Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Governator rules

In the CIA, they say there's no such thing as a coincidence.

Therefore, I must give a hearty "KUDOS" to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for expressing his complete lack of support on a BS bill that the State Assembly sent for his signature in such a subtle, yet clever, way that the intended audience would need the help of the Internets to spell it out for them.

(take the 1st letter of each line of his response and you'll realize why our governor should not be messed with; just ask the Predator...)

Fractals rule my world


A few months ago, I steered my trading boat into the wind and came into touch with a gentleman who has spent 15 years formulating a trading strategy that is at the same time beautifully simplistic yet insanely complex. This dichotomy captivated me, page by page, as I read through the science behind it. He's taken me under his wing and is mentoring me as a trader as I'm keenly interested in what he does.

Fractals are simple. You take a #, then keep multiplying it by the base #, and there's your fractal. For example,

How this relates to trading is fascinating. The charts I monitor are called CVB's, which are constant volume bar charts. This means that a bar is drawn on the chart for every X # of contracts that are traded; the top of the bar represents the highest price traded for those X contracts, the bottom represent the lowest price traded. Let's take a collection of 3 charts, which we shall call n, n+1 and n-1. Let's focus our attention on the n chart which using the fractal example above is 2401 (7x7x7x7). That means that n-1 = 343 and n+1 = 16,807. What you see when you look at these 3 charts is that they look identical...they're just zoomed in versions of one another.

Click the image...your eyes will thank you

What you see above are 3 CVB charts of 343, 2401 and 16,807 contracts for the e-Mini S&P December expiration futures contract (ESZ09). So, each bar represents that # of contracts traded. Now, if you look at the chart on the far right (16,807, the "slowest" of the charts) the portion in the circle is the chart in the middle and the circled portion on the 2401 chart is for the "fastest" chart the 343 on the far left. I squished the bars together on the fastest chart so you could see the resemblance better but you can confirm each of these areas by the time on the bottom of each chart. Notice how each of these charts look the same, at least in the highlighted areas? This is the fractal, in visual form. Each bar on the slower chart is comprised of 7x the data as the next fastest chart. So, each chart is in effect 7x "smoother" as the one before since it's had 7x the data to confirm the price discovery. The faster the chart the more "noise" there is since there's not nearly as much confirmation of areas of support or resistance, which is what traders identify as places to enter/exit a trade. Pretty cool, huh?

In case you're still reading...this business of fractals is pretty out there but effective in how it works. This method of trading does not rely on time--like 99% of the other traders out there swear is important in trading--but rather, takes a very organic view of trading by saying that volume dictates price movement, not time. It makes sense though...price does not move just because 5 minutes have elapsed or because it's 30 seconds later. Price moves on the transactions; the buying/selling of an instrument and this is what we call "price discovery" which is the essence of my job as a trader. Traders test the waters to see what prices will be accepted and rejected and then trade in the direction of least resistance, it's that simple. Investors and hedgers then hop on-board and follow the lead of the traders on the front-line, who have discovered what prices will be accepted or rejected by the Market.

The cool thing about this trading concept is that the strategy/indicator I've been given and spent so much time learning how to use tends to get me into moves earlier and keeps me out of the bad moves which ensures that although I'm on the front-lines, this soldier has the weapons and the intel necessary to stay one step ahead of the enemy.

More trading posts coming up in future posts...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Anvil Shooting

Let's try and get back in the habit of posting fun videos from YouTube every Tuesday like we used to, OK?

This has sort of made the rounds but in case you've not seen it, here is anvil shooting. Maybe the most incredible thing about this is that there's a world champion of such an event. Who knew? It's doubtful it will make the Olympics as an exhibition sport, which is sad, though I'm sure that it might garner a spot in the redneck Olympics in 2018 if the organizers play their cards right.

It's videos like this that remind me of what I miss and don't miss about living in the Midwest.

Miss: people finding another ingenious way to utilize gunpowder for sport.
Don't miss: people finding another ingenious way to utilize gunpowder for sport.

Thanks to Kuka for the heads up on this one...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Reality TV...I'm too smart for this sh*t

He's over reality television, too...

I've had it with reality television. It's been a long time coming and I'm just over it. Watching Cake Boss on TLC Sunday night was the last straw. Don't get me wrong, it's an entertaining show but trying to pass things off as "real" is insulting. The guys dropped a cake down the stairs in the bakery with a camera conveniently located at the bottom of the stairs, a bakery full of completely fake "oh my god!" responses and worse acting than anything Megan Fox appears in, though obviously far less sexy. The gang re-made the cake in an hour and a half (supposedly) which showed off their talents, because they truly ARE immensely talented, though whether they did all this 2 hours before the cake was to be delivered is suspect. I knew it was fake the second it happened and was validated later in the same show when the gang rolled a 400lb cake onto a freight elevator that was located right behind the stairs that were the scene of the crime. Why was the first cake not placed in the freight elevator? Can we just go ahead and agree that EVERY cake they decorate is placed in this freight elevator? C'mon, now...

