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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Things I learned from Thanksgiving

My family and I spent most of Thanksgiving in and around the New York area.

There seemed to be a lot of people driving this year. We saw license plates from at least 20 states including from as far away as Washington State and international travelers from Quebec. Thank you TSA ;-)

6 states, 900 miles, 18 hours of driving and all the friends, family and food I can take seemed a lot easier when I was younger.

The trip was great and well worth it but I am thankful to be home and have a day of rest and recovery.

It’s funny how one can subconsciously look for familiar icons while traveling. Like spotting a guy wearing a Redskins cap in a hotel lobby in the heart of enemy territory! I complimented him and his choice of head wear.

My son, a chip off the old block, purposely wore his redskins LaRon Landry hoodie just to show off his pride and needle his grandfather.

Old , elderly Wise elders of the family give historic directions. I asked for directions to a particular store about 2 – 3 miles away in the NY city area and proceeded to learn the entire 40 year history of practically every landmark building along the way.

Like how the satellite building of a state community college was once the hospital where my wife and her sisters were born.

Or the now cardiac health center was once a family owned deli and apartment building and the former owners were a wonderful Italian couple whose kids are now all grown up and not running the family business.

But one landmark is still there and thriving and has not changed much . . . Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters.

Desserts are the opposite of stressed. I had a lot of one and not so much of the other.

Just because they happen to have a famous baseball team, the Bronx thinks they can lay claim to the title “All American City”.

My cousins are planning an east coast tour of major league baseball parks ! Oh to be young again. I'm sure nothing will stop them from their quest, except possibly the fact that one cousins wife is expecting their first born in . . . oh about 2 weeks ! Poor kids, They have no clue how much their lives are about to change . . . ;-)

My kids think NY city is totally cool (yes, yes it is) and has awesomely WOW! – oh my gosh – tall buildings and bridges. They are still working the kinks out of their necks ;-)

If you really want to drive around in Manhattan, get behind a taxi cab and stay close. You’ll get around just fine. ( I actually learned this years ago , and yes, we really did drive into Manhattan)

Kids can get away with a lot. William, my 4 year old, yelled out “Hello Everybody” while we drove around Manhattan. He got a lot of smiles, waves, laughs and happy honks.

I get a totally different reaction when I yell out the window at somebody.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Impact of Irish Bailouts

So the markets are reacting favorably to the Irish agreeing to be bailed out. But I believe this will be short lived.

The bailout has not actually occurred yet so there are plenty of “terms” to be worked out but suffice it to say the market “likes” the stability of an agreement.

The Terms of the agreement will be in the form of loans from other countries such as Germany and these terms will most certainly raise rates and in turn force Ireland to raise corporate and income tax rates.

These rate increases will affect companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Bank of America (BAC), Merrill Lynch, Google (GOOG) and Intel (INTC).

Of course these companies are in Ireland in the first place because of the lower subsidized rates (the lowest in the Euro-Union) that existed before and only helped to fuel the financial and international trade imbalance which existed and contributed to the need for this bail out in the first place.

The companies are not threatening to leave at this stage, but the statement - signed by executives from the four companies - does point out that while Ireland's tax rate may be low in European terms, it is not when compared with Singapore, India and China.

John Herlihy, head of Google's European headquarters in Dublin, said ''anything that impinges on Ireland's competitiveness is going to be a big thing for Google''.
So how did this mess happen? Well in some ways, it is the same greed and deals that ran rampant in the US which has contributed to the Irish demise.

Ireland has three big insolvent banks and several other smaller, equally insolvent financial institutions we won't bother to mention by name.

Ireland also has a large number of subsidiaries of European, British and American Banks. These subsidiaries are often registered as Irish and therefore on Ireland's tab not the nation of the parent bank. This often gets forgotten in the excitement.
Ireland also houses a very large chunk of the world's Special Investment Vehicles (SIV's) which are the shell companies which house trillions and trillions of dollars and Euros and pounds worth of Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs).

These are what Warren Buffett described as "weapons of financial mass destruction".
These CDOs, in turn, house an equal or greater nominal value of Credit Default Swaps (CDS) written upon the CDOs.

These subsidiaries were often registered as completely Irish companies. In other countries these same companies faced tighter and stricter policies. So the Irish registered subsidiaries provided a loop hole.

Rumors have it that banks would work the deals outside of Ireland, then send a banker over to Ireland, get them to sit at 'their' desk in Ireland, in the Irish bank, and do the deal there. The legal registration of the deal and the 'oversight' were all Irish. This is known in the financial world as jurisdictional arbitrage. You and I would call it cheating if we were feeling charitable and lying if we weren't.

The deal was properly overseen and approved by the appropriate Irish financial authorities and the profits would be banked at a very happy Irish bank. If any management of the 'deal' was required an Irish company would be hired, there are many, and an Irish manager often living not far from Cork, would 'manage' the money in and out.

