Under the Radar

This Monday morning, which was just a dreary and cold mid-Atlantic day, there wasn’t too much to cheer about.

Over the past three years, I’ve been drafted into the culture of football and now find myself, somewhat uncharacteristically, actually caring about games.

Culture. Football. Talk about oxymorons.

Just a few short years ago my only foray into football would have been to watch about a half’s worth of the Super Bowl and take the occasion to excuse the non-stop ingestion of deep fried anything.

I looked at the Super Bowl as being Saturated Fat Sunday.

Now, I even have four pro football games under my belt, although if given the opportunity to go to a game, the weather is still a factor in my decision process, as well as who’s going to be singing the National Anthem.

I’m still far from a fanatic. I even turned off the New York Giants game last night during overtime and never even bothered to go down to the basement and turn on the big screen TV to get a more real-life feel.

It’s not as if I had to be up early the next morning, it’s just that I was probably depressed because Simpsons episodes had been pre-empted in favor of the football game and I’d already seen that eposode of Chappelle about 300 times.

I did take the Baltimore Ravens loss harshly, though, particularly knowing that my kids are big Ravens fans. The manner in which they lost the opportunity to tie the game and force it into overtime was especially hard to accept, as an easy field goal was not as advertised.

The big news this morning was that loss and the resignation of the co-CEO’s of Research in Motion and the subsequent appointment of a new CEO.

The two items are not in any way related, but then did become so.

Under the RadarThe question of the day on CNBCm tied it all together as they asked who likely got more sleep last night, Billy Cundiff, the Raven’s kicker or Thorsten Heins, the new RIMM CEO?

Ordinarily, being named new CEO is a pretty positive thing, unless you’re Leo Apotheker.

In this case the market didn’t react terribly kindly to the announcement of Heins’ ascension, especially since he was considered to be somewhat of an insider who may have also been asleep as the ship was sinking.

Oh, and the accent didn’t help either as the prevailing joke was that RIMM hired Leo Apotheker’s son.

I don’t know what kind of jokes are circulating today regarding Cundiff’s miss, but I doubt that there are many. People take their football more seriously thatn they do their stocks.

One was tragic, the other just business going about business.

Today would have been a good day for both of those guys to have stayed under the radar.

I’ve always liked that philosophy, although as I’m getting older, I tend to be moving toward the draw of the radar’s waves.

In fact, what a great opportunity to remind you that there’s still time to vote for me, repeatedly, in the “Finance” category of the “Shortie Awards.” Earlier today I was tied with Suze Orman, so I’m hoping that with your help I can pull ahead and parlay the victory into my own branded debit card.

One of my sons is reading Orwell’s “1984.” about 35 years after I read the book and truly felt the fear of that kind of future society. I don’t think that he senses the invasion as much as those of my generation who actually valued privacy and even anonymity.

Too much attention can never be a really good thing, despite the adage that “there’s no such hing as bad publicity.”

I certainly understand why there are times in life that you do want to elevate your profile, as you can’t win a popularity contest unless people know who you are.

Jon Huntsman?

Even Buddy Roemer didn’t know who Jon Huntsman was.

I suppose that it is possible to win a popularity contest if people just check the wrong box, but who’s to say that Patrick Buchanan and Ralph Nader weren’t wildly popular amongst elderly Jewish voters in Florida?

Maybe Mitt Romney will be hoping for that kind of Florida repeat in Florida. Maybe he should tell people that he’s Jon Huntsman and then offer to check the boxes on their ballot for them.

When it comes to stocks, I don’t particularly like it when the limelight is on a stock that I own.

Nothing good comes of it and if it does, it’s just a set up for a fall, so best to abandon ship. Good news is a good time to bail and take profits.

These days that easier to rationalize as we’ve learned that captains no longer need to feel bound to go down with the ship.

Although I don’t like the spotlight to be on my shares, I definitely don’t want the ones that dwell with the mushrooms in the basement. It’s hard to sell options on shares of companies that no one really knows about, so there has to be a balance.

Stick with boring household names.

