Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Empathy vs. Sympathy

“I did not know how to reach him, how to catch up with him... The land of tears is so mysterious.” 

Yes, the land of tears is mysterious, whoever you are.  The land of tears is mysterious.  If you do not believe that ancient idea, consider one more current ...


“The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them.” 

Take that, millennials. That's the difference between sympathy and empathy.  Most of you probably don't know.  You can sympathize with someone with whom you have not shared similar experiences, but you can only empathize with someone with whom you have shared similar experiences with.  And, therein lies the problem - at least as it is with this.

Most of you cannot empathize with me because you have either (a) been with someone for several years or (2) had a relationship with someone over the past five years.  If neither of those circumstances apply to you, then you can only sympathize.  It's simple fact.

And so, telling me to "grin and bear it" or find some other outlet for my grief is nice, it does nothing for the overall issue at hand.  
The other one who said "how come you think that people who live in a relationship have a) found the partner of their dreams, b) are not lonely, and c) haven't given up? Go figure."

Apparently, my struggles are nothing compared to people who have supposedly found their soul mate, and I'm supposed to belive that my loneliness is nothing compared to theirs.  Go figure.
Well, yeah - so, go fuck yourself "go figure."  In plain English.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

You Win

If this wasn't an honest appraisal of my life, then it's worthless - and I don't want this to be worthless.

Whether I'm recommending investments or letting you in on my otherwise private thoughts, there is a sense that this is an opening of my mind, such as it is, and hence, the title.

I'll stand by my investment recommendations, DelTaco and Extreme Networks among them, and so let's move beyond that and delve into the inner workings of my (egad) mind.

Love has eluded me over the years, and it continues to do so.  I find it oddly interesting that so many have found it so easily, while it betrays me at every turn.  It's at the point now where I see someone and think, "Oh well, that's never going to happen."  The sense of doom is paramount. 

Lately, I thought that the soul mate that I so desperately seeked was in Alabama, of all places.  As it turned out, she was there physically, but not there in form or spirit.  I don't mind telling you because it doesn't seem to matter now, as she has surreptitiously disappeared from my life.  One is left to "go figure."  It would appear that she has gone back to the future ex-whatever who has mistreated her over the years, and my best efforts to reconcile that situation have fallen on both deaf ears and mind.

I'm taking a big chance in going public with this, but I have not "named names" or otherwise implicated anyone who doesn't already know whom she is.  Plus, the fact is that I've gone all "Larry David" and no longer care who finds what I say or think, so I'm going to say what I think and - as it were - fuck you if you're offended.  So, go ahead and be offended.

I am nearly 60 years old now, and as a mature adult, I have come across situations that require attention and at this point in my life, I will not bow to social pressure or succumb to what society thinks is acceptable.  
The fact that I am nearly 60 weighs on me, and it causes me to think about the goals that I had when I was 40 years younger, and naive enough to think that those goals would come to fruition.

I'm not asking for help.  I am giving up.  It has been over 40 years of searching and wanting, and frankly - it's exhausting. Emotionally and physically exhausting. For those of you who have found your so-called "soul mate," Congratulations.  I'm done. You win life's lottery.  The rest of us are stuck buying tickets.

I thought it might be a ticket to Alabama, but they don't have a state lottery, so I suppose I was duped again.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Finding the Value in Crap


It’s been a while since I have opined on the stock market.  Mostly because I have had other more important things to say.  Nevertheless, I still pay attention, and I think you should, too.  

Recently, Morningstar rated 20 stocks as “Undervalued and Sustainable,” which appeals to me because I hate overpaying for things, and want whatever I buy to be around in a decade or so - since I plan on that, too.

I went over the list (as you should, too) and found five that appear to be attractive in today's environment, and have some risk involved, with the requisite reward at the end of the supposed rainbow.

Mattel (MAT) looks like a disaster now, but their capital-allocation program has committed an incremental $250 million-$300 million to business improvements in 2017, potentially helping speed up the profit turnaround. So, if you are confident in their ability to turn the existing portfolio into a profitable enterprise, you could find a bargain here.  

HanesBrands (HBI). They aren't in the strict retail environment that is killing the likes of Macy's and Nordstrom.  Instead, they are selling products to them, and without a pure retail outlet, they may be able to make it work.  Free cash flow is still positive, and the company is buying back shares, which is a confident approach, and should attribute to earnings going forward.  Besides, who doesn't need underwear?

CapitalOne Financial (COF) This is a bit of a personal preference, since they are my bank and my credit card company.  While other companies like Visa (V) and MasterCard (MAS) have skyrocketed, CapitalOne has been left in the dust.  There is still value here. They continue to acquire assets, and our beloved Millennials continue to embrace debt and credit cards in particular, and Capital One is one of the underrated leaders in this space.

Starbucks (SBUX) Oh God, is it Starbucks?  I realize it's a retailer, and all, but despite ambitious growth aspirations, Morningstar believes Starbucks can sustain a 45%-50% dividend payout ratio over the next decade , implying mid-teens average annual dividend growth. It's hard to argue with that.

Kroger (KR) There's just something about this company that appeals to me.  I can't imagine that Amazon (AMZN) is going to kill retail altogether, so I figure that one or more has to sustain - and I think Kroger will be one of them.  If you're going to hold me responsible for any of these choices, then hold me responsible for Kroger, because I believe in the company and think that they will survive the onslaught of Amazon and the E-commerce of the 21st Century.

if you are a young investor, or have a young investor in mind, you could do worse than any of these five, or some others on the Morningstar list.  Take a look at all of them, but - in my opinion - for what that's worth, your money is best spent in these areas.

As usual, do your due diligence.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

More Dribble-Drabble

Eighteen hundred and some-odd posts on this worn-out site.  Sometimes, I think I've covered it all - and other times, I think I haven't covered anything at all.  Or maybe it's both?  So, there's that.  Meanwhile, my fascination with how people connect lingers.