Any bad deals, losses and improper oversight is question of wealthy bankers from all countries and the Irish companies, not the people. It should be the bankers who made the losses who should take them.

But as is the case with the US financial and economic woes, it is often the people who pay in the terms of lost jobs, property, income, and higher taxes.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

NFL Uniforms - The Source?

So this week we had a leak of new Nike NFL Uniforms hit the web.

By now everyone knows they are fake.

But where did they come from?

Who drew them? What is the source?

And Why?

Well, here at Fumbled Returns we strive to uncover the truth behind the story.

To separate fact, from fiction.

We of course started with the various news agencies, press releases and sports talk shows.

It did not take long for us to realize that there were basically three variations of this story.

1) It was real – later supposedly proven to be false
2) It was a hoax – generated by lonely bored and or failed graphic artists.
3) It was really a conspiracy theory hatched by the NFL and Nike to judge market and fan reaction to their concept drawings.

Which one of these is the truth, if any; and how do we go about exposing the real source of this news and sports story?

Lets start with the last one. The conspiracy theory - With a little of "hoax" thrown in for good measure...

If one were to expand this hoax and conspiracy theory in a predictable next step, we should soon see one of these “concept” drawings show up as a real true prototype.

And when you have a prototype, you have the chance and the opportunity for theft, smuggling and illegal transport of goods for monetary gain.

I believe that the feds have already taken action to stop this from happening by instituting new scanning

and pat down procedures for the TSA. How else would one hope to uncover smuggling of these concept prototype uniforms?

Don't believe that lady could hide a uniform in there? Well if Leslie Johnson, the wife of the arrested PG executive, Jack Johnson, can stuff $80K in here bra, you can see why hiding a uniform just might be plausible.

I applaud the TSA for “checking out” every potential passenger traveling into and out of airports. But I believe there is a better way to catch a thief. And the source.

Fraudulently claim to be that said source yourself!

Following the money is often the best, quickest and most reliable method to getting to the root of a problem, investigation or uncovering the source.

So here is my solution.

Post up on Zazzle the new concept uniforms and sell them for $19.95 a piece.

Trust me, real , fake , liked, disliked or otherwise, you will get a lot of interest and people wanting to buy them if for no other reason, memorabilia.

If they are really test marketed by the NFL and Nike as a hoax , I guarantee that you will have them jumping all over you with their lawyers and the conspiracy theorists will be proven correct.

If they are really from bored lonely fans and failed artists, and that person(s) sees you making tons of money off of their idea, you will be contacted.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Holiday Stress

Thanks to the TSA, it looks like Holiday Travel will have a few extra perks this year...

All strips courtesy TSA and Cartoons of the Week.


Monday, November 15, 2010

No 2 minutes drills this week...

Well, at least we don't have to worry about Donovan being able to run a two minute offense this week... Bummer :-(

Go DeSean! (he's on my fantasy league...)


5 for 5

Wow, I knew they were working out a deal but this is truly surprising.

Guess Donovan was right when he said he wanted to stay a Redskin. This is more than I was expecting. 3 years with maybe a 4th but FIVE? !!!

And if the rumors are true about the $78 million contract extension, $40 million of which is guaranteed. This is not a bad deal for either party.

Donovan has average $9 million per year prior to this so it fits very nicely into the scheme of things.

Not too shabby for a hall of fame caliber QB and a 2nd round trade.

Congratulations to Donovan!

Congratulations to the Redskins!

Though, it does make me wonder what he could have gotten if he had been able to run a two minute drill....

Now go out there and toast the Eagles tonight!


Parity vs Crazy

I posted last week about parity in my Borderless league and how crazy this NFL season has been.

Week 10 has continued the crazyness.

Jason Whitlock had a very interesting article about this. I was working on a similar train of thought regarding the Cowboys game and the new interim coach, but as is always the case, somebody else said it much better than I could ever hope to.

So here is the article and link. Thanks to Jason.

Explaining the NFL's craziness

You can blame parity, the salary cap, free agency, officiating or even your bookie.
I’ll blame coaching.

Coaching an NFL team is quite possibly the hardest thing to do in sports, more difficult than playing quarterback or hitting .330 for the Kansas City Royals.
Football is a military sport. A coach leads his men into war. Just imagine if a significant percentage of General Patton’s soldiers had multimillion-dollar contracts and know-it-all agents chirping in their ears.

Further imagine there was a 24-hour TV network dedicated to second-guessing Patton and his infantrymen and all-talk radio stations located at every combat zone dissecting the day’s events. Suppose Patton’s savviest soldiers spent part of their day plotting how to build their brands in hopes of landing a reality TV show or a post-career broadcasting job.

It’s impossible to lead nowadays.

Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and Chuck Noll had it very easy compared to Tom Coughlin, Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton.

