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February 14th, 2008

07:47 pm: Valentine's Day
After seeing all the lame attempts at doing a great meal for Valentine's Day, we decided to do our own. So, with a little planning, we came up with our own menu:

Shrimp and roasted corn chowder served with an Italian Asti
Fresh shrimp and green onions tossed in a spicy tomato-sherry sauce
An assortment of soft cheeses and salamis served with French bread
Fruit and nut salad served over a bed of spring greens tossed in a pomegranate vinaigrette
Roasted asparagus and prosciutto dressed with lemon-olive oil
Steak (we also planned on blue cheese mashed potatoes but sorta messed up our portion control) served with Napa Cellars Zinfandel
An assortment of hard cheeses and fruit served with French bread
Chocolare cinnamon Natillas with Godiva whipped cream served with French-pressed coffee

A wonderful meal

June 19th, 2007

04:04 am: Goodbye to Maria
Another phone call after midnight. Georgian Bloomfield just called to tell me that my mother, Maria, just passed away.

Goodbye Maria.

Been a hard month.

June 7th, 2007

01:27 am: Goodbye to Melvin
It's never good news when the phone rings after midnight. Beaumont Hospital just called to let me know that my Dad, Melvin, just passed away.

Goodbye Melvin.

December 10th, 2006

02:47 am: Chicago trip
Went to Chicago Wed-Fri for a seminar at my favorite brokers: Thinkorswim. Since we were going to spend all our time right downtown, we decided to take the train rather than drive. The whole Amtrak experience was very disappointing. First they changed the time the train left by half an hour (not that they told us or anything). Then, the train was an hour late getting to the station (we left from Flint because the times worked out better than Pontiac). Lots of stops and problems along the way - we were supposed to get to Chicago at 11:15. We actually got there after 13:00, so we missed the beginning of the seminar. All the other trains were late as well, people from Kansas City and St. Louis complained as well. While it was kind of nice not to have to drive, getting up at 4 AM and all the timing issues were a pain. Nothing I saw indicated that Amtrak had any interest in actually serving their customers.

Chicago was cold - close to zero and very windy.

Wednesday, once we finally got there, was spent at the CBOE. Early afternoon was all seminars/talks related to trading. Scott Sheridan (TOS) gave some info on the CBOE and history of TOS. We met Peter Brown, the SPX broker that TOS uses and listened to Joe Kinahan talk about his trading strategies. Tom Hudson (Anchor of First Business) gave us his perspective of how they view the market and deliver the news. Tom Sosnoff (TOS) came in and chatted for a while about TOS things as well.

Late in the day, we got to go down to the exchange floor and see the various pits where the options are traded. We spent some time tin the OEX and SPX pits - it was cool to get an idea of how the floor traders work. They split us us up into 9 teams and we made (fake) trades with real floor traders and real brokers at slow speed to get a feel fro the real thing. Very, very cool. We also put on paper trades to determine where several indicies were going to be at 12:15 on Friday.

Then it was off to across the street for a free cocktail party for everyone. Had a chance to chat with the floor traders as well as a lot of people I know from TOS chat and the SPX list. Good times.

Got together with Sandy, who I have helped salvage a bunch of trades in the past. She and her husband Don spend a lot of time in the city so we ended up having dinner with them both nights (Wed was at Redfish, Thu was at Sullivans). Nice people, we even got Don to give up rides around several places.

Thursday and Friday was at the Gleacher Center, several blocks away. Don Kaufman (TOS) gave us a great review of options greeks. Joe Kinahan (TOS) talked about how to keep your positions market-neutral and the importance of positive theta. Don Kaufman came back and explained a lot about how to embed vertical spreads inside other spreads - lots and lots of great information. Thinkorswim, being made up us ex-floor traders, does not really do much directional trading. They are all about non-directional trading, and hedged positions. Joe really drove that home. Steve Rashis (TOS) gave us lots of information on doing calendar spreads and explained some tricks for rolling. And that was all before lunch! They were starting to lose people at this point - too many of these people did not really know the base material well enough to get much out of the class. And one gal played solitaire, most of the day, I wonder why she bothered to come?