There's this story about the Las Vegas lunatic that shot-up a concert.  
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The girlfriend of the Las Vegas gunman said Wednesday that she had no inkling of the massacre he was plotting when he sent her on a trip abroad to see her family.   Marilou Danley issued the statement after returning from her native Philippines and being questioned for much of the day by FBI agents still trying to figure out what drove Stephen Paddock to open fire on 22,000 fans at a country music festival from his 32nd-floor hotel suite.
"He never said anything to me or took any action that I was aware of that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen," Danley said in a statement read by her lawyer outside FBI headquarters in Los Angeles.
Well gee - no kidding.  What is fascinating about it to me is not that she had no idea, it's that he had a girlfriend to begin with.   I suppose I should be reassured, and think "Well, if a lunatic like that can have a girlfriend, then there's hope for me."  But, it's really the opposite.  If a lunatic like him can have a girlfriend, what's wrong with me?  That's the real question.
No inkling.  OK, then. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Thank you, Julie - you beautiful soul.

Oh hell - we knew that, right? Aren't we all?

Sometimes we think we aren't worthy, even though we know we are flawed. And it makes me wonder ...

How some couples get along with being flawed and arguing over things, and others (me) can't make it through one disagreement without separating and parting ways for a lifetime.

Perhaps I watch too much TV - or not enough - that I believe couples can argue over things and still exist as a couple.  Or, perhaps I think that couples can form to begin with, which seems to be a problem, so why am I concerned with keeping something together that isn't together to begin with?

There is supposed to be a lid for every pot, but I wonder if some pots are English and some lids are metric?  It doesn't seem as simple as the lid/pot analogy makes it out to be.  I'd guess that somehow, the lids and pots that fit each other go undiscovered and their owners go a lifetime without knowing that there was indeed one of them for each of them.  It's not that difficult to comprehend.

And so, we are flawed - indeed. That is how we are made.  It is the flaws that makes the acceptance worthwhile.  After all, if we found that ideal "soul mate" that the TV ads tell us exists somewhere, then it would be easy to accept the flaws, right?  The issue comes in knowing that there are flaws and still accepting and - oh yeah - loving that person because you know that there is a soul within.  

If you are looking for someone that fits your mold, then you are playing a fools game.  We know we are flawed...
...and those of us who know that can accept the flaws in our partners - but, if the partner doesn't accept it, then we are left on our own ... and that's how it usually ends up.

Our true soul mates in life realize that we have flaws and yet - we are still worthy of love.  It's not about some earthly value.  It is about the love within us. The loyalty, and faith that we place in us that leads us toward each other.
Sadly, I have not found that yet.  I still have time, but the hourglass is running out of sand.

I feel like I am still worthy.


Friday, September 29, 2017

Curb My Enthusiasm

"You have to move on," they say.  

That would be easy if there was something to move on to.  The moving part is not the issue.  It's the "on" part that is difficult.  It's not like picking up another book or watching another movie. There's a human element that makes the moving difficult, and the on worse.

Once I get my sights set on something, it is difficult to re-focus.  Mostly because there is nothing else to focus on.  Things come one at a time in my world.  I'm not a social animal (quite the contrary) and the sights are few and far between.

Now, I find myself staring down the gunsight at the horrible four months from November to February, where the world's focus shifts from the mundane to the holidays.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Valentine's Day - a marketer's dream and a lonely man's dread.  I realize that 95% of America has something to do on most of those days, and I can't begrudge someone their pleasure, but still ... nobody wants to hear about the struggle, so I persevere.  That is to say, I struggle.

I used to hold out hope, because the saying goes, "There's a lid for every pot."  I have come to realize that I'm a metric system lid for an English system pot, and they just don't match-up somehow. It's OK, I tell myself; but in my heart I dread the coming days.

I don't know what it is.  I see people who have no redeeming qualities (at least to me) and they have families and seem happy.  I don't know their innermost thoughts, but at least on the outside they seem like their lives have some meaning.  Kids, wife, job ... whatever it is that glues them to the earth.

Me?  I go on day after day, mostly out of habit, putting one foot in front of the other.  There are moments of glee and times when I feel like I belong to something, but those moments are followed by hours and days of regret, uselessness, and wishing that there was some purpose to it all.

I guess the thing of it was that she didn't love me like I loved her?  That's what I'll tell myself until I hear otherwise, which doesn't seem possible.  That's the general theme of the past 40-or-so years - the unrequited love issue.  It's probably why I love animals so much.  They don't ask questions and just return the love you give them without question.  I haven't experienced that.  Somebody tell me what it's like, because I'd like to know.

But, I forget.  I forget the last disappointment and the latest time that my hopes were dashed, and I return to hope which, as we know - sucks.   I say that I won't let it happen again, but it does because hope springs eternal, as they say.

They are stupid, ignorant asses.  Stop listening to them, it says here.


Monday, September 18, 2017

The Curse of Hope

As I said in a previous post, I recently returned from 11 days in Alabama.  Now that I have had significant time to reflect on that experience, allow me to share some of my thoughts on the trip and the indelible impression it has left on me.

ONE:
The more desperate we are, the more we tend to lean on hope. When sentences start with "I hope ..." rational thought takes a back seat to chance and irrational ideals. It's a suckers game, and rarely does hope work for the betterment of those who hope.  Hope goes hand in hand with faith.  It relies too heavily upon someone or something else, and that has no place in the needs and desires that we all have.  If you have hope and faith, you will almost certainly be disappointed.  As it turned out, I cannot depend on hope, because hope relies on someone or something else.  I read that somewhere.  I will leave that between me and the one on whom my hope rested.

TWO:
Would this be the eventual home in my retirement years? While it's true that the cost of living is lower there than anywhere - OK, second lowest - ANYWHERE - I began to find fault with my goals as they related to money.
Is it worth the lower expense to live in a place where the only major shopping outlet is Walmart, and the only entertainment is your television?  Perhaps not.
And, as a subtext to you Walmart haters out there:  Realize that, here in the northeast, Walmart is just one of many outlets for groceries and essentials.  In the Deep South, it is the only place.  They are not displacing "mom and pop," they ARE mom and pop.  I would suggest that the protesters take a trip now and then to see how the other three-quarters lives.  We are truly spoiled.
I could live in Tuscaloosa, Athens, or Huntsville; given their metropolitan style and the mere idea that there is something to do that doesn't involve driving an hour to another town.  That said, I'd still be an hour away from another place, which is certainly not the case here in southern New Jersey.