Lombardi and Co. excelled during the era when a coach’s voice rang loudest, when a coach had all the power. A coach could be an absolute bully during the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. He could say and do pretty much anything he wanted. Players feared him.
Marvin Lewis fears Chad Ochocinco. Brad Childress fears his entire roster.
In the new millennium, there has been only one coach who has been able to build and sustain a hold on his football team week to week and year to year -- Bill Belichick.
His success in the postseason, his ruthlessness in regards to dismissing players and his relationship with Tom Brady have allowed Belichick to rule the way Lombardi, Noll, Don Shula and Bill Parcells once did.

Belichick’s competitors pull off an old-school imitation for a stretch of games or perhaps a season, but eventually they lose their grip on their football team. Even Belichick's team can still lose it -- look at the 34-14 loss to the Browns last week.
Mike Tomlin is a good coach. But his Steelers laid an egg in a high-profile, important football game Sunday night. They weren’t ready. They got smacked at home in the marquee game of the weekend.

Like Tomlin, the Giants' Coughlin has a Super Bowl title on his resume. For five weeks, the Giants looked like the best team in the NFC. Sunday, the Cowboys and their interim coach, Jason Garrett, embarrassed the Giants.

The AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs fell behind the last-place Broncos by 35 points. Chiefs coach Todd Haley has been trying to impersonate Parcells for two seasons. Sunday, when his team got exposed, Haley resorted to postgame whining and finger-waving because mean-old Josh McDaniels scored two second-half touchdowns.
It seems that every good NFL team has at least one head-scratching, let’s-reevaluate performance this season. There is no Super Bowl favorite. There are 10 to 12 teams that could win it all if they get on a roll.

It’s coaching. And I don’t mean bad coaching. It’s simply much harder to coach in this current era. It’s more difficult for a coach to sell and get players to buy into an overarching theme for an entire season.

There are more voices in a player’s head. Take the Cowboys. At one point, you had Jerry Jones, Wade Phillips and head-coach-in-waiting Garrett all leading the Cowboys.
Lombardi was the absolute final word in Green Bay. What he said was all that mattered. Now you have star general managers and team presidents and offensive and defensive coordinators.

Plus, you have a commissioner, Roger Goodell, who has appointed himself as the league’s top cop. The players fear the commissioner far more than they do their head coach. Goodell suspends and fines players for their conduct on and off the field. Discipline/punishment used to come from the head coach. Now it comes from the commissioner’s office.

Punishment is a primary tool in leadership.

It’s impossible to lead nowadays, which makes it impossible to predict what will happen week to week.

I’m sticking with my preseason prediction that the Steelers will win the Super Bowl. They’re the most complete team.

I planned on ending this column ranking the 10 best teams. I can’t do it. It would just be a lot of speculation and guesses. In no particular order, the Steelers, Patriots, Giants, Jets, Ravens, Colts, Saints, Eagles, Packers and Falcons can all win the Super Bowl.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Should you buy the GM IPO?

This week the much anticipated and highly hyped IPO of the Government Bailed out GM is expected to hit the market.

Should you buy in to the hype, the IPO and the stock?

Lets look.

First of all, even though the government bailed out GM with your and my tax money, you and I are NOT investors or “interested / invested” parties. The big name bankers, financial institutions are. They are the ones bringing this IPO to market, setting the initial price offering, and stand to make the most initial profit. This is really pissing off disappointing a lot of common investors and taxpayers.

Money is power, and you already gave yours away to the government. So stop complaining. But that does not mean you and I cannot invest in GM. It just means that it is a bit riskier.

What usually happens with highly anticipated and high demand IPO’s is that the offering price is what the institutional backers get as a strike price and the demand and hype drives the pricing up for the individual investors.

So, what is the initial public offering price?
Currently it is somewhere between $26 and $29 per share.

In fact, if I were the government, I’d be more than a little annoyed at this IPO price. The government got 60% control of the company for a price of $44 a share. This means even at $29 a share, the government is losing 35 cents on the dollar. Yet the financial institutions are going to make, in all likely hood, a nice tidy profit. Recent reports have demand for the shares at 6 times the number being offered. This demand is certainly going to drive up the price.

Generally I do not invest in IPO’s because historically they are not profitable and actually tend to underperform the market over the short term. This is because most IPO’s are offered after the company has made money doing whatever they have done and are looking to pay off debt and or generate cash for other investments.

There have been numerous studies on IPO’s over the years and many have shown variations of the following:

1. Most were afflicted by declining sales and earnings trends and slip in profitability within 2 years of their IPO. Very few (about 10 -15%) showed improvement.
2. In fact, over half show quarterly earnings drop in the first four quarters after the IPO occurs.

In all fairness, the winners enjoy on average price increase of 134% from their IPO dates and 71% from the close of their first trading date. 76% outperformed the overall market from their IPO date and 72% outperformed from the first day's close. Admittedly, the last part shows significant promise - that is until you realize that most of the better IPO's are already pre sold to institutional investors.

