Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How Could We?

We knew more about him than we knew about any presidential candidate in history.  That's not an exaggeration.  He was present in our everyday lives, and on television every week for many years.  Buildings and golf courses were named after him.  We knew.

We knew, and still, the masses (albeit not the majority) voted for him, knowing what a pompous jackass he was.  They justified it by saying, "He says what he thinks," which is another way of saying that he says what nobody should say.  That's the problem.

We elected him to the highest office in the land, and maybe the world. President T***p.  I can't type his name, because it might come up in a Google search and I don't want to be investigated by the FBI after I say that I hate his guts and I wish he'd fall out of an airplane.

Oh - wait --- the FBI?  They're powerless, right?  Nevermind.  I hope Trump falls out of an airplane.  There, I said it.  Hey, you never know.  He might open a door that he thinks is a bathroom and ... explosive decompression.  It happens.

We can only hope.

He is an embarrassment to America and Americans.  People around the world are wondering, "How could you elect him?" And sadly, we are left with the same questions.  It's the principle reason why the allegations of Russian election fixing are paramount in the news.  How else could he have won if not for fixing the election?  I have no idea, since we knew what a skunk he was to begin with.

Mister Trump was a horrible person.  He bankrupted casinos and airlines, played an ass on a network television show, and otherwise endeared himself to those who enjoyed theater.  Theater is different than running a country.  We put President Trump in charge of running our country.

The mind boggles.

So, there he is - running our country.  Giving up secrets to the Russians, Tweeting at all hours of the day and night, snubbing leaders of countries that were once our friends, and generally behaving like a private citizen who won some sort of lottery and is now in charge of the free world.  It's a pathetic fraternity prank.

His supporters are rejoicing - today - but I wonder how much they will be rejoicing once they find out how much of their tax deductions he will take away, and how much of their health coverage will be left to the dust.  His mantra of "Make America Great Again" will be a distant memory when they find out that building his ridiculous border wall will cost them huge chunks of their health care and ta deductions that they took for granted.  The day of reckoning is coming.

He has been in office for barely 5 months, and already the winds of impeachment and "appointing a special prosecutor" are blowing.  One wonders what the next 6 months will bring. He's such a loose cannon, I suspect that he will eventually say or do something that he and his Republican supporters cannot worm their way out of.
Already, NBC Nightly News has devoted 13 minutes of a half-hour broadcast to the latest Russian security leak.  How much longer can it continue?

Not much longer, one hopes.  Although, the thought of President Pence frightens me equally.
But, we'll burn that bridge when we come to it.



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Separation of the Classes

It's probably me - yeah, it's definitely me - but the separation of classes in society affects me in ways that maybe nobody else experiences.  Unless you're like me, in which case, I'm sorry.

Life separates us into classes.  There is more than the typical "lower, middle, and upper."  There are sub-sets of those classes, and even though you might consider yourself one or the other, your middle class identity is dependent on your idea of what "Middle Class" is. I'd guess it's not what you think, and I can prove it.

For purposes of this discussion, let's exclude the upper class and the lower class.  If you are lower class, you aren't reading this. If you are upper class, you don't care.  That leaves the...

Middle class - the idea suggests anyone who isn't living on food stamps or earning a six-figure salary at some corporate job, but my research suggests otherwise.
There are variations of middle class.  There's a middle class who is just above lower class, scraping by on credit card debt and living week-to-paycheck.  They call themselves middle class because of their annual salary, which is a bullshit way to evaluate anything.

There are levels of Middle Class. It's not just one thing.  There is the middle class who is like that.  There is also the middle class who has two homes - one here and one in the mountains or at the shore, and doesn't identify with the other middle class.  That middle class is closer to the statistical middle class that we are supposed to identify with.

Some of them have lavish homes in the suburbs. Others have homes in more than one location - even though they are saying that they are part of 'us,' it is clear that they are not. It's either some expensive home, or other extravagance that we know is out of our reach as "The Middle Class," and we are left wondering ... how the fuck?

That's my usual response: "How the fuck.." with the middle being "...can they" and the end being "...that?" With a question mark.  I suppose I prefer the company of those who are economically challenged, otherwise, why would I be asking these questions?

I know how much money I make, and I have an idea how much money they make - and I cannot make the two equal the same "Middle Class" qualification - so, I figure there must be some other sociological classification that they fall into, or I fall into.  Either way, it's disturbing to realize that I am not in the same social circle as people that I am equated with.  Why don't I fall-in with the same people I am supposed to be in a "class" with?  Economically, I'm not close.

