Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 is knockin' our door...

Last day of the year, today. A 'glorious' decade of the most monumental fuck-up in the history of mankind is about to be gone for good. The Age of Arrogance is almost over! Praise Moses! Let's hope the coming ten years will be a lot better. I just couldn't stand another Dick or George W! Even the Pharaohs knew that fat cows came after the years of plague and misery! Easily done, if you ask me. The first decade of our (Western calendar based) 3rd Millenium sucked so stinkin' bad, that anything else we'll see in the future promises to be an improvement. Unless a meteorite hits us and we all fry to eternity... Not a snowball's chance in hell though. No way. This planet's still got a few billion years to go before it all becomes dust and fire. So, calm down. It's not over yet...

My kids, grown up for sometime now, plan celebrating New Year's Eve (or is it Old Year's... I never been able to figure this out) with their friends and partners in Ghent and Antwerp. My deary spouse (lightly napping in her armchair while 'listening' to an ABBA tune on the radio) and me, still tapping the MBPro keyboard, are about to launch into the traditional eve's passage of the last few hours of 2009 to add another unit to our dull middle-aged lives. We'll probably watch the same good ol' TV shows and eat Japanese and Greek (yep, I'm cooking tonite and when I do that it's always mixed cultures nutrition), and wait for the midnight hour to raise our bubbly "here's to hope for better health" (what else... dough we got enough to get around, inch' Allah)...  and enter another hopeful year in the cycle of life.

Spouse sounds ecstatic as she just found her candles that she's been looking for all around the house... What a joy! Six o'clock radio news reports on a lunatic up in Finland who just shot dead five folks and then shot himself too. A bonehead from Kosovo. Revenged his ex because she started seeing someone else! So what? Dickhead! Rushing to celebrate New Year with Angels and Demons... Some people!

Just drove home from a short visit to the office in Brussels. The place was practically deserted except for some addicted workaholics who were still struggling to get last minute invoices out the door and close another glorious year with record revenues, off the charts, never seen before in the history of the company. Even DHL gave up waiting on them invoices. The pick-up boyz stopped their last round at 2pm today and wouldn't come to pick those darn invoices anymore. What a shame! What did you expect? It's the bleeding December 31st, for crying out loud. Only the Flemish workaholics seem to always forget that! Most other sensible folks are already getting pissed with torrents of bubbly for hours now. That's the spirit my lads! Financial crisis she sez. BS! Yep... crisis only beats the simple minds and the honest. The "sophisticated", the risk takers, and the... corrupt will always manage to surface as the winners one way or another. C'est la vie, like the Bolsheviks used to say!

Radio plays the "Classics Top 1000". They started a few days ago and they count backwards to the top of the list. It's gonna be Bohemian Rhapsody again, I reckon, as it's been like this for as long as I remember! Most tunes are good though. It's playing Pink Floyd right now, as I type this. Supa group, if you ask me. Will never forget the Wall, and Waters performing in Berlin 20 years ago. Radio broadcast just moved to the next one... "Sweet child in time"... All time Number One for years! Deep Purple! Wow! We are getting closer to the top of the list, I reckon. It's Led Zeppelin next with Stairway to Heaven. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Another mega group! Oh, the seventies. Nobody can beat those Rock Star Semi-Gods!!! I was in my twenties and enjoyed discovering life then. And thinking that we, the youth, were on top of everything and ruling the world as we know it! Dream on! Living in Athens, Greece, as a Polytechnic student, under the boots of a bunch of macho mean junta colonels. O tempora O mores! Uriah Heep, Cockney Rebel, Jethro Tull! The Classics!

Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No Comments... speaks for itself!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Every geek's wet dream...