So, how should the average investor play the IPO market or more to the point the GM IPO?

You could look for the quick hit or profit but this is highly risky. Only the best and most highly anticipated IPO’s of profitable and well run companies make the good money and investments. And even those do not always show the stock profit initially.

That is because the hype has already built the price up over the IPO pricing that the institutional investors get. In fact if one were to look only at the best and most profitable IPO’s you will see that at some point the price often falls off a bit and only after it goes though a consolidation phase does it actually show a gain for the average investor.

The big question: Is GM one of these hyped and well run companies?

They are certainly generating a lot of interest. So I think it is safe to say that the “hype” factor is in full play here.

But are they a well run company?

If you have followed their company reports recently, and watched their dog and pony show, you will see that they have in fact been able to not only repay many of their debt obligations but actually make a profit. The big question is will they be able to sustain this profitability and more importantly show a profit for the average investor?

There are pros and cons to the GM IPO.

First the some of the Cons:

GM is prohibited from paying dividends as a condition of many of its loans. Meanwhile, it must make payments on new preferred stock, given to the United Auto Workers, before paying a dividend. This isn't the GM of old. Don't expect dividends anytime soon.

Much of the proceeds of the IPO will go to service obligations to the UAW, including pension liabilities.

Gotta Love those Unions.... ;-)

Now for some of the Pros:

They are obviously re-engineering their brand to try and be more green and competitive. Which is a good thing.

Also, a huge element to the government's takeover of GM was a provision that allows the company to hold onto nearly $16 billion in operating loss credits. Over the coming years the GM will be allowed to use these prior losses to offset future tax bills.

Sounds like a pretty good deal right? Essentially the company lost money, then got bailed out and went through a restructuring, but keeps the 'benefits' of losing money in the past.

Gee, that is a sweet deal!

I think, at least for the first few years, GM will have enough support from government credits to keep it profitable and competitive.

Over the years I have only played in the IPO opening day game twice. This was with Visa and Chipotle. Another well hyped and sucessfull IPO was Google. I thought about Google but did not buy in at first.

All these were well hyped, well known companies, and well run.

So, how did they do?

Visa was priced at 44 and opened around 60.
Chipotle was priced at 22 and opened at 44.
Pretty nice profits for the institutions huh!.

How did the stock perform once it started trading?
Did the average investor (me for that matter) get that “quick” profit?

Well, depends on how you look at it.




All of them experience a bit of volatility and swings in price but if you look at the first few weeks of trading, the stocks tended to trade within a range before taking off again.

VISA showed some classic triangle and pendant patterns with a well defined resistance level which it finally broke out above 2 - 3 weeks after offering.

CHIPOTLE showed a well defined trading range.

And GOOGLE peaked quicklyfor a 10% gain, but over the next couple weeks drifted back down to its initial opening and support level before take off.

All these stocks showed good strength by NOT falling below their opening range support levels.

In pattern investing we call this consolidating. After a big run up, which is exactly what happens with IPO’s like these, the movement of the stock will look to settle within a new support and resistance range.

The key is this; will the opening days range(s) of the IPO set the new support level.

My advice would be to take the wait and see approach to make sure a new support level is established.

If, you really do want to try for the quick hit profit then I would look to set a buy limit price of about 33% above the offering price. Say somewhere between $34.5 and $38.5 and hope that is good enough to get in on the action and that the new GM support level is higher than that.

Me, I’m going to wait at least a week or two to see what it does.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stop, Drop and Roll

The stock market stopped its multi week rally with a nearly 2 point drop across the board; Reminding all investors that they need to roll with the punches. Except many of them went running to Gold and other precious metals sending the already inflated prices even higher. That is OK because it only creates more opportunity for the rest of us to buy on the dips and sell later on the highs.

My new investment portfolio courtesy of Sharebuilder was up over 5% before this week and I am still up nearly 3% overall. I’ve had a couple big winners so far this month and one of them I actually managed to invest in. Metricity (MOTR) is up 30% and Lincoln Educational Services is up 18%.

So with my automatic stop gain / loss (drop) settings, in this case “gain”, I’ve already locked in a 30% gain in one of my investments after just 10 days. We will have to see how the rest of the month plays out (rolls along).

The winning play of the Falcons – Ravens game was an example of drop and roll.

Or rather stiff arm push off to the head, knock the player down and watch him stumble and roll to the ground while you catch the game winning touchdown pass.

That one marvelous 33 yard TD, no penalty called, play was worth an extra 10 fantasy points for my Borderless League team. That would be 6 for the TD, 1 for the pass yardage, and 3 bonus for passing over 300 yards. That one pass play gave Matt Ryan 316 yards and me 10 fantasy points! Wow!

Speaking of wow, this year the league is incredibly even and exciting!

