Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thinking Different

Here is a great little story about a Doctor and Scientist Donald A. Redelmeier who favors odd and non-traditional studies and observations.

Re winning an academy award. Do you tend to live longer because you win an Academy Award, or do you tend to win an Academy Award because you possess longevity increasing characteristics that attract votes?

Also - more accidents on election days? I agree it's seems what you'd expect. It's an extra trip for most people that carries some additional risk of accident. That's kindof like accidents going down when gas goes to $4/gallon. People drive less at $4 - (I work for an insurance company and can confirm frequency (accidents) went down when gas price went up, but accident levels are back to "normal" now despite approx $3 gas.)

And I really like his quote from the story:

“Do not get trapped into prior thoughts. It’s perfectly O.K. to change your mind as you learn more.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Assorted cool stories

- In search for extra-terrestrial intelligence expect to find "Artificial" intelligence. The argument here is that in a few hundred years the processing power of a technological civilization will become so immense that it will likely swamp biological intelligence.

- About the "slippery slope." How small decisions and actions can significantly color our world and perception of the world. Apparently the little things matter alot. Makes me wonder if the effect of spending money we don't have (credit) functions similarly.

- Is this Gould's punctuated equilibrium?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Let the Fever play out

Here's an interesting post advocating the benefits of fever - and just letting the body's natural immune response play out. Apparently there's a surprising lack of studies to show that taking aspirin or other fever-reducers helps - it probably just keeps us sicker longer but makes us feel a bit better while we're sick (my read).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Iraq soldier point-of-view

Here's real good American soldier point-of-view article about the winding down of the war in Iraq.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bats hunting skills

Here's an interesting article on bat hunting techniques, and some of the evolved defenses of moths to prevent themselves from being eaten by the bats.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Large Caps look inexpensive

I've never in my investing life been a fan of big blue chip stocks - they've always looked expensive to me - until now. Add a nice dividend on top of a low earnings multiple on top of a financially strong company that's growing earnings and in this environment they look pretty good. I think I posted about Kimberly Clark KMB and PEP Pepsico. I recently also purchased WMT Wal-Mart and a couple days back added JNJ Johnson and Johnson.

There are others of those big blue chips on my radar too. I've decided to try to swing-trade some of these as they tend to oscillate - because my main interest at this point is preservation of capital at low risk while picking up income from dividend and/or small price moves.

Today I sold KMB and PEP for about maybe 5-7% gains each. Will keep each of these on the radar for re-entry points. I've never really done these longer term swing trades but there are alot of these big stable companies with dividend that seem to kindof oscillate a bit, and I really don't mind owning them - especially if I can pick up a few dividends in the process, while at the same time being in a decent % cash seems a decent low-risk alternative too while I wait for other buying opportunities.

Like I mentioned I moved into WMT Walmart and JNJ Johnson and Johnson recently, and am interested in Comcast CMCSA amoung some others depending on the price moves from week to week. The market seems to want to be manic and indecisive right now, and all my old growth screens aren't turning up much new of interest right now - so I'm trying something new.

As I work out how to value these big blue chip dividenders I think I'll have some interesting work ahead of me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stock update

It's interesting to me that there have been alot of upside earnings surprises out there. Many commentators are reporting the dichotomy between earnings reports and employment, and it is a bit confusing, but there have been several good earning reports from companies I track.

Of those I track and/or own that seem to have business going well for them: CTSH, EBIX, HANS, DECK, KMB.

I'm actually looking to add to the EBIX position again. I want to be careful and not get top heavy without the market validating reported results, but I feel like EBIX's results deserve upping the ante a bit.

KMB Kimberly-Clark has had a good run (I recently purchased this consumer staple company as a dividend stock and it's up nearly 10% since then - so I'm considering cashing out and waiting for a pullback as KMB has pretty much traded in the same price range for nearly a decade and I've more than made what I was expecting to get from the dividend in the first place.).

Other recent additions to the portfolio including PEP Pepsico and WMT WalMart. I may try a similar in-out on PEP like KMB as I bought it similarly for dividend and have more cap gain than dividend in short period. All of this is in retirement accts so no tax implications.

Anyhow, overall I've been pleasantly surprised with earnings so far, especially given such a pervasive bearish mood that seems out there.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Russian Fires

Have you seen the devastating fires from the heat wave in Russia? This looks terrible - entire communities burning.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

High Frequency Trading funkiness

I came across this very interesting post about how high frequency traders are able to use ultrafast connections to find and take advantage and uncover your supposedly hidden stop and limit orders. It's yet another recent story that our financial system has evolved primarily to the benefit of the perpetuation of the financial system itself. It's become a parasite on the rest of society by skimming money out of our 401ks in the name millisecond level "liquidity".

It upsets me to read this because the solution for most folks is simply not to play the game - but that's not really a good use of your capital either. I guess ultimately it's just disappointing that a stock market system designed to help companies raise money and let investors create a market for the investments has turned into a poker table where the guy on the other side with the fastest computer in-a-way gets to see your cards before he places his bet.

Apparently Senator Chuck Schumer is working to get the SEC to act to limit/restrict the use of these flash orders that are supposedly letting high frequency traders see info that other market participants can't see or respond to.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Affluence and freedoms

I was watching Book TV today and Ralph Nader was a guest for a couple of hours. For years he's been a consumer advocate (notably auto safety) and grassroots activist, but one thing that stuck with me from all the questions he took regarded the increased difficulty in organizing now.

He indicated it was very surprising to him that the information revolution and the internet has not spurred people to action. He says it's easier than ever to find out information now, but that it seems more difficult than ever to respond to do anything about the abuses they see. One line of thought is information overload - there's so much information available that you just can't make sense of all of it. For example: He remarks how he's so frustrated with how workers continually get screwed as their pensions are shredded by the companies they work for - but he finds it very difficult to organize a coherent push around that issue to help protect people.

Is it possible that there's so much information that the corporations with very narrow but very focused interests are much better able to use this knowledge to their advantage, while the attention of most average folks gets so diluted they can't make sense of it all - or at least can't stay focused on it long enough? That's sortof like John Bogle's argument about why the managers (CEOs, boards) are running companies for the interests of the managers nowadays, and are often no longer attempting to maximize returns for the greatly diluted shareholder interests who find it difficult to stay on top of boards - especially when so much investment is diluted in 401K and pensions etc?

Bogle sees the later as a challenge for capitalism, and Nader sees the former as a challenge for our democracy - and certainly sees corporate power stronger now than ever before - and growing.

An additional thought here - what role does affluence play in this? And is there a concern that once a certain level of affluence in society is reached are we sated - like on our happy drugs of Brave New World - and are we happy just to go along for the ride distracted by the relative abundance around us?