Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Honoring all veterans but especially those who have given their all to keep our country free.

"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion." - John Adams 6th President (1767 - 1848)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Home again.....

Home from our big trip to Vegas; all 140 miles of it! LOL But we got to find that all the stuff our dealer has had to do on the trailer works so now we can let the warranty expire knowing that we are on our own from here out. The list of fixes wasn't all that long; we just wanted to be sure things worked. Besides, it was a great opportunity to visit Las Vegas.

We stayed at the Las Vegas RV Resort on Nellis Ave. It was totally concreted and has quite a few people living there but it was clean, quiet and the people were nice. They even had a neat little double dog run so you didn't have to share the run with anyone else. It was about $35 a night which is lots more than we would usually pay but we did think we got a good value. The night we got there we went over to the Sam's Town Casino because it was only a block or so from our rv park. Found a steak house and decided to try it. Lousy food and worse service. I had to send my filet back since the cook couldn't tell the difference between med-rare and well done.

Tuesday morning we went out to breakfast at Blueberry Hill. It's a small local chain and my wife likes their blueberry crepes. I stuck to a traditional bacon & eggs thing but it was good. We spent the rest of the day just wandering around in four of the casinos: MGM Grand; New York, New York; Excalibur and Tropicana. They have a nice series of elevated walkways so you aren't trying to cross the strip in traffic. We had a nice time; nothing special but fun. Since we don't gamble to speak of, it was also pretty cheap. My wife had to try the NY,NY roller coaster. It was $14 and got her heart beating fast but she says she wouldn't go on it again. Too much whipsawing her head around. Went back to the rig and spent the evening eating some leftovers and harassing the animals.

Wednesday we again didn't do much during the day. We talked about hitting a few more casinos but were just too lazy. In the evening we went to the Fremont Street Experience. We'd read that it was in a lousy part of town and I have to say there were a certain number of questionable looking folks around there. We found a parking garage & roamed the 'experience'. It is about five blocks of the old Las Vegas casinos, strip clubs and trash-n-trinket stores that has been turned into a pedestrian. Since we don't gamble and it must be close to twenty years since I've been in a strip club; it didn't take long! Finally we went into the Nugget and found an Asian restaurant. My wife had Pad Thai and I had their stir-fry. The stir-fry had chicken and shrimp but I asked for chicken only as I have a shellfish allergy. Sure enough, I got all shrimp. Bah humbug! Sent it back and got barely cooked chicken but I ate it anyway. The Experience was starting to warm up a little when we left; mostly WAY too loud music and barricades that made it difficult to go anywhere. We left!

The wind had been blowing the whole week and it was supposed to get worse on Thursday afternoon. I don't like driving in gusty conditions. So when the cat got all weirded out about 05:00 on Thursday morning, we decided to pack up and hit the trail. The trip was fine, no problems, but being ahead of the commuter traffic may have had something to do with that. Between the truck and the trailer we are over fifty feet in length; not something I like to fool with on crowded on-ramps. Anyway, aside from a few nasty gusts on both sides of the pass it was a quiet trip.

Spent yesterday unloading a bunch of stuff from the trailer. It's only a couple days but there's a lot of unloading and cleaning that needs doing.

I enjoyed the couple days away from reading about whether or not this economy is dying. Also tried to ignore the oil well tragedy. Also the illegal immigration
situation in Arizona. Also the amazingly stupid politics of Nye County (where I live). Also anything else that wasn't glitzy, overpriced and tacky. It worked. I'm all better now. I'll pull my head out of the sand and do something next week. Until then, have a great Memorial Day weekend if you are here in the US; have a great weekend anyway if you aren't. Take care.

"The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes of fears or wishes rather than with their minds." - Walter Duranty

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Modification - sorry about that

I've just changed the blog so you have to do a word verification thing prior to commenting. I've been getting these comments in Chinese characters; I've no idea what they are saying or to whom but it's gonna stop. This is the first step; next we go to moderation if need be. Sorry to hassle the innocent but it's bugging me.

The market is bouncing around like the sick puppy it is. Wish I had some insight but all the news seems to be bad; can't expect the market to be happy. Hell, if BP could just cap that well in the Gulf I'll bet that would turn the market around. For now though, I don't see immediate return to the upside. Doesn't mean I'm going to sell everything; I'm just not a happy camper.

Going to hide my head in the sand and take our trailer over to Vegas for a couple days. Should get better wifi anyway! My ISP here is pretty low-tech. If I download something at 100Kb that's practically a record. We haven't seen many of the sights in Sin City so are looking forward to that. We also will be able to use a cab to get around and maybe have more than one drink; assuming we can afford it. Life in the fast lane, whoohoo! Gotta go load the trailer. Take care, y'all!

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive." R. L. Stevenson

Thursday, May 13, 2010

One thing....

One thing about blogging: you meet some interesting people! Got a couple responses to my latest post about the market and moving into bonds.