At this point in the season, both the East Coast Conference and West Coast Conference have their top 4 teams with identical records.

That is the top two teams in each conference are 6 -3 and each of the next two teams are 5 – 4. And, coincidentally, each 6 – 3 team is playing an intra-league 5 – 4 team this week!

With only 3 games, after this week remaining before the playoffs, things are getting really really exciting ! Oh yeah, my team (The Fun Bunch) is 6 – 3 in the East Coast. I’ve won 3 in a row now, so hopefully my winning streak will not stop, causing me to drop in the standings, and leaving the playoff race(s) up to the roll of the dice.

Until next time, Be Good, Do Well, Have Fun.

And remember Stop, Drop and Roll !!!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Legendary Sports Veterans

I found this great sports article that honors veterans. All credit goes to back to this link.

If you see a veteran today (or any day for that matter), please be sure to thank him or her for their service and dedication.

Here, we mention some of the professional athletes who have served our nation on the frontlines during war.

Bob Feller: He was the first major leaguer to volunteer for active duty, enlisting in the Navy on Dec. 9, 1941, two days after Pearl Harbor.

Grover Cleveland Alexander: During the middle of his 373-win (tied third all-time) pitching career, Alexander was an Army sergeant fighting in France for about a year duing World War I. He suffered shell shock, partial hearing loss, seizures that grew increasingly worse and other illnesses that were either caused or aggravated during his service.

Yogi Berra: A Navy gunner's mate, his boat reached the shores of Normandy a few days after D-Day. Two years later, the catcher made his debut with the New York Yankees. He went on to win three MVP awards and make the Hall of Fame.

Rocky Bleier: As his 1968 rookie season was about to end with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bleier was drafted into the Army. He volunteered for duty in Vietnam and arrived there in May, 1969. That Aug. 20, Bleier was hit by rifle fire in his left leg and moments later, was hot by shrapnel fro a grenade in his right leg.
Doctors told Bleier he would not play football again, but he returned to the Steelers in 1971. Paired in the backfield with Franco Harris, Bleier was an integral part of the Steelers' four Super Bowl championship teams of the 70s.

Al Bumbry: Fewer than 10 major leaguers served in Vietnam. Bumbry earned a Bronze Star there during his service as a platoon leader. Soon after getting back to the United States, Bumbry began his 1973 American League Rookie of the Year season as a Baltimore Orioles outfielder. He played 14 major league seasons.

Roger Staubach: The 1963 Heisman Trophy winner as the quarterback of the U.S. Naval Academy team, Staubach could have requested a military assignment in the U.S. after his graduation. Instead, he volunteered to go to Vietnam, where he served as a supply officer.
Staubach began his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys at age 27 in 1969. He retired in 1979 as one of the game's most successful and exciting QBs, and was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Don Steinbrunner: Played offensive tackle with the Browns in 1953, but was forced to retire because of a knee injury.
Steinbrunner soon joined the U.S. Air Force. He went to Vietnam in 1966, and on July 20, 1967, his plane was shot down in South Vietnam, killing all five crew members.
Steinbrunner was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Purple Heart.

Pat Tillman: An Army Ranger, he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Tillman had played safety for four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, making Sports Illustated's first-tea all-pro team in 2000. He finished the 2001 season and decided to enlist in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Ted Williams: Considered by some as baseball's greatest hitter ever, Williams served a total of nearly five years in World War I and the Korean War -- both stints during the prime of a playing career that ended with a .344 batting average and 521 home runs.
Williams served in the Marine Corps and Navy. Much of his World War II duty was as a flight instructor. He flew 39 combat missions in Korea. He was awarded an Air Medal for a mission during which the hydraulics and electrical systems on his plane were hit by flak and ruined, and yet he managed to fly the crippled plane back to its base.

Some individuals who did not engage in combat get special mention. For instance, heavyweight champion Joe Louis, regarded by some as the greatest boxer ever, enlisted in the Army in 1942, during World War II. The U.S. military was then racially segregated and Louis, an African-American, was assigned to a cavalry unit at Fort Riley, Kansas.

The Army soon realized the positive impact Louis's personality made on the troops, and felt the best way he could serve was to visit troops around the globe. Louis fought exhibition matches and also proved to be a master recruiter.

Obviously this list is far from complete. If you wish to add to, or comment on this post, please feel free to do so.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Caption This !!!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This week we saw -

Pike called up from the nether worlds to take command beside his highly effective offensive line and teammates.

BTW – That would be Tony Pike of the Carolina Panthers. Not Captain Pike of Star Trek but hey, I could not resist.

The Panthers burned through Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen and finally called Pike to get him some playing time because , well, just because.

With seemingly ever star name either out or on the bench, this team is really hurting.

But honestly, I can’t decide who is hurting more. Panthers, Bills or Cowboys.

The Bills proved that they stink no matter what country they are in.

