler sort of way. No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.

I try to live this way. I let a lot of sh*t slide. If something does not really matter, I do not care. I measure my happiness in life with what I am able to do, the love I share with Melissa, and my friendships. As long as I am not laying on a hospital bed fighting for my life, I am happy. When they say "Don't sweat the small stuff, it's all small stuff", they are telling the truth. I think with life you just have to have an idea or plan. There are a lot of distractions in life, but if you focus on your idea, your plan, you can brush away the small stuff and fully realize what you want. Live life to the fullest.

Listen to Tyler...... The things you own end up owning you.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

ever get the wrong "you look like..."

I love when you first meet people and they say you look like so and so. I especially love it when they say you look like an ugly, bad, or unpleasant person. When I was in college, I knew a dead ringer for Ben Stiller. He and I were friends but not close. Whenever I introduced him to people, they'd say "you look just like Ben Stiller". He took it as a complement for the first two years of school, but after a while found it lame and annoying. Plus, the more simian Stiller got,t he more angry Ross became. I feel bad for folks who are constant reminders of others to idiots who don't know better and cannot shut up. At least he did not look like Butthead from Beavis & Butthead like my friend Andrew.

My girlfriend reminds me of Julia Louis Dreyfuss in her younger days but with less frizzy hair; I like that look. Have I ever been the victim of the "you look like..." letdown? No. I do go for the missing, illegitimate Kennedy look. My girlfriend buys it, and that's good enough for me.

hometown newspaper hurting....

The old Journal Tribune of York County is hurting. From everything I have heard, they are fighting to compete with the free weekly newspaper, The Courier. While in high school, I wrote a series of columns or stories on local sports teams and then in between seasons on local athletes for The Courier. When covering my high school, I could give a couple of friends good press and an action photo in a local paper. That paper, The Courier, is now beating the Journal Tribune on scoops and with readership. Most of the complaints come from the Journal Tribune being a rag that recycles Associated Press news and covers local sports poorly. Even my parents, die hard Mainers, do not get the Journal Tribune anymore. Not even my dad, and he is a sports nuts. Why? I think it is the sports reporting staff....seriously the staff.

Here is the wonderful sports reporting staff for the Journal tribune. They are a collection of winners. I speak well of John Nash, good writer. I have read articles of his and enjoy them. The new sports clerk I can not comment on and will not. The editor, Mr. Edwards, I know personally and can say that his work is alright but his judgment is not the best. He is a trained professional, and I hope that he can right the ship with the journal's sports coverage as that is why most folks in York County subscribe to the Journal.

Where's the problem? His reporter, Mr. Brockman, I know very well. I have also read some of his articles. This is not the author Chris Brockman; it is a small town egomaniac who is now a reporter. One of the first things that the editors at The Courier told me was that "It is one thing is to be a reporter, and another to be a columnist". I find that a lot of his reporting has sentences, references, and even whole paragraphs that are commentary or personal opinion. It is not reporting. What is this, the NY Times economy section? The facts, man, just the facts. It's sports reporting in a county of a small state. Please stop it with the Sports Guy impression.

My father, my grandparetns, and my girlfriend's father have both expressed disgust with the writing and quality of sports coverage, and they both now just rely on the Portland Press Herald for sports coverage. I know it is tough to find good help for low wages, but please, please, please pick it up Journal Tribune.

strategy review for no limit hold em

I am a fan of Doyle Brunson; I study his Super System chapter on no limit hold 'em. I play and try to emulate the aggressive and selective style he plays. Unfortunately, most players look like Doyle Brunson (overweight) but do not play like him. The major points I have taken from reading Super System is selective aggression. Pick your cards right, notice your position, and come out guns a blazin' when you are in a pot.

When i arrived at Foxwoods casino, the wait for a table of no limit was 10 mins. Beautiful. I sat down at a table of fat men, young striped shirt looking guys and one tough looking 'hombre' (very Sam Elliot looking). I decided to be patient. I would only play pairs, high cards and when position allowed suited connecters and other high suited cards. Did this strategy work? Yes. Most people call with anything supported by an Ace, suited or not suited. Several times my pocket 6s, 5s, or Qs hit their trips and would take down someone who decided to call my $15 raise with Ace-x. Sure your Ace hit, but what else? When the blinds are 1-2 and they stake you $5 each half hour, you need to be patient. What is the sense of calling $15 raises with Q-9 when you can wait it out and call someone with Ace-Q int he next 15 mins witht he same amount of cash?