I guess I'm just too smart and cynical to be the target audience for reality television and I'm OK with that. I have too many other things to do with my time that are far more important than needing to know who the Bachelor picks or if they're gonna hit that deadline in the cake shop. I guess if you go into these shows knowing that they are not "reality" as you and I know it and write them off as pure entertainment and mindless fun, they're watchable. But, the second you start to believe that just because there's not a list of cast members at the end of the show and the people in front of you are using their real names so there's no way they're not actors, you're screwed. You don't need to have a part in a script to dish out a whole lotta acting and bullsh*t, just look at politicians.

It seemed so real...

True story. The first year I moved to SoCal I was at a bar in downtown Santa Monica and late at night a film crew showed up; they were taping elimiDATE, a pretty entertaining dating show that I watched from time to time, so I was excited to see how it played out in person. The couple started dancing with 2 cameras on them filming the drunken, steamy love fest on the dance floor when the producer wrote on a yellow legal pad in thick, bold writing from the sharpie marker "GRAB HER ASS" and held it below the camera, out of sight of the other camera (post would have cleaned that up if it got screwed up). The dude followed his cue and grabbed the girl's ass as the other girl vying for his "love" stood by drinking her vodka/Redbull, waiting for her opportunity to take cues from a legal pad. After hoochie #1 was eliminated and hoochie #2 was crowed the "winner" (of an STD, permanent Drakkar Noir scent and nary a chance of a call from mega-douche if I had to guess) the crew filmed the loser walking across the street. When she got to the other side, the producer yelled at her to come back and try it again, but this time a bit slower with her head down. She obliged and before starting she offered some suggestions, which the producer seemed to like. Once on the other side, she got the OK from the producers, came back, lit up her cigarette and chatted with the producer before going back into the club. 100% scripted. I cannot confirm/deny that hoochie #2 was selected by the producers to be the winner (opposed to the douche contestant) as it happened in the VIP area of the club, though I think we know the answer to that one...

This got me thinking: blog post. Let's divide the reality shows into a few different categories and we'll grade each category of reality TV.

Reality competitions: B+

Great show, very entertaining, not douchy...

Examples: Top Chef, Survivor, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing With The Stars

I don't really have a problem with these shows; my opinion of each show is unique and not a blanket statement like most of the the categories that follow. Shows where there is a cash prize or some title to be earned by successfully navigating your way through the rounds with the jokers, the rounds with the people that make for good TV and finally the genuine competition. They may be heavily produced but you get a genuine sense that what's happening is "real" and not scripted, though I'm hesitant to give them an A as there always seems to be some questionable judging and certain desperate shows (*cough*, American Idol) obviously choose contestants that have no right being there, but will make for good TV.

"Follow along at home or work" shows: D+ (F- for Jon and Kate)

Just do the tattoos, save the drama for the actors...

Examples: Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss, anything that involves cakes, Miami Ink, Choppers Inc., Run's House, Jon and Kate Plus 8

Let me first say this: all these people are hugely talented. Their skills are top notch and I've no qualms about that, whatsoever. What I do have a problem with is the selling out of their name for the sake of a reality show to make some coin. They come off looking like dopes; unprofessional and desperate which ultimately cheapens their name, which is fine because they're probably getting paid more an episode than most of us will make in 6+ months. The sad thing is that TV executives know that there's not really anything exciting about what these people do so they simply use the relative fame/notoriety of these people to deliver their drama/tension agenda to the unsuspecting viewing audience, cuz that's what sells ads. The follow along with people at home stuff is even more horrible; Jon and Kate Plus 8 takes the crown for the worst. Oh and they make more an episode than most of us will make in a year. How's that for fairness?

Romance shows: D

"That's so funny! We totally slept with you on national TV! Now, who do we talk to about getting our own shows?"