And therein lies the rub:  My discomfort with people.  In general, or sociological; whatever.

For all we know, this void will grow
And everything's in vain, distressing you won't leave me open
Feels so right that I'll end this all before it gets me.
- Seether

And so, it's like that.  





Thursday, May 4, 2017

How Do You Do it?

It first occurred to me in 1996, when my (future ex) wife left me.  She encouraged me to go to therapy because ... well, I thought she thought I needed it. I agreed because I thought it was the best way to save our marriage.  Little did I know ...

She gave me the address of a therapist that she had found, and I went - on a weeknight at some stage of our deteriorating relationship - in the hope that it would salvage what was left of it.

After hearing both of us out, the therapist told us that "we shouldn't be married." That interested me, and I later found out that she had been to the therapist earlier, and only sent me as a knowledgeable participant in her game.
When the therapist asked her where she had gone to deal with it, and whom she had spoken to.  The answer came, "I went back to my parents' house."

When the therapist asked me, I gazed into the ceiling and thought for a second... "No one.  I didn't go to anyone.  I stayed home," was my reply.  The therapist looked at me in awe, and asked again, "So, you didn't talk to anyone?"
"No, I didn't."  I thought that was a reasonable answer, given the fact that I didn't have any friends - or at least any friends I thought I could go to with such a horrible life circumstance...

Rewind:  I came home that afternoon to a home that was bereft of her possessions and a note that said, "I'm sorry I couldn't be the person you wanted me to be.  Take care of the cat. He is very special."

I'm not sure how someone is supposed to react to something like that.  For me, I sat down and made a list of the pros and cons of what was going on, and the financial aspect of each.  As it was, I decided that I could make it on my own, as long as I didn't have any life-altering issues to get in the way of my financial goals.

For the record:  I took care of the cat. He lived another 12 years under my care, and died quietly of kidney failure at the age of 18.  He was my rock.

After looking into our bank account, I found that she had left with half of it.  Enraged, I ran back to her (parents) house and demanded the rest of "my money," since I felt that it was entitled to me as she had left for the security of her old home and I was left with the rest of the bills.  That may be right or wrong, and I'd leave it to a court to decide.  Nonetheless, I got my (our) money back.

Suffice it to say, I survived - however - and managed to exist on one salary where we had previously gotten along on two.  The sacrifice was no more vacations, lavish weekends, or otherwise fun things that two people did.  It was: Pay bills, care for the cat, and feed yourself.

Often, I have gone back to that therapist's words of,  "So, you didn't talk to anyone?"  I wondered if she was in a world of people who routinely leaned on others for their problems or asked for medication to get through difficult times.  I figured that people had their own problems, and didn't need me to compound the issue.  I can deal with it myself.

Because "dealing with it myself" is what I had always done.  Don't bother other people with your problems.  Your problems are yours.  They have their own issues, and don't need you.  It's like that.

I'm an only child, and grew up in an area where there were few people my own age.  My father died when I was nine, and I suppose that combined to make it difficult for me to ask people for help or expect it.
I remember, when dad died, my mother asked a family friend to take me to Gino's for lunch, supposedly to distract me from the reality.  I wondered, "Why is this person who I have never socialized with suddenly taking me out for food?"  He probably wondered the same thing, but was doing so because he was asked.
I was nine years old, and the whole thing washed over me like a wave.  I remember things my father taught me, and our time together; but the impact of his leaving me was lost on my age. I didn't understand.  He was gone forever, but the child in me didn't understand what forever meant.

I understand it now.  it toughened me to death and the certainty of it.  Not that it mattered less, but that the idea of it made it real to me at a young age.  I saw him die in our living room in front of my mother, and I was there for the subsequent burial and consequences of it all.  It hardens a child, even if the child does not realize it at the time. He realizes it now.

I had nowhere to go, other than the neighbor's house while the doctor and whatever medical people came to take his body out of our house. Before they sent me next door, the end had come.  My mother was hysterical. She held her hand up to his nose and said, "I can still feel him breathing!"
The doctor told her, "It's just the air escaping from his lungs."

How can a child experience that and not be changed?

I could not.  And so, I do not ask for your help.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Earnings Season!

It's another earnings season.  For market geeks like me, it's four-times Christmas.  