I noticed that position mattered much much more. I was able to scoop up $10 in blinds and calls on one hand because I was on the button, had raised $15 and got no callers. People have a habit of calling with anything as long as the blind is low. People want the no limit possibility of pay offs but with minmal investment/risk. It's making poker turn into blackjack, and fat guys at poker tables like to try that. Knowing who has folded can also make you more frisky with raises. If you can see that 5 people have folded in front of you and there are no raises, that Q-9 can look much sexier. Just keep in mind position when raising and you will understand a lot more about your table.

Also, wait to see your cards after everyone in front of you already has looked at theirs. People widen their eyes or look back at them when they have a huge starting hand. I love to see novices do that. Another tip, wait 10 seconds before you do anything, before folding, before betting, before calling. If you have apattern of behavior for every situation that looks the same, then people will not 'know' what you are doing or what you have.

Aggressive betting will win you pots that you do not deserve. I took down plenty of pots where I hit nothing on the flop but bet into it first. The saying 'he who bets first often, wins often' is true. making someone decide to see another card for a $ is a strong tool for victory. I noticed the hombre was demolishing people at the table because they would not hit anythign on the flop and check it to him. He would bet, and they would fold. My startegy when I went against him was to bet into him every chance I got. I hammered on him and after he left the table, he and I talked about it. I told him how he was killing everyone, and I had figured him out. He said "you had my number, I didn't know if you were bluffing or not but after a few losses you stop paying to see it". He was a good player, and I had just caught enough luck with cards to scare him the rest of the way.

What is ruining poker though is its expansion. It is getting so popular that newbies are starting out at no limit tables. Dealers told 2 separate players that they should go to a limit table if they are starting out. A nice suggestion in my opinion. They are taking up space at tables, and ruining how the game is played. Poker with those folks and other novices is becoming an only call the big blind and hope to hit it big on the flop. That is blackjack, not poker. I hate it. Whent he poker trend dies down, and it is a trend now not a fad, the tables will clear out a bit and order will be restored. Hopefully, order will be restored.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

why can't people say I was wrong or I don't know?

Maybe it is because I went to a school where I knew that some kids were smarter than me and learned to go to them for help with particular subjects, but why is it so hard for so many people to admit a mistake, an error, or ignorance? How hard is it to admit "I do not know"?

I find that in the corporate world, because people never want to show any vulnerability, people will give half answers or circles of BS rather than admitting they do not know the answer. I understand the need to spin BS sometimes, but simple instances of ignorance are ok. Nobody knows everything. This reaction is not because of my interaction with trainees today but rooted deeper.

I think a great tool for learning is asking questions and beign honest with ones lack of experience or knowledge with a particular concept. Some concepts are difficult to learn, and people learn in different ways. Asking questions is a way to gain knowledge. It is also not a sign of failure to not know something. In fact, if you do not know what someone might consider a basic part fo your job it is most likely a failure of your manager, mentor or trainer. Those people are ultimately responsible for your base knowledge. If someone does not know an intricate piece of their job, it is a sign that they need education in that piece or can be a sign of inexperience. Everyone nowadays seems afraid that if they admit wrongdoing of any kind they will be terminated. It just does not work like that........

...they are much more likely to fire you when you question a VP's ideas or judgment. Pack your bags for that offense. Corporate America in most instances will reward average people who do not rock the boat rather than brilliant people who question the norm and create change. That might because the managerial theory exhibited by most managers/supervisors is the CYA (cover your @ss), personal empire model. Obedience will be rewarded since it will not challenge their standing with their superiors. Even poor performance can be dealt with if you do not challenge the boss. (That is a perfect description of how things worked at my old job.)

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. - George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A deal at work that saddens me, how to write business, and me

I'm close to closing a deal where we provide a product to a well known children's clothing manufacturer. Because I do not fully understand the legal implications of giving details, that is as detailed as I will get about the possible client.

My reason for posting is that the client recently purchased a rival or possibly a 'market extender'. I say 'market extender' because they are also a children's clothing manufacturer/retailer but for a different market of children. My reason for posting is that the acquired firm made many of my clothes as a child. The brand is well known and will continue but over time the company will become nothing but a name that the dominant company will use for consumer recognition. The purchasing company denies that they will close down the rival firm, but we all know how these mergers end. The dominant company will eventually strip down the bought company of it's useless assets and keep what it needs to maximize revenue, earnings or shareholder value.