Earnings season always represents a problem, even for these boring household names, in that you just know that the spotlight is coming and there are often irrational reactions to the news. After last week’s wild reaction to Google’s disappointing numbers, I took that as a good opportunity to pick up shares today, once attention was diverted elsewhere.

Like RIMM.

Of course, I did learn a lesson following the previous earnings season when in complete arrogance, which comes with being on the radar screen, I purchased shares of Amazon, Netflix and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, all in advance of their earnings reports.

Although the losses on the underlying shares were really softened by the repeated options sales, I conveniently disregarded opportunity costs, when I could just as easily have foregone the excitement and invested in old favorites, like Microsoft or JP Morgan.

What I particularly don’t like is when an analyst gets on the air and spouts an opinion and then you see an immediate impact on the streaming ticker.

Once their on air, they don’t really care terribly much about the inherent worth of their recommendation. What they care about is the inherent worth of their appearance and how much additional value is added to their personal brand.

As an analyst, the more you’re on the radar screen, the less important is the content that you provide.

As a one time educator, I can tell you that as I got older and better known, my presentations were more about story telling and increasing brand value, than in adding worthwhile content and knowledge.

If you’re expecting to get some really timely news, It seems highly unlikely that an analyst, who’s being paid for his research and reasoned opinions is going to offer an opinion, but have his appearance preceded by a “Breaking News” banner.

Chances are pretty good that whatever that opinion is, whether it’s valid or not, it’s already well established on the radar screens of those that own the radar.

In keeping with the totally unrelated Heisenberg Principle, the attention paid to the shares creates a new reality. Sooner or later the real reality has to return, but for the individual investor the reality is often the opposite of the dream and the anticipation.

This an example of just how wrong the expression “why pay, when you can get the milk for free?” is, at least in regard to investment advice.

“The best things in life are free”?

Sure. In that case, I need to start an outrageously high subscription charge to read this blog.

Someday, probably someday soon, the heat and attention will be off Billy Cundiff. Like with the late Joe Paterno, it seems a sad trickle down of our very basic human nature that the most recent event occuring in someone’s life paints the majority of the picture.

We have probably heard the last of Billy Cundiff as a Baltimore Raven. For him, the radar scrutiny will soon be a thing of the past.

For Heins, it’s just beginning.

Looking at it from that perspective, I suppose that if we had to be on the radar screen it’s best to still have a long future of scrutiny ahead or at least to be able to choose at what point the rader will be turned off.

But for me? I’ll save you the trouble.

I’m right here, sitting on my La-Z-Boy and plan to be here for a long time to come.




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Today’s Trades Security Type Action Type
January 23, 2012 GMCR Option STO Weekly
January 23, 2012 ZSL Option STO Monthly
January 23, 2012 ZSL Stock Added
January 23, 2012 GMCR Stock Bought
January 23, 2012 V Option STO Weekly
January 23, 2012 V Stock Bought
January 23, 2012 HAL Option STO Weekly
January 23, 2012 HAL Stock Bought
January 23, 2012 FMCN Option STO Monthly
January 23, 2012 FMCN Stock Bought
January 23, 2012 AXP Stock Bought
January 23, 2012 MS Option STO* Weekly
January 23, 2012 NFLX Option STOP Weekly
January 23, 2012 CHK Option STO Monthly
January 23, 2012 GOOG Option STO Weekly
January 23, 2012 GOOG Stock Bought
January 23, 2012 RIO Option STO onthly
January 23, 2012 AAPL Option STO Weekly
January 23, 2012 MOS Option STO Weekly
January 21, 2012 RIO Option Expired
January 21, 2012 VMW Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 SLM Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 RVBD Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 MSFT Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 MOS Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 AXP Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 BP Option Expired
January 21, 2012 AAPL Option Expired
January 21, 2012 CAT Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 DD Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 DOW Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 FMCN Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 GMCR Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 CHK Option Expired
January 21, 2012 HAL Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 ZSL Option Expired
January 21, 2012 S Option Expired
January 21, 2012 TXT Option Assigned
January 21. 2012 GS Option Assigned





Experience is Meaningless

Everyone knows that “history repeats itself.”

