Monday, February 21, 2011

What a busy weekend - Conference, trades, B-day's, Social Security

Wow...the weekend is coming to a close and I can't believe how busy it has I sit here with a nice glass of Bowmore scotch it is time to reflect on the weekend and everything which has taken place.

The weekend was filled with a dinner out Friday evening, an awesome conference on Saturday, with some sadness I missed both of my boys scoring goals on Saturday.  Finally on Sunday we celebrated the birthday of my oldest son...albeit many days afterwards it turned out to be a perfect time to celebrate with friends especially considering the awesome weather we had today in Texas! Thankfully earlier Sunday I had an opportunity to relax, play some Sudoku and read a few articles from the Statesman, Barron's and elsewhere.... so on to the updates.

Like most people who have been married for several years (or a decade plus in my case) my wife and I chose to forgo heading out on Valentine's Day.  Instead we chose to enjoy a calm (not rushed) dinner out Friday evening.  Our choice was Freda's mostly because my company handed out a few gift certificates a few weeks ago.  The restaurant itself was nice, unfortunately I can't say the same about all the food we ate Friday evening.  Still it was nice to get out even for a while and enjoy a meal...little did I know it was going to turn out to be a longer weekend than I had anticipated.  All-in-all I think the restaurant is good, but I think they need to work on their seasoning of the entrees.  The appetizers we had were good and I have heard the desserts they make are excellent, but maybe Friday night was just not the right night....we'll give them a try again, but only after hearing positive remarks from others on Yelp, or elsewhere.

TEDxAustin conference
If you haven't heard of TED before I would suggest you check it out.  TED stands for Technology, Education and Design and the x from this weekend indicates it is an independently organized event.  Hence TEDxAustin was held this past Saturday February 19th at the Austin music hall, and WOW what an event. I was turned on to TED last summer while visiting my brother in Illinois and boy was my mind blown by the talks we watched and the hundreds of talks I have watched since that time. So, Saturday was to be my first live conference for any TED...and I was certainly not let down.  The event opened with MotherFalcon a local band in Austin, and even though I somewhat expected live music I did not expect the caliber of music I heard on Saturday. Videos from the conference won't be posted for a couple of weeks but to give you some concept...the talks ranged from conscious capitalism, food and the changes over the past decade, synthetic biology, the declining male, the Haynesville shale, cartography, rethinking the way we visit the Internet and a new language, enlightenment of others challenges, the amazing growth of Texas compared to the rest of the US, changing the bureaucracy (er...crazy), the future of payments, a little psychotherapy, an award winning word artist / teacher, and formula one racing in the Austin TX area. The event was spectacular thanks to the tremendous effort from the sponsors and staff organizers...which says a lot because the entire event is self-organized!

The first talk I enjoyed thankfully turned out to be he first of the conference ... conscious capitalism. As this talk began I was very skeptical since it began with Capitalism is dead! I am a very strong believer in capitalism so it was a tough pill for me to swallow at first and I was kid you not I was thinking...what the hell have I gotten myself into...this is Austin after all.  As Sunny Vanderbeck continued during his talk I became more convinced of his concepts and focus that Capitalism is indeed not dead, rather it is the way it has been practiced is dead and not working because we need to change and work on the next revolution of capitalism here in the US and abroad.

The next talk that was a personal favorite and crowd favorite was by Robyn O'Brien and the changes in our food over the past 10 - 15 years. Robyn had a very passionate story and one which she turned into a passion to find out what has changed in our food supply over the past several years ... unfortunately after one of her children got sick at breakfast one morning. Robyn showed and talked about the dramatic increase in food allergies in children, the fact the EPA actually watches corn crops, and the startling nature about how the chemicals the US allows into their food, but the rest of the world STOPS! I am all for improved production of crops so we can produce enough food for the world...but we must always ask at what cost! When countries including Canada and most of Europe prevent the hormone injections in cows to produce more milk, why is the US continuing to make this mandatory. Why is the US paying subsidies to the farmers to inject 'foreign' substances which is what the body is attacking...then charging the farmers who don't several taxes thereby substantially increasing all organic items we consume.  If you would like to learn more you can visit Robyn's site at Allergy Kids

Osama Bedier was also a favorite talk of the day especially when comparing the future of payments to why we still can't reach Mars using the space shuttle. Do you know why?  One of the reasons is the rocket boosters. Did you know the rocket boosters are built in Utah (?)...the boosters are then transported by railroad, but since they are transported by railroad they can only be so wide...why because the railroads have to travel through the mountain side, and why else...they tracks are only 4'8" apart and have even more limited space between them.  I'll link to the site when his talk is posted...but short story is the size of the railroads date all the way back to the roman chariots and the size of two horses asses! If you'd like to learn more between now and then let me know and I'll do my best to recall the correlation.

Dustin Haisler, former city manager of Manor TX also was a very engaging and wonderful speaker. He discussed how Manor made use of game theory and crowd-sourcing concepts to improve the community in Manor. Game theory is very close to my heart right now as I think about and work with our team at work to apply the concepts to what and how people use our software to deliver better service to their end customers. Dustin's talk also tied in closely with a quasi-forum type panel where the representative from AMD talked about how they are working to tie in game-theory to improve classroom learning.  I'm only sorry I don't recall her name and unfortunately I can't find her name in my book either, but once I learn I will update and re-post.