Of course, it is very nice to work on high profile names. I enjoy working on cases and pricing the financial services that some of the nation's best known companies and universities will use. It was a reason I changed companies that I worked for in the first place. This new company gave me an opportunity to work on large cases which would show me the deals that one must cut to get business in the door.

One major thing that I have since learned is that ultimately, to write business in a market setting with bids, it comes down to the tolerance one has for the probability of losing money. Once in a blue moon you can get something in an open market setting that is at the perfect price. That requires all of the actors in the market to act rational. In the mature market setting for my industry, competition is fierce for new business and someone is always in a 'buying' mode. Many times I think about how bad a miss would be, how much would we lose if we underprice this, can we lose money early on and recover losses later on with price increases?

It's a sobering realization. Some of my coworkers view me as aggressive, creative and dynamic. I do not share their views. I view my work as controlled recklessness. I think it comes from knowing that we will sell 1 in 10 cases or so, so why not try everything possible to sell a case? If you do not sell it, you look great to your sales force because of the effort you put in and creative to your superiors. I think another part of it comes from my risk friendly personality. I'm willing to ride the razor's edge for sucess. Maybe that is why I love sports, poker and anything with a challenge. It is no surprise that the greatest risks offer the greatest rewards.

When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity. - John F. Kennedy

Monday, August 15, 2005

Boogie Nights

Dirk: When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign, I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign - it just blows up because the name is so powerful... It says, "Dirk Diggler."

A star is born with that line. That right there is one of my favorite lines from 'Boogie nights'. I don't know how many of you have seen 'Boogie Nights', but it is a fantastic film that soem people feel is too long. Of course, every time i finish the movie I can't think of a single scene I would delete. It is an amazing film that some say is a story about family; I agree. Paul Anderson was attempting to capture the glory days of pornography and society's transition to the 1980s and the broken down circus that is pornography.

[During a coke binge]
Rollergirl: Amber, are you my mom? I'm gonna ask you, okay? And you say yes, okay? Amber, are you my mom?
Amber Waves: Yes, sweetie.

Many of the relationships in 'Boogie Nights' (BN) are familial. If you look at the cast of characters, you have an old lion father in Jack Horner, a woman desperate to be a mom in Amber Waves, the bubbly little sister in Rollergirl, the golden son with Dirk and the odd collection of crazy relatives that make of a family with Buck, Scotty, the Colonel, Todd etc. jack grooms Dirk, yet their is the issue of acceptance, respect between the two. Jack is quick to cut Dirk down to size when Dirk claims that he blocks his own scenes. Amber becomes a mother figure to the orphans Rollergirl and Dirk because she cannot contact or visit her own son. There is a closeness between the 'actors' which could be in part because they see each other and work when we are at our most vulnerable, naked.

Dirk's family had an interesting dynamic which I wish had been explored more. He is constantly seeking approval or acceptance wherever he goes because of his horrible home life. He constantly wants to look cool and have others see him the way that he wants them to see him. When he tries cocaine for the first time, he asks if he looks cool doing it. He equates his American Dream with a Corvette, which people would see him driving.

Buck Swope: You're not being fair. This isn't fair.
Bank Officer: This financial institution cannot endorse pornography.
Buck Swope: Stop saying pornography. Why are you doing this to me? I am an actor. I am an actor.

Listening to the Director's commentary, one can hear how he did not want to glorify pornography. He wanted to show how truly horrible of a life it was/is. I think it was amazing that this movie came out before the major mainstreaming of porngraphy in American Society. As he stated, in the 1970s pornography was on the big screen, had plots because you could not fast forward to the sex scenes, and they were stars of the screen. Some friends mention that the movie has a happy ending as Dirk goes back to Jack's house and gets back in films. They really do not notice that Todd and Little Bill are dead, the Colonel is in jail, everyone is recovering from cocaine, and Dirk has found shelter back in porn. A career in porn is not a happy ending; Dirk has learned nothing and not grown in his 'hero's journey'. The look on Julianne Moore's face in the mirror is a more appropriate statement for the ending. Jack has just said she is "the foxiest bitch in the whole world". There is no joy in her face but a sadness because she knows the truth.

The truth is that everyone has lost their innocence. There is the obvious change in tone from the scenes of the 1970s to the 1980s, but even their 'work' is portrayed as soemthing they can improve and refine. Dirk is always concerned with things looking 'sexy' and 'right'. Jack wants to make a movie that will keep the pervs in the seats. People are more concerned with having the right look or stereo than anything else. In the final scene, the peaceful house equilibrium has been restored, but everyone is a little dirtier.