You have no idea of the expanse.  If you ever start to complain about how crowded America is, and how you'd like to do away with the constant expansion and population explosion - spend 11 days driving around Alabama.  You'll wonder, "Where are the people?"  Make sure you have reliable transportation and a full tank of gas, because you might not have cell service, know where you are, or where the next gasoline station is.
Roads go on for miles, undulating, with trees on either side, and the occasional dwelling.  Even the interstate highways are vast wastelands.  The exit cloverleafs have maybe one filling station, and if you're lucky, you'll find a Huddle House or a Love's truck stop somewhere between the three-hour drive from Birmingham to Tupelo, Mississippi.
The off-ramps are regularly populated with tractor-trailers parked on the shoulder because they have nowhere else to sleep.  Just sitting there - nobody in the driver's seat - sleeping in the cab.

I should also mention (for my fellow alcoholics) that in the parts of Alabama that I visited, alcohol sales are prohibited on Sunday, and furthermore, I did not see one - ONE - bar other than a chain like Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday, or Buffalo Wild Wings in my entire 1,400 miles of driving around the northwest part of the state.  Here in New Jersey, you can't go ten minutes without passing a bar and/or a liquor store.  In retrospect, it might be good for my internal organs, but I digress.

THREE:
I may be biased in my opinion of the people.  The only people I met were service people - wait staff, bartenders, and hotel employees whose job it is to say "yes, sir" to whatever stupid thing I bring up.  Perhaps, if I lived there, I would encounter as many jackasses as I encounter on a daily basis here in New Jersey?  That is a question that I could only answer later.
I travel (and spend significant time) alone, so the attitude I get from people differs from what I would get if I lived in a place or had a companion.  I'm still not sure if outsiders think I'm a shill for corporate or just a poor schmuck traveling alone.  Either way, I win.  I leave big tips because I feel responsible for having them wait on me.  It's a curse.

FOUR:
Central Time.  That's nice.  Big-time athletic events start at 7:30pm.  Late-night TV starts at 10:30pm,  and while I realize that's a specious argument for living somewhere, it's a big deal if you like that stuff and have a problem staying up until after midnight.  Of course, one could make the same argument for Mountain time, but who wants to live in Nebraska?  People in Nebraska probably say the same thing about living in Alabama, so ...
Is it worth uprooting to save an hour?  Probably not, but it's nice not to have to fake "set the alarm" for an hour later and not feel guilty about it.  I maintained Eastern Time for the duration, and felt like I was in some sort of clock heaven.  Still, it was hot as Hell.

FIVE:
The fucking heat.  The temperature was 80, and the "real feel" was 104.  What the fuck? I didn't get to experience a tornado, but they have them regularly. There are signs for shelters along the highways everywhere.  Perhaps I could adapt, but I couldn't say for sure.  I'd have an easier time adapting to the no alcohol sales on Sunday thing than the constant heat.

CONCLUSION:
In spite of the idea that I thought I was going to spend time with the future Mrs. Me (no story there, as it turns out) in my fishing around for potential retirement locations, I'm putting Alabama on my list, but mostly because it's not cold and the time zone is cool.  Otherwise, be careful where you settle down, because it's a long way to civilization from most of those places, and I'm a city boy at heart, and I need to be able to walk to the drug store, not drive an hour.

It's a deeply red state, and that I cannot change. My so-called liberal viewpoints would go in the hate box, and I'd probably be known as "that Yankee" in short order, if I moved there.  I saw a few Confederate flags, and wondered how the President did not Tweet about that, and instead, chose to occupy his time with some football players making a peaceful demonstration ... but I digress.

I will continue my quest to Escape from New Jersey, and may re-center my priority on the Fells Point area of Baltimore, where it began.
Sometimes, experience is the best teacher.

Love ya, Alabama - but it may be just a great place to visit.  Unless she comes calling - but I suspect that is a pipe dream, and I don't own a pipe.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sweet Home (northern) Alabama

At least for now, and the past 5 days.  

The problem with people from the north (like me) is that they tend to stereotype people from other areas by whatever we think they are, based on ... accent, body type, or some other pre-conceived notion that lends itself to whatever style we assumed.

What generally happens is, we get there, and realize that, other than some accent (it turns out, I have one, too) or some other oddity, they are ... people.  Go figure.  People with jobs, lives, wants, needs, and desires.  No different than the rest of us.  What a culture shock!

While I realize two things:  (1) Travelers face different types of people than residents.  I have mainly dealt with service people and wait staff, and (2) I have only been here for 5 days, I still can tell the things that make us the same as people - God forbid.  It's the other things that make me wonder how much better life would be here than in New Jersey.

For one thing, the lack of traffic.  If someone complains about how over-crowded America is, tell them to visit northern Alabama.  In five days, I have been in traffic twice.  Both times, it was because of an accident.

Another thing is the pace of life.  It doesn't seem as though everything has to happen in an instant.  People apologize for making me wait a normal amount of time.  I really don't care.  And, the accent. I find it charming, especially in women.  There is a poetic nature about it that is at once romantic and pleasing to my ear. I have yet to be yelled at or corrected, so perhaps my perspective is warped, but so be it.

I hesitate to talk politics.  I know I'm in a deeply RED state.  So red that, if I lived here and voted, I'd have to recognize the fact that my liberal Democrat vote would be so diluted as to make it meaningless.  I don't know yet if that would bother me.  I'll get back to you on that - maybe.

I'm always looking for potential retirement areas.  Northern Alabama has placed itself at the top of my short list.  


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

If You Can Keep Your Head ...

... when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you ...

Noted liar and exaggerator (President) Donald J. Trump was at it again today.  In an unhinged and ranting press conference at his digs in New York, he (among other oddities) compared Robert E. Lee to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, proclaiming that we may be tearing down their statues too, someday.  Well now.  One can only assume that we will never be tearing down a statue of Trump.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

 But make allowance for their doubting too.


In other news, Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS) reported horrible earnings today.  The stock has lost half its value in a year, and is a perfect example of a great store and horrible investment.  They cited weakness in hunting and outdoor gear as a reason for the disappointing earnings.  OK, then.  If your margins are that thin, I guess that's the reason investors have suffered.  Fortunately for me, I can shop there and nothing else.  That seems like the choice.

The brilliant earnings report from Extreme Networks made its case in the price of the stock today, as it nearly returned to its $11 high.  I hope to retire soon.