They Cowboys proved that there is no low too low for them to go this year.

If I were Jason Garrett, and thank god I’m not, I’d be worried.

Hey Jason, here is a tip from a devoted Redskins fan. Keep calling up those wonderful passing plays!

And on a more positive note.

The Browns took it to Uncle Bill and the Pats! (I actually picked that one in my pickem league)

I know, everyone else was baffled too.

The Redskins didn’t lose.

And I am still winning the division in both my leagues thanks in part to my being able to (unbelievably) pick up Jacob Tamme off of waivers this week. If he is still available in yours, he is definitely worth a consideration.

!!! UPDATE !!!

Cowboys dot Com site goes down due to registration failure !!!

Default Network Solutions page with two kids playing soccer is shown instead of all the wonderful personnel and player headlines !!!

Ha ! Ha ! Ha !


Monday, November 8, 2010


I read a headline that stated Walgreens (WAG) (on my watch lists) is suing Wegmans over the use of their scripted "W".

Walgreens claims the script is too confusing to consumers.

The stylized “W” that Wegmans uses in its logo is too close to the style of the letter Walgreens uses, according to a Walgreens lawsuit filed in Virginia.

Wegmans said they used the logo style decades ago, and resurrected it recently.

“We were surprised to learn of this lawsuit, since Walgreens did not contact us with any concerns prior to filing it,” said Jeanne Colleluori, Wegmans spokeswoman.

“Our script design has been in use since 2008, and was crafted to look like the logos our company used in the 1930s and 1940s. We don’t think that there is any real risk of customer confusion between the two companies.”

OK, so I do see that it is similar but not exact.
In reality, I think the fonts are totally different.

I do see the value in a company protecting it's brand.
And I do see Wegmans arguement that they have used that font before and that, according to them, Walgreens did not even attempt to contact them before filing the suit.

But Wegmans also uses different fonts for their logos as well.

Such as this one...

If I were Wegmans, I wouldn't worry. I do not see the similarity nor do I find these logos the least bit confusing.

What I do find confusing is this!

The Washington Nationals Logo.

If I were the Nationals, I'd be worried.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Going Orange

We have all heard the phrase Going Green, well this month I’m going Orange.
As in Orange, ING sharebuilder, investment accounts.

I’ve had an ING savings account for several years now and have always known about their sharebuilder investment services but have never decided to take advantage of their services until now.


Well, two reason really.

First, I already had the bulk of my investments in company sponsored 401K type plans and larger ETF accounts that I rarely traded in or made any changes to more than once or twice a year at most. So the costs of these accounts to me was not very much at all.

Secondly, up until a couple – three years ago, I never really got into individual investing much. Partly because of fees, I thought they were too high and would eat into my profits too much if I ended up doing a lot of trading. And, partly because I didn’t think I could do as well as the professionals.

Well, as it turns out, I was incorrect in my assumptions on both counts.

Shortly before I started this blog, I decided to do something like an “individual investor experiment”.

I thought I had a few really good stock screens and filters to pick potentially good stocks for investments and I was curious about stock patter investing. So I started tracking my watch lists and trying to “hit” certain patterns.

So how have I done?

Over the past couple years, via tracing my individual stock trades with Covestor, I have maintained over 23% return. Though, at times it was much higher (60%) and much, much lower (-40%), overall I think I did OK.

Also, though not independently tracked, my monthly watch lists have done reasonably well too. My 2009 watch lists for instance, have returned, on average, 23% to date and if I factor in stop losses, that average jumps up to 30% return to date.

One of the really cool ideas about Covestor is that any member can track his or her funds, share the results and ideas with the rest of the Community and even the world, and even set up a model portfolio for others to follow and invest with. If they do, you could be paid, somewhat like a broker, for this.

Well, trading in one or two stocks a month does not a portfolio make.
And in order to open a model portfolio and participate in the program you have to actively invest in said model at least $10K.

For my “individual investor experiment” I did invest my own money, obviously, but I started with an amount that I felt was enough to offset fees of a couple trades a month, yet if I lost it all, I would not be crushed or put myself, and my family in financial Armageddon. Needless to say, this $10K amount is much more than I risked or currently “play with” as an individual trader.

Over the course of this blog, I have been using Firstrade as my brokerage for individual trades. They do not really have a minimum amount for maintaining or opening an account, nor are their fees really really high. They charge $6.95 a trade.

I have been pleased with their services and site and would recommend them to anybody who asks. BTW, Scottrade is the other online brokerage I have used before and they are equally as good as Firstrade.

However, at $7 a trade, if I traded my starting lineup watch lists each month that would be $140 dollars a month (buy and sell) in fees and nearly $1700 a year! For my experiment of playing individual investor trading, that was and still is prohibitively expensive and TOTALLY out of the question.

BTW, even for a $10K investment portfolio, $1700 in yearly fees is also totally out of the question too!

