Is Twitter a Life Changer?

At the strong recommendation of my son, I opened a Twitter account about 3 weeks ago.

I wasn’t certain why I would do that. After all, I was very happy sitting at home, watching TV and trading stocks and options.

Occasionally, I’d actually work someplace in my professional capacity, but those occasions were becoming more and more rare.

HeroinBut being unable to access the Methadone that my body so desperately needed, I’d become addicted to Twitter faster than I could tie a tourniquet.

It had all started innocently enough. My son told me that Twitter would be an additional great way to get word out that I had published a new book.

The first thrill didn’t come right away, but delayed gratification, like that in finding a $20 bill in the pocket of pants you haven’t worn for a year is especially sweet.

In this case, on the very first day after Tweeting, I had a significant, maybe coincidental uptick in online sales.

So curiousity and the need to try just once more took over rational thought.

The goal, and it quickly has taken over my life, was to get followers. People who would drink the Kool-Ade, but pay for the book, before they swallowed the deadly elixir.

More was better, and definitely the Tweeting fed on itself.

As opposed to Facebook, where I had an account, but proudly paraded the fact that I had no friends, this was completely different. I was able to withstand all of the insidious Facebook tentacles. I was strong and resolute, never letting it get hold of me. But this Twitter thing, it really was just different.

I was so busy reading, Tweeting, replying and retweeting, that I barely even noticed the nosedives that some of my favorites stocks were taking day in and out.

I wasn’t accustomed to seeing my holdings underperform, but this was a perfect storm of bad performance from the likes of Goldman Sachs, Freeport McMoran, Mosaic, Rio Tinto and Williams Sonoma.

Thank God I had my Twitter. I just kept fiddling with Twitter while my stocks burned.

Twitter has to be the most egalitarian place in the world. It’s amazing the varied social strata that have had an opportunity to throw their 140 letters at me.

More importantly, they got a share of my 140 spaces worth of wisdom.

As you age, and I have, you definitely become a creature of habit, but this new venture was more than enticing.

I already had an addictive personality and this took hold of me quickly.

Together with that addictive personality comes the realization that as you get older, you also get stuck in your ways, just another form of addiction. The addiction to not changing

My habits were CNBC and Comedy Central, albeit, I try to catch Brian Williams each night, while silently mourning the absence of Brokaw.

I have a number of favorite personalities on CNBC, as well as a number that have left.

My only real problem with CNBC was their unwillingness to have either Joe Kernan change the spelling of his name to “Quernan”, so that he and his cohorts, Becky Quick and Carl Quintinilla could be referred to as QQQ. Besides, how stock market friendly is that acronym?

I realized that was much easier than having Kernen, Kwick and Kuintinilla. I think that acronym was already taken.

Other than that, a few loud on air personalities were just background noise, with the exception of Kudlow, who always conjured up thoughts of “Shrill, baby, Shrill, whenever he came on air.

But still, I was a devoted watcher. Kernen, Greenberg, Griffeth and Pisani were all comforting and credible voices. For some reason, to me, Jim Cramer was also a voice of calm.

Go figure.

What I was unprepared for was the series of events that got me to watch a segment of FOX Business.

The Twitter stream got me to watch a Dennis Kneale piece on the controversy regarding a proposed Disney trademark on Navy SEALS.

That short segment, and my basic laziness, since my remote control person only works 6 days a week, had me staying tuned to FOX.

And then I got upset.

Why didn’t CNBC tell me that Liz Claman was still alive? And what had they done with Ted David. 

As I stayed tuned, among the first things I noticed was that FOX actually had an anchor of color. There was more than red, green and paleface. As it turned out, though, he was only a guest, but I appreciated the gesture.

My first dilemma was at 3 PM. Claman versus Griffeth.

I feel so dirty. I stayed with FOX.

But that was nothing. I was soon to go on the high of a lifetime and then crash harder than this fragile frame could possibly withstand.

With all of the jokes about Saturday’s impending rapture, at about midnight, while I was watching the Letterman show, I decided to check my “Klout” score.

