Monday, November 30, 2009

Trading, defined

To kick off the week, let's learn a little bit more about what trading is and how/what I trade.

Trading is the act of buying and selling a financial instrument. Common financial instruments include stocks, bonds, options, futures and currencies. The ONLY reason someone trades is for financial gain. Most traders fall in the category of "speculators" who are people that trade for short-term profit and income while others may be investors (trading with a long-term financial goal) or hedgers who trade to protect profits or prices in other financial instruments or commodities such as grains, oil or currency.

I trade futures contracts. A futures contract is an agreement to buy or sell a specified amount of a commodity at a future date and price called the settlement date and settlement price. For the majority of futures contracts, that date occurs on the 3rd Friday of the expiration month. Most futures contracts settle four times a year though some contracts expire up to 12 times a year (monthly). At expiration, the people that are long (meaning they OWN a contract to buy at a certain price) must purchase the commodity from the people who are short the contract (meaning they must SELL at a certain price) at specified locations, where delivery occurs. I trade these contracts on various exchanges, most notably the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board of Trade and NY Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX).

Those of you vaguely familiar with various financial products may think futures sound like options but they're not. Options simply give you the option to buy the underlying asset (a stock) at the expiration date whereas futures contracts MUST be settled on the settlement date.

I ONLY trade futures. They are highly liquid, trade extremely well from a technical standpoint and they are traded on highly regulated and established exchanges that ensure the playing field is level. Stocks are subject to games and manipulation, foreign exchange/currency trading is a complete joke/scam, options are confusing and fall prey to the exact same games as stocks and bonds aren't great trading instruments. When you compare the facts and aspects of futures and other trading instruments you'll see that futures are far and away the greatest trading instruments on the planet which is why they're the only thing I trade and the only thing I would recommend an aspiring professional trader to trade, as well.

What futures contracts do I trade? Well, I focus my efforts on the equity indexes and the grain markets. The indexes are things you're familiar with like the NASDAQ, Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and so forth. You can't take delivery of these contracts as you would a physical commodity so these contracts have what is called a "cash settlement" where the people that are LONG the contract must pay what the block of the stocks that are contained in the index (whatever the contract's value is) are worth. It's rather complicated but just know that with the exception (possibly) of people that are hedging with the index contracts, nobody ever lets the contract expire and settles in cash and simply unwinds their position as the contract expiration date nears.

Grains are pretty easy to understand and are the original commodities traded in futures markets: corn, soybeans and wheat. Each contract is nicknamed a "car" as when the markets first opened, a contract was equivalent to one railroad car of the commodity. Each grain contract is for 5,000 bushels of the commodity...which is an insane amount...about 125 tons or so depending on the commodity.

There are futures contracts for a wide variety of commodities. Oil, grains, the "softs" (cocoa, coffee, sugar, frozen concentrated orange juice), various US Treasury bonds/notes, currencies, pork, cattle, the list goes on. Remember: although these markets are mostly used for speculation (profit) their original intent--which they are still widely used for--is for the actual exchange and hedging of commodities. Farmers sell their crops through these markets, food companies buy the commodities they need to produce their foods in these markets which has a trickle down effect on EVERYTHING you use and consume. If you notice prices rise on pretty much anything in the grocery store, there's an excellent chance that corn or other commodity prices are up. They truly are the markets that make the world go 'round.

A futures contract symbol looks like this:


The future symbol is listed first (in this case, C = corn), the contract expiration month is listed next (Z =  December) and the year is listed last (2009).

This contract is colloquially referred to as "winter corn" just as another popular contract right now is "summer wheat" for July 2010 or WN10. The further out contracts are most times used as hedges for farmers/growers and such as they are looking to lock in a prices for their crops/commodities at a future date and can then adjust the price they will get for their crops as the settlement date nears. The speculators (people trading for profit, like me) most times trade the "front month" which is the closest expiration month to today's date, simply because there is far more volume and people trading those contracts and the prices are very volatile.

