Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New blogs. Really, this time.

Yeah, I can't believe it either. The day has finally arrived. We're moving on up to Wordpress.

For occasional posts about specific securities, with a focus on the tiny, obscure stocks I've blogged about here, see Shadow Stocks. No rush to look there right now though, as I've been too busy for the last several hours trying to figure out Wordpress to think much about any specific securities.

For pretty much everything else, see Steam Catapult. See you over there.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sex beats stocks

About a month ago, I contacted one of the founders of Kickstarter about using it to raise funds for a due diligence trip to Alloy Steel International's headquarters in Perth. I wrote,

I know from the Kickstarter site that you're currently only accepting projects through invitations, but I think mine is probably a little different than your typical request, so perhaps you'll make an exception (or connect me with someone who has an invitation to share?). Here's the idea.

I went on to explain that everyone who donated at least $100 to the trip would get a detailed report (one that didn't offer any financial advice and complied with all relevant securities regulations). Those who donated more (say, $300) would get the report along with a conference call with me where they could ask me additional questions, etc. The Kickstarter founder I contacted thought it was an interesting idea referred me to his staff members who review ideas for inclusion on the site.

One of those staff members sent me a rejection note a few days later. She wrote that "projects must also engage the community and offer tangible rewards".

I hadn't thought about that much in recent weeks. I've had my hands full with the launch of Portfolio Armor and a few other things, plus after my conversation with Alloy Steel exec Greg Muller followed by the company's revenue release earlier this month, I feel less of an immediate need to go to Perth. But I was reminded of this by an e-mail from a fellow AYSI shareholder yesterday. So I went to Kickstarter's website to copy its URL to paste in my e-mail reply and saw on the homepage this project, that did pass muster with the staff (and has raised more than double its goal in donations so far):

Coming & Crying: real stories about sex from the other side of the bed

About this project

Meaghan and Melissa (or,1 "we") met because of the internet and writing, and writing about sex (and blogging about writing about sex). Almost since then, we've been talking about how we need to do a book like this: a collection of stories (and photographs) from the messy, awkward, hilarious, painful, and ultimately true side of sex.

As part of this project, all of the money we raise together will go towards producing the book and to paying its contributors. The more we bring in, the more we can put out -- a prettier book, bigger take-home for our writers and photographers, and fancier packages for all those who pledge.

There's a ~2 minute video at the link above that gives you a better idea of what these two gals are working on.

I feel like a knucklehead now. I could have proposed as a project a documentary about sex in Perth, with its own alliterative title -- "Sexual Perversion in Perth" (betting that none of the Gen Yers on the Kickstarter staff would be familiar with Mamet play that title rips off) -- and then if I got accepted and funded, did my due diligence on Alloy Steel surreptitiously while I was down there.

1That's a "comma of apposition" for you aspiring grammarians out there.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Traveling without moving

Thursday afternoon, while working on my laptop at a local Starbucks, I ended up having a conversation with a couple nearby. It turned out they were from Paris, in the U.S. on vacation. Nothing too odd about that, but this particular Starbucks was tucked into a stretch of U.S. Route 46 chockablock with hubcap shops, fast food restaurants, hourly-rate motels, used car lots, a couple of BYO strip clubs, and a recently-demolished massage parlor. I go to that Starbucks sometimes because it gets a lot of late afternoon sunlight, but it's not somewhere I'd think of taking friends from out of town. Not exactly a tourist hotspot.

The couple explained that they had taken a year off to travel around the U.S., and had bought a used minivan (for $3k) at a used car lot near that Starbucks last spring. Now they were back after circling round the country and taking a detour into Mexico. They were planning to drive up to Canada for a couple of weeks to renew their tourist visas, but first they wanted to take their new American friend -- the guy who sold them the minivan -- out for a nice French dinner.

They asked if I knew any good French restaurants and I gave them a few ideas, and then let them borrow my laptop to book a hotel for the night. The husband gave me his business card: back in Paris he's a r├ędacteur en chef of a magazine. His wife was an editor too. The night before, I had been arguing with Trumwill on his blog that the class distinctions he and one of his guest bloggers frequently make are mostly pointless, partly because the demarcations they try to draw are so porous. And here, as if to underline my point, were two Parisian journalists befriending an American used car dealer.

Recently, on the 4HWW forums, someone mentioned CouchSurfer.org, a site built to connect couch surfers with hosts willing to let them sleep on their couches. In one of the testimonials on that site, a host said that hosting a foreign couch surfer was like "traveling without moving". Meeting that French couple in the Little Ferry Starbucks reminded me of that line, which in turn reminded me of where I'd first heard it: in Dune. Embedding is disabled for this one, but click the link and see 1:47-1:57 of the clip.

Dune: Folding Space

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Introducing Portfolio Armor

What Portfolio Armor is:

A site that enables investors to insure their stock and ETF investments (including ETFs that track indexes such as the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average) against market downturns as well as company- and sector-specific risk with put options.

Why put options?

Only put options protect you against losses when stocks or ETFs jump or "gap" downward. Limit sell orders don't do this. For more on put options, and how they can be used to hedge your risk, see Portfolio Armor for individual investors.

How it works:

You enter your stock and ETF holdings, and the maximum downside risk you are willing to accept for each holding. Then, using its proprietary algorithm, Portfolio Armor shows you the optimal put options to buy to obtain the level of protection you want at the lowest price.

Templates for the new blogs

Yes, there will be new blogs. The job is now in the hands of my crackerjack project manager Matt from Simande, who sent this list of 100 free WordPress themes to look at (he'll add logos and graphics the logo designer created). I have a theme in mind from this list, but I thought I'd see if anyone else had any favorites from the list.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hitler on the GOP victory in Massachusetts

Downfall parodies never get old. This is the funniest yet.

BTW, I caught the last hour or so of Downfall on satellite a few years ago. It was quite good. Looks like Bruno Ganz won the German equivalent of a best actor Oscar for his turn as Hitler. Deservedly so.

Update on the OII/TRMA pairs trade.

On Jan 11th, I mentioned opening a pairs trade going long OII and short TRMA. Today I got stopped out of OII for a loss of slightly less than 9.5% and I covered my TRMA position for a little bit better than a 16% gain, so I made about 6.5% on this pairs trade. Not a home run, but better than a sharp stick in the eye.

More details on the Short Screen message boards.