Applied Micro Devices (AMD) reported yesterday, and the stock has been down ever since.  I suppose it's because chips have topped-out?  It would have taken a massive quarter for them to continue their upside run, so I guess a bottom was in the forecast. Buy if you must.

Pfizer (PFE) [a core holding here] reported revenues that beat the street but earnings that disappointed.  The word from the street is that they need to pursue acquisitions in order to increase their market share and profits.  The stock might be a raging buy at these depressed levels, but do your own DD.  C'mon folks, get sick already.

Apple (AAPL) got clobbered because of expectations over the release of iPhone7, which most of us didn't pay attention to anyway.  It's possible that you can swoop-in and pick this up in the 135 range.  Otherwise, let it run through the summer.  The (supposedly) groundbreaking iPhone8 won't be out until at least October, so bide your time.  There isn't much to suggest that the stock will surge over the already-all-time-high price.  Rumors are that they are working on a Siri-like replacement for Amazon and Google's personal assistant. Let's see where that goes.  My guess is that people want less intrusion into their personal life than more.

On Wednesday, Facebook, Fitbit, Square, Tesla, and Clorox report earnings.  That should be a big day - but I said that about Monday, too - and look what happened.

Facebook looks to continue its run of success.  I don't see anything to derail another positive earnings report.  Unless you consider that the stock is already priced for perfection.  In which case, I'd hold it until they say something.
Fitbit is another story.  They haven't been able to penetrate the personal wearable space.  Garmin (GRMN) has been a major factor and unsung in the space.  Fitbit is the "Kleenex" of wearables.  They call them "Fitbit's" but the company hasn't been able to capitalize on the brand. Let's see what they say.  My guess is a neutral quarter that will leave as much to speculation as anything.

Square (SQ) is an interesting story.  The company went public in November of 2015 at around $13 a share. They should be approaching profitability now.  

Tesla (TSLA) is a complete mystery to me.  They sell fewer cars than General Motors, Toyota, or Ford; and yet their market cap is higher than any of them.  Part of that is the idea that investors think that Elan Musk has some sort of mojo on the rest of the market and his ideas will catch on. They might, but not until the stock capitulates into the low 200s.  Wait on it.

Good old Clorox (CLX) They make more stuff than you realize, and they are expected to earn $1.30 in this latest quarter on revenues of about $148 billion.  If you're looking for a stock to give to your grandchildren, I wouldn't look much further than this.  For you?  Eh.

As for me, I'm waiting on a favorite DelTaco Restaurants (TACO) to report on Thursday.  I like everything this company does, and I suspect that I'll like what they have to say on Thursday.  McDonald's and Domino's can't be the only places to be in fast food.

Godspeed.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Some Pots Don't Have Lids

I'm sitting here, realizing how long it has been since I have touched a woman.  Touched, as in felt, handled, held hands, kissed, or otherwise been familiar with.
Most of you have no idea what I'm talking about.  Either you're a woman who has to beat men off with a stick, or you're a man who has some "game" that leads women to you.  Either way, you probably cannot identify with me when I tell you that I have not touched a woman in an amorous way in over five years.

Yeah.

I say it's been five years, but it may be longer than that.  I said five because it's a nice round number.  It might be six, or eight.  I don't remember - which is the point, exactly.

I will be 60 years old soon.  Sixty.  I have never been in jail.  I have been employed since I was 18, and I have owned my own home for over 25 years.  There must be something wrong with me, right?

I see men who have no idea what cleanliness means, what deodorant is, how their shoes should be tied, how to hitch their pants to their (disappearing) waist line, or if a razor exists or what to do with it -- and yet, they have women crawling all over them, and have been happily co-existing for several decades.

Me - I can't have an argument with a woman without her abandoning me for -- nothing -  and I can't dress myself up enough to make a difference.  I guess it's because I have no money, or no "game," or whatever it is that draws desperate women to men like that.  That's their choice, and I cannot dispute it.

I think I'm an interesting person.  I have ideas, opinions, and things to say.  I clean-up and speak nicely when I'm around people. I'm in decent shape for a man of my age, and I have my own car, a job, and ... stuff.  Not enough, I suppose.

I've run it through my head a number of times, and I can't rationalize the difference between me and the rest of "them."  You know "them."  Those guys.  Them.

Perhaps I underestimate women?  Or overestimate them?  Maybe they want more than what I am, or maybe they want less?  Either way, I cannot pretend to be someone I am not in order to impress someone.