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
 Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies

We have to wait sometimes.  It's the game.  We will get an earnings report from Cisco Systems (CSCO) after the market close on Wednesday.  The stock has been a 3.8% bond for the better part of the last 9 months, as investors wait for that home run that doesn't seem to come.  So far, it's been singles and doubles, and the company has prospects, but we wait for them to be brought up.  Perhaps tomorrow ...
If you can make a heap of all your winnings
 And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings
 And never breathe a word about your loss;


I'll breathe a word about my loss in JC Penney.  Horribly, I listened to what I thought was an informed authority and risked it on a turn of pitch-and-toss.  Well, the pitch was a toss, and I wound up selling it two days after buying it for a loss.  What it taught me was to go with my instincts, which are substantial, and not listen to the words of someone who may have ulterior motives. Such is life.

And so hold on when there is nothing in you
 Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

I'm holding on.  Pfizer and DelTaco.  In the case of Pfizer, I'm being paid a 3.9% dividend to wait.  However, the waiting is grating on me, and I wonder how long I can stay ... long.
DelTaco (TACO) is a different story. As faithful readers know, I have touted this company for a while, and have been adding to positions until I now have a significant portion of my investment tied-up in the company.
They keep executing.  Beat and raise, as they say.  They beat estimates and raise the next one, yet the market fails to reward us - and them.  My faith doesn't wain, and if you haven't yet bought in, there is still time.  The stock is mired in the $13 range, and trades at a discount to its peers in the casual dining/restaurant segment, with significant growth opportunities ahead of it.  There is nothing in their earnings reports or forecasts to make me want to sell, and I'll hold it until the market regains confidence in the sector and specifically, the company.  As for me, I have considerable confidence in both.

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
 If all men count with you, but none too much;



So, OK - don't count on me too much.  Do your homework, and remember - it's only money.

Meanwhile, you might want to look at favorite Limelight Networks (LLNW) and keep an eye on Square (SQ). Square has dropped a little from my purchase at $26, and I fear that I'll have to be patient with them until they get to the $24 range, at which point it should rebound.
Acco Brands (ACCO) is interesting, at 11 times forward earnings.  You use (and steal, probably) lots of their office products.  There's value, and you're always looking for a bargain, right?



If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

 And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

So go - be a man, or whatever.  


Monday, August 14, 2017

It's Nice to be Right Once in a While



I'm pretty sure I've mentioned Extreme Networks (EXTR) before.  I've been holding this stock for a while, and wondering why it has been down over the past 3 months.  Sometimes, the market doesn't know what's going on, and investors have to trust their instincts a hold onto stocks that they bought because they believed in the company when they made the purchase.
In the case of EXTR, I fell in love (bad to do, I know) with the company when I figured out what they did and how if worked-into the way companies are doing business today.  It's a growth industry, and as such, one has to endure a certain amount of doubt from the so-called "investors" when something happens that they find a reason to sell.
The stock went from the $11 range down to the $9 range in the relatively short time period of three months, on almost no news - other than the fact that the company was signing-up new businesses and otherwise moving their business forward.  I had to tune-out the noise and trust my instincts - which were rewarded today. To those who sold into earning, I say, "I'll see you in 10 years."
Next up is Cisco Systems (CSCO) who reports on the 16th.  I've held that for a while, waiting for the big news.  My faith will be rewarded, I think.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cord Cutters, Your Time is Nigh

It's earnings season [again] and you know that gives me a stiffy.  Aside from the financial mumbo-jumbo and forecasts of such, there is some interesting stuff going on in the media sector.

CBS reported a few days ago.  Mega-Chairman Les Moonves said that they will be forming a streaming channel for sports.  He did not have any details, but said it would be along the lines of what NBC does with their streaming content.  OK, then.

Disney reported earlier today.  Bob Iger said that their ESPN branch is going to be streaming content on the Internet, but like Iger, had little in the way of details - price, actual content, or accessibility - but suffice it to say, the idea is to form an Internet-only portal for sports similar to what ESPN does on the cable end.  Oh and, they'll be pulling their content from Netflix (NFLX) in 2019.  So, if you want to see a Disney movie, you'll have to subscribe to their channel.
In addition, he suggested that they may be forming a "Star Wars Channel" and a "Marvel Channel."  At least, when asked about it, he didn't rule it out.  Disney has plenty of content, and the idea of forming individual channels for fans isn't beyond the realm of possibility.

After all, Sirius Satellite (SIRI) radio has individual channels for Howard Stern, The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Billy Joel, and all sorts of specialized content.  Over 200 channels, and if you can't find something to listen to, the problem is with you, not them.

So, why wouldn't video media use the same tact?  Actually, it seems like it's about time.  There's money to be made, and plenty of people willing to pay - which is where the problem comes in.  Follow along:

Today, my cable/Internet bill is $208 a month.  Let's say I cut the cable (aside from local TV, which is $10 a month) and go with Internet-only service from Comcast.  That should cost me in the vicinity of $70 a month, after I have purchased my own router, at a cost of about $100.

Needing content, I'd go with Netflix ($12 a month), Hulu ($10 a month), Amazon Prime ($99 per year), and add-in the pick of your choice (HBO On Demand or Apple Music) at another $10 a month each.
If you like sports - which is the kicker [pun] - you're into the ESPN/CBS bundle for (probably) another $20 to $30 a month (?).  So, let's do the math:

With the $70 a month for Internet, plus all the extra streaming services, they are into your checking account for approximately $135.  All that for the sake of "cutting the cord" vs. the $208 you were paying before.

The point here is, big business has a lot of meetings.  My company has meetings every day.  The other point is, big business doesn't like to lose money.  You cutting the cord means they are losing money.  They don't like that, so they have meetings to figure out how to keep from losing money.  They win, because you still want HBO, sports, and well ... entertainment.  What you may or may not realize is that most entertainment is controlled by the same half-dozen corporations.  So, you cutting the cord means that one or the other of them will have to make-up for your lost income.

So, despite your best efforts, you have two choices.  (1) Go without your desired entertainment for the savings, which is noble or (b) Spend almost the same amount of money you were spending when you had cable and still get to see your precious sports and shows, and flip between a several options to find the show or sporting event you want to watch.  Inconvenience in the name of saving a few bucks.
Those are the short hairs they want to have you hang from.  Rest assured, in some way, they will find a way to get you to pay something close to the money you're paying now.  It's in their next meeting. They don't like to lose.