I was window-shopping at MediaMarkt this afternoon and saw the Apple MiniDisplay to DVI convertor. Didn't last long and I had my old 21 inch Cinema Display hooked on the 27 inch i7 quad iMac. With 8G of internal memory and 512 graphics MB, this configuration turned into a dual computer hands down, one running under OSX 10.6 (Snowie) and the second running under Win 7. Now, I don't have much use for my miserable Win install other than one single app that I won't find under Mac ever (that's Microsoft Money). When I need it though, there it is, all driven from the same quad core CPU! If you told me 10 years ago that I'd live the day to see this (performing fast too, mind you) I'd have bet you were nuts. Thanks to Moore's law though, technology moves faster than anyone ever thought possible. In the shot shown here, the main monitor shows Lightroom 3.0 Beta whereas the second monitor shows my Win 7 desktop with its Personalization window. With Lightroom it's also great fun to use a second monitor within the app as well. That gives you a lot more control over your editing work.

If you add to that (to the double monitors, I mean) the "spaces" feature that OSX has generously given us, already there for a few versions now, you get a desktop real estate, just a click away, really huge! More than you will ever need. You can't possibly fill this space for all practical reasons, unless you are one of those sloppy minds who love to have twenty five apps up and running to only use one of them and not even know what the rest are doing lying there on your desktop... I'm rather lucky; I'm the 'empty' desk(top) kinda guy. Know what they say... "sloppy desk... sloppy mind, empty desk... empty mind"!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shooting with the Canon on a Sunday...

Not much else to do on a Sunday like this, when it snows cats and dogs. We might see White Christmas after all, first time since 1986! See? Copenhagen works! Cold is coming to town! Ok, some of the slideshow shots were done yesterday with blue skies, but the rest were from this morning. I did a few déjà vu's as well to use for printing our own holiday cards. The spouse seems to like them this way, as it's hers the flower arrangements shown. What a creative family we are, not? Cards are much better this way. I'm fed up with more of the same themes every year... editors tried anything that moves to create holiday cards; I guess making your own is a far more personalized alternative, innit?

Anyways, enjoy the show...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow in Flanders...

There's two things I like about snow in Flanders. First: Landscapes turning white. Ideal for shooting cool pics. Second: Traffic cameras get snowed up and put out of service. Problem is, roads get pretty icy too, and you'd be suicidal if you accelerated at speeds above camera thresholds. Like you coulda... in the last two days we saw more than 600 miles of traffic jams. And we only had 2 to 4 inches of snow... not the feet(s) thick snow beds they are used in northern US and Canada. Chicken-shit snow, to tell the truth, but enough to take the miserable and out of control motorway system of ours down the loo. The entire belt highway around Brussels was closed down for hours today (true story), not because there was any blizzard or snow storm, no sir, it's been sunshine all day, but someone forgot to pass a message to someone else that the de-icing service had to take an extra round on the northern belt as thick ice was forming. Eventually the motorway had to close down and get fixed. Workers struggled to get to their workplace all morning. God bless Nokia and RIM and Apple and all the rest for making mobile comms available even to the poorest of men. At least some drivers could use the time to do some 'mobile office work'!

I was 'fortunate' to taste the first messy day of the last two snow days real good... that was yesterday. I had to teach class in the campus at the center of Antwerp and had to travel about 50 miles of snowed and icy motorways. The entire segment between Gent and Antwerp was packed in all three lanes... by trucks and lorries on the two rightmost, and regular passenger cars on the fast lane. Took me an hour an a half to do 40 miles. Pretty fast, innit? Anyways, most fellow drivers behaved rather disciplined and the asphalt was somewhat de-iced, meaning we got away without any incidents.

Believe it or not, my worst nightmare came later when I entered Antwerp. De-icing is an entry you can't find in a Antwerpian dictionary. My vehicle was slipping and swaying from side to side all the way to the parking... it moved right with my steering wheel turned all the way to the left, it kept going with my brakes all the way down. I kept rather cool but if I stayed much longer in the car I felt I was about to lose my temper BIG TIME! It was a miracle I didn't get any damage to the car itself and haven't run over any pedestrians. After parking the car (finally) at the campus parking I thought seriously for a moment to book a room and spend the night in town. Just couldn't bear the idea to drive back home after my teaching was over. Thank Moses, it eventually stopped snowing and with some faint mood I managed to drive back to the motorway. Good news there, all lanes seemed mostly free and dry and I was able to get home by 8:30 pm. God bless!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is there anything iPhones can't or won't do?