We had a "working lunch" where Joe Kinahan came back and talked about risk management, capital allocation and more hedging techniques. Then Don Kaufman talked about entry and exit criteria with advanced order routing techniques. Jole Blom (TOS) talked about taxes, downloads, integration and upcoming changes to margin requirements. Tom Preston (who I've heard almost every Wednesday) finished off the day with a discussion about creating a trading game plan. By this time, we were wiped - 8 hours of serious information flow from some of the best traders in the world had turned our brains to mush. Back to the hotel we hit the complimentary cocktail party. Don (Sandy's husband) made it back from work and we headed out to dinner. Great steak at Sullivans and it was a short walk in the cold.

Friday started at 8 AM so that we could wrap by 13:00. Don Kaufman led off talking about software tools and beta weighting tools. Then Steve Rashis went into position management. It was an interesting perspective to see how small the standard trade they make is. Linwood Ma (TOS CTO) was supposed to talk about the platform but he had the flu so Don and Steve sorta took questions. Then Steve Rashis talked about using futures in a portfolio to hedge risk. A very different perspective on this product. Finally, Tom Sosnoff came in and showed us how he trades, making real trades with real money to prove a point. The markets are now very efficient, with penny pricing the floor. At 12:15, they pulled the internet connection and checked everyone's prediction from Wednesday. Carol got within 1 penny of the VIX so she won a Thinkorswim beret.

Then we hopped in a cab, back to Union station and waited for the train. It was kinda of nice not to have to deal with all the traffic.

All in all a very educational trip, hopefully it will translate into better trades.

June 12th, 2006

09:47 am: Stated Sunday by driving down to the ruins at Montezuma Castle. The plan was to head up to Sedona from there but we decided to make a side trip to Montezuma's Well. I had not reprogrammed the GPS following the second stop and so I blindly followed the freeway, thinking that I knew where I was going. Turned out that I missed a turn.

But the GPS can deal with that - it told me to take an alternate route. We had some reservations when we turned onto it; seeing the "Primitive Road - Offroad and Four-Wheel Drive Vehicles Only". But since I do have a truck, we figured it was worth a try. Serendipity struck us hard, it turns out that this was one of the major tour routes taken by all the Jeep firms in Sedona. So we managed to do the equivalent of several tours, at our own pace, with nicely chilled iced tea, air conditioning and less dust (dust was still everywhere though). All in all we felt it was much more pleasant than the normal tour.

Emboldened by our success, we refueled in Sedona and headed off to some of the other routes out of town. The plan was to hit another set of ruins but when we got there it turned out that

1) They close at 3:30!

2) They require reservations.

So we simply enjoyed the views, took a few pictures and gave up, heading back to town.

On the way back to the highway, we ended up following one of the jeep tours. The driver pulled off to the side of the road suddenly so we figured he must have seen something interesting. Turns out that there was a small herd of antelope there - we pulled out the binoculars and camera and hung out for a few minutes. Methinx I need a longer lens, the 70-200 was not long enough to capture them very well.

Back to Sedona, we hit another great place for dinner: Javelina Cantina. Food was, once again, outstanding. It was billed as Southwestern but was similar items to what we would expect in a local Mexican place. Still, a fine meal. Wandered the shops a bit after dinner, had to get a couple of tee shirts.

Then we headed back to the hotel, making for an early night. It gets cold out here at night. 95 degree days, 50 degree nights. Got to bed a bit earlier, the sun comes up before 6 AM and we need to get on an earlier schedule for later this week.

June 11th, 2006

03:47 am: NM -> AZ
Gave up on Santa Fe. Hit Albuquerque quickly, much nicer town than Santa Fe. Kept on going and ended up in Flagstaff, AZ. After checking in, we hopped back in the truck and drove down to Sedona. Nice town, cool rock formations, great views but no place to park. Seems like the people out west expect everyone to teleport into town because they never seem to have enough parking, wherever we go

And all the stores, everywhere, close very early. Despite the fact that there were hordes of people peering into shop windows, almost all the shops in Sedona were closed. Very odd. Thy need to take a tip from the people around Yellowstone - the shops were open till midnight!