As a trader, I don't care what direction price goes, I just care that it moves. I also do not need to have ownership of something to sell it. So, I can sell a corn contract but must then buy it back later. This is called going "short." This isn't a concern because only the contract is exchanging hands, not the actual commodity. The buying/selling is done using margin. My broker and the Exchange ask me to put up a certain amount of money (margin) as a good faith gesture to trade a contract, which is how I can trade hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of a commodity with a fraction of the amount in my account.

Contracts have a "tick value" which is the minimum amount that a contract can move up/down. For most contracts I trade, that amount is 1/4 (grains are quirky in that their tick size is measured in 2/8-cent increments; don't ask why it's not in quarter cents, cuz I don't know). So, if the price of the S&P contract is 1094.25 it can go to 1094.50 or 1094 even. Each tick is assigned a dollar value. For the majority of contracts I trade that are 1/4-tick increments, that amount is $12.50. So, for each tick that the contract goes up or down it equates to a $12.50 gain or loss; hopefully the former.

Here's an example...

When I buy/sell a contract, I'm selling the price of each unit in that contract but the contract is for a certain amount of the commodity. So, for corn, if I buy a contract @ 393 6/8 and corn is measured in bushels (5,000 to a contract), I'm in effect saying that I want buy corn @ 393 6/8 cents per other words, $3.9375 x 5,000 bushels so the contract is worth $19,687.50. Let's say that some time elapses and the price of corn is now 396 2/8 or $3.9625 x 5,000 bushels, so that same contract is now worth $19,812.50. By selling that contract, I just made $125. Sweet!

The last thing you're going to learn is the term "zero sum game." See, futures are different than stocks or bonds. With stocks and bonds, you have a finite quantity of shares or bonds that can be sold. Those shares are issued by the company who's stock you are buying and sold by a Broker or someone else who physically owns the shares. Ignoring people who short sell stocks/bonds, if the price of the shares skyrocket then everyone gains and everyone makes money. This is not the case for futures. Futures require a buyer and a seller in each transaction; same as a stock. The difference is that there is never a net positive or negative of people who own a contract or who are short a contract; they are always equal since in order for someone to buy you need someone to sell. Let's say the price of a futures contract skyrockets, as well. Not everyone is going to gain. In fact, half the people will gain while the other half will lose the exact same amount. This is why futures are a zero sum game. If I'm long a contract and sell it back and make $125, that means that someone else (who was short and bought the contract back) has just lost $125. This may mean they got in at the exact same price and time as me (but were short the contract) or it may mean that they had $1,000 in profit but sold and now only have an $875 profit, but one way or another, someone lost $125. This is very important to remember and what make futures so unique and fundamentally different than stocks or bonds. It's also why these financial instruments are so wonderful to trade because they are infinitely liquid and the possibility of games and funny business like you see with stocks is greatly reduced or eliminated.

So there you have it. You're probably bored to death, but if you couldn't tell, I could talk about this stuff for days on end. If you have any other questions about futures, the markets I trade and so forth or are interested in learning how futures can be used as an investment vehicle for you, get in touch with me; you know how to find me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

All trading, all week

It's Sunday night and I'm giving you a heads up on the posts this upcoming week. All this week we're gonna talk trading.

This is what I do for a living. Trading is more than just a job for me, it's a passion. I don't feel like I'm working when I start trading in the morning so much as I feel I'm exploring and enjoying learning everything there is to know about this infinitely fascinating and never-ending journey into the rabbit hole. If I can make money while doing it, even better. I want to share it with you as I think you may find it very interesting and will hopefully learn something in the process; maybe you'll even be tempted to explore trading in some form for yourself.

So, get ready to learn more than you've ever wanted to know about trading and hopefully you'll come out of this with a better understanding and respect for a field that's very much a secret society that many times catches a bad break from the masses, primarily due to their lack of knowledge of what trading is and how it works.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

80's Hits Stripped

My homeboy Kuka gifted me an album the other day. I was in Caesars Palace eating a 2-item combo from the Mexican place in the food court when an acoustic version of Your Love by The Outfield came on and I listened to every note, captivated by how cool this acoustic version sounded. I didn't want it to end, especially when the next song came on: an N'Sync song I'm pleased to tell you I cannot name.