First, Croft at Croft's Mexico mentioned his pension fund is into bonds - well, duh! They have a fiduciary responsibility to keep the money safe for the pensioners. Maybe they are trying to grow the amount so as to give increases but in a sideways market like we have in the U.S today they can't be looking for homerun stocks. (Don't have a clue what the Canadian markets are doing; I can barely keep track of the Dow.) I find it a scary time to move into bonds with Treasuries paying 1%. But that's why I'm not a professional money manager!

Then Dan, at The Art of Panic, came up with a attribution for one of my favorite quotes. The quote is "figures don't lie but liars figure" and he presents evidence that it was said by Mark Twain. Well, it sounds like Twain and the evidence sounds pretty impressive but I'm still not finding it in any standard reference. Odd that, say the Mark Twain web site, doesn't claim it. Anyway, who cares, it's a great line and an important point to remember whoever said it.

One more point about moving more into bonds. I don't do tectonic shifts to the old portfolio. When I talk about raising the percentage of bonds I'm talking steps of maybe 1%. Over a few years it will make a change but one trade every six or eight months as the interest rate modifications unfold is what we are talking about.

Have a good day and good luck!

"He is now fast rising from affluence to poverty." Mark Twain

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Ok, now we are told that computerized trading is responsible for the almost 1,200 point drop last Thursday. Hmmm, well, it's a better story than the Greek riots but I'm still not too happy with it. I suppose the interplay between computerized trading in the various trading firms could have done something like that. Now do we call it a Black Swan event? And, could we have another event where the computers suddenly take the market UP 1,000 points? Certainly, the new rules that are being talked about that will restrain this type of trading are needed. Imagine if you had Stop Loss orders of maybe 15% on your entire portfolio you would have been stopped right out of the market. Amazing!

Last week I read something that I found almost equally amazing: that a portfolio of 80% bonds and 20% equities gave an Average Annual Nominal Return (AANR) that was 92% of that of a 100% equity portfolio. The AANR for the equity portfolio was 11.0%; that of the mostly bond portfolio was 10.2%. This was over the 60 years 12/31/49 to 12/21/09. Here is the link to the article (a pdf file) on the T. Rowe Price website. So; it sounds to me like I should be rebalancing to a more bond oriented stance. Right now may not be the time since coupon rates have to go up from here but at some point I'm definitely going for more bonds. I've been avoiding being too heavy in bonds because I expect to be retired for another 30 years and don't have much in the way of pension expectations. If bonds can perform like this though what's wrong with that picture?

I was trying to find the origin of the quote: Figures don't lie but liar's figure. I couldn't find it. I always thought it was Will Rogers but Bartlett's and a couple of web sites don't even mention it. I'm always skeptical of statistics like I just quoted so you can bet I won't go 80% bonds!

At any rate, have a good one.

"Don't try to buy at the bottom and sell at the top. It can't be done except by liars." Bernard Baruch

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Market Day

Whew! What a day for the US stock market. Of course it is all over the news. I was sitting here looking to buy a stock and couldn't believe my eyes. I look once and it's $21.97 then $19.00 then $22.91 all in the space of 20 minutes or so. Amazing! Sure glad I don't work in that industry. It might be a great place to make a lot of money but trying to make sense of it all would make me crazy. I read RandomRoger's blog; he's an investment adviser down in Arizona and has a lot of interesting thoughts about the stock market. He associated the day with an old Tom Petty song "Puke Down".

And why did it all happen? The only reason I've heard is the rioting in Greece over some of the changes the government is trying to make to fix their national debt problem. Well, maybe. I sincerely wonder what the market would do if our own lawmakers ever got off the dime and made some of the changes we need! Suppose someone fired 10% of the federal government employees - just the dumbest ones - to help balance the budget. The market would probably drop 5,000 points.

When we first retired, my wife would have gone into hysterics on a day like today. She'd be sure we'd be eating dog food before the week would be out. Now, thankfully, she is calmer and sees the market for the roller coaster it is. Like Roger says: "We have been through them before and you will go through them again."

I've been trying to reposition our investments to broaden our diversification. It's pretty good now but based on a lot of mutual funds that were good when we first bought them but have since declined in quality. I'm very much a buy and hold kind of investor and that's ok but not if you just never revisit your holdings. Like the famous Fidelity Magellan mutual fund(FMAGX). It was a real superstar of a fund years ago; now it's merely a proxy for the market as a whole so why not have an index fund that does the same thing (intentionally!) and is cheaper to own?

We also hold some individual stocks. Some, like Chevron, we've had for a long time, we bought it in 1997. As a "big oil", we might have done better or worse but at least it does give us that representation in the area. It pays a fair dividend as well. Of course, we also had Thornburg Mortgage(TMA) which was one of our financial stocks. It was in the $30 a share range now it's worth a penny or two a share. Ya can't win 'em all.

Hope your day was good and your tomorrow will be better.

Beware of him who promises something for nothing. Bernard M. Baruch