For those of you that don’t know Klout, it’s just another one of those derivitive Twitter entities. This one purportedly measures how important you are in the Twitersphere.

Using 4 basic measurements, ultimately your “Klout Style” is found in one of 16 squares in the 4×4 grid.

The ultimate place is in the upper right corner, Box #16. That makes you a “Celebrity. You know, people like Ashton Hutcher, Daniel Tosh and Charlie Sheen.

And then you had me. A Twitter newbie, I had after 3 weeks made it to “specialist”, in the #3 Box.

But at mid-night, it became clear that I was one of the remaining souls on Earth, not having joined my more deserving brethren in The Rapture.

How did I know that? All of a sudden, I was a “Celebrity”.

There I was in the #16 grid, with ny thumbnail surrounded by Jim Cramer, Larry Kudlow and my own son. Non-Rapture worthy, all of us, to be sure.

That Klout algorithm was incredible. Someehow it had already accounted for all of those previous Twitter users that had gone on to their great reward in the Heavens.

But rather than being saddened at being left behind, I just had my addiction reinforced. I wanted more. More Tweets, more retweets. I wanted to get to that non-existent #17.

My life had changed. I had followers, I had Klout.

But then the jokes on Twitter about the Rapture ended.

Was it because those left behind were saddened to be so, or was it something else.

No matter, I was a “Celebrity” basking in Twitter glory.

I was even thinking of IPO’ing my Box #16.

But then came the fall. It was brutal.

No Rapture Everyone right where they always were, and sure enough, I was a “Specialist” once again.

I don’t know if Cramer and Kudlow took their demotions as hard as I took mine, but then again, they didn’t fall as far and as hard as I would.

In the blink of an eye, I’d seen the Twiiter Klout heavens and then ate the dirt in its depths.

My poor son fell evcen further, but he’s an adult and on his own.

Yes, my life has changed. I want back at the top. I don’t care whether it takes CNBC, Fox or Bloomberg, but I’m getting there.

 

 

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Is LinkedIn the new Boston Chicken?

Amazingly, there were no big non-business stories yesterday to divert our attention while the broad markets were gently eroding in the background, as they had done the past week.


Forget about the cosmetically insignificant increases every now and then, those were really illusory. But we’ve been so occupied with the shock and awe of the stories that have unfolded over the last two weeks that we haven’t really even noticed the slow meltdown.


At least the stories were more entertaining than substantive. I’m at the stage that I really don’t want to process the meaning of real impactful kind of news anymore.


For one, I’m happy to see this month’s option cycle come to an end today. I’m excited to start over again on Monday. I did get to sell some more British Petroleum options that expire today, but at a return of less than 0.5%. Normally, at higher volatility times, it would have been 1% for a single day right near the strike price.


Even though my options related income was about 2.8% for the month, my shares underperformed the overall market, thanks to Goldman Sachs, Hewlett Packard, Freeport McMoran, Rio Tinto and Mosaic.


Before you say in that sarcastic tone of yours, “Hey, that’s picking them, Sparky”, or something hurtful like, “You want me to buy your book on successful stock trading, why?”,  just remember that not too surprisingly, those were the very same companies that propelled the numbers forward the previous month.


But here we are. Bin Laden is out of mind, at least until he floats down the Mississippi, Strauss-Kahn is behind bars until sometime this morning and Rajaratnam is prepping for the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.


So yesterday’s lone big story was the very successful IPO launch of LinkedIn.


Imagine that.


I have no clue what LinkedIn actually does, although I do have an account. By the same token, I’ve had a Facebook account for years, but no friends.


If you knew me, you’d understand.


By all accounts, none of the talking heads I heard yesterday on CNBC and my new friend, Fox Business, seemed to really understand what LinkedIn actually did.


But you can’t sneeze at 100 million users, although who knows how many of them are like me?


No, I don’t mean an unemployed consultant. I mean someone who has no clue what LinkedIn does and is not likely to spring for any “premium services”.


