August 26, 2003
Movies: Castle in the Sky
This was the other older Hayao Miyazaki I had in my queue when I reviewed Kiki's Delivery Service a bit ago. This one was also wonderful with the visuals in particular being absolutely amazing. The voices weren't quite as good as in Kiki's although still excellent, particularly Cloris Leachman as 'Mom'. It is interesting that I liked these two somewhat 'smaller' movies more than his bigger and wider US release ones. ****
August 25, 2003
Cape Cod Weekend
Went down to Cape Cod for the weekend. I ended up taking Friday off for other reasons but decided I might as well go down early since I could. However, even leaving at 2PM, traffic was still quite bad and it took nearly 3 hours to get down there. Had a really nice time and went to beaches on both the ocean (freezing) and bay side (bathtub warm but ridiculously shallow - I walked out more than half a mile at a depth of less than 3 feet so actual swimming was basically impossible and of course no surf). We also had a couple of quite nice dinners. I ended up driving back late Saturday night (leaving around 10PM) to avoid traffic and this worked out beautifully - it took only about 1:35 and I was at one point in cruise control for more than 20 miles.
While down there, however, I was being heavily distracted by the absolutely wonderful book I am currently reading. More on this in a few days after I finish it.
Amazing Race Finishes
Well, it wasn't very exciting but The Amazing Race ended. David and Jeff made a massive early mistake and never came close to recovering. It was a sprint at the end between the other two teams and Jon and Kelly lost which was the most important thing after Jon and Al were out. Worth watching at least at TiVo speeds but certainly not close to being a great show.
August 21, 2003
BBC Poll on America's role in the world
Was emailed on IP a link to a BBC poll on the view of people in various countries around the world on the USA's role in the world. The poll is extremely interesting and I highly recommend it. However, I wish there were more details on the methodology of it. I gather that it was not a random sample and that there are 1000 people answering from each country but am not sure on either of these points. If not a random sample, was the nature of the selection method likely to be influential. Did the show that the poll relates to influence people in some way? I don't find the results that surprising so these issues don't really worry me but could affect things.
August 20, 2003
Well, Netflix is up more than 2 points since I sold yesterday which would have been $1000+. I am going to have to learn to not be bothered by things like this if I am going to keep with my current investment plan (relatively short-term trading - not just buy and hold for years). The hope is that at least I would be equally happy if it dropped 2 points after I get out as unhappy if it goes up 2 points but I have a feeling this isn't true.
Just picked up at the library a biography of Buffett and one of Peter Lynch's books. Definitely plan to read them and wonder if that will affect my plans.
Update: and now the next day it's up ANOTHER two points. I am seriously reconsidering (not just based on this) bailing on this short-term trading plan and going for the long haul. The tax implications are much better too that way of course.
August 19, 2003
First Individual Stock Sale
Well, I am certainly not going to post such things regularly but I decided this one deserves it as I for the first time sold an individual stock today. I bought Netflix (NFLX) on June 13 at $19.88 per share (500 shares) and today sold it for $25.70 per share for an after-commissions profit of $2870 (or 28.9%). I probably should have sold it earlier at 27-28 but unwisely didn't. Also, my selling of it doesn't indicate lack of confidence in the company (which I love) but rather that I think in the short term it is more likely to go down than go up. In fact, I am hopeful it will do so and then I will rebuy it. If it keeps going up, so it goes. Given a stock hits its peak/minimum only a few days a year, I will almost always be wrong in choosing the perfect time to buy/sell but my hope is of course I am just right enough to make money and beat the market. If not, I'll get out and just go for an Index Fund.
Alternatively, I may find I would be better off doing more of the Buffett/Motley Fool style of buy-to-hold rather than trying to play the market fluctuations at all. Again, hopefully I'll see how it goes but there is obviously a ton of money to be made (or lost) in the massive fluctuations, much more than in just holding a stock unless it is absolutely skyrocketing. Comments welcome. I am definitely a total beginner at this and just hope some of my game skills are applicable to the market as I think they should be.
August 18, 2003
Movies: Kiki's Delivery Service
Watched Kiki's Delivery Service from Netflix last night. I actually enjoyed this one more than Hayao Miyazaki's other movies I have seen, which have had bigger releases (Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away). Phil Hartmann as Gigi the black cat is absolutely wonderful and the movie is just super-sweet (in a good way). Castle in the Sky is also near the top of my queue. *****
WUSA: Breakers Game
Went with Mark to the Boston Breakers vs Washington Freedom WUSA semifinal game (professional women's soccer). It was an excellent game with each side dominating the play at times but ended with no score. They then played two short (7:30) overtime periods where most soccer plays 15:00 overtime periods, again with no score so it went to Penalty Kicks. The Breakers did horrendously at the PKs, only hitting one of four they took and Washington won without even needing to take their last two kicks. Too bad but a very good season.
