Random thoughts about my interests which include (in no particular order) poker, finance & investing, politics, football and whatever else I happen to see that piques my interest

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Better World For My Kids?

A very good article in the St Pete Times on Sunday talked about rising sea levels in Florida. It mentioned how you cannot tell this is happening in urban areas due to beach renourishment and seawalls, not to mention manmade additions to coastal islands but in areas where man is not building, water levels are higher, salt water has intruded into marshes turning them into bays, mangroves grow where they didn't used to. Water levels have increased about an inch per decade since 1940 according to this article.

I tend to take a dim view of many enviromentaltwits running around like chicken little telling me the sky is falling. For one thing, knowing the average temp for the last 100 years or so hardly qualifies in my eyes as "knowing" the atmosphere is getting warmer because of what man is doing. The earth has been around something like 5 billion years. There's been ice ages and warm times and this was long before man was walking around trashing everything. Now having said this, do I think it is possible that "global warming" is caused by man. I will admit to that possibility. I will also admit this is possibly due to natural earth cycles too. No one understands climatology, meteorology, geology, etc enough to equivocally tell me either answer is true, or even if it's somewhere in between. But I will admit, in the spirit of leaving this world better for my kids, that we all, including me, should do more to protect the environment.

I am all for renewable sources of energy. As sunny as Florida is, there is no reason more buildings, houses, etc do not have solar collectors. Except that the public utility companies don't want them too because then they would not be dependant on the utilities for power. And we know who has a better chance of influencing the legislature now don't we? I do like the fact that our governor is willing to push for more environmentally friendly ways of doing things and is concerned about these things. Maybe there will be big tax breaks or rebates given to people who buy solar panels and other things like that. As long as he doesn't try to ram it down the throat of the people while living like it doesn't matter to him.

This is what burns me the most about many of the glitterati who go on about how we are destroying the planet and how we need to do this and that to cut down on our energy usage but don't do a damn thing about it in their own lives. When I see some of these famous people who's only knowledge on the subject is what some envirolunatic has whispered in their ear try to tell us we need to cut down on pollution or energy usage or what have you while they go everywhere on private planes and humongous limos, I just turn a deaf ear. Even someone like Al Gore who I think is a pretty smart guy and seems pretty sincere about global warming, just PISSES ME OFF because he lives in a giant house and is using 10 times the amount of energy as a normal person. If you're gonna talk the talk Al, you better walk the walk. And I don't think this: http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/g/gore-bush-houses.htm qualifies you to tell me anything about how much energy I use. And don't even get me started on Michael Moore and his "Documentaries", I'll save talking about the pompous ass some other time when I have more time. If you want to get people's attention, show us you are doing things too like Willien Nelson and his BioWillie fuel or Cameron Diaz who has used bio diesel for quite a while. I read in Rueters that Darryl Hannah travelled across the US in a biofuel car in 2005 and her house is off the electric grid. Now that I can admire. Of course the same story lauded Big Al for "An inconvenient truth" but didn't say one thing about his inconvenient house.

Well that's it for now as I have to make money the old fashioned way and earn it. Will be watching the stock market closely today as I expect it to rise quite a bit today. Hopefully the stocks I own will be part of that rise. At least I have a relatively short drive so I won't use a lot of hydrocarbons or pollute very much today.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weekend wrap up

Well here it is Sunday night and I realize I haven't posted since Monday. Bad Bad Me. I should be severely punished. I think I will punish myself with a beer shortly to celebrate the end of Lent and the end of my beer fast. Yes I gave up beer for Lent, fool that I am. I did manage to forget once and drink a beer early in Lent but after I remembered, I managed to avoid drinking any. My wife, (the empress) managed to forget a number of times and suggest I have a beer 3 or 4 times but I managed not to have one. The first time I even said yes and then remembered at the same time as my daughter (the empress in training) that I couldn't have one and had something else.