Before I even consider bad-mouthing LinkedIn, as full disclosure, I own the domain ChainedIn.com which is in its early stages, looking for angel investors. ChainedIn is a social media network for white collar criminals who someday will be seeking to re-enter the workplace.


Have you noticed that there seem to be more and more of those kind of guys each day? as a derivitive play, I suggest companies that manufacture security video equipment.


But with an original $33 IPO price, jacked up to $45 last night, LinkedIn opened at $83 and went north of $100, finally settling at $93 or so. Since I didn’t have any shares, I didn’t really feel compelled to come up with the actual price at the closing bell.


Given that more than 3 times the float exchanged hands yesterday, there’s probably a pretty strong base at $85. Not bad, and that should give it price stability for a while, or at least until it’s realized that there’s no real revenue coming from people like me.


Options on LinkedIn will start trading on May 27th, so it will be intersting to see what kind of reward opportunities there’ll be in those premiums.


As the price gapped upward the skeptics asked whether this was the sure sign that the bubble was upon us. Other asked if LinkedIn was yesterday’s Netscape, having had a similarly spectacular debut.


But how quickly the market forgets about the Netscapes of the world.


Boston ChickenMind you, if you look closely at trading patterns, the market doesn’t even remember news from 10 minutes ago, much less the IPO of Boston Chicken in 1993.


Boston Chicken, a decidedly non high tech stock climbed 143% that first day. That put LinkedIn to shame.


And then it Netscaped.


Ultimately, McDonald’s bought it, renamed it Boston Market and now their menus are too complicated for people like me to casually wander in and get something to eat.


Boston Chicken, in fact, has been so thoroughly cleansed from our existence, that not even the all powerful Google search engine could come up with an example of its logo. They may as well named it Ozymandias.


I did find a copy of an original stock certificate, though.


What did Boston Chicken, Netscape and LinkedIn all have in common?


Right. Individual investors got nothing. No allocations. Nothing.


Boston Chicken is completely eradicated, Netscape is making its way to that special burial ground as AOL’s red haired step-child, and LinkedIn is pretending like it’s going to be different?


No sock puppets in LinkedIn’s future.


But let’s look critically at the real differences.


LinkedIn takes advantage of real advances it corporate names. It uses two words, but presents them as one. But more importantly, it uses capitol letters for each of those words. It wasn’t NetScape and it wasn’t BostonChicken.


See the difference?


No? Doesn’t matter. The euphoria will be around for a while and will certainly speed up some more IPO’s in correctly named social media.


Who knows, as desperation for opportunities increases, maybe even Friendster will come public, as Facebook continues to play it coy.


But after a spate of questionable Chinese IPO’s and lots more on the docket, it’s not all rosy.


So it sent a message when I saw that E*Trade was one of the co-managers of the AIG IPO, which is neither an IPO nor a secondary offering.


It’s been redubbed a “re-IPO”.


Since I hold 0.002% of the current IPO float, yet wasn’t important enough to be pitched the re-IPO on Tuesday, when Ben Mosche addressed the big boys, I’m a little concerned that E*Trade is a co-manager of the sale.


Obviously, this won’t be quite as hot as LinkedIn or Netscape. It definitely won’t be as hot as Boston Chicken, which was equally tasty served cold.


As I wonder what to do with my AIG shares, considering that there doesn’t appear to be too much of a market for more shares, I’m somewhat comforted by the thought that so many of the experts are already using today’s LinkedIn performance to parallel the top of the market in 2000.


They all seem to believe that the bubble is about to pop.


And why shouldn’t they? Crazed trading today, crappy Chinese IPO’s and a former scion of the Dow about to be shown no love.


All we need is one more sign. A TIME Magazine cover story touting the beginning of the bubble, together with all of the other signs, speak to a continued strong bull run.


Come Monday, that means averaging down on Goldman, Freeport, Rio Tinto, Mosaic and even HP.


LinkedIn? Maybe, but only with the proceeds from ChainedIn.


Interested, my Angel?



 

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A Tale of Two Shitties





 


I’m sorry. I just couldn’t resist.


Both Dell Computer and Hewlett Packard announced earnings on Tuesday.