It's simple - and complicated.  Good luck with your decision.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Before You Get Too Upset About Pete Rose ...

... listen to these lyrics from songs older than you.  Gain some perspective, and stop worshipping celebrities of any age.

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap - 1968. "Young Girl"

Young girl, get out of my mind


My love for you is way out of line

Better run girl

You're much too young girl
With all the charms of a woman


You've kept the secret of your youth

You led me to believe you're old enough

To give me love

And now it hurts to know the truth
Young girl, get out of my mind


My love for you is way out of line

Better run girl

You're much too young girl
Beneath your perfume and your make-up


You're just a baby in disguise

And though you know that it's wrong to be in love with me.w

OK, then.  That's one.  How about this Beatles' classic, "I Saw Her Standing There" 1964.

Well, she was just 17,
You know what I mean,


And the way she looked was way beyond compare.

So how could I dance with another (ooh)

And I saw her standin' there.
Well she looked at me, and I, I could see


That before too long I'd fall in love with her.

She wouldn't dance with another (whoa)

And I saw her standin' there.


And, this Sherman Brothers classic, first performed in 1960, and later by a 37-year-old Ringo Starr ...

You come on like a dream, peaches and cream
Lips like strawberry wineYou're sixteen, you're beautifulAnd you're mine. (mine, all mine)You're all ribbons and curls
Eyes that sparkle and shine
You're sixteen, you're beautiful and you're mine
(mine, all mine, mine, mine)

You're my baby, you're my pet
You walked out of my dreams, into my arms
Ooh, what a girl
We fell in love on the night we met


You touched my hand, my heart went pop
Ooh, when we kissed, i could not stop

Now you're my angel divine
You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine



Sixteen? That's kind of young for an old man like Ringo.

The point is, (if there is one) young girls have been the target of songwriters and movie scriptwriters for centuries.  We are crucifying Pete Rose because he claimed to have sexual relations with an underaged girl that he thought was sixteen.  OK. So then, why did you buy the songs?

Pete isn't so horrible, compared to you.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Our Curious Stock Market

Without going into a long song and dance, let's look at a few details:

Firstly, today the Dow Jones Industrial Average breached the 22,000 mark.  That was enough of an event for them to make up "DOW 22,000" hats and make a big deal out of it on CNBC.  Is it a big deal? Yes and no.
It's a big deal if you own shares of Apple, McDonald's, Boeing, and United Health who, combined were responsible for 867 of the move from 21,000 to 22,000.  The Dow is a weighted average, so stocks with higher share prices (like Goldman Sachs, who was responsible for the last 1,000-point surge) have a bigger influence.
Conversely, if you were a shareholder of IBM, Goldman (recently) and GE, you were negative 462 points. So, as you can see, the largest companies are responsible for the gain.  All those in the middle (the other 23) were just hanging around. That's a bigger influence than a handful of winners and losers.

It's why the S&P 500 and NASDAQ 2000 are better gauges of market progress than the storied Dow. And, for the record, the S&P has been trading sideways for all that time.  Nobody makes hats for that. What I'm telling you is to take this "Dow 22,000" talk with the proverbial grain of salt.  So, let's move on.

Pfizer (PFE) reported a nice quarter, but my patience is wearing thin.  It's pretty much a 3.9% bond, since the share price doesn't seem to move on any sort of news, and they rely on the dividend to lure investors.  CEO Ian Read said that they have several drugs and exciting prospects for 2020.  Excuse me, but it's 2017.  What can you do for me now?  I'm leaning toward getting out, and finding something more suitable for my growth + value agenda.  I'm looking at BorgWarner (BWA) and Expedia (EXPE) and leaning heavily toward Expedia.  There is a lot of value there, and while I missed out on some of it, there is still room for it to run, and that's what I'm interested in.  And, as such ...

Square (SQ) my new holding, reported a stellar quarter today, and I'm excited about being a shareholder.  It was said that Square is "The Tesla of Payments," which brings me to my next point: What's up with Tesla?

Are they a car company or a tech company?  While I greatly admire Elon Musk and his ventures into solar power, space travel, and electric vehicles, I still think that the share price is ridiculous. If I miss out on it, so be it.  My value-oriented approach doesn't lead me toward investment. Consider these comparisons with another auto-maker, Ford (F).

Ford:  Share price = $11.00. P/E 11.52 with a 5.48% dividend.  Third quarter EPS: .31 Third quarter revenue $33 billion.  2017 estimated revenue $142.3 billion.  Return on Equity: 12.0. Return on Invested Capital: 2.5 Long Term Debt to Capital: .82

Tesla:  Share price = $325. P/E -4.77 with a 0 dividend. Third quarter EPS -1.83 on revenue of $2.51 billion. 2017 estimated revenue $11.32 billion.  Return on Equity: -24.3 Return on Invested Capital: -7.5. Long Term Debt to Capital: .57

Do you see all of those negative signs (-) in front of Tesla's numbers?  One wonders how Tesla's Market Cap is $197 billion and Ford's is $43.5 billion, or roughly 22% of Tesla's.  How many Ford cars do you see on the road?  Ford produces approximately half a million vehicles in a year, while Tesla says they are in "Production Hell" and struggling to keep up with orders of about 5,000 a month.

This isn't to denounce Tesla, it's to question why one company is valued so much less than another, when the lesser company clearly has market share and production. But, that's our stock market.  It's a "futures market," and value depends on what you are supposed to do, not what you are doing.  Ford's problem (if they have one) is that they are doing what people expect.  Tesla's value is in the idea that they will do what people want. Meanwhile, buyers are placing $1,000 deposits for cars that they have neither seen nor driven.  Let's see Ford try that business model.  It makes me question the wisdom of consumers, as well as question the wisdom of investors who continue to buy TSLA and have driven the price of the stock up to $360 after earnings were reported today.

OK - just don't let the water get over your head.

Monday, July 31, 2017

That's All I Have to Say About That

We live in a world where all one has to do to be considered a woman is to add breasts and parade around in women's clothing.  That's it.  He's a she, now, and you're a horrible person if you still call him "he," because - well, she wants to be called a woman.  Inside, there are all the man parts, and none of the women parts, but we are forced to do it because "she" wants it that way.  OK then.  That's a degradation of standards.