Turns out, there's an entire album of "stripped" 80's tunes. I can honestly say, there are some AWESOME tunes on here.  Colin Hay of Men at Work fame performs an acoustic version of Down Under that's just as insanely good as The Outfield classic Your Love.

Some of the tunes are live recordings though most are studio recordings and sound fabulous. Who knew these 80's icons could actually sing and put together some really wonderful sounding songs? Heard in a different way, you can really get a feel for the emotion put into the lyrics and the musicality these groups possessed when you take away the neon and bad outfits.

So, I highly recommend checking out this album. If you're a fan of the 80's, fantastic unplugged tunes or just great musicians who were lumped in with douche-bags like Tony Basil and Devo, this album is a must buy.

Here's an NPR review when the album came out 3 years ago; the title says it all.

For those with iTunes, here's a link to the album in the store...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Archimedes Principle & frying a turkey

I'd like to think that Archimedes is rolling over in his grave right now as he listens to this hillbilly referencing the famous principle whilst preparing to drop a turkey into a turkey fryer. I guess the important question is how this dude knew about Archimedes Principle yet still F'd up the pretty simple act of dropping a turkey in a fryer. My record for successful turkey fryer drops is 4-0 and I did not know what Archimedes Principle was prior to seeing this video. I guess the lesson to be learned here is that Archimedes Principle makes you stupid.

It's idiots like this that give turkey frying a bad name, but keep sites like YouTube in business. So, let's all give thanks to this idiot hillbilly turkey fryer and YouTube this Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Hierarchy of Thanksgiving Foods

This doesn't look awkward...not at all...

It's thanksgiving time. Time to give thanks for those things we have, the blessings in our lives and most importantly celebrate with some of the people we're most thankful for being part of our lives.

As is tradition with so many Thanksgiving celebrations with people coming from near and far to gather for the holiday, it's time to play favorites and let some know how they're important and welcome each and every day and that we're thankful others are only seen a day or two each year.

With that said, it's time for the hierarchy of Thanksgiving food. As is customary with these posts, here's your disclaimer. First off, it's my list; I'm not taking a poll of what's the best or not, unless you count Brisbane as a poll taker, and I don't doubt that you'll think there are several classics missing from here. I suggest you post in the comments if you feel I've made an error or omission. Second, I don't eat a large variety of food at Thanksgiving so this list is a bit short; no filler. Finally, this list is just the good stuff; collared greens or broccoli are not on here.

Without further adieu, here's the horn-o-plenty of Thanksgiving food items, from worst of the best to first of the best.


The people that made this probably call it "dressing" cuz it looks super fancy

First off, it's not "dressing" as so many people call it, it's stuffing. When I say "dressing" what do you think of? A wishbone bottle filled with Italian or Thousand Island salad dressing. Yeah, that's what I thought. So, why should 1 day a year we abandon our definition of dressing in favor of what most people call stuffing? Whatever you call it, it's killer. When I found out that stuffing is basically squishy, chicken flavored bread it was like someone had read my mind and created the ultimate side dish.

Mashed Potatoes

I don't need this...I was in Jaws, OK???

I prefer the KFC smooth and creamy style though my tastes have evolved over the years to be more accepting of lump-filled spuds. I don't know what else to say about mashed potatoes; think of your own fun mashed potato story, be it a killer food fight or an alien inspired Close Encounters mashed potato sculpture you're proud of.


I have no comment for this...oh wait...he looks like Daniel Day Lewis...I DRINK YOUR GRAVY!

Both my grandmothers before they passed away made some killer gravy. My Mom's Mom had gravy that my Uncle Dana nicknamed "heart-stopper gravy" though that's a compliment and my Dad's Mom made a mean gravy herself. Funny story: one year in Tennessee, my Grandma (Dad's side) thought she made a bunch of gravy but way underestimated the yield from the amount of corn starch she added to the drippings and by the time the gravy boat got to my grandpa there was none left. That was about 18 years ago and to this day I don't think a single family member on my Dad's side of the family will forget that day or make anything less than about 2 gallons of gravy as a result of that egregious cooking calculation.

Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Who rolled the one on the lower left? Keep 'em tighter next time...