That must explain why we keep making the same mistakes. After all, since we all know that you can’t change history, why even bother?

Unless you’re Newt Gingrich. In that case revisionism seems to work, as long as he remains the victor and in charge of re-writing history.

For example, Newt’s current position, which seemed to make hostess candy Crowley’s eyebrows rise about 5 inches, is that his congressional reprimand for ethics violations occured only because he convinced Republican members to vote for the reprimand so that they could get back to the business of working on a balanced budget.

He credits himself with getting the Congress back to work and selflessly sacrificing his reputation.

After all, is there any politician that wouldn’t put nation before self?

History tells us that the victor writes history until the next victor comes along.

Once you call yourself an “historian,” you get a free pass and can alter immutable laws of time and place and make the details of the past fit nicely into the current version of the past. Again, being ascendant helps.

But we’re also said to be able to learn from history and especially to learn from our mistakes. In fact, “fool me once….” speaks to the expectation that we won’t make the same mistake a second time.

Sometimes, though, the past may lead us down the wrong path.

My guess is that it would be a grave mistake, perhaps literally, were Newt Gingrich to ask Callista to accept an “open marriage.” The fact that she reportedly supported the concept before their marriage probably has little predictive capability in 2012.

Groundhog DayThere’s no greater indicator of our pre-occupation with the concept of changing the past and our mistakes than the fact that the single most aired movie on broadcast television and cable is “Groundhog Day.”

I may have made that statistic up, but right now, I’m the one re-writing history.

Had we really been able to learn from the past there would have been Stephen Tobolowsky film festivals competing with Sundance and Cannes.

So clearly, we are all idiots, but at least Tobolowsky is front and center on Twitter and forms the basis for a more hopeful view of the future.

Not so long ago, only the spoken word was available to document our history and experiences. Life spans were short and there were people whose sole reason for existence was to maintain a culture’s hold onto its past and pass it on to the next generation.

During those days mistakes were often fatal. That’s a strong motivator to not repeat some dead guy’s mis-step.

With advancing life spans, the written word, film and video records and now digitized data available, one would think that we’d be pretty good at observing the past and using the data to accurately predict the future.

To get an idea of how that’s been working out, just go to your local doctor’s office and casually spend some time in the waiting room scanning through some aged issues of TIME magazine and see just how accurate the futurists turned out and how befuddled their tea leaves must have been. Who knew that you could smoke the stuff before reading it?

Interestingly, in the world of technology and start-ups, a past history of failure is far from fatal. There seems to be a real premium when recruiting to find those that have failed on someone else’s dime. The bigger the failure, the better, as it was assumed that the price paid for failure was borne by someone else and that the value of the lessons learned would accrue to the new entity.

Not that I’ve been a political watcher, but it would have been hard to predict for example, that the remaining Republican candidates for the nomination, each of whom tries to portray himself as the only true conservative, have blasted Mitt Romney for being a capitalist.

The attacks against Romney for his years at Bain Capital sounded as if Dennis Kucinich was ghost writing for even Newt Gingrich.

Now, reports that Romney may have been in the 15% tax bracket has the assaults coming anew.

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing Syndrome? Because those couldn’t possibly be Republicans standing at those podia, at least not based on my experience. What really bothers me is that based on my past history of voting for losing candidates in Presidential elections, I’m likely to end up voting for one of those guys and there may be nothing that I can do about it.

Then, there’s also the famous quotation from George Santayana:

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

That supports the concept that we can avoid making the same mistakes the next time around.

Probably the biggest mistake is to believe that history can, in fact, teach us anything.

The stock market is a perfect example of that.

All throughout the day, there will be a seemingly infinite number of charts shown and dissected on air. For each that makes it to whatever the digital equivalent of the air waves is, there must be an infinite number being studied elsewhere in cubicles, meeting rooms and in presentation halls.

So you would be excused for believing that all of the Ph.D’s would have this thing nailed with one algorithm or another.

And yet, how do you explain ignoring the axiom that warns of staying long in equities over a weekend when there’s uncertainbty on the horizon?