When you lose track of standards, anything passes for ... anything.  That's how the ball starts rolling downhill, and this ball has been rolling downhill for decades.  It didn't start with confusing sexual orientation, and it won't stop there either - but it isn't helped by it, and I chose to lead with it to demonstrate a point, such as it is.

We have elected a president who, by some standards, is the "people's choice."  What Lyndon Johnson called "The Silent Majority" was heard loud and clear by our Electoral College, and we now have sitting in the White House a man who is best known for putting his name on buildings and telling people on a TV show, "You're fired."

Part of the problem is that our best and brightest don't want anything to do with the job, so people whom we would elect in a heartbeat prefer to sit on the sidelines and earn billions of dollars while they figure out ways to keep their fortunes intact while the government gives it away.  That's capitalism.

You can put a suit and tie on an idiot businessman [slash] celebrity and call him "president," but that doesn't make him a presidential.  It's a degradation of standards.  But, we still have to call him the President.

It's like that.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Week Ahead

As usual, during earnings season, there is something going on.  This week more than most.

On August 1, two of my companies report.  ACCO brands, which makes almost all of the office supplies that you are stealing from work reports.  We are expecting 26 cents.  In the last quarter, they beat expectations and confirmed guidance.  As a result, the stock declined into the last three months.  I am expecting another earnings beat and anticipating the stock improving on its current share price - if not for anything else - just for a sheer value standpoint.  While the world has been watching Facebook, Amazon, Google, et al., hard product companies like ACCO continue to earn money.  Let's see what Tuesday brings.

Pfizer also reports on the first. Jim Cramer refers to it as a "bond," since it regularly trades in the $32-per-share area and pays a 3.8% dividend.  That kind of makes it a bond.  Shareholders like me aren't interested in holding a bond based on drug prices.  If they do not make some comments about the next year and some acquisitions and/or new drug innovations, this shareholder is out.

Most importantly, on August 2, Square (SQ) reports.  As they say, the stock is "priced for perfection," and I anticipate perfection in their earnings release.  The mobile pay space is interesting.  Some think that PayPal should buy Square, and others think that it is an interesting acquisition target otherwise.  It's a volatile stock, and I'd like to see something positive come from management this quarter so that we can get through this trading range.

On August 3, Extreme Networks reports. They have been quietly growing market share, even as their share price declined from $11 to nearly $9 now.  I'm looking forward to a positive quarter and some upward revisions on earnings and growth, which I anticipate growing the share price back toward the $11 mark that we saw earlier. I haven't seen anything to make me think otherwise.

HERE'S THE BIG NEWS: With some cash left on the table, I purchased shares of JC Penney (JCP) on Friday.  In spite of closing stores and increased pressure from the likes of Amazon and online retailers, most feel that JCP can not only weather the storm, but profit during it.  I'm inclined to agree.  Like most things in life, if you aren't prepared to take a risk, you won't reap big rewards.  JCP is a huge risk-reward scenario, but I think that, at $5.40 most of the risk has already been priced-out, and the only thing left is reward. Their next earnings report is in a couple of weeks.  No less an expert in retail than Dana Telsey has made it her top pick.  You might not know who she is, but she has been a staple in retail analysis for two decades.
If it's good enough for Dana, it's good enough for me.  Take a look and make your own choice.


It's hard to quantify, but next week might go a long way toward whether I can retire in a year or have to wait for three or four more.  I'd just as soon go out sooner than later, which is why I work so hard at this.  You might say, "Why not just invest in mutual funds and quit worrying?"

It's the worrying that makes it worthwhile.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Winner, Winner, Mexican Dinner.

OK, so you can have your Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, and Google (FANG) and we all have them, if you own an S&P 500 Index fund (which you should), they represent the top holdings and most of the gain you have had over the past 5 years.  That's great, and it's right in your face - or on your computer - whatever.  They're easy to spot.  The virtual low-hanging fruit.  Buy them, don't buy them - the market moves on them, and it's probably just best that we own an index fund and let it run on its own momentum - of which there is plenty.

The fun, and to me, the interesting part comes in finding the high-hanging fruit.  The companies that require a little effort and sometimes patience.  One of them is yesterday's Limelight Networks, which is up again today off of yesterday's great quarter.  Another is Mexican casual "fast-food" chain DelTaco Restaurants (TACO) which reported earnings today.  I waited with clenched teeth and sweaty palms, because the casual dining segment has been a mess. Some have prospered and others have failed.  The view here was that DelTaco is a growth story, and its growth continues.  The big "if" was the profits and earnings.  I'm happy to report...


That's a beautiful thing, coming from the restaurant group.  Eight-percent growth, meeting or exceeding earnings, and raising guidance.  The guidance is the key.  If they didn't raise guidance, the stock may have suffered, as investors were probably looking for an excuse to sell it and move on.  As it is, there is no reason to sell this, and there may even be a reason to buy more.  After hours today, the stock is up 29 cents to $13.10, which is basically where it has traded at the high end over the past month or three.   Let's see if Wall Street expresses confidence in them by driving the price up into the 14 to 15-dollar range.  That would show me something.  As for now, I'm a happy long, and I'll look forward to 2017 and 2018.  Maybe I'll get to eat at one of their restaurants?

As for the rest of the goings-on, Starbucks deserves a look if you have a long-range time horizon.  The stock is down after reporting a quarter that didn't give anybody a stiffy.  For those of you with longer term horizins, there may be a buying opportunity.  Just like their coffee, let it cool off a bit before you start sipping.  And, you should sip, not gulp.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

One Down, Several to Go.

When the CEO of a company you are invested in says something like this (below) I couldn't think of a better reason to (a) have tremendous confidence in the company and (b) encourage me to buy more.  Regardless of whether it's a huge conglomerate like Ford or Boeing, or a tiny microcap like Limelight Networks (LLNW) I am thrilled to be in this, and looking forward to watching them grow in 2017 and beyond.


As for the numbers:

Limelight Networks, Inc. (LLNW) (Limelight), a global leader in digital content delivery, today reported revenue of $45.4 million for the second quarter of 2017, up four percent compared to $43.6 million in the second quarter of 2016, and up one percent compared to $44.7 million in the first quarter of 2017. Currency headwinds negatively impacted year-over-year comparison by $0.3 million, or one percent.