Examples: The Bachelor, any ____ of Love show on VH1

Who goes on TV in front of the world to try and find love? People with acting/modeling aspirations, that's who. They try to make it seem like it's real but they are so over-produced that nothing seems genuine. The entire show is scripted from start to finish, no matter how much you think it's not. Ever wonder how they've got 3 different camera angles with no obstructions on every single person in the house at times when something exciting is happening? Oh and when the people say they really fell in love with the star of the show and the waterworks start flowing, you're smarter than that: they fell in love with the thought of the show catapulting their acting/modeling career and now that they're off the show, they're not getting as much airtime as their fellow competitors. Getting axed a couple from the end is the worst cuz you know your chances of getting a spin-off show are all but gone unless you were bat-shit crazy (which probably would have gotten you axed very early on and simply been a highlight on The Soup).

Shows that swear they are real: F

This is an entire episode of the Hills...and they get paid for this...

Examples: The Hills, Laguna Beach, Real Housewives of _____

These are the worst. At least with the VH1 shows they sort of make fun of themselves in the process. The fact that these people want us to believe that what's happening is organic, unscripted and genuine is horrible. The most frightening thing about these shows is how many shows they spawn. Has anyone on The Hills not grabbed their own TV deal? How many different cities/areas do we need Housewives shows for so that everyone can realize what horrible people they are? We get it: there are some painfully horrible people and actors out there but there's no reason we need to see them every week and see as much of them as your programming will allow. There's a simple way to make these shows go away: just stop paying them any attention...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hierarchy of Halloween Candy

In honor of Katie's favorite holiday, Halloween, we're gonna bring back the always popular hierarchy posts. This time, we're gonna tackle Halloween candies.

Now, legal has told me that we need to put a couple disclaimers out there before we start. First, this list is comprised of Halloween-specific candies, not just general candies that you can buy year-round in "normal" sized portions (though most are available in normal sized portions). I love Whatchamacallit's, but they're not available in bite-size portions to hand out to the trick-o-treaters so they're gone. Oh and along those lines, this list includes only the GOOD stuff; toothbrushes, popcorn balls, apples and stuff the cutesy parents would hand out that would subsequently end up in their shrubs is not included on this list. Second, the list could go on for days but I'm going to focus my efforts on candies that were popular when I/we were kids. I don't care about what new stuff they've come out with these days and I doubt you do, either, unless there happens to be a strong reader-base in the 4-15 demographic.

OK, here we go in ascending order leading up to the mother of all Halloween candies.

10. Sixlets

Suck it, M&M's!

I don't know what it is about these weird little M&M knock-off's, but they work. They're just like M&M's...but round...and the different colors taste different. Yeah, I know; it's pretty trippy, man. The best part about Sixlets was the portability and instant gratification they afforded you. Grab that little package with the Sixlets stacked up like different colored chocolate beads, place your teeth between the first and second bead, then pull. The first Sixlet was now in your mouth and squeezing the wrapper from the bottom deposited the rest of the Sixlets in your waiting mouth and you were on to the next candy. No tearing off the corner of the wrapper, no greasy cup to remove before you could enjoy your hard earned candy (c'mon: it was hard work walking a mile and hauling around 5lbs of high fructose corn syrup presented in myriad ways). In that respect, due to the deliciousness and ease of transport and consumption, I think you have call sixlets the crack of the candy world.

9. Tootsie _______

All the Tootsie you could ever ask for...

Where would Tootsie _______ be without Halloween? How many times do you go to the store to buy this stuff when it's not October? Anyway...I can't just limit this to a single Tootsie product. Pops, Midgees, the flavored rolls and every single size log they can make a Tootsie Roll in is included here. I guess Pops are the most desired but for a quick fix, the smallest or 2nd smallest Tootsie Roll is perfect. I'd like to propose an idea to the Tootsie folks. The "inside out" thing is really popular now, like the Reese's where the peanut butter is on the, why not come up with an inside-out Tootsie Pop where it's a sucker on the inside, wrapped in a Tootsie Roll? Brilliant! Oh and a quick rant. Who the hell came up with the chocolate Tootsie Pop? That's like having a caramel with a delicious caramel filling and trying to sneak it in a box of other delicious caramels with various creamy fillings. It just doesn't work and if you think that we're OK with it because the chocolate lollipop on the outside is a different taste and consistency than the Tootsie Roll on the inside, you underestimated our intelligence and discerning tastes. Ditch the chocolate in favor of more orange or try some new about a refreshing mint? Another great idea. You're welcome, Tootsie Roll company.

8. Lemonheads/Cherry-Clan

Not PC | The real lemon juice explains a lot...

These are a killer. Let them get soft so you can sort of peel that ultra-sour shell off and feel your saliva glands pucker up and your face wince in brief pain as the cherry or lemon (pick your poison) smacks you, then quickly disappears and it's time for another one. I loved getting these as a kid and they were pretty rare; I'd maybe come back with 4 or 5 of these in the entire pillowcase. Their scarcity and over-powering pucker power ensures a place on this list and makes me want to go punish my saliva glads ASAP with a Cherry Clan bomb.