I think not! How 'bout you? If you wanna be blown away, read this article, and then come to talk to me about how right I am to be an Apple aficionado!

Sunday, fun day!

It all started with an article at Wired Magazine about the most popular iPhone apps of 2009. In that I found out about the Photoshop mobile app that is free and superb, like its desktop big brother. I added an account online at that has an interface animated to the guts and fun to watch. All done in Flash. I used to be against Flash because of the way it's been implemented within Web sites (not at all transparent), but I gotta admit, you can do real interface wonders with the tool. Some of the functions they included are related to image editing, and they offer functionality to make you publish your wonders into plenty of Web 2.0 social sites. You could also embed other photographic sites you might own (Flickr, Picasa...). Finally, you can bring your photoshop libraries within your iGoogle portal and into your Blogger or Wordpress blog (see my sidebar). Adobe claims that you can post your shots in their servers not fearing any loss from compression and such! Really!

Enough with the free stuff on iPhone. Let's buy something serious now. Back to the best selling Apps as published by Apple; curious to see, most were about navigation (Belgian store) and photo shooting. Meaning, most of us in Belgium are so freakin' blind that we can't find our way whatsoever, or shoot any descent photographs at all... which is kinda true!

I bought me two of those apps for €1.59 each. Colorsplash, and Genius. Colorsplash helps you select areas of a photograph  where you keep the color, whereas the rest is converted to B/W. Had nothing else to test, so I shot my cup of coffee on the tablecloth of ours. After editing the shot with Colorsplash I added a vignette effect with Photostudio, another app I like a lot, with more than 100 filters of which about a dozen are remarkable. Rest is a bit of déjà vu, but, anyways... They also recently updated their app by adding more filters and some interesting taxonomy grouping to ease selections... Admire my photographic "wonder" here -->

Finally Genius is a cool tool that improves camera shooting by adding functionality that iPhone's own Camera app originally missed. Anti-shake, zoom, timer, burst shoot, big button (cool!), sound capture, plus raster guides to better position your subjects and improve your framing. Not only the rule of thirds but also diagonal positions and more cool stuff. Pretty impressive!

Now you know how I spend my Sundays nowadays. Testing cool iPhone apps and blogging about them to share my enthusiasm with the rest of you, buggers.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cramer's 25 investment rules revisited!

I fell upon this page earlier today and loved it. I have been watching mad Jim for many years (from CNBC mainly) and got always irritated by his usual arrogance, but I guess that's his own choice to reflect that funny image. He has been singing in a lower tone-ladder though, last year, when he sat as a guest opposite Jon Stewart in the Daily Show.  Jon took the poor bastard to the cleaners. Big time! Poor Jim. I felt sorry for him. Looked like the entire blame for the Wall Street obscenities fell upon his shoulders that night. Jon made a scapegoat of him, for many days that followed. It was all over the blog-sphere! It's hard to be an analyst these days. Anyways, Cramer is a smart cookie and was able to survive the tsunami. Regarding what he usually says in his analysis of the market and its players, you don't really have to believe him, but it sounds pretty smart nonetheless... quite often so. As I read his 25 rules this morning, I often smiled for I remembered my own (re)actions in similar situations where I failed them rules miserably (quite an understatement). See my comments hereunder in each one of them rules to see what I mean. 

Rule 1: Bulls, Bears Make Money, Pigs Get Slaughtered.
First time I heard this was from John, my colleague CFO between 1997 and 2000. How true. I remember him stating that rule and having some heavy laughs the way he only could. Yep, pigs get slaughtered! These are the idiots who jump into the market to make an extra buck without knowing the difference between a balance sheet and a toilet-paper sheet.