I think this is a nice allegory for the transition of American society from the 1970s which still had some of that 1960s activisim, experimentation with drugs, the sexual revolution was in full force, women were entering the workforce in greater numbers to the 1980s which was all about money, me-me-me, an explosion of dangerous drugs, and a sex scene that was overshadowed by HIV/AIDS. I may be reaching, but that is what the 1980s feels like to me at times. Things appear new, improved and better but in most ways were not (maybe the clothes).

Dirk: You're not the boss of me, Jack. You're not the king of Dirk. I'm the boss of me. I'm the king of me. I'm Dirk Diggler. I'm the star. It's my big dick and I say when we roll.

I loved this quote because it is Dirk coked out of his mind and delusional about being a star and a real actor. I loved how this movie showed the sex in a boring way; Jack Horner always looks tired and bored when watching sex scenes being filmed. Pornography is not exciting and fun. Those are two adjectives people use for sex, and yet no one truly looks like they enjoy their sex lives. Jack doesn't crack a smile or show any delight when watching scenes. The term 'porn star' in itself implies that these people are famous and recognizable. Prior to being beaten by the homophobe surfers, Dirk asks the guy if he knows who he is. The guy does not, and it proves just how irrelevant they are compared to true stars of the screen. Another nice touch was how the mystique of filming is removed by the walk from Drik's dressing room to the set. It is a walk through Jack's house. There are few lights, one sound guy with a boom mike, and one camera.

The other piece of the broken down circus is individual angle. Behind the good looks are troubled pasts and insecurity. Under the Italian shirts and make up, addictions eat away at these stars. No one is ever shown engaging in a romantic sexual encounter besides the occasional kiss. I find it a nice irony that the porn stars themselves are never shown as players, macks, or queens who have to fight men off of them. Once again, the final scene shows Amber Waves taring into the mirror all done up but ultimately, looking sad at the life she has to live.

Dirk: You know, I'm gonna be a great big bright, shining star.

The acting in this is top notch and helped the careers of almost everyone associated with the movie (except Becky Barnett which I will touch on later). This movie lost the Screen Actor's Guild award for Best Ensemble cast to "The Full Monty" (other movies nominated "LA Confidential, Titanic, Good Will Hunting, WOW). First the men and women who supported the leads. Every man seemed to dive into his role William H. Macy, Burt Reynolds, Luis Guzman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jon C Reilly, Thomas Jane, Don Cheadle all put in top notch performances. I enjoyed Don Cheadle's performance as their was an element of pathetic in everything buck Swope tries: the stereo sale, the cowboy look, the superfreak look, the loan meeting, etc. Thomas Jane's scene with the drug deal/failed robbery was magnificent. The nervous coke laughter always kills me. He builds the tension with the laughter and the delivery of his lines. You know it is going to go bad, you just do not know when. Jon Reilly will eventually get an Oscar for a later film but it will be a cumulative award because of all of the great jobs he has done in since 1995. His career has exploded because of this role which he approached with the right sense of stupidity and innocence. Reed Rothchild was a sweet idiot, and the wingman attitude he develops and perfects with Dirk carries a 1/3 of the movie when everything is spiralling downward.

There are not many supporting females. Dirk's mother and Jessie are small roles, and even Becky Barnett does not have much. A really horrifying scene of Becky with her husband was cut, and it shook me for a few days after seeing it. Becky Barnett is the hidden hot woman of this movie. She is beautiful and possibly sexier than Heather Graham. Every guy who talks about the movie mentions how "Becky Barnett was fine" under the breath. I do not know why she has not assumed all or some of the hot black woman roles. I think that Hollywood needs more diversity as producers seem to put it in all the wrong places. We do not need to see a little league team that represents the U.N., but we could see non-urban roles for black actors. Now I will get off of my soap box. That might sound bad, but it does seem odd that Gabrielle Union (hot) gets all of the roles that call for a hot black woman. Julianne Moore was fantastic and her coke scenes seemed a little too real to me. I loved the coke rants and the desperation in her face and lines whenever she was trying to be a mom.

Dirk: Aren't you gonna take your skates off?
Rollergirl: I never take my skates off.

