Friday, December 17, 2010

Portfolio changes

Made quite a few adjustments to the portfolio today. General approach was to raise cash to deploy in the coming weeks should better options present themselves.

Some recent actions:
- reduced MSFT Microsoft position by about half. Was my top holding and the oversized position was too big for my comfort.
- sold one of my drillers NE Noble Energy. The drillers just aren't acting right and wanted to lighten up. I still hold DO Diamond Offshore
- sold LLY Eli Lilly. The more I thought about it I just didn't know enough about it and the only reason I owned it was metrics and dividend. I need to stick to mutual funds for pharmaceutical exposure.
- sold AFAM Almost Family home healthcare. Yep... that was me selling about a half an hour before the stock rose by $1.63 to close up 4.3% for the day... Dangit! Some huge upside volume started hitting the stock soon after I sold. Not sure what was going on.
- added to WDC Western Digital. It had dropped pretty severely in the past few days on no news so I took the other side as most other related tech has been pretty solid.

Top Holdings in order now (excluding mutual funds) are:
INTC Intel
MSFT Microsoft
WDC Western Digital
CHL China Mobile - telecom/wireless
UFPT UFP Tech - packaging
TEO Telecom Argentina - telecom
DO Diamond Offshore - offshore driller
LHCG LHC Group - home health
MDF Metropolitan Health Networks - healthcare facilities

After the activity today my cash level is up to almost 50% so I'll look to redeploy some of this next week. That cash level is a bit excessive and surely I can find 1 or 2 places to put it.

Some I'm looking at: CSCO Cisco, KMB Kimberly Clark (again), MCD McDonalds?... ABT Abbot Labs... maybe a few others. I'll know better after I work on things over the weekend.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Protecting yourself in nuclear detonation

This is one of the most interesting things I've read in a while. I saw this link a NYTimes story today about best way to survive a nuclear detonation. The new studies indicate there's lots we can do to substantially increase odds of surviving. Two keys to surviving.

1. Hide fast from radiation. Brick concrete basements of big buildings are best, or middle interior rooms of big office buildings. My initial inclination would be to try to get away as fast as possible, but it sounds like finding cover from radiation is by far the best way to go.
2. Stay put. The radioactive fallout is worst in the first few hours after the detonation and radiation levels quickly fall.

Here's a Fact Sheet from the Dept. of Homeland Security. Note the first image shows how radiation levels spike in the first hour after a blast and then fall off considerably after 6 hours or so. Taking cover can significantly reduce your exposure.

The second image on the second page shows levels of protection provided by different places and building types. Like mentioned above, lots of brick and concrete between you and radiation is good, and if you can combine that and get underground it's even better. But failing being in a big concrete building basement, an average home basement seems to provide sufficient protection.

In the article the experts make it clear that the event is more survivable than expected if shelter from the radiation can be achieved.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Get this - students know who the most effective teachers are

I've always felt it was fairly easy as a student to tell who the best teachers were, and thought it was strange that schools never asked students who the best teachers were. (I guess I'd assumed the unions didn't want there to be comparisons between good and bad teachers?) Now a big study by the Gates has confirmed it as reported in the NYTimes.

From the story: “Kids know effective teaching when they experience it,” he said. “As a nation, we’ve wasted what students know about their own classroom experiences instead of using that knowledge to inform school reform efforts.”

"Thousands of students have filled out confidential questionnaires about the learning environment that their teachers create. After comparing the students’ ratings with teachers’ value-added scores, researchers have concluded that there is quite a bit of agreement."

Here's the full story. Pretty good read.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jack Handey

Sometimes I wish I had fingers on my toes so I could pick up ice cubes more easily when I drop them in the kitchen floor. How convenient. But then I wondered if I had fingers on my toes would I instead walk on my arms and view the world upside down? And when I was on the internet would that mean I'd have to type with my keyboard on the floor?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Intel's Andy Grove on importance of manufacturing - what a great read!

I'm a fan of Intel founder Andy Grove (and coincidentally I'm currently an investor also!). But I was very impressed with Mr. Grove's article about the importance of manufacturing - and the importance of keeping even low skill jobs to maintain a presence in the evolving knowledgebase of future new technologies, but also to simply provide employment as an end in-and-of-itself.

Without scaling, we don’t just lose jobs -- we lose our hold on new technologies. Losing the ability to scale will ultimately damage our capacity to innovate.

In a sense he's saying you can't have the high skill jobs without bringing along the low skill jobs too. In effect - you need alot of low skilled jobs so you can know enough and be innovative enough to be involved in the next big thing. There's alot of value in doing things on a very large scale - and we lose alot of know-how by farming so much of it out overseas to lower cost producers.

This definitely flies in the face of prevailing economics, but there's a cohesion to his argument that has some resonating qualities. I found this perspective definitely worth the read.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Couple of cool things I read today - Friedman and Tyche

Here's a very good Thomas Friedman piece from the Times on what Chinese diplomats are likely saying about us (if we could see their diplomatic cables).
quote: "Things are going well here for China. America remains a deeply politically polarized country, which is certainly helpful for our goal of overtaking the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economy and nation. But we’re particularly optimistic because the Americans are polarized over all the wrong things. " read the whole op-ed

Here's a very interesting story that hypothesizes an unknown/unseen larger-than-Jupiter-sized planet way way out there that might be responsible for throwing comets into the solar system. We've heard this and similar theory before, but what I find interesting in this story is that there's a smidgen of evidence, and that a current mission might be able to find it if it exists despite it's great distance and coldness.

"The researchers noted that most comets that fly into the inner solar system seem to come from the outer region of the Oort cloud. Their calculations suggest the gravitational influence of a planet one to four times the mass of Jupiter in this area might be responsible.

Two centuries of observations have indicated an anomaly that suggests the existence of Tyche, Matese said. "The probability that it could be caused by a statistical fluke has remained very small," he added"

Wouldn't it be cool to uncover another planet?