I’m sure that the actual saying is much more pithy, I just can’t recall what it is.

In fact, over the past 37 weeks, I like prime numbers, the Dow has gone up triple digits 8 times on a Friday, counter to the axiom.

And the reward for thinking that experinece was meaningless?

Two of those eight times were followed with up days on Monday.

Let’s see, I think that’s less than fifty – fifty.

Well, I for one, didn’t go long into the weekend, but I can’t give allegiance to an axiom for that. It’s that about 60% of my options contracts were exercised. For the first time in long memory, I won’t own any Goldman Sachs shares on Monday. Gone too are the recent JP Morgan Chase shares that were picked up in a rekindling of an old relationship.

Open relationship, I might add, as dalliances with old friend Microsoft came and went just as quickly.

In hindsight, I picked a bad two weeks to do what I’ve been doing for the past four years with religious fervor.

Besides, when has religious fervor lead us down the wrong path? You didn’t see the Israelites worship a Golden Calf a second time, did you?

They learned from their mistakes.

Common sense would tell me that I should learn from my recent mistake and turn on the “greed” compartment of my brain and forego the options premium income for the meteoric capital gains that history ordains.

What would Stephen Tobolowsky Do?Or I could look at the charts that I disdain and be reminded of the cyclic nature of everything that has true worth and inherent value.

Good companies exhibit cyclic share performance.

So which past is the one that will repeat itself?

I look at the band on my right wrist, “WWTD?”

“What would Tobolowsky Do?

The beauty of asking that question is that there are a couple of hundred roles from which you could derive the answer that best fits your working hypothesis.

Sort of like what politicians do on such a regular basis.

Now please, don’t interpret that as drawing a parallel between politicians, especially those that practice revisionism, to the more honorable practitioners of the thespian arts.

I don’t know Stephen Tobolowsky and certainly no Toblowsky’s were harmed in the creation of this blog entry, but his classic Groundhog Day character, Ned Ryerson, didn’t seem to learn from his past experiences.

Yet, despite Santayana’s unspoken thought that not doing so was the way down a dangerous pathway and despite the smugness of those who believe that we can control our future by mastering the past, Ned Ryerson knew better.

He kept right on smiling, despite obstacles he just kept plugging away and always maintained an optimistic air that made him Ned Ryerson. He was immutable.

What a great lesson. What a great character and performance.

Ned Ryerson showed that the past was meaningless, because there was always today to form the basis for a new past and to create a future not shackled by the past.




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Today’s Trades Security Type Action Type
January 21, 2012 RIO Option Expired
January 21, 2012 VMW Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 SLM Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 RVBD Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 MSFT Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 MOS Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 AXP Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 BP Option Expired
January 21, 2012 AAPL Option Expired
January 21, 2012 CAT Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 DD Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 DOW Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 FMCN Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 GMCR Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 CHK Option Expired
January 21, 2012 HAL Option Assigned
January 21, 2012 ZSL Option Expired
January 21, 2012 S Option Expired
January 21, 2012 TXT Option Assigned
January 21. 2012 GS Option Assigned





It’s a New World (Szelhamos Rules Archive February 1, 2008)


The original Szelhamos Rules ran for precisely 1 year, from February 2007 – February 2008. This article originally appeared February 1, 2008 on the occasion of an earnings related Google share price plunge and the announcement of Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo!.

As a Google shareholder, I haven’t been very happy lately. In fact, I was upset about some of what I considered to be Google’s disregard for its shareholders even when it was approaching $750. Imagine the rants that are going through my mind now that Google is pointing another $40 points lower in the pre-open following yesterday’s earnings release.

Why exactly were we spending money on space shots?

Focus guys. Focus.

I understand why Richard Branson does it, but Google? Is there something to search for on the moon? Maybe they can use the lunar surface to house their servers in an ecologically friendly fashion.

So the word comes out today that Yahoo received a so-called “unsolicited” bid from Microsoft for $31, a hefty premium to yesterday’s close. It will probably take all of 10 minutes for Yahoo’s board to meet and accept this “unsolicited” offer. But just a few short months ago, Yahoo was at $31, without any takeover rumors propping it up.