7. Starburst

This would take me an hour to open...

I'm more of a chocolate/savory kid of candy dude, but there's something about Starburst that gets me every time. Do I care which flavor I eat? Nope, though I think the strawberry and orange flavors are king; lemon is easily traded. The biggest gripe with Starbust is the packaging. You gotta have the dexterity of a surgeon to open that wrapper and when you've just dumped a pillowcase full of candy on the floor, who has time to undo candy origami?

6. Kit Kat

Don't gimme a break, just gimme the whole damn thing...

This always seemed like the Rolls Royce of candy. It's impeccably clean, crisp, the wrapper seems like a tailored suit made for the 2 sticks of deliciousness inside; perfect. This was typically one of my most saught after candy commodities. I would be positioning my portfolio to offload copious quantities of Smarties, Dum Dum's and candy corn (the junk bonds) for just as many Kit Kat's as I could get. Here's a tip for y'all: let these sit out for a bit so the chocolate gets a little melty, leaving the tips of your fingers covered in delicious Hershey's chocolate. Or, try them in ice's a winning combination.

5. Dots

"A Fat Free Candy"

I don't know what it is with Dots that to this day makes me crave them so. Is it their super soft consistency? The yummy and varied flavors of those little humps of fruity goodness? I don't know. All I know is that when the door opened and the big bowl of candy appeared, if that little yellow box was in there, I was all over it. It was a nice amount of candy, too I wish Crows--the licorice flavored version of Dots--were made in Halloween-sized individual portions, but alas. It's probably a good thing; wouldn't want the world to know how much I love the universally loathed black licorice. It's not like this admission is being posted somewhere where everyone in the world (OK, maybe not China) can read it, right? Glad that didn't leak out...

4. 100 Grand

Wouldn't the snack size be 50 Grand?

Let's talk candy economics. If you were to buy a 100 Grand at the store it would be 2 pieces of caramelly, crispy goodness dipped in chocolate. At Halloween, if you're digging through the candy bowl of some housewife dressed up in her sorta-slutty witch costume--her breath reeking of vodka martini as you hear the other adults laughing hysterically at another guest's costume--and you come across 100 Grands, if you grab 2 of the snack-sized bars (accepted Halloween protocol) you now have an entire 100 Grand candy bar. Other kids will tell you that you need to get moving, and FAST, to the Littleton's place 3 blocks down because they're handing out whole Snickers bars but those kids are idiots. Why try and get an entire Snickers bar--which will undoubtedly run out before the Great Pumpkin rises at the end of the Charlie Brown DVD they started as the sun started to set--when the neighborhood is ripe for the picking with 100 Grands, Mounds, Almond Joy and other candies that are bascailly the full-sized counterpart split in two? People get tunnel vision when you tell them about the possibility of grabbing the big prize and they fail to realize the economics behind being able to grab 2 of the smaller prize and net the same result. These are the same kids that grow up and want to throw Hail Mary TD passes instead of the far more effective and efficient 7-yard passing routes. The point of all this is...100 Grands rule.

3. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

I'll take the one on the left...

Man, these are unbelievable. The economics discussion from 100 Grand applies here, too, but never-mind that: did I mention these are F'n good!? Remember the commercials where they'd show all the different ways to eat a Reese's PBC and the one around Halloween showed a vampire had poked perfect little holes in the cup and sucked out the peanut butter? How clever. If they showed how I eat a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, it'd show me opening it, peeling off that greasy brown cup/wrapper and stuffing the whole thing in my mouth and then rummaging through my candy stash looking for another one.

2. Snickers

Pairs well with Merlot...

Snickers are like wine of the candy world. Their complexity, depth of flavor, variety of textures could make anyone ponder a Snickers bar, bite by bite as the airy nougat gives way to the ribbony, sickly sweet caramel on the tongue with warm notes of roasted nuts lingering over a strong milk chocolate finish. As kids, all you know is that Snickers taste awesome and their stock is very valuable. Next to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, these are the blue chips of the candy stock market; bellwethers that constantly beat earnings, impress all who covet their strength as the king of candies. It's tough not to choose these as the top of the heap...

1. Nerds

If I were Uncle Scrooge, I'd swim in Nerds...