I had a busy week and there is much to talk about. I doubt I have time for all I want to get through but here goes. First and most importantly, is the NCAA tourney. I have no particular rooting interest here as the 2 schools I truly root for are Providence College and the Univ of Florida, neither of whom made the tourney. So my bracket this year has no hometown bias and I tried to pick teams based on actual results rather than my biased opinion. All of my final four teams are still alive, so I am better off than those who picked teams like Georgetown and Duke to make it to the there but I made my share of bad picks too like Drake and Vanderbilt to make it to the sweet sixteen. My best pick was Davidson over Gonzaga and Georgetown. The one that is hurting me the most is Pitt over Mich St and Miss St over Memphis. At least Miss St almost got to OT vs Memphis. I also took Butler over Tenn and then over Louisville so thats gonna hurt if either of those 2 make it to the final four. Butler did take Tenn to OT so I was not far off that pick either. I am a bit better than average in my pool, 51st out of 131 but a few breaks and I can make up a good bit of ground.

As for my short term investments in the tourney, I am a bit better there. Won both picks today to make it 3-1-1 for the tourney. Bad pick was Oral Roberts getting 12 against Pitt and getting hammered instead. I did take Stanford giving 15 to Cornell and they covered easily. My other action in the first round was a 3 team tease of Gonzaga +6, Temple +11 and Xavier -4.5. Xavier made me proud by coming back and covering for me. Both Temple and the Zags managed to lose exactly on the number so I didn't win but I didn't lose either and the bet was a push. The Zags were even leading late but managed to let it slip away but Temple was never in their game and really got a back door to hit the number, so no complaints there. Today's 2 bets were UNC -11 over Arkansas. Never in doubt as UNC jumped on them early and won going away by almost 30. The other pick was Miss St +9.5 over Memphis. That one went down to the wire as Miss St fell behind by double digits, clawed back to tie, then went down by almost 10. Memphis managed to brick enough free throws to keep Miss St in it and they actually had a 3 pointer off the rim at the horn that would have sent it into OT. Still it was a betting victory and I will take that anytime.

Other happenings this week involved playing poker yesterday. I did not do well in the tourney though I last about an hour longer than last week at least. I could not get anything much going and my best hands almost always were outclassed. I was way down early, clawed almost back to even, then the hand I kicked myself for. Pick up 10-10 sitting 3 spots left of the big blind with 2 callers already. Blinds are 25-50 and I raise to 300. Guy next to me raises to 1000 which would leave me maybe 500 if I call. I figured he had something like AK so I was planning on pushing all in and taking my chances when the guy on the button pushes all in. Folded to me and I have to think. Guy had plenty of chips, more than covered me but the guy next to me has him covered if he calls, and I am pretty sure he will by the way he is playing with his chips. I felt ok going heads up with tens but I gotta think this other guy has at least pocket jacks or queens, maybe even American Airlines. So I fold. Other guy calls and both turn over AK. I turn green 'specially when a 10 flops and 2 sixes by the river for my boat. After that I don't get much, barely hang on and lose when my next 10-10 runs into queens.

Well thats all for tonite. I had a very good run playing $2 limit holdem after the tourney so all in all a good nite. And really even a bad nite of poker beats the hell out of a good day at work. So off to bed and I will continue tomorrow

Monday, March 17, 2008

The end of BS

Well after looking at the markets today it seems the end of Bear Stearns is here. According to the stories I read, they have agreed to sell out to JP Morgan-Chase for the princely sum of $2 a share. That's right, not $200 or even $20 but $2 a share. Quite a comedown from the $160 or so the stock was at only a year ago. BSC was supposed to report their quarterly financials after the Market closed Monday too, and probably would have showed earnings around $1 a share but now have delayed their report. Hard to believe they could be sold so cheaply when they weren't even reporting a loss. On Thursday the stock closed at $57, on Friday at $30 and on Monday at $4

What it all seems to come down to is that BSC was running out of cash. Yes they had a lot of assets, hell they own their own building in Manhattan thats probably worth a billion bucks or more which would be 4-5 times the price of the buyout, but those assets were not liquid. They are holding on to a bunch of mortgage backed securities with no buyers at the moment, and clients were pulling their money out faster than BSC could get funds to pay them. Something had to give and it turned out, it was Bear Stearns. Apparently no other banks were willing to loan them enough to cover their shortfall till they could raise more cash. Of course BSC was no model citizen as they did not help out in the crisis brought on by Long Term Capital's failure in 1998. And 2 hedge funds they set up based on mortgage backed securities already imploded. Seems to me JPM played some real hardball to get BSC so cheaply. They get the building, the brokerage business and some other real assets. We'll see if that is better than the headaches they also inherit. Personally I think they got a bargain but I've been wrong before.