Gross margin was 47.1% in the second quarter of 2017, an increase of 390 basis points from 43.2% in the second quarter of 2016.  On a GAAP basis, Limelight reported a net loss of $1.6 million, or $0.01 per basic share, for the second quarter of 2017, compared to a net loss of $57.9 million, or $0.56 per basic share, in the second quarter of 2016. The second quarter of 2016 net loss included a $54 million provision for litigation related to the settlement of the Akamai lawsuit.  Non-GAAP net income was $2.9 million, or $0.03 per basic share, for the second quarter of 2017, compared to non-GAAP net income of $0.6 million, or $0.01 per basic share, in the second quarter of 2016.

And thus goes the first report of my earnings season.  Tomorrow, we hear from DelTaco (TACO) after the market close.  I'm still contemplating adding more, but it might be prudent to wait and see what they have to say.  Chipolte had a nice quarter, as did McDonald's. But Buffalo Wild Wings stunk it up, and the stock was halted.  Ended the day down about 9% after saying that the price of chicken wings was a headwind.  Gee, when your business is serving chicken wings, I'd think that you should be better at managing that obstacle.  Having eaten there a time or two, I wouldn't buy the stock based on my experience.

The casual dining area is difficult, and if DelTaco can impress with a strong quarter and put out a nice forecast for the remainder of the year, it would present an attractive buying opportunity for long-term investors.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Earnings Season! Rabbit Season! Duck Season! Earnings Season!

You know the drill.  It's been three months since they last reported, and God forbid we go more than twelve weeks without having our opinions changed about companies that we liked at one point - or hated - whatever.  Twelve weeks isn't long enough to age wine, let alone figure out what's going on in the high-end world of finances, but it's here, so we deal with it.

Alphabet (nee Google) reported after the close tonight.  The numbers looked pretty good to me.  They beat on the top and bottom line, increased hits and decreased the costs - but Mister Market saw fit to drop the hammer on them after hours.  That tells me that you might get a bargain if you're a buyer.  Wait for the legendary three-day period before jumping in.  It takes a long time to unload a $900 a share stock.  Let it settle-in.

Otherwise, yes I eat my own cooking. Last week, I picked-up shares of Square (SQ) at $26.  I suspect it hasn't run its course yet, and there is still a lot of settling to be done in the payment space.
I sold shares of Micron (MU) to finance it, so I'm counting on the semiconductor companies to be through with their run and make this a good trade.

As for another favorite, Rocket Fuel (FUEL) they have been purchased by a private equity firm, and the transaction was a net loss for me.  Proving that not all takeovers are positive for shareholders.  Nevertheless, I sadly sold my shares for $2.65 and will be using the money to make an attempt to gain back that loss - which is usually a sucker's bet - but I'm a sucker, so I'll go with it.

Limelight Networks reports earnings on Wednesday.  The stock has been gradually climbing out of the $3 range, and is at $3.18 as I write.  I'm planning on buying more before they report.  I am confident that their market in India is strong, and will provide the company with strong growth and earnings into 2018.  We'll know more after their call, but that's the game we play.

The rest will go into a stock that I like, but as Karen Finerman would say, "I'm long and sad."  DelTaco has been trading downward for a month or so.  Several analysts have put a price target on it significantly higher than the current $12.08 price, so this believer is still buying.  Currently, I own over 300 shares.  I'll either look like a giant nitwit or a genius - but that's the game we play.  There is too much growth in this company to be ignored.  An earnings call should come next week.

I'm standing pat on the rest of the calls. Cisco, Pfizer, Extreme Networks, and Square all report in the next couple of weeks.  I'm more confident in EXTR and SQ than PFE and CSCO, but I have been surprised before.  Sometimes, low expectations can work in our favor.

Face east and get on your knees.




Saturday, July 15, 2017

OK, so What Now?

If you believe that the market is fairly or over-valued, it presents a challenge to find companies whose stock prices are not inflated beyond the measurements that the stock market places on them:  Price-to-earnings (P/E) and all of those rational multiples that stock prices are supposed to be based on. Ask a Tesla (TSLA) investor which rational measurements he is investing in, and he won't have an answer for you.  The stock is overvalued on every aspect.  You invest because you believe, and sometimes, you have to throw value out of the window.

I sold Micron (MU) at $29.50 because I had some profits and didn't trust the semiconductor industry.
(By the way, I lose faith in companies the same way I lose faith in old cars.  Once I lose confidence, they have to go, regardless.  And, as Jim Cramer says, "Nobody ever lost money taking a profit.")

Oh, and for the record (if there is one) I sold Snap (SNAP) at my buy price.  Once it ran up into the high 20s, word was that it was unsustainable.  My regret is that I didn't sell it then, but at least I didn't lose anything in the process.  In the mirror.

So, that leaves me with (as they say) money on the table.  There are several options, and I took them all.
Option 1:  Buy more of what I already own.  Going over the portfolio, I have the greatest confidence in Pfizer (PFE) going into 2018, so I increased my stake in them.
I also still like DelTaco (TACO) and have bought more over the past two weeks.  They report earnings next week, and I am still confident that their outlook will be bright enough that investors will see the value, and the $13 share price of today will get closer to the general target of $17.

Option 2:  Keep it in cash until the market corrects.  Feh.  I don't see a huge correction going on.  Plus, if we're buying value, then a correction will likely leave me with a break-even situation, which isn't a big problem to have.

Option 3:  Find the so-called 'next big thing.'  There's the problem.  What is it?  
Banks?  Eh.  We keep waiting for interest rate increases to drive earnings, but the numbers won't support it. Citibank (C) is the biggest value to tangible book value in the group, and I'd flinch at buying it now. Your best revenge would be to try to gain back some of the 22% interest they're charging on your credit card accounts.  And that's not the problem.  The problem is that they aren't adding new investor accounts.  Go figure.
Energy?  Maybe, but for the near future, oil prices are stagnating or going down, so it looks like energy companies will continue to struggle for space and commodity price.
Retail? If you want to gamble, go to Las Vegas.  Whether or not you believe that Amazon is killing everything doesn't matter.  Amazon is killing everything.  Buy TJ Maxx, Target, or Walmart if you want.  In fact, I'd recommend it.  It's just not what I'm looking for now.

After mulling-over the possibilities, I settled on the mobile pay thing.  ApplePay has their niche, and PayPal dominates the web with Ebay.  More and more, people are using their cell phones (are they really phones?) for paying at restaurants and retailers.  There is one company that is on the periphery that is making money doing it, and they may be worth the gamble.