So, what to do?

I realized that what I really wanted to do was independently have my watch lists tracked and maybe some day be at a point to open a model portfolio on a site such as Covestor.

This would require me to actively invest in my watch lists. And to find an economical way to do so.

ING rates are some of the best in the industry. One reason why their best rates are so good is because to take advantage of them, you can only trade when they do their “bulk” sharebuilder trading on Tuesdays. When I first started trading I came up with a watch list of stocks based on my screens and out of those look for trends and or patterns to invest in.

I felt in order to fully take advantage of trends and stock movements, the only on Tuesdays would be a bit limiting. And for the most part, this is true. However, now that I have over 2 years of data go research I come up with a several insights.
One, I have averaged nearly 2 stock trades a month. That is 4 x 7 = $28 in fees.

That translates into $336 minimum in fees per year.

Guess what? Based on my returns, that is still too high.

Two is that though the only on Tuesdays does not work for really short term quick hype hits or trends, but over the course of the year, it would really does not negatively impact my overall returns.

Three, I have noticed that there are some stocks which consistently or at the very least regularly show up on my screens and or watch lists. Sometime they are always there, sometime the drop off only to show up again a few months later.
Four, as I pointed out before, my watch lists over time are just as if not more effective as my individual pattern investing of one or two stocks a month.

So, I have taken the plunge with Sharebuilder and will be using them to invest in and track my watch list investments.

What I like:

Cost – Sharebuilder has an “Advantage Plan” that charges a $12 monthly fee and gives you 12 free trades per month.

Ease of use - Everything was easy to set up (I use my Orange savings account to transfer money free of charge) and the layout is easy to navigate and understand.

Good Reports – You can lookup a stock and view a rather good report that gives all the basic information that one would look for when researching a company and it’s stock. (available only through the Advantage program)

Range of available Investments - stocks, bonds, ETF’s, Funds. Basically anything an average or new investor would want.

Good for New Investors - you can invest as much or as little as you want on any Tuesday you want. They even have a questionnaire for, first timers, that you can go through which gives you different portfolio suggestions based on your answers and "what if" analysis on stocks had you invested in them over a given time period.

What I don’t like:

Their screens and research tools. Though I have to say that there is one which you can screen for recommended stocks based on industry investment grades (A – E). This is similar to MSN Money’s top stocks screener which does give good suggestions.

So, I have set up a Sharebuilder Advantage account.

For 12 dollars a month, I get 12 free trades per month. After that it is $1 a trade. That means for $120 dollars a year (much less than my current $330 or theoretical $1700) I can trade and track a 10 stock portfolio made up from my watch lists. There are no minimum account limits, inactivity fees and because they pool all the trades and monies into Tuesday Trades you are not limited by the cost of the stock either. What I mean by that is one could invest say $50 in a stock. If the stock is $100 a share you get ½ and share. You can’t do this with normal brokers.

I will be maintaining a 10 – 12 stock portfolio based on my watch lists and make my trades on the 1st Tuesday of each month.

I have submitted my change in brokers to Covestor, so once they sync the accounts, they will be tracking my performance.

This month I picked 7 stocks from my starting lineup and 3 from my bench.

Not bad for 4 days worth of trading! Between the elections (the stock market loves Republicans) and some favorable quarterly reports, the Federal Reserve buying actions and a good jobs report, this has been a really good week for most everybody.

We’ll see how I do for the next 12 months and beyond.


Friday, November 5, 2010

What this country really wants...

Is football. Yeah!

And auto tune. Booo!

My kids have been going gaga over these viral videos lately where folks put news casts and events to autotune.

They think it is the funniest thing since loony tunes and pre sliced bread.

So in honor of their viralness I have select two such auto-tune news videos for Fun Strip Fridays. Both feature football though you have to sit through at least half of the first one to get to What people really want and the second one features good ol' Randy Moss.

So without further delay....


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Who Rocks the House?

Anybody who is involved with youth sports knows the cheer "We Rock the House".

Who knew cheerleaders were so politically correct....


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Email Alert!

This is a real email (with names and other sensitive information removed)

From: Woody
To: Doug
Subject: Oh Lord!!!!!!!

JaMarcus Russell works out
Following the Redskins' final practice before players scatter for the bye week, several players took the field for tryouts, including the former Oakland QB.

What the hell is going on with the Redskins?


> From: Doug
> Subject: RE: Oh Lord!!!!!!!
> I don't know, maybe he can block?

Though I have to admit, Jamarcus and Redskins are two words I never thought I'd hear in the same sentence.

I think we just stole the media headline award back from the Vikings!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Head Shot of the Week

Donovan McNabb is practically leading the league in 40+ yard plays so far this season.

This means he is the Reggie Jackson of Football. The home run and all or nothing cleanup hitter.

It makes for exciting highlight reels and lots of hair pulling near misses.
It also makes for a slightly less than perfect completion percentage.