Rule 2: It's OK to Pay the Taxes
Says who? Well, ok, in the US you can use your losses to cover your profits from taxation. Here though, what you lose is your problem and capital gains don't get taxed. Rule for the Yanks alone...not here!

Rule 3: Don't Buy All at Once
No Comment. It's pretty obvious, innit? Having said that, I often done this mistake. Took positions right away, instead of spreading. See, you're always afraid you're gonna miss the opportunity and buy more expensive if you wait too long.

Rule 4: Buy Damaged Stocks, Not Damaged Companies
That's a good one! That's why I stuck to AAPL even when they were trading below 100 bucks from a high of 190+ just months earlier. I knew they'd come back. I was an ass though not to sell at their highs... John does better than me on that. Far better!

Rule 5: Diversify to Control Risk
Yep, I tried that and always got screwed. I mean, you need to diversify to avoid going down the drain when all your stocks are heading south, but what with? Bonds and gold? Gimme a break! I'm like stocks and cash. The rest will only make them banks 'commission fee & transaction charges' rich.

Rule 6: Do Your Stock Homework
Provided you understand that shit! Like fundamentals and technicals and MAs and stuff! I often listened to bankers, but these poor bastards quite often know half the story too. Some will even ask you to pass your opinions and info to them instead... I'm that good, you know... (not really). If they knew it all they wouldn't spend their days helping us amateur day-traders! They'd be rich themselves, right? And sunbath their ass down in Saint-Tropez, right? So, don't always buy shit they're telling you. Go by the Big V! Verify. Like one of my ex-IBM bosses used to say. Don't expect... inspect!

Rule 7: No One Made a Dime by Panicking
Correct. My problem was more like, don't panic, it'll come back, don't sell yet... not yet... and by the time I realized I had to move my ass, it was gone too far south for me to sell and so I kept the bears and swallowed big losses.  Eh, well. It's only money... like John the Wise sez! Thank Moses, losses mostly came back, sort of... eventually. Dream on...

Rule 8: Buy Best-of-Breed Companies
I love Techs. The big boys. Like MSFT and IBM and INTC and AAPL. I worked for a semi company in the 90ies, so I still hold TXNs and thank God I got out of freaking MOT almost on time (having lost big before that). I mean, this rule 8 is easier said than done, ok?

Rule 9: Defend Some Stocks, Not All
Jim is right on that one too. I should have dropped TXN and INTC long ago and CSCO too. But I am the loyal type of guy. In marriage and in stocks. What can I say?

Rule 10: Bad Buys Won't Become Takeovers
Always stayed out of those... Some people buy bad names in deepshit trouble hoping some sod out there with deep pockets will show up and buy the losers. Not me though. This is too speculative for my taste. We had a company in this country in the hype times that went down the pissoir big time.  Lernout en Hauspie. Remember those frigtards? Plenty of 'pigs' in West Flanders took a second mortgage on their house to borrow money and give it to those losers. Jo Lernout and his mate Hauspie, founders of the mess, should have been canonized following the miracles some believed in, those days. The age of stupidity! Your beloved cash, you just said? Kissie kissie bye bye! Rule 1 of the Cramer list! What do pigs get?

Rule 11: Don't Own Too Many Names
I don't. I used to and eventually I lost on most of those that I didn't quite know well enough. You just can't be there and watch them screw up all the time, can you? Once I was convinced by the silly banker to buy in that miserable sports company from Germany, of the two brothers who kept hating each other to their grave (Adidas and Puma). Another time I had to take positions (following 'expert' advice again) in Healthcare,  Renewable Energy, and Emerging Markets in SA (Brazil and such). Even got me into "structured products" with Lehman Brothers just months before they collapsed. Yep. My banker was a genius. I hope he reads this blog. Tough shit! Don't ask. I don't even take the dude's calls anymore. I learned to stick to the industries I know and understand. High Tech! Computer stuff! Hard and software. AAPL and iPhones! And semi's. Despite TXN and INTC!