When I was a kid, I went nuts for these things. I still do, though not nearly as much; I'm a biscuit man, myself, these days. How could you not love Crescent rolls? Buttery, flaky, tasty, fun to unravel? They're the perfect bread for Thanksgiving. Their ability to sop up gravy and mashed potatoes ensure that the Crescent Roll will be a thanksgiving staple at an overwhelming # of Thanksgiving tables across America forever. Thanks, Doughboy.

French Silk Pie

Most under-appreciated pie ever? I think so...

I don't do pumpkin anything and I'm not a huge fan of apple desserts. With that said and because my parents aimed to please, a Thanksgiving treat specially for me was the venerable French Silk Pie. Graham cracker crust, chocolate pudding, whipped cream and chocolate shavings and you've got yourself one hell of a pie. As with the cheese pizza that people laugh at when it's ordered at a party as the others talk about getting their supreme and meat lovers pizzas, this is always the first to go.

Fried Turkey

What's wrong with this guy's head?

Oh man, you have no idea how awesome this is. Fried turkey sounds crazy redneck, dangerous and unhealthy as all get out, but here's the thing: you're totally right! Actually, done properly, fried turkey is just as healthy as a regular oven cooked bird but way tastier and juicier with plenty of ultra-crispy skin to go 'round. If I wasn't somewhat scared of how copious amounts of tryptophan streaming through my gravy filled veins may affect my ability to breathe I'd totally try to eat my weight in fried turkey.

My Chex Mix

Photos of my recipe are forbidden from being posted online

I'm not talking about pre-made crap in a bag or your recipe or some award winning recipe, I'm talking about MY recipe. If you've ever had my recipe of Chex Mix, you're no doubt salivating right now as the thought of that butter soaked cereal with the right proportion of seasoning, pretzels and nuts looks like Eden sitting on the counter in either a grease-spotted paper bag or welcoming bowl the size of a bird bath. Here's the thing with my Chex Mix: it's all about the old skool. Before the various spice makers and carbohydrate hawkers decided to get their slice of the pie through convenient hints and product placement, there was a simple recipe:
 - Chex (rice, wheat and corn)
 - Pretzels
 - Assorted nuts
 - Lawry's Seasoning Salt
 - Worcestershire sauce
 - Butter

That's it. No onion powder, no garlic powder, no bagel chips, no this no that. My recipe celebrates the original with a couple little changes incorporated over the years to perfect the ultimate Chex Mix recipe, though it is largely the original recipe from when somebody figured out that butter, seasoning salt and Worcestershire sauce drizzled over cereal and pretzels tasted orgasmic when baked for an hour.

All things said, this dish more than ANYTHING in my life reminds me of the holidays and of home. Since about 10 years old, there has never been a year of my life where I've not made this at least once from Thanksgiving to Christmas and I never intend on breaking that streak so long as I'm alive. Sometimes I make it for friends and family, sometimes I ship it to distant family as they clamor for my cereal snack heroin; a long-distance token of my thanks. There's even been a couple years that I've had to make it just for myself as I sat back and gave thanks-- for the people, places, experiences and things in my life that I can never, ever live without-- alone and nostalgic for Thanksgivings gone by.

To all friends, and family reading this--both here on this Earth or wherever you land after you've left us-- I'm extremely blessed and thankful for you, your love and inspiration, always.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Now THAT's a slapshot!

OK, this is fake. Let's not kid ourselves into thinking this could ever happen. Ever. Not sure if you've ever picked up a curling stone, but they're not exactly light.

With that said, this is pretty pretty F'n funny. I LOL'd myself. Twice.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Apple Magic Mouse

For the last few months I've been locked in a struggle with my wireless Apple Mighty Mouse. At first, it worked wonderfully. Great feel, great looks, awesome functionaltiy; typical Apple product.

But now after almost a year of heavy use, it's having issues. The biggest issue is the scrollball. When it works, it's rad; ultra-precise 360-degree scrolling. Problem is, the ball gets covered in gunk and starts to seize up. So, I can scroll up, but scrolling down does nothing as the ball fails to make positive contact with the mechanics that make it scroll. I tried a couple tricks that worked for other grumpy users but nothing lasted more than a couple days before I had to try again.