My kids have gotten me hooked on a TV show I never would have watched on my own. It's called Ninja Warrior. If you've never watched it before, 100 people take on an obstacle course with a time limit. If they make it through that there are 2 more totally different courses and then the final course. They all take balance, strength, endurance, nerves, speed, and great timing. Even pro athletes fail at it (Olympic gymnast Morgan Hamm didn't make it through the 1st stage, his brother Paul did and almost made it through stage 2) and when they fail they usually end up in a cold pool of muddy water. Not fun. Many people try going through the course in a whacky costume or in their work outfits. One guy has been in every tourney, 19 so far, and he always wears the uniform he wears to work. He was a service station attendant, now he manages the place. He has never won and in fact dislocated his shoulder on the last round one time. The announcing is cheesy but funny, some of the contestants are even funnier when they fall in the water but something about it makes me want to watch more. It's on G4 TV, if you get the chance I say CHECK IT OUT.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Politics of Fear and Hatred

Well Obama seems to have been brought down a few notches this weekend with the "Spiritual Advisor" scandal. I don't know about you but I think a majority of Americans get real uncomfortable hearing someone preach "God damn America" in a church in America. And I wouldn't call Obama's defense of this to be any great shakes. First off, this guy married you, baptized your kids, and you have been attending his church for the past 20 years. I don't think saying that you don't support all of his views or heard him say things like that will cut it with the electorate. Then again, what do I know.

This issue of course does not belong just at his footsteps. Its been used by both parties many times before. Use a group's distrust of another, build upon their perceived fears (hello Willie Horton anyone??), pull the most egregious examples to support your thesis and rally the troops around defeating this menace. The politics of fear and hatred win another round. Personally I am sick to death of this. And I won't support politicians of either party who do it anymore, especially if they are the first to sling the mud.

So if Hillary Clinton campaigns that Barack Obama doesn't have any experience, that's a valid criticism (though kind of laughable considering all of the experience she has had isn't it?) but when one of her staffers leaks pictures of Obama in a turban trying to stoke fear and hatred of Muslims, thats way way out. And her mamby pamby denial "We didn't do it though one of my people may have been involved in it" does not fly at all.

And Barack Obama can ask why Hillary is a senator from NY when she lived in Illinois and Arkansas and Washington DC until her husband was no longer president. Perhaps he could ask why being a senator from Arkansas wouldn't be enough for her or even why she waited until Bill was running for Governor to change her last name to his. But his staffer calling her a monster and his wife saying the country is "downright mean" and filled with cynics, sloths, and complacents and that she was not proud to live here doesn't cut it. You don't like it, leave. You liked it just fine when you were earning tons of jack as a lawyer, and telling others to be teachers and doctors while you are struggling to get by on $275,000 a year as VP of Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Hospitals.

And if John McCain campaigns like this, I won't support him either. I like him as the best candidate to not foster hatred or fear and actually try to be inclusive with people on the other side of the aisle. I think it speaks well for him the Democratic Senators respect and admire him. But if does start campaigning on issues other than his own qualifications or his opponent's lack thereof, I guess I will be voting 3rd party this year.

So to wrap up this thread, lets see how Obama continues to spin his spiritual advisor and if Hillary can use this against him in a way that doesn't get her called a rascist. Personally I don't think she can but I think it may hurt Obama in the general election.