You have to respect Nerds' bravado. With so many other candies, their composition leads you to believe that this candy is maybe in some way sort of healthy (Snickers, Baby Ruth, etc, with their peanuts and "nougat" which in no way sounds like processed sugar) or their appearance masks the fact that they are nothing but straight sugar (Skittles are perfectly shaped little drops of goodness...Jujyfruits look like corn, bundt-pans and a Battleship destroyer). But not sir. Nerds don't hide the fact in any way that they are just giant sugar crystals dipped in some unnatural color that's been flavored so strongly that you'll down them with extreme speed and in copious quantities. If they made a NERD that was, say, a 2" orb you'd never give it a chance; only fatties would eat a giant piece of candy like that. But, make them the size of BB's and you're likely to eat the equivalent of a 3" orb and still want more. It's for all these reasons that Nerds stand atop our hierarchy of Halloween candy.

Honorable Mention

Pixie Stix

Dangerous...very dangerous...

These weren't seen all that often during Halloween and I think we can all agree that was a travesty. These are quite possibly the candy that defined my generation. Intensely effective, portable, small enough to get your fix without looking like an addict, flavorful...I could go on forever. If you didn't tilt your head back and shotgun one of these bad boys, you were a total wuss.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Twitter is stupid

If you're an avid Twitter user or lover, you might want to tune out right now and tweet about @bmills serving up a heaping serving of Twitter hate in 3....2....1...

Twitter sucks. I should really just end this "tweet" here, but I'll go on, pretending I get paid by the word or that you actually have an attention span long enough to read my writings. I'd debated doing this post in 140-character segments but then realized I'd be adhering to the Twitter rules of the road, so F Twitter for screwing up my plan at making fun of them...

Well stated, little freak bird thingy...

All Twitter does is tell you what someone is doing and vice versa. That's it. That's it? So basically, we're all just voyeurs; peeping Toms, groupies who are on a need to know basis about the mundane details of someone else's life, not in a Facebook sort of way, but in a 140-character or less way. It's like non-stop text messages; ADD with a cutesy blue bird and proprietary jargon like "tweets" to make people feel special. In what way is this a good thing? How does this help you learn who a person is, besides by reading every single tweet, the majority of which are pretty useless anyway? I love y'all...but there is no need for you to know every single thing about me and my exciting daily life. I'll gladly share it with you if you ask, but there's no way I feel so special that it would be a privilege for you to share in everything I do.

So, I gotta ask: what's so boring about your life that you need to know every single detail of someone else's day? I guarantee your life is far more exciting than you think it is. Why do you need to "follow" someone and see they just got to Starbucks.
And that Starbucks is out of Chai Lattes. 12:53pm
And that Peet's over at Bella Terra would have been a better choice. 12:57pm
And now they don't even want coffee :( 12:58pm
And that this picture from @AshtonKutcher was re-tweeted. 2:22pm
And ZOMG there's a squirrel on that guy's car! Kewl! 3:12pm

Now, I'll admit that I'm guilty of updating my Facebook status from my phone; a sin I rarely commit and never more than once a day. But, let's be honest: that's not the essence of Twitter. Twitter is what happens if ADD, Minesweeper and Perez Hilton were combined into the ultimate time-wasting service.

"But it's great to know what people do throughout their day through the exchange of tweets!" Then pick up the damn phone or Skype each other; at least you can hear the angst or excitement on the other end, as they've yet to develop a font that can express emotion quite like the human voice (Helvetica and Comic Sans come close). Isn't that how we did it back in the olden days, like the early 2000's? Hell, go look at Facebook or Myspace every couple of days; you're bound to get all caught up in about 1 minute.

Does not tweet...

"But Facebook status updates are no different..." You may have a point, but the similarities between the 2 services end right there. Think of Facebook as a Swiss Army Knife, capable of doing all sorts of different tasks; everything you'd need. Think of Twitter as a can opener, capable of...well, opening cans. While Facebook may be a time-waster, at least it's a sort of one-stop shop where you can satisfy all your desires for information about anyone who's willing to accept your friend request, from photos to stupid quizzes about which Star Wars character you were in a previous life. Twitter is still just telling everyone what you're doing...and that's it.

Here's what I really don't get: the valuation of Twitter. Google has reportedly been in talks to acquire Twitter for $250,000,000. 250 know that Ashton Kutcher is at In-n-Out or that your neighbor is watching Idol with the TV on too loud. This is absurd. Now, I do believe there is a need for instant publishing of news and such and that situation in Iran a while back is a great example. Fine.