I remember my ex-wife telling me, "I was disappointed in you."  I wondered how, since I never put-on airs or told her that I was something I was not.  I figured that she wanted me to be something that she had built-up in her head, and I didn't measure up to that.  I can't change that.  Meanwhile, the real disappointment came from me toward her.  I was disappointed that she didn't love me for who I was, which is what our wedding vows said.  But, I digress.

When people stop smoking, they spend the first few weeks craving a cigarette.  After a month or two, they still miss it, but they can get along without it.  Once the feeling passes (after years?) they realize that they never needed the cigarettes at all, and it was silly to crave them to begin with.  I'm in the fifth year of being without "cigarettes."  I'm starting to get frightened that I might be weaned off the feeling altogether.

I don't know what I'm supposed to do.  I'm not interested in some one-night hook-up via Tinder or one of those disastrous web sites.  When I have sex with someone, it's a bonding experience, not a notch in my bedpost.  I can't "hunt and gather."

I've tried to dismiss the feeling, as though it's something that is unique to me, but I keep seeing people happily coupled-up and I can't help but think that, at nearly 60, that there isn't something wrong with me -- because there is.

There is.

Millions (literally) of people are couples, and contests give away "tickets for two" to something (which I refuse to enter) and vacations are priced "Per person, double occupancy" because one person traveling alone is more expensive, and even our government screws individual taxpayers.  The world is made for two.

Lonely is an Eyesore.

I sit at bars, restaurants, and shows in my single seat.  I see the glances, the "oh, he's by himself," and I have been asked, "How can you go to a show by yourself?"  Well, it's either go alone or miss it altogether.  They don't think about that part.  The upside is, it's easy to get seats to shows when you're only looking for one.  The downside is ... the downside.

So, where does it leave me?  Right where I was, unfortunately.  I thought that, as I aged, I'd be "A Catch."  The kind of guy that women saw as secure or ... whatever ... and I'd be the guy who "beats them off with a stick."  I don't have a stick.

It is like talking politics or religion.  Say, "I'm lonely" and people turn their heads and pretend to get a phone call.  It's social anathema.  Think about it, but don't talk about it.  It goes hand-in-hand with depression.  Lonely people are depressed because they are lonely, and they are lonely because they are depressed.  Nobody wants anything to do with them.  You can say it, go ahead.

We don't want to be a charity case or some project or puzzle for you to solve.  Some puzzles cannot be solved. Some projects have no conclusion.  It's the reason the whale - the largest mammal on the face of the Earth has a small throat-opening and most of them have no teeth. It's just the way it is, and there's nothing you can do about it.

It's up to us to live with it.  You can't eat steak if all you can eat is plankton.

I know, you were expecting more from me, but that's all I have.

I was expecting more from you, too.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sports Uber Alles

There is no bigger example of how sports rules American life than the NFL draft going on this week in Philadelphia.
For several weeks, traffic has been diverted around the site near the iconic Art Museum, and it will be diverted for several more weeks while they set-up and clean-up the massive structures that are being erected to commemorate the religion that is professional football.

So, what's going on?  Well - a professional football league (the National Football League) is drawing names in a progressive order, to declare which college players will be eligible to play for them in the upcoming season.  Sounds important, right?  Oh - no?  Well, it's pretty important, if you stop to look at what's going on in the city.

Streets around the Art Museum have been blocked off for a couple of weeks, and more are being blocked every day.  We didn't do this much when the Pope came here.  These are young adults playing football, fer-Christ-sakes. Supposedly, the largest stage ever built in North America is being built for ... what?  22-year-old's running up to hear their name called to become part of the National Football League.  That sounds important, right?

Meanwhile, other 22-year-old's are graduating with high honors at colleges across America, and they are fortunate to have a cake and a dinner with their family.  I know, some of them are getting expensive cars and gifts ... from their families ... but there is no national league of (oh, I don't know) accountants or scientists giving them a big stage to come up and get a hug from the head of the Big Accountants of America or the National Scientific American Association (assuming either of those exist) upon their successful graduation with something close to a 4.0 grade-point-average.

Well, wait ... these kids on Thursday ... what? Ran really fast and jumped higher than their fellow student --- um, student athletes -- so it's only fitting that we shut-down an entire city for a month to reward them with a hug from the head of their employer and a two-hour stint on national television.

That seems fair, right?