In the other semifinal yesterday, San Diego was leading Atlanta but went into a shell for the last twenty minutes of the game with Atlanta pouring on the offense and San Diego desperately clearing ball after ball. Finally, Atlanta got one through (after the ref missed a penalty call in the box on San Diego), forcing overtime. In overtime, Hooper scored a Golden Goal to win so it will be Atlanta vs Washington in the finals next week.
August 15, 2003
Sage of Omaha
I was talking with a friend today about Warren Buffett's endorsement of Arnold and being somewhat surprised at how much of a difference it made to me, not that I know anything about CA politics, but I am suddenly taking Arnold as a serious candidate, not just a well known celebrity who might get elected on name recognition. It means a lot to me because I have a huge amount of respect for Buffett and, in particular, because I am certain that he is way too ethical to give his endorsement unless he really believed in it. He also rarely takes a public stand so when he does, I notice it. It is interesting that this is his second political statment of national newsworthy attention in a short period, following his appearance on Nightline opposing Bush's dividend tax cuts.
It happens that I also just a few days ago requested a book on Buffett from the library and today read an excellent BusinessWeek article on him which I highly recommend.
Related to this, I have actually gotten into investing a bit lately, buying individual stocks for the first time a couple of months ago. For a long time I have wished I could get an interest in the market and thus hopefully make some money in it but I have always been instantly bored with investment discussions in the past for some reason. In the last few weeks, however, that seems to have finally changed and I am actually taking an interest in it and following some stocks and doing some research. I have a feeling (which could be way offbase) that I have the skills that I could be a pretty good investor if I could manage to devote enough interest/concentration to it. Maybe I finally will be and it just took actually buying some stocks to find the interest. Of course, right now my stocks are down a bit ;) I'll probably post more about this in the future and in fact may go ahead and create an investing category now for this post to go in.
Conan O'Brien Harvard Class Day Speech
Also from Charlie Rose, Conan O'Brien was on his show last night and Charlie made a big deal of his 2000 Harvard speech (which was for Class Day, the day before Commencement). It is quite good and worth reading.
Aaron Sorkin of The West Wing
On Wednesday evening, I watched Aaron Sorkin interviewed on Charlie Rose. It was a surprisinly combative interview with Sorkin being oversensitive and Charlie reacting poorly to that, but still quite interesting. It turns out that Sorkin is leaving The West Wing for purely greedy financial reasons of the studios behind the show, which is making money but they want it to make more, so are cutting its budget. Sorkin wasn't willing to put up with that and left and so we will likely lose (or at least greatly diminish) what is probably the best show on television. Apparenlty he is going to be working on a Sports Night like show, but based on a Saturday Night Live show rather than ESPN. I also hadn't realized that he wrote A Few Good Men, which I don't like and also The American President, which I do like and doesn't surprise me.
August 14, 2003
Map Quest Aerial Photos
I thought I had posted about this before but I guess not and it is very cool. MapQuest at some point pretty recently added the ability to access aerial (satellite) photos of locations you map with it. Here is the zoom on my building at work. Definitely check it out. Pointed out to me by my friend Michael.
August 11, 2003
Kayak in the water
Well, I finally picked up my Kayak last Wednesday after something like 9 weeks of waiting for it. I took it out on Saturday on the Charles and had a nice time and am discovering which of the accessories I bought work and which don't. The life jacket and paddle both seem great and will be kept. The length of the paddle didn't feel at all too big while on the water. The cart I bought worked but with difficulty and I have now discovered one which is better in a number of respects so I am going to return the one I have. I also bought a headlamp as my main light at night and will return the expensive strobe light I bought. I also returned the pads and strap system for my car and will have to buy a real rack for my car if I want to take the boat farther than the Charles. I probably will go ahead with this at some point but see no rush in it.
Anyway, I won't be out again till I do the cart swap and I also got a big blister on my thumb so want that to heal and may need to buy paddling gloves of some sort.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Really is just an extended episode of the series from somewhere in the middle. One nice thing was that every character's skills get used in this one, whereas many of the episodes ignore Ed's skills It is amazing how much I like Ein, especially given that I am not at all a dog person. ***1/2
August 08, 2003
Links: Trip Log (sort of)
I just read Philip Greenspun's Boston-Alaska-Baja-Boston 2002 trip log and quite enjoyed it. It is only vaguely a trip log with a ton of digressions but the digressions and Greenspun's writing and photos are interesting. Well worth reading.