On to other things. Played poker on Saturday in a local cardroom. Mostly played Omaha Hi/Lo ( otherwise known as 8 or better) but also played in a Holdem tourney for a short time. I was out before the first break for the first time ever. My straight ran right into a full house and it was good night Irene. Can't complain, I was behind the whole hand. Unlike my last time when I was well ahead with top 2 pair and some fool reraises me all in on middle pair and a flush draw and of course hits the flush. It was too bad I made the straight on the river so I could get busted this time.

I played poorly at the Omaha table early on too. Before the tourney I was playing and losing a bit. After the tourney I went back and played again. Had to wait for a seat as there was only one table for Omaha and it was full but while I was waiting I thought back to my earlier time there and realized I was playing way too many hands. Tightened up and managed to make back a bit of cash, though not enough to cover my losses earlier or my tourney entry either. Would have been better but most of my good hands and draws never made it. Great high cards had low flops. Low hands had high flops. Nut flush draws on the flop never seemed to complete for me nor did sets become boats, but they hit against me enough. Still I played conservatively enough to make some money back and not continue losing.

I think I have learned a bit more about playing better, not letting bad beats affect me so much (after last week's flush out in the tourney I played Omaha and killed making back more than double my money) and feel pretty good with my game. Will try again next Saturday and hope for better results.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Getting Started

What does this say about the world when someone like me is even blogging? I mean, I enjoy working and playing online and sometimes even talking to others and reading other people's thoughts, but for me to get on and start talking?? What is the world coming to??

That's probably my greatest concern. As I age and as my kids come of age, I keep wondering what kind of world I am turning over to them. First off, the world around them seems much more dangerous and challenging than when I was growing up. There are so many more ways to get into trouble it seems. There are so many more things available to them, which is a double edged sword as some of them are wonderous, some of them are very dangerous. My daughter can chat online with some kid in Canada and not run up the phone bill or have to mail letters back and forth. But is it really some kid in Canada or some nutjob pervert down the street? You teach them and hope they make the right choices and even then, things can go wrong.

And yet that doesn't concern me as much as 3 other things I see. First is the amount of debt our country is continually adding to. Someday this will eventually have to be paid. And that will probably fall on them, or their kids or even grandkids. The second thing is the way the Fed, Wall Street, and the government as a whole keeps trying to prevent the economy from going through it's normal cycles. The economy has always gone up and down, and every time the Fed intervenes, every time Wall Street invents some new investment that no one really understands, and every time the government then bails out the fools who risk too much on what they don't know, the economy is prevented from taking it's normal course. You keep it going up and up and up and eventually no matter what you do it comes down, but it comes down much much harder. Which we may be seeing now. And we get further in debt when the Fed guarantees the foolishness of Bear Stearns (BSC began yesterday at 57 and finished at 30, wish I had shorted that one) and the "Economic Stimulus" the Pres is giving us puts another 150 billion onto the national debt. Don't get me wrong, I am always pleased to get a tax refund, but you better find a way to take that amount out of the budget. Third and last is the amount of interference in everyday life that all levels of government seem to be getting into. It gets so bad that you cannot cut down a tree in your yard without the permission of the city, you have to jump through hoops so that your kids can attend the school down the road from you, and you cannot gamble online (legally) from the privacy of your own home. But then you have idiots in the government who will do whatever they want to get around the rules they pass and expect us to uphold.

I guess to finish up, I'm getting damned tired of seeing the government try to run my life, the courts not upholding the constitution but feeling they need to make their own laws, the people appointed and elected to make life a little better for everyone taking advantage of their position and influence to try to line their own pockets (check out this article about the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections: http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/local/article414941.ece) and slip through loopholes in the laws they enact, and yet bail out the rich and the powerful when they screw up. You try to teach your kids right from wrong, that they need to help others but take responsibility for their actions, and hold them to standards but then they look at the world around them and see their own government teaching just the opposite. They see that freedom of speech only applies to non-offensive speech (unless you are a minority of some kind, then by all means offend whoever you please), that owning a handgun is the province of the police and criminals only, and that the courts can interpret the law how they please. How do you combat that?