The morning started with an earlier than expected release and disappointment by HP and ended with Dell’s decent announcement.


A lot has been said over the last two days about what these two companies have in common. Without exception, those comments have been derisive of Hewlett Packard.


LosersBefore I weigh in, for me, Dell and Hewlett Packard are very much alike, but there is still hope for HP’s salvation.


You see, in the short 4 years or so that I have solely been responsible for managing my own account, I’ve had very few losing stocks.


Now before you say, “yeah right” or something much more offensive, let me qualify the previous statement.


Since I’ve been in the habit of selling call options on just about everything that I have ever bought, when you add the options premiums into the mix, I’ve had very few losing stock positions.


Since I have gotten much more anally compulsive since the advent of computer spreadsheets, I also throw in the opportunity costs represented by annualized S&P gain into the mix, as well.


Anally compulsive. Shitty. Get it?


Never mind, but the dearth of losers makes it easy to remember them, although sometimes I don’t hold a grudge. That’s really only true if I dump a loser specifically to take a tax related loss. Otherwise, I do hold a grudge and the long term memory is still going strong.


Man was YRCW good for that. In fact, it was good enough for both of those. Forever etched in my memory and wiping out lots of taxable capital gains. In fact, it’s almost displaced the debacle of L.F. Rothschild, which soured me on trading for my own benefit some 25 years ago.


Anyway, I digress, but you can probably guess two of the stocks on that short list.


I first bought shares in Dell about the time I started seriously managing my own stocks. I remember picking up shares after Dell announced earnings that  were disappointing. The shares took a $3 hit from their previous close of $36.


That alone will give you an idea of how long ago it was. Dell hasn’t seen $36 in a long, long time. Back in the days when 20 gigabyte hard drives were kick ass. Get it, kick ass, anal, shitty.


Never mind.


I didn’t know the definition of “value trap” back then, but at the very least, I’ve proven myself to still be capable of learning.


I also remember selling call options and clearing a few dollars. Not too many, because I was so convinced that Dell was going to recover all of its earnings related losses and then some, that I sold well out of the money $40 options.


Long, painful  story short, I sold my Dell shares. They were repugnant to me.


They are still repugnant to me, with or without Michael Dell at the helm.


Speaking of long term memory, back in the early incarnation of the Szelhamos Rules blog, I wrote an entry that was directed at Michael Dell and Jerry Yang. It was entitled “You Can’t Come Home”. If anyone is remotely interested you can look for it in the Szelhamos Archives (March 30, 2007).


But if you do so, that’s pretty sad.


Guess which other stock was one of my losers, although I currently am short puts on shares. Talk about a worn out welcome. Yang really blew it on his return. Maybe he should have taken steroids.


At the moment, I hold HP shares, but they’re nowhere near as repugnant, since I’ve been selling near the money call options on it over a few different options cycles.


With a cost basis of $41, I can sell my shares at $37 and still walk away saying that it wasn’t a loser.


But I’d be deluding myself, because it is a loser in pretty much all other regards.


It is amazing that value traps do exist. Knowing that is preventing me from buying additional shares. Fortunately, that same knowledge knew not to pick up additional shares in Dell, or more recently Ford Motors.


I remember every loser, but I don’t lose too much sleep over them, although occasonally I will rant, as I recently did about some Bove related debacles in Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. One, a long ago memory, the other a grudge in the making.


HP on the other hand, shitty as its been, may still have some life in it.


Before talk of HP becoming a commodity, remember than the same accusation was dealt to SanDisk, after it dropped from its highs a few years ago. A little talk of takeover, a little fire on all engines, a little growth in flash memory everywhere and everything and all of a sudden, SanDisk is trading like anything but a commoditized product.


It was a shitty decision not to own shares of SanDisk.


Not to step on Dickens’ rotting corpse, and all due apologies for mangling the title of such a classic, but human nature being what it is and the uncertainties in life and the stock markets, I probably should have entitled this piece “A Tale of Many More Shitties to Come”.


That’s especially true given what a downer this month has been.