Which is not what the Shanahans want.

They want a pro bowl QB who makes all the right plays, throws, completions and decisions to move his team down field, score points and win games every time on every play.

They want somebody to pick up the playbook and execute it to perfection. You know, just like they drew it up. But so far this season, Donovan has not been able to do that.

And it is not entirely his fault. Not all the good pieces necessary to make everything go as planned are yet in place.

Ever since the beginning of his tenure and the OTA’s, Shanahan has stressed his coaching style, work ethic and attitude. Nothing proved this more than the attendance and treatment of players, including everyones favorite 300+ pound diva, Albert Haynesworth.

This battle is well documented and actually had everybody guessing and offering advice from get rid of him to keep him and go back to the 4 -3.
But as we all know, AH is still with us and in fact is playing better than ever. But more on that later.

With this last though in mind, I think hindsight might prove Shanahans decision to bench Donovan McNabb to be good for the team in the long run.

But what does it do in the short term? It does carry a lot of risk. You introduce uncertainty into every players mind about your confidence in the starting QB. You know, the one you went out of your way to trade for and got rid of Jason Campbell for.

BTW, guess who now has a better QB rating so far this season?
But, guess who has given the franchise hope for success and a belief that we are better now than we were with the other guy.

And yet hope gets benched for book knowledge with only 2 minutes to go in the game and we hit the midpoint of the season in full turmoil and the possibility of winds of change coming.

It’s kind of ironic that we have mid term elections this week, mid point of the season, and change and uncertainty are everywhere.

But here is how I think things will play out.

I’ve heard more than one trainer, coach and advisor say that you do not practice on your weaknesses. Sure it is good to be critical and look to improve and correct your mistakes, but that is not how you achieve greatness.

You practice your strengths. You take what makes you good, what makes you stand out in the field and practice that to make it even better.

Look what has happened with the AH saga. He is now 100% committed to and behind the system. In exchange, the system is using his strengths to their best advantage. Yes he still lines up on the nose from time to time, but he is now playing the gaps much more and more importantly much more effectively because the coaches have adjusted the system to exploit what he does best.

They are practicing the strengths. The strengths of AH and the strengths of the defensive schemes.

Conversely on the other side of the ball. Reportedly The Shanahans have tried to adjust the play book for Donovan, by eliminating certain terminology, calls and plays.

They have tried to retrain him in his mechanics.

They have concentrated on the weaknesses and as a result, the Redskins have not gotten much better.

It appears to still be all about the Shanahan my way or the highway style of coaching and plan.

They have to start putting into practice what Donovan does best. Or at the very least, what he is used to doing best. Just as I think they have done on the defense with AH.

Until this happens, both the coaches and the QB will be just going around in circles and not really improving.

I actually thought benching Donovan might be worth while (I mentioned it last week here). He has a propensity for making bone headed throws and decisions. Benching him was the right decision, just that it was made at the worst possible time (with 2 minutes to go and your best hope for the franchise out on the field when and where it counts during the heat of battle. I just would have done it in between games or at the very worst at half time

By taking Donovan out, Shanahan has said “I don’t think you can help us win the big one yet”. They will take the next two weeks working on a plan to give the team the best chance to win. And Shanahan will give Donovan a chance to prove him wrong.

Hopefully the Shanahans will also get rid of this “my way or the highway” style of coaching the offense and mechanics of the game and play to everyone strengths just as they have with the defense.

But then again, I am not the coach of the redskins, nor am I being paid millions of dollars a year to restore this franchise.

So if they do not do this, I invite them to prove me wrong.


New Plays

This month, as usual, I have quite a variety of stocks on my watch lists.

Some have been on these before, and in fact a couple are very familier names.

Some are pure Momentum Plays such as:


Some are pure Down and Out Plays due for a rebound:


And others are just reporting improved results and greener pastures such as:


And, I even have a Setup (of sorts):

UTX - But you have to look at it over the range of several years...

So without further delay...


MSFT - Microsoft Corp
ADI - Analog Devices Inc
ARO - Aeropostale Inc
EBAY - eBay Inc
LINC - Lincoln Educational Services Corp
RTN - Raytheon Company
TRLG - True Religion Apparel Inc
TSRA - Tessera Technologies Inc
WAG - Walgreen Company


XLNX - Xilinx Inc
CAH - Cardinal Health Inc
MIPS - Mips Technologies Incorporated
MOTR - Motricity Inc
SIGA - SIGA Technologies Inc
UTX - United Technologies Corp


HRB - H&R Block Inc
INTC - Intel Corporation
ASTI - Ascent Solar Technologies Inc
ESIC - Easylink Services International Corp
GPN - Global Payments Inc
HRBN - Harbin Electric Inc
QTM - Quantum Corporation
SDTH - ShengdaTech Inc
TWER -Towerstream Corp

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