The last two talks which really captured my interest were from Gary Thompson, a member of the founding team of Kimbia, and from Dr. Lionel Tiger author of the book "The Decline of Males".  Gary talked about his thoughts on changing the way we use the internet and the web. Gary's family has had some personal challenges with cancer where is where he likely got the idea of changing the way we use the internet from HTML to a Contextual markup language. The general premise was let's make use of the connected nature of everything to choose who and where we decide to share information about ourselves to help doctors, and various other organizations make better informed decisions, quicker and with more information than they previously had in their hands.  Again I've likely not done as good of a job describing in this brief blurb his thoughts, but ping me and I'll share more.  Lastly on my list was the frank talk from Dr. Lionel Tiger regarding the decline of males...and in effect the babying of the males today and our need to get over it and let boys be boys. The fact we have over-sensitized males and over-hyped their need to 'get in touch with their feelings' has contributed to why many females are choosing to 'go it alone' and have children without any male involvement... Hence where have all the good men gone these days :(.

The other talks were great as well, but these were among my top favorites and you can learn more in the coming weeks once they post the conference talks. If you have a chance apply to attend the event next year, and check out TED to learn more...I'll bet you learn a lot, and likely even get a few new ideas about how to transform your life, operations, perspective on life, or just get a good laugh..."Moz Jobrani: Did you hear the one about the Iranian-American?" at TED is great!

Nvidia trade update
On Saturday I also needed to evaluate how things looked after the recent earnings release from NVDA. As you may recall from my post earlier in the week I bought protection (option puts) in case the earnings were bad. Thankfully the earnings from NVDA were better than expected and I closed my put positions as early as I could on Thursday morning since NVDA broke out.  I subsequently also sold short February $26 strike price calls since I viewed that level as resistance and I knew there was only two days left in the February expiration contracts. buying protective puts my overall trade is at a loss right now, and I am perfectly okay with that because if it had crashed and I had not bought protection I would have been very pissed...ask me about the time I completely forgot about a company announcing earnings and did not buy any protection :(.  As the weeks and months progress I'll update you more, but at the time my strangle position is stagnant, though my collar position is looking nice since the stock has appreciated since I purchased.

Sunday morning, the Statesman and Social Security?
Look, I have not been a fan of the Austin American Statesman, but Sunday's business section regarding Social Security hit right on...RIGHT NOW for me given the recent talk from Saturday at TEDxAustin with the theme of RIGHT NOW. I am not getting any younger and unfortunately the same goes for our Social Security is under-funded, mis-managed, and worse a ponzi scheme worse than Madoff. It seems my feelings are not alone either. Scott Burns from the Statesman wrote an article for Sunday's business section which aligns closely with my thoughts regarding this fleecing/ponzi-ing of American - "You've been robbed of Social Security - what can we do? by Scott Burns".  I started to write a blog back in 2009 during the height of the debates between McCain and Obama only to find out :( I never posted the article. In short I was making the case we must make sense of the Social security and soon...we are digging ourselves into a deeper problem since we started stealing from the fund. I can appreciate not everyone has the thought or capability to save for retirement, and in some cases it is used for disabilities putting people out of work...but I am sick and tired of the government abusing the fund and not putting my money I've paid in to good use. As of December 2009 I have paid over six figures into Social Security when you consider the amount my employers have paid over the years. That would be perfectly okay with me if I ever thought I was going to see a penny of those dollars repaid. What could I do with that amount...A LOT, and so could YOU! I hope Scott's article gets someone thinking soon and hopefully it is the collective US (you and me) pushing those in Washington to an answer before we sit there and try to rub two pennies together wondering where all the money went.

Finally we celebrated
Sunday afternoon we celebrated the birthday of my oldest son Dylan. Dylan's birthday was actual earlier this month, but with soccer games, travel and crummy weather we chose to celebrate with his friends later. Dylan is doing great and both my wife and I are so excited he is doing well in school. Dylan had a good time with all his friends, and I'm sure they had a blast especially since they got to decorate their own cupcakes...including how much frosting they put on their cupcakes. Thankfully the weather cooperated and we all enjoyed a nearly 80 degrees sunny afternoon in the Austin, TX area.

In closing last week was great, filled with lots of stuff at work, a great conference on Saturday, confirmation others think what I do on Social Security, and a great party for my oldest son. This coming week I am going to keep my eye on overall market since I'm very surprised we have had almost zero pullback in the market, and right now gold is trading up $11.7 at $1396.8 in the futures market and Oil is trading up $2.625 at $91.475 Monday morning February 21st. Thankfully my short call positions against the USO and GLD either expired on Friday or were closed. I am also going to be closely watching my positions in AAPL, AMZN, NFLX, APA, FFIV, DECK, and FAST.

Have a great week, great trading and I hope if you have the day off Monday you get to enjoy.



  1. Cool post, Sir!
    Had me doing some research on my end. I might not agree with everything 100%, but it sure spurted a lot thinking, which is always enriching :-)

  2. What didn't you agree with the Social Security part, or something from the Ted conference?