I had to give her a paragraph to herself. Heather Graham nails the innocent, hot girl perfectly in this movie. Her eyes are so large and blue that they convey that sense of sadness that her character carries. I loved the scene with the limo sex/fight and her coked out responses and facial expressions. When she snaps, you understand why and how. Right before she snaps and destroys the guy with her rollerskate, her character is not all done up and looking sexy. She is hunched, her make up is messed up and her eyes look so dark. All of the repressed energy and feelings come out at that moment. Heather was so good in this movie that it is amazing to think about how terrible she was in every movie since. She killed Austin powers 2 for me, and I do not care for any of her other films. I take that back, she was funny in Bowfinger (her character is made all the more funny because it's based on Anne Heche). In this movie, she was lightning in a bottle, which leads me to......

Dirk: the F*CKING king of Dirk!

The Director's commentary showed that Mark Wahlberg understood the mood and attitude that Anderson was trying to accomplish witht he film. It shows in each scene. Wahlberg hits all of the right notes and draws you in because he is just a runaway kid with one talent. The innocence, the insecurity, the machismo, the stupidity all come through in a dose that is not syrupy and does not feel forced. I especially loved the friendship between Dirk and Reed; the recording studio scenes are fantastic. He's done a few good things since, but has not reached the level of BN since. Dirk does not make a good decision once it turns to 1980 and yet you still feel bad for him and want to see him turn it around; that is connecting with an audience.

Jack Horner: Do these characters have a name?
Dirk: The guy's name is Brock Landers.
Reed Rothchild: And his partner is Chest Rockwell.
Jack Horner: Those are some great names.

I included this line as it is hysterical and explains blog call signs. I love this movie. Maybe it is because I am similar to the writer/director and viewed 1970s porn as entertaining, funny, and much better than the porn of today. I think it is because it is a great movie, great acting, some nice camera work, a great soundtrack and a good story. I'd like to put more reviews up here and if you think this is long, hopefully I have refined my essay style by the time I review "Godfather 2" so it does not double this entry.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

for comedy...

Please if you ever want to see a great documentary that will make you laugh and be over within 60 minutes, get Project Grizzly. For some reason the tags are not working and my post got erased. I am mad.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

last post

% whiteIwas pretty disgusted with the article that i linked to in my last post. from what i gather from the article, Maine has a problem with diversity and is full of closet racists.

It's not that Maine does not like minorities, it's just that so few live there. Maine is in fact 96.9% white (2000 US census). Now does this mean that Maine has a problem with diversity or just that there is a lack of diversity in the state. I vote for the latter. Maine has a small population, which is older than most states, and is predominantly white. Does this mean that they are racists? No. Since there was a 'diversity' festival in Portland, I would think that the population is making an attempt to broaden their horizons and learn.

The columnist who writes this editorial was born and raised in Maine so they know that Mainers are horrible racists. Hmm, that isnt the case? Does the columnist know that local high school choruses sing African tribal music at their school concerts? Hmm, I wonder why they would showcase an African song when the schools are probably 96.9% white? I bet they have a problem with race.

This is lame and a waste of a column in the major paper in Maine.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

i'll be back to comment on this...

......i'm still trying to figure out what is the goal of this column is, whether to say that Maine is a state of hee haw watching morons or that elitist capital owners are using diversity for their own gain or that Mainers use 'diversity' as window dressing for their true racism.

I'll be back tomorrow to comment. This is too stupid to not pick apart.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

one reason for the poker boom

Here's a theory. Poker suddenly takes off in America after an unknown wins the 2002 World Series of Poker (and '03 and '04 and '05), and internet gambling sites make it quick and easy. Why? What is the draw to playing no limit hold 'em? There is no limit to what you can 'make' for money. You're return can be unlimited and in one hand you can double your money. Few investments offer 100% returns in under a minute.

Poker appeals to people's greed, laziness and boredom with their real life. I enjoy playing poker because I love competition and challenges. I also enjoy the social aspect when playing with friends. I am not in the majority though for casual poker players. Casual players see it as something they can make money through, and if you read articles on the poker playing public, few players scratch out a living. I've seen this attitude in living rooms and casinos. What I find amazing too is the number of people who get cash advances on their credit cards to use for gambling. That is money that comes with a 12% or more interest rate. Does anyone ever notice that casinos don't go out of business?

It all goes to back to the laziness and wish for quick millions. Everyone wants to be rich and do nothing to earn it. I think the poker fad has legs to it. As long as there are 'prizes' in the millions, there will be a horde of entrants. That will spill over to the internet rooms.

It's not how good you are, it's all in the cards, right?

avian flu smuggling?