"Just clean it out, lazy." I wish I could! In order to clean the Mighty Mouse you have to pry open the case, use a screwdriver that looks like it came from a dollhouse, then delicately remove the scrollball and sensors and clean them off rather carefully. Oh and make make sure you put it back together properly, then hope the case didn't crack from prying it open. Never mind that by doing this you are voiding your warranty, in case you care about that sort of thing (I don't). Long story short, it's a total PITA.

So, Apple released a couple weeks ago the replacement to the Mighty Mouse the Magic Mouse and I was all for it. This mouse is revolutionary in that there are no moving parts. There's no scrollball on the top or bottom, it uses a laser to track movement and the entire surface of the mouse is one giant button. Scrolling is accomplished using Apple's favorite technology multi-touch. You simply slide your finger forward and back, left and right to navigate a document, photos or webpages. Even cooler is that multi-touch allows you to use 2 fingers to swipe left and right, to go forward and back in the browser of your choice and to navigate through photos or albums in iTunes. Very, very cool.

Cousin Itt approved...

What I think of It
Well, I've only been using it for a couple days but I'm completely hooked. It's a very low-profile mouse, standing maybe 3/4" tall and about the width of a credit card. If you place it on top of an iPhone it just barely fits in the footprint and is about 1/4" taller. The uber-dorks that are nit-picking complain that the ergonomics of the mouse are poor if you have larger hands, but I have larger hands and I don't have any issues. But remember, these are the same guys that play WoW, possibly attend ComicCon's and live for shooting anything and everything down that they can get their hands on.

Your Magic Mouse is anything but magic...I find it unappealing in every way.

From a functionality standpoint, the mouse is brilliant. Scrolling is silky smooth, the multi-touch gestures to move forward and back work amazingly and become super intuitive within minutes. The button press on the surface is far more tactile and offers you much more feedback than the Mighty Mouse, which due to its very curved surface felt weak and you needed to press a bit harder or with a deliberate press at times if you weren't in the right areas on the mouse. Magic Mouse is flat, which I'm sure helps that out quite a bit. Right-clicking is just as easy as left clicking you just have to press on the right side of the surface; easy enough.

Nothing's perfect, so here's what needs some work.

There's no 3rd button. Probably my favorite functionality of Mighty Mouse was the ability to assign a function to pressing down on the trackball. I had this setup to open up Expose, which made navigating different windows very quick and easy. See, OS X is different from Windows in that each open window is not treated individually. So, when you Alt+Tab (command+tab in OS X) instead of seeing each and every open window you only see each application open. So, if you have 4 Firefox windows open, by command+tabbing to FF you simply go to the last FF window you had open. Expose shows you EVERY open window and I'd just click the scrollball and be navigating all open windows. I really miss that on Magic Mouse. So now, I've got to use screen shortcuts or the keyboard to perform that function and that's a bummer.

Past that, no gripes. It's assumed that Apple will be releasing updated software in the future so that various other multi-touch functions can be used such as pinching or 3-finger swiping and it would be cool if that functionality was available right out of the gate but not surprising they opted to do it later down the line. Haters are having a field day with this one; what a bunch of tools.

If you have a Mac and can run OS X Leopard or Snow Leopard, this mouse is totally worth it. If you're a PC user, you better read up on what functionality works on the mouse and what applications are supported as this is most definitely an Apple targeted product.

The Verdict

All in all, this mouse is rad. With no moving parts I'm not concerned about the scrollball getting gunked up, which honestly is the ONLY reason I left the very capable Mighty Mouse. I love the looks though I don't work in an architecture or design firm so that's not as important to me. It fits my hand, the functionality is top notch and I'm looking forward to using this mouse from now until Apple releases their next mouse :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fixed Gears Suck

I'm a sucker for the simpler things in life; the way they used to be, even if it may be more difficult or tedious than the "newer" ways. I choose to only buy cars with manual transmissions, I'd buy an over/under shotgun before some auto-loader, I'd much rather build a fire from wood than flip a switch to turn on the fireplace, the list goes on. There's a certain feeling of power and accomplishment that comes from doing things the way they were once done and I seek that in many of the things I love in life.