After all, who will contribute more to society?  A guy who spends four years running an oblong object up and down a grass field for our entertainment or an honor student who discovers a cure for some disease or declaring some new scientific principle?  It's a no-brainer, right?

Yes, the term no-brainer is a particular problem with me, but I digress.

The glorification of sports in society is the problem.  It is fed by the saturation of media and their obsession with people who can jump high or run fast over those who can think or react.  It's not that it isn't important, it's that it isn't that important - or as important as we make it.  
Think about it -  three days, and countless hours of network television time over a professional sports league picking players to work for them.

Get a grip, America.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Big Week Ahead

There is a big week ahead in your portfolio-thingy.  Over in France, they are having an election on Sunday.  Yes, Sunday.  The French are goofy.  I suppose they expect everyone to vote, or something? One wonders what would have happened if we had a full turnout last November, instead of electing someone with 49% of the vote with barely 60% turnout.  But, I digress.

Our stock market will react - however it will - to the results on Sunday night.  Sadly, there is nothing you or I can do about it, so we are forced to grimace and bear it.  But, these are the facts:
  • Like the Brexit vote several months ago, the markets may tank, and you will have an opportunity to jump in and buy quality stocks at a discount. Or ...
  • Like last November, the market will react positively, and you will have an opportunity to hold onto whatever you own and watch it increase in value over ... nothing, really.  That's the beauty of the stock market.
Meanwhile, many big companies are reporting earnings on Tuesday.  Among them, Caterpillar, DuPont, CocaCola, Eli Lilly, McDonald's, 3M, and Chipotle.  They are all big market movers, and one suspects that any or all of them will have the power to move the general market one way or another.
McDonald's has had a big run.  Whether or not you support their ideals, the stock is up about 20% year-to-date, so it doesn't matter if you do not care for burgers and fries, because somebody does.  It's difficult to bet against this behemoth, and I'd say that you shouldn't either.

Coca-Cola has been floundering, and they are struggling to re-discover themselves in the face of increased taxes on sugary soft drinks and the backlash on that.  I'd guess that they will have found a way around that, and the stock will continue its upward trend.

Chipotle has been struggling to find its footing after their health scares almost two years ago.  The public's memory is short, and this quarter should be the one that says whether or not they have forgotten.  As for me, I've never eaten at one, so I don't know what you expect.

On Wednesday, Twitter reports.  Stockholders are anxious, and waiting for management to figure out a way to monetize something that almost everybody uses but does not pay for. Something tells me that our long, free ride is coming to an end.  They have to find some way to monetize the content, and it's a matter of time before it starts costing us money to stay in.

On Thursday, Southwest Airlines reports.  They might have something to say about the debacle at United, but there is probably enough positive stuff to talk about without talking about that nonsense.  More importantly, Under Armor, Amazon, Microsoft, Domino's, and Google (Alphabet) report.  Hey - can somebody get together and separate this stuff into different days? My attention span is suffering.

Amazon is a giant force in retail, but I think they might miss earnings. It's about time, don't you think?  This may present a buying opportunity for those of you who are looking for one.
As much as I love Baltimore-based Under Armor and its products, the stock is over-valued, and I think there may still be a better opportunity to own it.  Listen to what they say, because I think it may be a soft quarter and push the stock price back closer to the low-teens where it will be buyable.
Domino's is technology disguised as pizza.  Yeah, they sell pizza, but its an emoji away from your home. other firms are struggling to catch up.  I'd guess that their market dominance will continue for a while.  It's just pizza, but there is little competition.  Your local shop cannot keep up.

On Friday, General Motors reports.  This is the first of the big auto-makers.  Ford's earnings will come on the following Friday.  The best guess is that the auto stocks have about ten percent left to drop, which is odd, since Ford already trades at an obscenely low multiple.  Go figure.  It just proves that it doesn't mean that making a great product translates into stock appreciation.
Exxon-Mobil and Chevron also report on Friday.  Oil is in trouble, in spite of President Trump [cough] and his pro-drill stance.  It's still a supply and demand market, and oil prices may remain low until the summer.  You can buy these, but make sure to pick your spots.

Overall, this is a big week coming up.  If you have money put aside, several big names might go on sale either because of the French election or some misstep on earnings or ... some big brokerage house wanting to drive the price down by reading something into the earnings report.  It's up to you.

As for me, I'm sticking with the buy-buy-buy mantra.  It all evens-out in the end.  If you stick with good companies, your patience will be rewarded.