Rule 12: Cash Is for Winners
You betsa. Problem is, it never heads south, fine, but it doesn't go north either. It's no fun. Cash suckz! Buy some property instead. Not on an island though that risks to end up under water in ten years time from ice melting in the poles.

Rule 13: No Woulda, Shoulda, Couldas
Cramer is so right on this. The times I felt like he says... if I had a penny each time I said 'I shoulda' I'd be rich by now. Everyone among us seems to be an expert in predicting the future after the facts (well into the future, I mean). It takes guts to make the right decision in advance of the future though. Wanna know more about it? Trade in Puts and Calls then. You'll see what I mean real quick.

Rule 14: Expect, Don't Fear Corrections
Yeah, right. Problem is, how do you know it's a correction? If it happens to all, same time, ok, maybe. They'll come back eventually. What about a correction that never comes back? Like MOT? Yep, I'm hearing you... that wasn't a correction, you sez, it was simply a sort of management insanity that took the company to garbage status. Like most of the banks last year. Ayways. Corrections? Fine. I don't bother much about them as I am in the game for the long term.

Rule 15: Don't Forget Bonds
Sure do. I don't have that much money to waste on bonds! I mean, why lock your money into something that pays just a couple percent points above cash? So freakin' boring! Too much risk for what it is! When the shit hits the fan they go down like rocks too. Better buy gold, or a trip to Hawaii in a yacht packed with 20 year old blondes!

Rule 16: Never Subsidize Losers With Winners
I did that mistake over and over! Still do it. Don't wanna talk about it! Bleeds my heart. Shoulda woulda coulda!

Rule 17: Check Hope at the Door
I love this one. The market is run by calculated sneaky bastards who play with yours and my money all day long, so that 'hope' and 'lighting candles to Mary and Jozef' 's got nothing to do with it! Heard that, pigs? You better do or you'll end up in a kebab spit.

Rule 18: Be Flexible
I'd like to. But in this miserable continent of ours they charge you a fortune for each transaction, buy or sell. Unless you trade in options, you normally stick to your securities for the long run. One dot something percent charge, no ceiling, per transaction. That's why bankers get so stinkin' rich. They do nothing, take no risk at all and still get money out of your misery, whether you buy or sell... regardless.

Rule 19: When the Chiefs Retreat, So Should You
He may be right on this one... I am not too sure though. Who knows why chiefs abandon ship most of the time? Some even get sacked. Good captains don't go away. If they do, they might have been lousy in their job when in charge. I couldn't say. This is kinda tough call.

Rule 20: Giving Up on Value Is a Sin
Not applicable to me. After burning my underpants multiple times, I ended up trusting myself (and my good pal John, God bless him) far more than I trust them banking experts!

Rule 21: Be a TV Critic
I am. Those freaking Financial analysts (with a few exceptions counted in the fingers of one hand) are all the same. Each day of the week they get the same stupid reasons to explain the market or individual stocks moving either in one or another direction. I'd like to know who starts the wave every single day. Ridiculous. Same reason we hear them say was behind a market crash one day moves the whole lot sky-high the following day. These folks are so full of it! Agree?

Rule 22: Wait 30 Days After Preannouncements
I sort of developed some gut feel for the stocks I know well. I don't listen to preannouncements anyway. That's for short term opportunists and those who're chicken scared they might lose a penny or two. There are some who put their cash in a myriad notes inside banksafes built under lakes. Not my kind of people...

Rule 23: Beware of Wall Street Hype
To think that he's one of them... well done Jim. I salute you! Yep, everybody knows that those fancy Wall Street boys are the scam of the Earth. With some big sharks on top of the pile. Easy money is written in their forehead. Nowadays they do it with HFT tricks and leave their computers do their dirty laundry.