But not in bicycles. I focus my hate on a single bike, namely the loathsome "fixed-gear" bike that is hugely popular now with the wannabe bike messenger set and teenage hipsters who wear skinny jeans and listen to The Shins. The bikes look like a classic "10-speed" but with only one gear and typically no brakes, whatsoever. Some riders install a front brake but they're probably dealt with quickly as fixie-justice is likely served against the weak fixie rider as they are beaten with socks filled with bars of soap or maybe the other 9 gears taken off the bike. I mean, what hardcore skater wears a helmet or surfer uses a leash? Pussies.

Rad fixie, dude. You wanna hangout at Yougurtland and listen to The Shins?

See, when bicycles were first invented it appears that the concept of a brake was foreign. Bikes had a single gear and no freewheel to allow the user to coast along; the pedals were always moving in the direction you were traveling at the same speed you were traveling. Bikes have evolved because that design was stupid and dangerous. It was an evolution based on necessity, not vanity nor laziness.

Yeah, I'll meet you at Yogurtland...but I wanna listen to The Postal Service...

Now, there's a revival of the fixed gear bicycle and it makes no sense to me. It's not like choosing a manual transmission, which offers the driver a much more exciting and "in control" driving experience, it's just downright silly. Here in Huntington, you see them EVERYWHERE. They're not hard to miss: bright, horribly mismatched colors, strange handlebars and wheels/spokes, many times grossly over-sized for the person riding it.

Can we listen to MGMT? Postal Service is depressing. My Hello Kitty front wheel is kewl

My biggest gripe are the safety aspects--or lack thereof--typical with these bikes. See, they have no brakes (most of them, at least). No hand brakes, no pushing back lightly on the pedal to stop, nothing. So when you need to stop you're on your own. And that's fine if there's nobody around or nothing in your way...but when you're riding down the street and a car pulls out (hopefully to try and hit the dumbass riding the bike) how are you supposed to stop? Think of these bikes as runaway mine cars in an Indiana Jones movie: out of control. mean the Yogurtland on Brookhurst? That place is lame...let's do some tricks

Teens buy these bikes because they are cool; they're rebellious. In most cities, it's illegal to ride a bike without a brake, and that right there is enough to risk life and limb so you can give the police and establishment a big old "F U" as you ride by. The sky is the limit, too, on what you spend. In higher income areas like Orange County you're guaranteed to see stupid looking bikes ride by you that cost more than your first car.

MGMT sux, can't we just go to Del Taco? I heard Pharrell is gonna be there...

I write this because of an incident that happened last week. I'm leaving the bank and headed towards the light to make a right hand turn onto Edinger Ave (a pretty busy street) and I'm about 20 yards from the light when it turns green. Cars start off the line and I keep moving towards the signal when out of nowhere this dipshit wearing skinny-jeans, a beanie and flannel shirt waving in the breeze comes flying through the intersection on his fixed-gear as 2 cars slam on their brakes and he swerves into the intersection to avoid getting hit. What had happened was he was hauling ass to try and make it through the light and it turned red before he got there and he had no way of stopping. So, he continued into the intersection and is lucky I was as far back as I was and that the people coming off the line didn't have drag racer reflexes, else he and his bike would have been in a world of hurt.

You guys are stupid. I'm going to Yogurtland. BTW, MGMT sux...

I wish someone would have hit him. Yeah, I said it and I mean it. He's gonna do it again and again until he gets hit so better to have him learn the lesson before he causes a crash.

(at the counter, Del Taco) Hola, amigo...have you seen Pharrel? We were supposed to meet here and get a taco and there's just a bunch of liberal, dipshit teenagers listening to noisy music outside...

[Note: GD...why does that photo have to be photoshopped? It could have ended the fixie craze forever...]

So let this be a lesson to you. If you plan on riding a fixed gear bike and you plan on running a red light and I'm coming at you, I'm not stopping. Oh and I'll be making fun of your friends at Yogurtland.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm feelin your glasses, Dawg

Hopefully, the first question you're asking right now is "WTF were you doing at Walmart??" and I agree: what was I doing at Walmart? Turns out, I was receiving a gift from the blogging gods.