And with Microsoft offering Yahoo shareholders a choice of cash or stock, I decided to pick up some shares of Yahoo at $28.50 and immediately sold some February $30 call options on those shares.

I’ll never be mistaken for an arbitrageur, but this seemed like free money.

Considering that Microsoft usually gets a free pass when it comes to anti-trust issues, and Microsoft said that the deal is not contingent on financing, this is a done deal.

As far as the European Union goes, who really cares? Microsoft never really even cared about the operating system and browser bundling debacle a few years ago. They’re smart guys with really deep pockets, who could easily figure out runarounds, while paying any imposed fines.

Those are just the cost of doing business. In the old days, it just would have been in the form of kickbacks and bribes.

Jerry Yang is now off the hook. He won’t be among the legions of ill-fated returning hero CEO’s who weren’t able to resurrect their moribund companies.

The question becomes how will two substandard search engines going to do against Google and will Google reflexively buy the 90% of AOL that it doesn’t already own and doesn’t need.

Google shouldn’t and won’t. But the very thought has breathed a little life into the lifeless shares of Time-Warner.

With all the talk about synergy, the ultimate synergy would be Yahoo paying Google to send Terry Semel into orbit. Maybe the architect of Yahoo’s fall into weighless orbit can help establish Google’s first extra-terrestrial colony.

Years from now, when the history of internet search is discussed, it will be Google that everyone will remember, with a few oldtimers recalling something else being around. What was that other one? Ya Who?

Microsoft’s offer for Yahoo is valued at about $45 billion. Based on what Google paid for its 10% share of AOL a couple of years ago, the remaining piece would be worth about $45 billion, as well.

Last week, I thought that Google might go down after Micosoft announced its earnings and I was prepared to pick up some more shares.

It didn’t happen that way, but at these levels, I’m ready to pick up some more Google shares once I give the market 30 minutes or so to get over some of the initial emotional trades.

In the meantime, the pre-open market rally that was being fueled by Microsoft was then killed by the official jobs numbers. Even though the unemployment rate went down to 4.9% from 5%, the revisions were killers and 100 points just evaporated in a couple of blinks.

A decline in payrolls was not exactly welcome news, but the tends to validate the Fed’s decision to drop rates and may also be validating S&P’s call that the recession started 3 months ago.

In the meantime, a few months ago I had written about Rio Tinto, which is one of my longest holdings. I’ve had shares for more than 10 years. Back then, I wrote that the Chinese weren’t very happy about the prospects of a Rio Tinto takeover and a potential stranglehold on the materials that China needs to keep its engine going and growing.

And today China acted.

They’re picking up a piece of Rio Tinto, together with Alcoa, which had also been rumored as a potential suitor of Rio Tinto. Since I also own shares in Freeport-McMoran, BHP Billiton and Lundin Mining, the trickle down effect is welcome new, especially since this sector has really been beaten up over the last month. How nice that at 10 AM Rio Tinto is up $41, while Google is now down $41.

Yin and Yang.

No pun intended.

The only problem is that I have twice as much Yang as Yin.

Isn’t that always the case?

In the new world, the one that will be a post Google-Yahoo union, Microsoft will surge to an Avis like position in the world of search. They will be a strong, but still distant #2.

$45 billion is a lot to pay to be a runner-up. But sometimes, being the runner-up can put you within a heartbeat of being #1.

No doubt tha’s what America’s mayor has on his mind. Being #2 to the oldest President in history may have its advantages. There’s nothing wrong with the back door, if that’s what you’re interested in, although I don’t think that Giuliani or McCain will consider legalizing it.

With all of this talk about the Bush proposal for an economic stimulus package, my guess is that McCain and Giuliani are all for stimulating your package in the privacy of your own home, but aren’t totally ready to embrace an entirely new world.

The wonders of internet search back this line of thinking.