But the nice thing about reliance on options premiums is that each month begins a new opportunity and if it weren’t for those spreadsheets, I’d have no meaningful memory of the previous month.


So, I’m completley ready to say goodbye to “This Tale of Two Shitties” and say hello to “A Brave New World” that starts on Monday.



 


 


 






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Baby Huey: The Yin and Yang of the Universe

Yesterday, Herb Greenberg, a CNBC hero, really confirmed his place in my heart.


I’ve always liked his well placed and deserved cynicism, enough so to give him a shout out in my acknowledgments, but yesterday he pulled a cultural coup.


Baby HueyHe singlehandedly restored the once famous Baby Huey back to his deserved place as a cultural icon.


Even I, who used to read, Baby Huey comics religiously, really couldn’t recall much about his character, other than his exceptional physical size and equally large diaper.


As I dusted off the cobwebs of the only portion of my brain that actually worked as a child, I realized that Greenberg was right. Baby Huey was an earlier generation’s Rodney Dangerfield. 


The point of the 140 or less character post made by Greenberg was that Hewlett Packard was now in danger of becoming this generation’s Baby Huey.


WIth what I would imagine a throng of people speeding to Google to discover just who Baby Huey was and a subsequent re-birth of that brand, something else has to give.


In a universe where matter can be neither created nor destroyed, a re-emerged Baby Huey can only come at the expense of something else.


As I sit on my shares of Hewlett-Packarad, I really hope that it’s not HP.


Since these days I am more concerned about generating options premium income rather than capital gains on the underlying stocks, I’m not asking or hoping for much.


And I wasn’t disappointed, because HP’s CEO Leo Apotheker’s appearance on CNBC and subsequent conference call, did nothing to raise the respect level.


So I wasn’t asking for much and I didn’t get much. Maybe even less than I asked for.


But I realized, as I looked through our electronically contemporary possessions, we actually own only a single HP product and that one is definitely not contemporary.


And that single product was an introductory level digital camera that I bought for my wife a number of years ago, as I was looking for something non-threatening to help her enter the 19th century.


As I further thought about the absence of contemporray HP products in our household, it just further reinforced that Baby Huey metaphor. Using an anything but contemporary cartoon character to illustrate a “high” tech company, with a bumbling CEO, was inspired.


Perfect, Greenberg. Just perfect.


Then I also remembered an HP laptop that we purchased for my son as he was getting ready for college. Fortunately, his 6’6″ body could lug that beast around, although he didn’t have to do so very long. A dead hard drive during finals week and battery that wouldn’t hold a charge were enough for him to move elsewhere.


All of a sudden, as more cobwebs are sequentially dusted, I realized that I’m not so happy with HP. But I also realized that I was part of the problem.


So I went to Best Buy’s weekly circular and looked for the HP product that I just had to get. Something to make me feel complete and to perhaps, in whatever small way, help out HP’s bottom line.


While doing that, I also looked through the DVD titles to see if there was a Baby Huey Anthology on sale.


No surprise. Both of my searches turned up nothing.


Apparantly, the IT guys buying servers and services get the same circular that I do and they haven’t been overly impressed lately, either.


So if HP can’t make it happen on their technology, are they really in danger of becoming another Dell Computer?


The reality is that Dell was always Dell. It never innovated, it just assembled and marketed well, until the “Dude, your getting a Dell” guy was busted on marijuana possession.


HP need to distinguish itself, otherwise, there’s not much rationale for a premium price, neither on its products nor on its stock. Although, if Apotheker got busted on dope charges there might be an entire legion of new found fans willing to buy HP just for the show.


Maybe the answer is growth through acqquisition, as Apotheker said. Maybe they’ll one up Microsoft and offer $10 billion for Skype.


Maybe they should bid for the New York Stock Exchange.


Remember, there are no bad ideas when brain-storming. Only stupid ones.


One idea that did come out today was the proclamation that HP would no longer be playing for the subsequent quarter. That might actually be very nice if another one of the big boys decided that longterm was the way to go.