Rule 24: Explain Your Picks
I do... most of the times. Except when I followed the advice of 'wise' bankers as I often did in the past. Not anymore. I do hear what they have to say, but then try to verify the info and get convinced by what I read next in 25 different 'trustworthy' net blogs and other newsreels. Maybe 30.

Rule 25: There's Always a Bull Market
I know. That's why I still stick around with them stocks. I might have put everything I got in a cheap safe instead, right? Above the ground though. Lakes might leak!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lessons in Chinese... a pictograph a day keeps the Mandarin away

I luv 'em Chinese! I mean their pictographs! Look this one shown here left. A double sign of "happiness" meaning "marital bliss". And the happiness pictograph itself is the sign of a drum upon an (open) mouth. Go figure! All you need to find happiness in China is beat a drum and sing along! Cool! Or is it, beat the drum with your mouth? WTF?! LMAO!

There are thousands like this. One I like a lot is the sign of a woman. Looks like a (kneeling) woman (with some imagination) with her legs crossed. Put two of them (woman) pictographs together and you get... quarrel! Put three together and you get adultery! Why three for crying out loud? If you got just one extra, are you telling me, you're still fine? I'll go tell my spouse that! I'm off to China for the rest of me days, folks... Or is it because they definitely wanted two women to mean quarreling? And they therefore needed a minimum of three to tell "messing around"? Who knows? Don't you believe me? Check this source and find out for yourselves.

The other one that proves the centuries long respect of the Chinese for their women is the one shown here right. Means a Slave. The sign on the left is the woman. The one next to it is the sign of a Master's hand! A woman under a master's hand is a slave! Right on!

You still think Chinese pictographs are hard to learn? Start learning and you won't stop rolling on the floor laughing your ass off! I'm telling you, I haven't had such fun in a long time, ever since I started studying them buggers.

My iTunes crashes upon plugging the iPhone...

Spouse (serial) complaining about quality of music I put on her iPhone. I'm like, ok, I'll sync something more your taste honey, gimme a sec. Next thing, I launch iTunes and connect her 2G iPhone to the MacBook. And keep waiting for the hourglass to settle down. In vain! What the heck? 'Force Quit' shows iTunes 'stopped responding'. Say what? First time I seen this. Honest! I force-quit iTunes and unplug the iPhone. Start iTunes again and all seems fine. Connect my iPhone this time... all seems to work fine too. Connect the spouse's phone next, iTunes crashes like a Ferrari at 150mph into a brick wall! Enough to piss you off for the rest of the (Sun)day!

Off to the net looking for more miserable sods like me who got the same issue. The net seems clogged from chat-forum postings complaining about this. Somebody sez "connecting a 500 bucks phone to my three grand super trooper computer, both from the same company and still not working! WTF!" A block suggested to reinstall iTunes! C'm on! Piss off! I wouldn't even know where to start for this. Somebody else suggests to "repair disk permissions". A dude, seemingly from the nerdy Windows crowd is like, "Permissions? Where do I find those?"... Get a life dude! Join the Apple crowd to see the light! Not?

Long story short, many complaints like that all over the 'cloud'. But no solution in sight. Only shitloads of strange theories like those you find in chat forums in the millions. Until I fell upon this dude whose remedy made me LMAO.

He's like: "all you got to do, is to get rid of any stored podcasts you might have in iTunes". On a Sunday morning, you don't need much more to ROFL. Anywayz. I'd give it a try!

Holy donkey who carried Mary and Jesus to Egypt! It just worked! Unbelievable! Incredible! I mean, when I first read about this 'fix', it sounded like having to delete a certain... Stones song from your music collection to fix your iPhone. Right? I fokkin' hate software! Oh, the intricacies of the iTunes object code! What stuff did these Apple folks smoke the day they coded the iPhone syncing functions? Makes you wonder...

Needless to say, the spouse enjoys once more the "Best of" her all time faves Salvatore Adamo and Roy Orbison, like no-one. And I found my peace again...