A Google search for “stimulus package” doesn’t seem to use an algorithm that identifies many economics related sites. Whereas there is still some debate over the nature of the economic stimulus package that should be created, the online community seems to be in near universal agreement that the stimulus package requires batteries.

Maybe Microsoft and Yahoo will be able to get it right.

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If you’re a purist, you know that “reconnaissance” is a term that is applied to the gathering of information regarding an enemy. Although typically done covertly, it isn’t considered espionage since it’s carried out by combatants or agents of combatants.

Today started a period of reconnaissance for me, but I really wasn’t trying to gather information on enemies. The great thing about being anti-social is that you usually are short on the enemies side of the ledger as you are on the friends side.

ReconnaissanceReconnaissance today started with evaluating the prospective daughter-in-law population.

As the first half of an 11 hour roundtrip today, I drove to New York City very early this morning to meet my son’s 6 AM flight returning from Israel. He had spent the last 10 days there as part of a great program called “Birthright,” which allows college and recent college graduates to make that trip at no cost along with others.

No strings attached.

When I initially dropped him off to begin the trip, I immediately noticed that within his group there seemed to be a very favorable female to male ratio.

Did I mention that all of the girls were Jewish? Did I mention that “favorable” meant many more females.

The group pictures that were posted online once they arrived confirmed that ratio and the one picture taken after romping through the Dead Sea gave me an opportunity to evaluate birthing stock.

Our evolutionary ancestors reportedly did that instinctively to ensure survival of the species.

Look, I figure if that was an important enough characteristic for our evolutionary ancestors to regard as being important, who was I to try and recreate the wheel?

So excuse me for staring.

Anyway, while the moon was still high in the sky, I had the opportunity to observe other parents waiting for their children also returning from their trip.

All prospective in-laws.

Years ago, probably before the age of 10, I can still recall asking Szelhamos how you could tell if she was Jewish, since the tell tale, albeit hidden physical characteristic that was a sign of the covenant was reserved for the male members of the tribe.

His response was simple, yet took me years to understand.

Nezd meg a segget

He was exhorting me to do reconnaissance of assets.

Clearly, I had no use for the ones that kept the bluetooth firmly attached to their heads and were chattering away for the additional hour’s wait, due to a flight delay.

That was a pretty ungodly hour to be blathering and I still find something unsettling about people that seem to be talking to themselves.

The fact that one of them may have had a cappuccino and had some residual foam around her mouth did nothing to ease my sense of unease.

As a pretty anti-social person, it does take a lot for me to respond to even the most enticing opportunities from polite people. It certainly takes much more for me to initiate any kind of interaction.

Scanning the terrain and eavesdropping on various casual conversations between people that had at least one thing in common, I actually inserted myself into a conversation and then commandeered it as I sensed good stock.

The subject was waiting for her daughter who, after quite a bit of comparing family histories, seemed to be a perfect daughter-in-law candidate.

It was amazing as two perfect strangers casually exchanged so much information, yet what was most encouraging was that the subject fully understood my reason for asking about her bra size.

But before her daughter appeared, my son made his exit from customs first, and as it turned out, my future daughter-in-law Hannah, wasn’t in his group. But no sooner did that news deflate my hopes, than a traveling companion came over and hugged and kissed my son.

She was then met by both of her parents.

I didn’t have the opportunity to do the same level of recon on them as I had on the nameless woman to my left, but they were definitely not on my enemy list and based on the most superficial of mating rituals that I’d observed, warranted consideration.

Mission accomplished.

Following yet another long drive, this time home, I had little energy remaining to pay attention to the markets.

I did take note of the fact that by the end of the day my year to date performance fell slightly behind that of the market.

That’s what sometimes happens when you think of covered calls as your friends and I certainly spent a lot of time with them lately.

In an up market, as we’ve had for the past 3 weeks, they can turn out to be your enemy.

And so, reconnaissance is now in order.

Although perhaps tomorrow will be the hoped for day of a nice drop in the averages, despite Google’s after hours 6% drop, the better than expected earnings from Microsoft, Intel and IBM are likely to offset any weakness on the final day of the options cycle.