We’ll see how long that philosophy can last in a fast food mentality world. Most people don’t really want to know what McDonald’s is whipping up in its research kitchens. They want to know what’s on the menu now and get it delivered in a consistent fashion.


Thank God, that at least eBay is keeping up with the times.


I’ll see if I have enough left in my PayPal account to pick up a mint copy of a Baby Huey comic. on auction


That’ll make me happy.


Thank you, Herb Greenberg.


Any ideas for Sad Sack?



 


 

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Trump Pulls a Huckabee

HuckatrumpIt seems like an eternity, but it was only a few short years ago that Mike Huckabee was the darling of the media.


He was on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and maybe other shows, as well, but since I only watch Comedy Central and CNBC, I’ll have to leave it at those.


Just so you don’t think I’m too shallow, I do occasionally watch Access Hollywood, although I never have any clue as to who the celebrities they’re talking about actually are.


Unless they’re dead.


But back to Huckabee. Like so many others, before he became a serious contender, he was actually likeable. Smiling, affable, joking and guitar playing.


In fact, everytime I heard his name, I giggled a bit and had visions of an old favorite, Huckleberry Hound.


Why is it that everyone who’s really the antithesis of “cool” seems to play the guitar?


Maybe the real cool musical instrument is the accordian, after all.


Anyway, Huckabee then went through the classic John McCain transformation.


Then out came the other face. The creationism bit and some of the deeper seated beliefs forming the basis of his evangelistic faith.


Not that there’s anything wrong with faith, as long as it doesn’t trample my right to faith and personal freedom.Although I believe that life begins the moment the condom bursts, I don’t try to force those beliefs on others.


You’d think that would put us all on the same page.


But there’s probably a good reason to do an about face. It is just a necessarey evil to bring out the lunatics that vote in primaries, although some lunatics do stay at home and apparantly, never vote in primaries.


Well, that brings us to Donald Trump.


You see, Donald Trump just pulled a Huckabee, but not the old Huckabee. That’s still more accurately referred to as a John McCain.


No, Trump pulled the new Huckabee.


(Want to see the transformation again? Click here.)


This past Sunday night, the cynics among us saw Mike Huckabee announce what we all knew he would.


He announced that he would not be seeking the Presidency in 2012.


How could that be? How could you not seek the nomination when you came so close in 2008 and have no one of any real stature standing in fronty of you, other than the guy with the false religion that you gently backhanded a few years ago?


The reality is that even though Mike Huckabee used love of family and inner spiritual peace as his reasons for not going forward, we all knew that he wasn’t ready to give up his big, fat Fox News paycheck.


Once you’re shown the money, it’s hard to walk away. Forget about shepharding this Godless and adrift nation toward your vision of Heaven, them’s thar checks that’s needing  cashin’.


So Huckabee really wasn’t a surprise, but what about The Donald?


I envision that someday his Wall Street Journal variety caricature will be adjacent to the definition of the expression “Peaked too Early”.


Trump’s reasons for not running? Why did he decide not to throw his hair into the ring? He’s being altruistic, Comcast and NBC need him to survive. He’s doing it for them and for all of the other business interests that license his name and need his help to be pulled out of their morass.


And think of all the celebrities that are being spared the embarrassment of picking up unemployable checks.


If there’s anyone that could pull something out of his ass better than The Donald, I can’t imagine. And besides, who could not only do the pulling, but then wear it on his head?


I worry about the effects of the Trump announcement on the upcoming jobless reports. No doubt there will be many more unemployed stand-up comics.


Have you ever tried to make a living telling Tim Pawlenty jokes?


There has to be some kind of a silver lining to Trump’s decision to drop out, besides the obvious gold lining, but unless someone pulls something very unexpected out of their butt, this promises to be a very boring upcoming Presidential election season.


That itself may be a wonderful gift.


Instead, wouldn’t it be nice, if instead everyday we had a new Osama Bin Laden killing story, or a new Dominique Strauss Kahn sodomizing story?


You’d never see an unemployed comedian then.


Here’s to high profile death and sodomy, but not in that order.


That would be truly sick.



 

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