TV: The Amazing Race
Well, the episode of The Amazing Race last night sucked as the Clowns were eliminated. By far the most likable team in the race and they seemed to really work well together and be willing to do whatever was necessary and split up the hard tasks sensibly. I just started watching this show this season and have kept watching mainly for Jon and Al. Almost all the other pairs are extremely dislikable for one or many reasons. I can't stand Kelly or Jon so hope they lose but otherwise don't much care now.
Great job, guys! Very sorry you didn't win.
Movies: Lost in La Mancha
Saw this documentary about the making and breaking of Terry Gilliam's movie version of Don Quixote. Murphy's Law put an end to this production but it is amazing how on edge the whole production seemed to be even before the worst problems, and it sounds like this situation isn't that uncommon amazingly, despite the absolutely massive amounts of money involved. Gilliam is brilliant but I am not sure as a financial backer that I would want him in charge of things not on the creative side. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the behind the scenes of the film business. ****
August 07, 2003
Red Sox Game
A friend from California was in town last night in his annual vacation following the WBC which he is taking in Boston this year. He had Red Sox tickets and offerred to take me with him and I accepted as I don't go to nearly enough games, given I work three blocks away and they are my favorite team - I am just not that into baseball. We arranged to meet at BeerWorks 1.5 hours before the game but that turned out to be not nearly early enough - there was a one hour wait - so we tried a second and then third alternative of Longhorn steakhouse which was actually very good.
We arrived in Fenway just as the National Anthem was being sung and found our good but very cramped seats. Fortunately, the people next to us didn't show up till like the 5th inning which made it a little less bad. Security was also poor and didn't notice my can of soda so I avoided paying $4 for a soda. Pedro Martinez was pitching for the Sox and ended up pitching a complete game to win 4-2 over the California Angels. The ninth inning was made interesting by an error at 1st base by a sub and the Angels ended up getting a man at bat with the bases loaded and a chance to probably win but Pedro picked up the final out for the win.
August 06, 2003
WBC After Action Report
Got back from the World Boardgaming Championships (yeah, I know, pretentious name - I voted against it) Sunday night after a long and exhausting week and drive and slept for 18 hours, waking up only long enough to take a shower and call in sick due to the cold I had got from lack of sleep. Still, it was all worth it as I had a really good time and completely escaped from normal life.
Surprisingly, I don't think I played a single new game but eleven games of Titan takes a ton of time out of the week. I ended up winning the 2 Player tournament giving me my first Titan tournament win in like 18 entries and a ton of finals. Unfortunately, I had to beat my teammate Dave in the final but he returned the favor in the multiplayer final. Not surprisingly, we had them reversed as our team events so scored like 3 points rather than 15 ;(. As usual for the multiplayer final, I was totally exhausted and didn't play well but also was demoralized by horrendously bad masterboard dice. The two player tournament took me 7 games to win 5 rounds as David desJardins and I mutual'd twice and had to restart - thanks David for agreeing to change the rules on this in the middle of the tournament. I also had to come back from big deficits in the first two games and play a bunch of tough players and get a bunch of luck at the end so I was quite proud of the win. Only one easy game in the lot.
I also did well in the Battle Line tourney, making it to the finals and in doing so again having to beat another teammate although here it wasn't either of our team games. Its funny to play such a quick tourney that took a total of like 3 hours for the 6 or 7 games. Ken Guttermuth beat me in a 10 minute final with somewhat better cards. Not sure if I could have done better with my excellent Tactics cards but poor Troop cards.
I also played a bunch of Tichu and a few other games in between things but where I didn't have time for the later rounds. The only semifinal I was particularly sorry to miss was the Euphrat & Tigris one but I have nobody but myself to blame as I only scored literally 1 point in the one heat game I could play, which ran out of tiles. This was by far my worst game ever, but I was trying to win and so had to keep going for big gambles as things got worse and worse. The winner simply always had every tile he could possibly want.
Had a couple of nice dinners and chats as well, including a nice talk with Mike Fitzgerald who found me Saturday morning just before the Titan semis. He has a number of games coming out which all sound quite interesting, if light, and is just a great guy and wonderful at handling both praise and criticism of his games.
I also picked up the Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage email plaque for winning the PBEM tournament 6 months or so ago which was nice. I also had a nice dinner, if quick due to interrupting a game for it, with my father.