So a company tries to smuggle in avian flu from Saudi Arabia and they get a fine that allows them to continue to work? Sure some executives got 1 year in federal prison but why was the place not shut down? I understand the need to develop and nurture biotech firms/labs, but breaking the law and possibly exposing the nation and my old homestate of Maine to avian flu is horrible. I know the executives of the firm are in jail, but as the article says, were there not more employees who knew of this and said nothing?

Substitute biotech firm with mosque or 'middle eastern males' and wouldn't the whole operation been shut down? I think it is dangerous that they did not levy a higher fine and make an example of this firm for other biotech research facilities. I wonder if others will try to smuggle in avian flu, small pox, etc.

Friday, August 05, 2005

press herald and national savings

If you want a good laugh, read this editorial from my old hometown newspaper.......

I think that it is great that the portland press herald decided to write an article on the horrible savings rate of Americans. The savings rate is probably one of the trickier things to determine in economics, and as an econ major, I remember having debates about the necessity of a strong savings rate. What I find interesting is that the editorial starts by stating that there could be three reasons behind the lack of savings: bling bling culture, demographics, and tax policies. The editorial tries to explain the reasons to worry and a future problem (boomers retiring). Then it goes on to say maybe Congress needs to come up with a plan to solve this problem.

First, demographics, hunh, are you kidding me? I don't think I can talk about that reference without getting angry. They threw that word out there and did not say why it affects savings.

I've got a problem with this because the editorial does not discuss any reason for the low savings rate. It states three and gives no backing to them. Then the solution is Congress should do something because individuals are too weak to do anything on their own. Does anyone want to bet that if Congress proposed eliminating the federal income tax and moving to a consumption tax the Press Herald would scream bloody murder? It is a regressive tax, blah blah blah. Maybe if Congress created another tax deduction for a type of savings account the Press Herald could claim it is a help only to the Americans rich enough to afford another savings account. I personally think government mandated savings would be horrible in a scary 'Big Government' way.

I think an aggressive and thought provoking editorial may have stated the first possible cause of the poor savings rate and run with it: America's out of control consumer culture. Of course, a newspaper that exists because of advertising revenue will never write an editorial attacking the consumerism that has infected our nation. It would look odd to rail against conspicuous consumption and then have inserts for cars, 2nd homes, etc. Our consumer culture has grown to the point where the average credit card debt for Americans is $8562 (almost $2 trillion in total). Keeping up with the Joneses has become a destructive force financially in households. Money paid to put this debt down is money that does not go towards a child's college education, retirement, charities or other constructive endeavours.

I usually like to end my rails against consumerism with 2 examples. One is the phenomenom of SUVs in metropolitan or suburban areas without significant snowfall. Do you need an SUV to drive around Westchester County, Orange County, etc? The other is the Ipod. I love the idea of an Ipod; its look, its capabilities, its tie to legal downloads. I also think that 40 GBs is so much music that by the time you load it up they will have released the newest, "coolest" version of it. I love music, but I don't think I can rationalize something that costs as much as the 40 GB Ipods to listen to music. When are you really going to listen to 10,000 songs?

That's all. I am pretty disappointed in the Press Herald's editorial. It discusses a problem poorly and offers only government intervention as the solution. It never asks the reader to think about their own spending habits. It does not get creative. It is important to note here that the paper does not have faith in people making their own decisions. I'm going to end with a quote from a favorite movie of mine.....

"You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your f**king khakis." - Tyler Durden, Fight Club

starting a blog

Wow, i have made the jump from a livejournal to a blog. not much of a jump but i shall start this in earnest. let me explain the title. 28 Sherman was the locale of my favorite apartment. I lived there with a friend, who then was more of an acquaintance, and we became very good friends. My roomate, my girlfriend and I formed a good bond, and that apartment will always represent a time in my life that I really enjoyed.

A running joke with the three of us has been 'the show'. The show is our show we will some day get on TV (1% probability of happening). If my roommate and I ever get 'the show' produced for TV it will be titled "28 Sherman". The scary part is just getting an in, we have plenty of episodes mapped out, and I think if we were forced to, in one weekend, we could have scripts for 12 episodes, maybe 15. Even scarier is that it would be a better comedy than 90% of sitcoms airing now.

I anticipate this blog will center around politics, investing, business, poker, life etc. I also anticipate that no one will visit this weblog. I take that back, my family will. I'll probably be back in a short while to post somethign before bedtime.