SCORE UPDATE: Twitter 1 | Complete F'n Waste of Time 85,827,335

Oh, and the shameless self-promotion. OK, if you're a band, a comic or some sort of performer and you want to let your fans know where you're gonna be and what times and that sort of thing...I guess there's a use for it. But guess what shameless self-promoters? You're better than 140-characters and you know it. Besides that, people are going to be at their computers and can access Ticketbastard, Facebook, MySpace or anything else where they can buy your stuff, find out tour dates and all that jazz without a stupid little blue bird tweeting the way. Oh and don't kid yourself: you really want people to go to your website anyway and are just jumping on the Twitter bandwagon cuz it's cool...or kewl, as the Internet-kids would say.

Now, Twitter is getting into the wine-making business? Granted, it's for charity--and that's great cuz I'm sure the Twitterati will flock to buy the stuff which will benefit the charity big time--but this is just silly. Maybe you should find a way to earn revenue and stop sucking on the teat of venture capital? Nah, that'd be too easy...besides, once they roll out their way of generating revenue (most likely ads) it's not like people are gonna drop Twitter like the bad habit it is, right? (my sarcasm font style didn't seem to be working during that last sentence...) What's next for Twitter: Twitter Scooters or maybe TwitterMart where you can buy everything that the instant-publisher needs? You laugh, but you know there's a chance...

Oaky with some notes of desperation, stone fruit and a lingering lameness on the palette...

So if you like Twitter, good for you; there are millions of others out there that you can tweet with. Personally, I have to draw the time-wasting line somewhere and I see Twitter as being WAY on the other side of necessary. Nobody is so exciting that you need to keep up with every minute detail, every second of every day of their life. And if you feel so inclined to share that much with people, do so in a much more productive outlet such as writing, posting photos, creating something where you're not forced to define your life by 140 characters at a time because that's just stupid.

OK, that felt good. Go re-tweet this.

BTW, this guy has a great rant about Twitter, too...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sometimes unplugged is better

A song just came up on iTunes that's the inspiration for this here ya go.

Unplugged. You remember that MTV series? People today forget how F'n great that series was on MTV and the recordings from those simple, acoustic sessions. I know they tried to keep it going or bring it back within the last decade by bringing on rap groups or hip hop artists but it never really worked quite as well as it did back in the early 90's with guitar-laden rock groups willing to unplug the amps (get it: unplug!) and re-invent some of their most popular songs.

So, without further adieu, here is my list of the top 10 "unplugged" versions of a song. Some are from MTV's Unplugged series, some are just acoustic versions of songs that ended up being WAY better than the original.

10. Long May You Run - Neil Young

This is a guy that doesn't get a lot of respect for being a great musician and storyteller and that's fine; I can understand that not everyone like harmonicas, folksy guitars and such. This whole album is awesome but I especially love this song. The band he has with him does a great job and although this is a live recording it sounds amazing. From Hank to Hendrix gets an honorbale mention on this album if you're so inclined to check it out...

9. Posters - Jack Johnson

Jack has a great voice, really mellow vibe and tells great stories. No clue where I got this studio recorded version of Posters, but it blows the original out of the water. Jack is the perfect candidate for an unplugged album showcasing his vocal and musical talents..let's hope he thinks the same.

8. Pretty Girl - Sugarcult

I'm not really a fan of Sugarcult and my stumbling upon this song was completely random, but I'm glad I found it. The original sounds NOTHING like the acoustic version, but that's a good thing...

7. Everlong - Foo Fighters

I still think the Foo's should release an album titled "I Pity the Foo" but that's another discussion. When I heard there was an acoustic version of this song it intrigued me. How do you take such an uptempo song with lightning fast drum work and hard hitting guitar riffs and a screaming Dave Grohl and make it sound good? Whatever they did, it worked. It shows a softer side to the Foo's and Dave Grohl that really made that song special with a single guitar and subdued Grohl vocals.

6. Cash Machine - Hard-Fi

This is a somewhat obscure song, but it's worth a mention. The acoustic version of this song isn't radically different than the original except for the absence of a drum-set and various synth parts in the background. The clapping and use of the guitar for all the percussion really works for this tune and the crescendo leading into the chorus just has a magical feel to it and I very much prefer the acoustic version to the original. Definitely worth the $0.99 download if you're interested...

5. Because the Night - 10,000 Maniacs

This is one of those songs that you ONLY hear in it's unplugged version anymore and for good reason. The original was a good song from a band that was really coming into their own in the early 90's but I think their appearance on Unplugged really made them a household name...which is why Natalie Merchant left months after they recorded Unplugged. Thankfully, they recorded this great song before she left...