How sweet is this? Randy Jackson eyewear?! Sadly, the optical department at Walmart was closed so I didn't have a chance to try the glasses on but given the opportunity I can only imagine that my teeth would turn bleach white, my swagger would increase ten-fold, I "wouldn't be feelin it" when I hear musical performances that suck and my use of the word "Dawg" would be off the charts. Oh and I'd name drop every chance I could.

I forgot to check for Simon Cowell white-T's or Paula Abdul brand vodka, but knowing the Dawg has his own line of glasses, there's hope for Cowell and Abdul branded products that capitalize on what they're most famous for, too.

Next time...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Romancing Your Soul

My friend Greg posted this on his Facebook recently and I think everyone should watch it.

Very inspirational, very cool and from the AARP? Go figure...

Thanks to Greg!

Monday, November 09, 2009


Here's a great website I came across a while back. This guy takes a sandwich, cuts it in half and scans the thing. That's it. No commentary, no humor, no wit, no reviews of the sandwich, just a scanned sandwich.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

It's basketball season

As KU's football team lost it's 4 game in a row this weekend to their intrastate rival K-State, I was reminded of one thing:

It's basketball season

THIS is the KU sports I remember. Hoops is king, football sucks. I guess the difference this year compared to my years in Lawrence is that a 5-4 season is a disappointment not an accomplishment like it used to be. KU will always be a basketball school first, football second. Sadly, no matter how well the football team does it will always be second fiddle to hoops.

I'm bummed that the football team is playing late-90's KU football, but I'm not really that bummed out because it's basketball season. I watched a pre-season game versus Ft. Hays State last tuesday and will probably watch the final pre-season matchup this Tuesday as well. I just don't care about KU football once basketball starts. I never have and I probably never will. The Orange Bowl victory a couple years ago was great but I never really keep up with the team after mid-October. I don't live in Kansas anymore and keeping up with the team and individual players is difficult and the only chance I ever get to watch a game is if it's nationally broadcast. Same thing for basketball, but probably 1/3 or more of the bball team's games can be seen and if you want to go to a bar with the NCAA hoops ticket you can easily watch every game.

I'm sure there will be many KU basketball posts in the months to come of what promises to be a fantastic group of players embarking on a journey that hopefully will end with another NCAA championship.

Rock Chalk...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

70-80 and sunny...I'm over it

As the weather starts to turn the corner here towards fall in Southern California (hopefully for real this time) I'm reminded of days and locations gone by. See, I'm not from SoCal; far from it. I moved here in late 2001 from Kansas. It was a huge change for me on many different levels. The over-crowding everywhere you looked, the enormous cost of living, the beach, earthquakes, the fake boobs. You name it, it was different. But above all else, the one thing that to this day fascinates me about Southern Californians is their reaction to a change in the weather.

SoCal lives in a bubble; let's just agree on that right now. The range of weather and temperature is so narrow that even the slightest change sends the area into a frenzy. Anywhere but the Inland Empire, if the temperature goes below 70 or above 80, watch out: the chatter and bitching will commence in earnest. They have "storm watches" here that should make anyone reading this outside zip codes 90000-93599 puke. Instead of being on watch for a storm that brings deadly hail, winds, tornadoes or flooding we're on watch for rain. It doesn't matter if it's an expected 1" of rain or 1/16", we're on watch for it and every local TV station will devote 25% of their evening news programming to describing the threat and preparing us for the "Storm of the Century" which is as big a stretch as calling the 2009 St. Louis Rams a Superbowl contender.

Now, I've done a great job of fighting the assimilation into SoCal weather norms though I'm losing that battle. I find myself waking up on cooler mornings (let's say 50ish) and proclaiming "it's cold outside!" However, that statement is one of joy, not dread. I revel in cold(er) weather and welcome fall and winter with open arms. Bring on the rain, the gray skies, the wind; anything but 70-80 and sunny. How the hell are kids supposed to trick-or-treat when it's still 70-degrees at night? Thanksgiving day football in shorts and a tank top? In what way do Christmas lights look normal on a palm tree, except in Corona commercials? It's very odd, believe me.