For one thing, the space is so crowded, it's ripe for takeovers and mergers.  Don't buy a stock based on that, but having it in your back pocket is a nice option.  The company:  Square (SQ)
While the stock is up from $16 to $26.33 over the past three months, and has doubled its IPO price of $12 in 2015, there is still room to run.  This is based on negative earnings, and when they report on August 2, it's possible (probable?) that they could report a profit of as much as eight cents a share.
Their system is tied into Visa and MasterCard, and sellers can get analytics through the company's web site of sales data. There is also a SquareCash option that allows cash transfers, like PayPal and Venmo.
From a M&A standpoint, it puts Square in the crosshairs of Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Apple, and a host of other financial institutions who may be willing to expand their scope.  The risk (of course) is that they will pay more than the present $26 share price.  That's where the profits and expected earnings come in.

If potential investors (merger candidates) see Square as a profitable threat to their own business (PayPal, Apple) or a legitimate add-on to their company (Visa and MasterCard) then you have the potential of a deal.  If Square flounders and doesn't build a client base, then those merger candidates will be content to allow Square to die on its own. I'm willing to bet that it won't happen, and Square will be successful.

Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (FANG) have had their run. Their businesses are known, and the risks are evident.  Tesla (TSLA) is a company I love but a stock that scares me.
You can buy General Electric (GE) at a huge bargain, collect the dividend and wait, if that's your game.  I wouldn't say no to that.
General Motors (GM) is a nice bet here, based on their huge value (six times earnings) because God knows, it's hard to turn down a bargain.
The drug stocks (Pfizer, as I said) are good here, and I'm still long Pfizer and loving the 3.8% dividend.  I like Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) too.
Technology keeps motoring along, and I'm counting on selling Micron wasn't a huge mistake.  But, there's always something else, isn't there?

I'm looking for something exciting, innovative, and new.  It's risky, but then, everything new is risky. I think that the industry is still new enough that it hasn't been shaken-out yet.  I'd bet on PayPal and Apple to be survivors.  That's not a big risk.  I want to be bold and stick my neck out.  It's stuck out with Square, Limelight Networks (LLNW), Extreme Networks (EXTR), Rocket Fuel (FUEL), and DelTaco (TACO). I think I've written about those before.
Hey - the world is a big place.  There's plenty of room for growth amidst the value.

Let's revisit this in 6 months and see if I was right.





Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Beautiful Boy

"I'll see you soon. You be good."

That's what I said to Thor every day when I left the flat to go to work.  I would, and he would.  We kept our promises.  That's how friendships work.

I have written about him here before.  (you could look it up) Our relationship was forged from the first day we saw each other.  He in a cage at the PetsMart and me looking for a new companion.  Every other cat had a placard with an explanation of how they wound up there:  My owner was allergic.  I moved to a place that doesn't allow cats. He doesn't get along with my children. Etcetera.

Thor.  Just the placard with his name and age, "Between 1 and 2 years."  "How did he get here?" I asked.  Nobody at the store knew.  Somehow, he appeared - as if to wait for me?  When I took him out of the cage, he placed a paw on my cheek. The shelter women were aghast.  "He never does that with anybody!"
"OK then, I guess this is my cat," I said.
And the rest, as they say, is history.

I saw him through the loss of almost all of his teeth, pancreatitis, weight issues, and kidney disease - which would ultimately be his demise.  But, not without a fight.  I found solace in the fact that, if it weren't for me, he would not have lived the life he did.  He beat all of them, except the kidneys.  Logic tells us that four out of five cats succumb to it.  My heart tells me that he should have been the fifth.  

--------------------------------------------------

My home is empty now.  When I call, "Hey buddy, I'm home!" nobody comes to the door. He won't, except in my heart.  I'll always come home to his nose poking out of my door, waiting for his dinner.  You could sit on the deck and watch the birds, chew the grass in my flower pots, or just sun yourself in the warmth of its glow.  It made me happy to make you happy.

We humans don't get many chances to help. People can help themselves.  Machines run and fail.  Grass grows, and flowers bloom without our help.  With dogs and cats, we can pick them out of the darkness of their shelter cage and let them roam around our home and find their peace.  It's what makes life worthwhile for some of us.  

He returned the favor.  He gave me unconditional love. When my life stunk and I wanted to give up, I couldn't, because he depended on me, and I was grateful to be in his service.  It gave my life purpose to make him happy.

When he got sick, and needed fluid injections, pills, and special food to keep him going - it was a financial burden, but I took it on because I got a huge return on my investment - his love.

Eventually, as with all things, they come to an end.  If you want a pet that out-lives you, get a tortoise or a parrot.  Otherwise, you're doomed to relinquish their mortality on your emotional need.  That's just the way it is.

In Thor's case (and this is about him) I felt like I should have been able to do more - but there was no more I could do.  I couldn't force him to eat when he was so sick that food had no appeal. I couldn't make him sleep with me when all he wanted to do was be off on his own, under my desk.  He's a noble beast, and doesn't want me to see him at anything other than at his best, even though he was suffering.  It was his battle, not mine.  I wanted to make it mine, but he would have none of it.

Finally, the illness claimed him.  His tenacity and willpower would give-in to his pain, and he couldn't take it anymore.  I came home and found him on the bathroom floor - prone and listless. It was painful for me to see, and I selfishly hoped that he would pick himself up and make another run at his food, but no.  In fact, he had soiled himself, and when I got the carrier out to take him for his final vet visit, he climbed in as if to tell me, "It's time." He was crying, 'Uncle.'

The thought occurs:  When I came home tonight, I couldn't find him. Eventually, I found him prone in the bathroom - where he never was before - prone and listless. Perhaps he was there because he wanted me to find him, and knew that it would be the first place I looked? It's extraordinary, but it makes sense to think that he would have wanted help in his final hours, and knew that he had to be in the one place that was open.  They are smarter than us.

He fought a brave fight.  Daily fluid injections, four medications, and countless attempts at finding something that he would eat.  All for naught.  In the end, he was better than me.  He made the effort when I wanted to give up.  He wouldn't let me give up because he wasn't worth giving up on.

Until the end, when it was just too much for either of us to endure.  Finally, I had to say, "Goodbye."

You be good.  I'll see you soon.