4. Plush - Stone Temple Pilots

STP was huge when I was growing up and Plush put them on the map. Don't get me wrong: the regular version of Plush is killer, but the acoustic version of Scott Weiland and a single acoustic guitar in a studio is so bad-ass I'd give the nod to the low-key acoustic version any day of the week

3. The Remedy - Jason Mraz

Damn this is good. Anything Mraz does seems to be good and I remember when I first heard this acoustic version I was sold. Another great storyteller and musician turning a great song into a classic...this is definitely one that everybody should have in their collection.

2. Layla - Eric Clapton

"See if you can spot this one..."

It was hard not making this song #1 on the list because it's so amazing and probably the poster-child for the Unplugged series. The entire album is great, but taking a guitar super-riff like Layla and slowing the tempo down and picking away at a Martin acoustic and showing off the amazing talents of Eric Clapton solidified this song as the best by far. Who knew you could make a blusey, sexy, soulful version of Layla AND make it better than the original??

1. Heaven - Bryan Adams

Actually, the entire Unplugged album is gold. In particular, Summer of '69 leading off the album tells you in 4 measures that this album is gonna kill it. However, my absolute favorite song on here has to be Heaven. Man...when you hear the regular version of that song and then the unplugged version you wonder why he ever released the original, the unplugged version is that good.

Honorable Mention: Pirate Looks at 40 - Jack Johnson

First of all, this is one of my favorite songs of all time. I love Jimmy Buffett and his lyrical genius is often overlooked by those who can't stand Margaritaville. But, if I showed you some Buffett lyrics and told you they weren't his you'd call them genius. This song was covered by Jack on the soundtrack for his September Sessions soundtrack and I'd dare say it's better than what Buffett put out back in the 70's.

Friday, October 09, 2009


Three years ago this month, I was in the city of Padang on the Western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia embarking on a 15-day surf trip. Click here to check out the blog I kept whilst traveling in that neck of the woods.

I mention this now as the information and images start materializing over the recent earthquake/tsunami, which hit Padang very hard. Death tolls and injury estimates are all over the place but I don't it's fair to assign a # as this is a tragedy, whether 1 person died or thousands. The search efforts have been abandoned for any survivors now a week after the quake hit and now all efforts are on trying to protect the water supply and make sure the city does not fall even deeper into despair. The city center of Padang--a chaotic, bustling metropolis packed with people and shoddy buildings--is a war zone with an estimated 20,000 buildings badly damaged or destroyed and over 200,000 homes damaged or destroyed in Padang and the surrounding areas. Padang, BTW, is a city of 900, that's pretty messed up.

Now, the rains are setting in and dangers of mudslides and flooding threaten the survivors and all the relief efforts in the area.

An organization that I became associated with years ago is right in the center of this disaster. SurfAid International is doing everything they can to help the Indonesian people. Their director of operations in Indonesia escaped the hotel he was visiting seconds before it collapsed, killing many guests as it crumbled. SurfAid is not equipped for a disaster like this (who is, really) but is trained in protecting the health of those people displaced by the earthquake and they need all the help they can get.

This is the hotel the SurfAid Indonesian Director was inside as the earthquake started

If you're in a generous mood, please stop by their website and donate what you can. Every penny counts ($10 over there does a TON) and I know from working with them and seeing the scope and effectiveness of their operations, these are the best people for the job and their beliefs in providing adequate care to all those affected by disease, natural disaster and oppression are second to none.

Hang in there Padang...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

My search for the holy grail is over...

In trading, there’s a certain element of treasure hunting that’s ever looming. Traders seek not only to make money but to find the mythical holy grail. It’s believed that this holy grail is a trading system that cannot lose and EVERY trader will tell you about it. You enter a trade and you know that you’re going to win and you’re going to win BIG. This system cannot be beat and you hold in your possession something that nobody in the world can have; it’s yours and yours only and the rest of the trading community will look on in awe as you effortlessly and consistently reel off winner after winner.

I thought that I’d been given the holy grail several months ago when I hooked up with a trader in Ohio who has been teaching me his system; it’s amazing. This system from a technical standpoint is brilliant and even better: it's simple. It’s extremely successful and consistent and far more effective that anything else out there, and I say that with conviction as I’ve seen it work and traded it successfully. While it loses, the # of wins to losses is huge and even better is the size of the wins vs the size of the losses, which is even more important.

Wrong grail, dumb-ass...

But in time, I’ve realized that this system is not the holy grail. While it’s better than anything else out there and CAN be unbelievably profitable, I had not been able to replicate it’s performance on a consistent basis and I wondered why. The holy grail was in my hands, but it seemed to be missing a key piece in order for it’s power to be harnessed and applied to the markets. Suddenly, there it was staring at me square in the eyes: the holy grail.