Right now, good earnings are my enemy. Funny had that changes, but look at how quickly some shares, such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs turned it around this week after earnings were released.

So my reconnaissace will be to scope out the area of available stocks that also happen to be well priced.

Did I mention that they didn’t have to be Israeli companies or even Jewish?

Each of the past 2 weeks I’ve had to replace about 25% of my holdings, but it appears as if now I’m looking at replacing more than 50%.

Collateral damage is expected when selling covered calls, but this month is turning out to deliver unexpected and last minute casualties. Options expiration is like calling a truce. Casualties are always hard to accept, but even more so if they occur right before the truce.

And so, new recruits are going to be need for my buying surge on Monday.

Good luck trying to find “bargains” right now as if just about everything has been running up as of late, so it may be difficult to find shares that have good birthing characteristics and could yield healthy profits in the short term.

Back when I was first getting started with the covered call strategy, I often found myself buying back contracts before expiration and then waking up Monday morning to see that the shares had fallen to levels below where they would have been assigned.

I don’t really look at stocks as enemies, but those acted as if they were just that.

If anything, though, stocks are your friends. You just have to show them a little respect and treat them properly and neither expect too much, nor too little of them.

Part of the “Birthright” program is for the group to spend a couple of days paired up with members of the Israeli Defense Forces, as guides. Military service is obligatory for that small nation and most everyone serves. Obviously, that’s very different from the United States.

It’s likely that very few of the IDF members have ever come across an American participant in the Birthright program who was also in the military, as is my son, who is in the National Guard, while going through college.

That created an additional level of bonding and comraderie for my son.

As it turns out, he referred to one of the young soldiers as his future wife.

Maybe my reconnaissance was unnecessary. Maybe all I really need to do is let nature work its magic.

I’m going to keep that in my mind as we enter the next week or two. Maybe it’s time to embrace a short term bull market and not search for just the right opportunity that reflects price stability and favorable options premiums.

Nah. I’ll just go with Szelhamos’ advice and look for the assets wherever they may be.




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Today’s Trades Security Type Action Type
January 19, 2012 RIG Option Assigned Monthly





Life’s not Fair

It doesn’t take many cycles of watching the nightly news to realize that there will never be a shortage of unspeakable tragedies. As soon as you hear about some horrible personal or global event that sends chills down your spine, along comes another, giving you barely a moment to catch your breath.

Unbelievably, each successive wave of bad news just gets worse and worse, yet as we become hardened to the bad news experienced by others, we just channel surf to escape the burden of our emotions.

It’s hard to deal with an unending flow of examples of how unfair the world can be, but the world became an infinitely better place for all that could afford a television with remote control.

For the ones who couldn’t, it’s just like a final nail in the coffin and further proof of just how unfair the world can be when you can’t even shield yourself from news of the realities gong on around you.

Lifes not FairBy virtue of your birth place, by virtue of your DNA and by virtue of where you may be standing at the moment, you may never have had a chance in life.

I mentioned Woody Allen yesterday and his eminently quotable line from Annie Hall, a movie that had more than it’s fair share of quotable quotes.

“I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’re miserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable.”

“Fair share?”

Actually, “fairness” had nothing to do with the surfeit of great lines from that movie. There was nothing coincidental about their occurence and nothing was there to pre-ordain their success or failure.

They were all earned.

In that case, life was fair, because there was an appropriate form and quantity of recompense for the uniquely inspired screenplay and movie.

If anything, though, you may argue that the quantity of recompense wasn’t at all fair, because so many more worthwhile actions receive far less financial reward or adulation from the public, like executing a key block that lets a game winning touchdown occur.

No one remembers the guy that sacrificed his well being for the greater glory of someone else who was already standing on a much higher rung of the ladder.

In truth, life isn’t fair in either direction.

Horrible things happen to truly innocents and wonderful things happen to those that may be far from innocent.

We all know the story of Jed Clampett.

By all accounts he was a good, hard working and God fearing man who was an abysmal failure in life. Not very fair, but he was then fortunate enough to blow an oil line while hunting for squirrel or perhaps some after dinner raccoon.