If you're reading this and you're from SoCal, I'm here to tell you that there are more than just the 2 SoCal seasons of "70-80 and sunny" and "not 70-80 and sunny." Oh and going to Big Bear a couple times a year doesn't count for having ANY experience with winter climates. You need to experience the magic of walking down the street on a fall day with the smell of wood burning fires in the air, blustery wind, monotone gray skies threatening rain, the remaining leaves on the trees which still have their beautiful fall colors; they're the colors you see on the Thanksgiving tablescapes at the mall, in case you're interested. Or, waking up on a winter morning and touching your feet to a hardwood floor that's cold from a drafty door or window, which when opened will reveal a magical winter landscape; snow falling, cars barely discernible from the landscape covered in the evening's accumulation, the sound of snow get the idea. How about lighting a wood fire in a fireplace not just for the ambiance, but for the warmth it provides. There's any number of experiences that just don't happen here, or don't happen without a lot of assistance from mankind. Disneyland pumps tons of fake snow on Main Street during the holiday season; that doesn't count.

Don't get me wrong: when it's -10 and cars are covered in 2" of ice that will require a jackhammer to break free, I don't miss the cold weather terribly. But ya know what? I do miss it. If I had to wake up tomorrow and turn the car on 20 minutes before I left for work to defrost it, I'd be giddy. If the roads were snowed over and driving was a 50/50 chance of safe travels or fender benders I would gladly stay inside and fire up some hot cocoa and soup and watch local news coverage of a true "Storm of The Century."

I know what everyone is thinking: quit your bitching, you've got it good in SoCal!

Do I? I'll admit, moving here I was stoked on the idyllic Mediterranean climate but that lasted about a month, maybe 2. You think it's great from a distance: 70-80, sunny, no rain, light winds, etc. But when you leave what you're used to--what you've known to be "normal"--you start to miss the way it used to be. It might be subtle things like the way the air smells in fall when you're surrounded by deciduous and coniferous trees or not so subtle things like waking up Christmas morning to neighbors jogging by in shorts under sunny skies and 75-degree temperatures. Whatever it is, it builds up and you start to wonder how good you've really got it and yearn for some sort of change.

Maybe if I was born here, raised here, never ventured outside of here it would be different; I'd recognize the subtle differences between 72 and 68-degrees or appreciate a jog on a warm, sunny Christmas morning...but I doubt it. Part of what makes me "ME" is my willingness to stretch the borders of my world and experience as many places and any number of climates as I possibly can. I guess in that respect my living in Southern California is just part of that journey; experiencing this climate, if for nothing else to appreciate other climates. But I still have a problem with the absence of a cyclical, 4-season weather pattern and refuse to believe that the weather out here should be enough to drive up the prices of homes and make this place so much greater than another place where one can have a wardrobe and truly experience the seasons.

The lesson here is to appreciate your seasons all you non-SoCal readers. If you're from SoCal you owe it to yourself to expand your horizons and your accepted range of temperatures for there is a wonderful world outside the snow-globe of weather isolation that is Southern California and just because it's not 70-80 and sunny, that's fact, it's probably better.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Yo Gabba Gabba Surfing

I only know about Yo Gabba Gabba through watching The Soup and to say I "know Yo Gabba Gabba" is a stretch, at best. It's a kids show, apparently, and judging by what passes as a kids show these days, kids of this generation are gonna be f*cked up (sadly, this clip does not include Bro-Bee or any of the other strange characters). OK, that might be a bit of a stretch, but this sure as hell ain't Sesame Street. Back to the point...

What I do know is surfing and how to count to 5. It was with great excitement my friend JP posted over on his awesome surfing blog this video of the Yo Gabba Gabba gang teaching kids everywhere how to count by showing various fin setups on some super groovy boards. An appearance by the always hip and strange Alex Knost and direction by Thomas Campbell who makes some of the finest surf films around and you've got kids off on the right track to learning how to count...and subliminally how the use of mild psychadelic drugs and marijuana are A-OK if you wanna be a hippie surfer in Southern California.