See, I’d been searching for this holy grail in the wrong place; turning over stones and digging deep in the trading landscape to find it because I believed that it was out there somewhere. As it turns out, I am the holy grail. I’m the missing piece of the puzzle that can unleash the power of the tool I have been given and trained to use and I didn’t realize it until recently.

It's this one...

My mentor Bill had been telling me this along, but I never heard it; I wasn’t ready to hear it. I often wondered why he was willing to teach me his methods and share this indicator/system that he’d worked on for 15 years if it was the true holy grail. I mean, this guy has made a fortune trading and can work for about 3 hours a day and call it quits and made more money than most people will make in a week, yet was willing to give me the same tools he uses to be so successful. Then, I started remembering early conversations we had. He’d said that the system/tool is worthless without knowing how to use it and how to apply that system consistently on a daily basis and it doesn’t matter what it CAN do it only matters what it WILL do, and that’s completely in your hands. Now, I understand what he’s been telling me for months. I’m the holy grail. I’m what makes the tool work. The holy grail isn’t a system or a tool, it’s the knowledge—and more importantly—the ability to use that tool. So many people (myself included, until now) believe that the holy grail is out there and can be found and held in your hands; a tangible treasure that you can show off or share with others. That statement couldn't be further from the truth...

Suck it Trebek...

This is a very big development for me and understanding this fact puts me in a very select group of traders; the "outliers" as it were. No longer am I searching for the grail, spending months scouring and testing the thousands of systems and techniques that all claim to be the Chosen One. Now that I’ve found the holy grail, the difficulty is in unlocking the true potential of this gift and learning how to harness the true power of the tool and the person wielding the tool. Once that happens, there is no limit to how much I can do.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

We're gonna win Twins, we're gonna score...

...We're gonna win Twins, watch that baseball soar...knock out a home run shout a hip-hooray! Cheer for the Minnesota Twins today!

Those are the words to the Minnesota Twins theme song, a song I sang many times while I lived in Minnesota through the 80's. It was a catchy tune and for a 10-year old kid watching his heroes play some small-ball in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, it was magic. Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Frank Viola...the players back then were classics and while the Twins were for the most part just a lackluster team, it didn't matter; I was a Twins fan and my dad took me to several games each summer to watch these guys play as we took advantage of cheap kids nights and the constant promotions such as bat night, ball night, cap day and my all-time favorite: spatula night. Yup, somebody sponsored a night where the first 10,000 fans would get a free BBQ spatula, chrome, cedar and all. No, this wasn't the pussy 2000's where everything has rounded edges, is made of plastic and poses no health hazard or protects people's feelings...these were weapons, plain and simple and nobody cared because everyone was just stoked to get a nice, free spatula. See, we were thankful for our gifts back then, not evil and plotting what the best way to f*ck the whole thing up was...

This, is a Homer Hanky from the 1987 World Series, which the Twins won over the St. Louis Cardinals. I still have my Homer Hanky somewhere and I wish I had it yesterday. Yesterday I saw one of the greatest baseball games of all time. The 1-game playoff between the Tigers and the Twins in the 163rd game of the season was an all-time classic. I won't bore you with the play-by-play; there's this thing called the Internet where you can search out the details if you choose.

It was great to watch baseball again; made me feel like a kid. That's due in large part to the Twins being the team and the HHH Metrodome being the place. Just seeing that giant Hefty bag in right field, the speakers hanging from the white dome above brought back memories of homeruns by great Twins of the past, fly-balls getting lost in the roof, the haze of the popcorn machines and concession stands moving in around the 3rd level like a fog by the 7th inning. Man, I miss that. Angels games are alright, Dodger games keep you guessing on who's most likely to stab you, Mariners games are great because of the atmosphere but nothing can replicate that baseball experience for me like the Twins in the HHH Metrodome.

Sadly, this is the last season of baseball in the Metrodome as the Twins will be moving to their own super-new, shiny outdoor field which I'm sure will be great...but true Twins fans will always be glancing over at the Metrodome from their seats at Target Field and longing for the days gone by, the sights, sounds, smells and everything that made the Metrodome great. The announcer in the game said yesterday after the Twins won, "The Metrodome isn't going to let go of the Twins that easily..."

This was supposed to be the last game here...think again...

So, my interest in baseball is renewed as the Twins head into the post-season to meet up with the Jankees, who are overhelming favorites...but don't count out the talent level of the twins and the power of the HHH Metrodome and the Homer Hanky...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Back to the blogging grind...

It's been a few months and I'm back and will try posting here on a more regular, frequent basis for the few people who follow this blog.

Stay tuned!