And then you have the likes of Qusay Hussein, son of Saddam, whose only redeeming quality was that he reportedly rarely raped the disabled.

His final moments may have been considered to have been the ultimate in fairness, whereas others would believe that it was unfair that he had escaped the judicial system.

Years ago there was a very popular book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People that sought to explain how that could possibly be the case, in an effort to reaffirm faith among those sensing its impending loss or even questioning the possibility of its very existence.

That book made such a big impact on me that I always cite it, despite the fact that I can’t remember a single argument in the book for maintaining faith when faced with an onslaught of terribly unfair events.

But the title says it all and that’s enough for me.

This afterrnoon I was sitting and staring at my spreadsheet that tracks trades and more specifically option premiums for the current cycle that expires in just 2 days.

If you haven’t downloaded the spreadsheets, you’re missing out on the ability to stare aimlessly at numbers.

I’ve mentioned before that I tend to think of money in terms of a “1964 Color TV” metric. That always puts it into perspective for me. I know that others may prefer the metric that looks at how long would someone have to work in order to buy a loaf of bread, but I’ve always been a 1964 Zenith 25 inch color TV, high radiation emitting, kind of guy.

What really struck me this day was after making some final trades for this cycle, was that the near final tally for the first month of the year was greater than my entire salary for my first real job as a dentist after completing my residency training.

I’m not certain, but it’s very likely that based on 1983 statistics, I may have been in the 1% right out of the gate, although that concept probably didn’t exist back then and certainly wouldn’t have been a position that merited disdain.

Since dentists tend to be “fairly” well paid, even at entry level positions, I think it may be patently unfair that a years’ worth of salary could now be made so quickly by just clicking on a few buttons. over the course of 20 trading days in a month.

For me, everytime I click on the “Submit” button to send a trade order, in my mind, I always see the Google “I’m Feeling Lucky” button.

On the flip side, as I listened to news come out suggesting that Amazon’s new Kindle Fire may prove to be more successful than previously thought, and have watched Amazon’s share price rise by about $12 from where my shares were assigned last Friday, I can’t help but think about the “unfairness” of that situation.

Based on our past experiences we each have a different take on what constutes fairness and unfairness.

Since I feel entitled to make trading profits, it can only be unfair it it works out otherwise.

I used to often think about “unfairness” as it came to earnings, particularly since I never worked a mere fraction as hard as did Szelhamos, not to mention all of the other things that he had to survive throughout his lifetime.

I once had a good friend whose father sold roadside popcorn at college football games. We used to talk about how bizarre life was when obscene amounts of money could be made with relatively little effort. particularly given our backgrounds

At that time I didn’t realize just how little effort you could actually get away with.

As easy as it may be to rationalize the dis-equilobrium in “fairness’ by thinking that it just as easily could have been me getting hit by a drunk driver, the reality is that many are spared the exposure to life’s unfair moments.

We don’t live in a dangerous environment where a stranger may unfairly choose to attack, nor are we without healthcare insrance such that a readily treatable infection would kill us.

Those are examples of unfairness that shouldn’t exist.

You don’t need a lofty philosophical or theologically based treatise to bring home that point.

Sometimes you just know that luck is such a big part of creating an environment that ends up treating you fairly.

I don’t know how a nearly 80 year old Woody Allen would now feel about the two categories of people, now that nearly half of his life has passed since “Annie Hall” bought his words regarding misery to the world.

Laughter can dampen the misery.

“Annie Hall” is said to be a play on “anhedonia” which is a pychaitric disorder that makes the individual unable to experience joy or pleasure. That is possibly the most unfair malady that anyone could ever strike anyone.

As unfair as life may be, even at it’s lowest depths, people can still find the incongruities in life that create humor, even in despair.

So, I will recover from Amazon, that as I began typing away has gone up another few dollars.

What I do know is that at some point, somone holding those shares will be thinking how unfair it was that the opportunity to sell those shares wasn’t taken before the next predictable drop.

Then I will buy them back and life will be fair again.




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January 18, 2012 ZSL Option STO Monthly
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