Dinner was at Oak Creek Brewery and Grill, a microbrewery where the brewmaster was trained in Germany. Rather expensive beer but quite tasty. Good food but not as good as we've managed to do this trip.

I tried to shoot a panoramic of one of the rock formations, might have ended up trashing the pictures due to the transfer program I've used (it does not handle RAW format, it seems). In any case, all the filenames are a mess so I'll just look into it all when I get home. And I'll stop using the transfer program for now.

We wandered around and watched the moon rise over Cathedral Rock. Very pretty area. Headed back to the hotel, we're near some train tracks so we get the train whistle pretty often, not so loud as to be a real issue though.

Current Location: Flagstaff, AZ

June 10th, 2006

01:47 am: Do you know the way to Santa Fe?
Headed south to Santa Fe. Southern Colorado is pretty boring, not much other than a few horses and cows. Again, very dry, not much water to be seen anywhere. Not quite desert though, lots and lots of green dotting the mountains. That 75 MPH speed limit is a great boon to travel. New Mexico takes speeders very seriously, lots and lots of cops. Anyway, we got to Santa Fe and it's a little slice of hell-on-earth. The drivers are terrible, almost in a league with Oakland County. No turn lanes but lots of medians, making left turns into U-turns, a real pain (especially with a 21 foot vehicle). Everything seems to have closed very early, even finding a place that sells beer was a major project. We ended up at Walgreen's in a line that almost reached the back of the store, they have the incredible marketing technique of simply being open.

We thought we were getting into a small artist-based town. Turns out it's like a resort town gone very, very bad. They close off the streets so you can't drive through town, there were no artist-types, just tons and tons of retail shops, many of which must be national chains since we have 'em back home. Lots of sprawl outside the downtown area. People all looked a bit dejected, between the traffic and the downtown environment, one can see why.

Dinner was great though (we've had great luck with food this trip). Chatted with the guy at the hotel front desk and ended up at Tomasita's, a great local place. I used my special parking-lot superpower, there were a dozen cars circling the parking lot looking for spaces and I ended up in the slot right next to handicapped. Wait was quoted at 45 mins, not knowing the town we decided to wait but they seated us in about 20. Great local food, slightly spicy red & green chili (they warn people about it so I guess some people find it hot).

Tried to wander around town afterward, did not enjoy the experience at all. We had planned to spend a goodly part of tomorrow here but there's no point (we have shops at home, no point in wasting vacation time on them). If there were artist-types, they were in hiding. And the town apparently does not want people to walk anyplace - there are all sorts of obstacles on all the sidewalks so that one has to wander into traffic every few feet. So you can't drive around, can't park anywhere and can't walk on the sidewalks. Bletch. Well, we can use an early night, I guess.

Expensive gas too, New Mexico is the first place we've found that has prices as high as home.

June 9th, 2006

02:47 am: Metro Denver day
Wandered up to Boulder, did the Celestial Seasonings (tea) company tour. It included a "history of the company" bit, seemed a bit sad that the founders seem to have nothing to do with the corporate conglomerate it's become. Got to try a bunch of tea and see how they prepare their product. Given how much tea (not that much of theirs) we consume, it was actually pretty cool to learn a bit about the plant and how white, green and black tea all come from the same plant but are just processed differently.

Stopped off at a mead company, supposedly they give tours but they actually were more like tiny St. Julian wine tasting shop, pushing their mead. Nothing anywhere near as good as Marshall's but then he's sorta stopped making it for a while. Picked up one bottle just because, as well as the local distributor back home.

Was hoping to hook up with Mike P who lives in Boulder but things did not work out. We headed to the Pikes Peak area, went to take the train up to the peak and they said "Oh no, our last train left at 2:40!". Hell of a way to run a tourist trap!

So, instead, we headed up to Cascade to drive up to the peak. Weather was iffy, when we pulled into the toll road the guy said that we might only make it 13 of the 19 miles and not be able to get to the peak. We figured we would try anyway. Stopped several times along the way to grab a few pictures but the clouds were heavy and I was not terribly into doing much. At the second or third stop the wind was so bad that it ripped my left contact lens off my eye. Very sigh, it's a pain to drive with only one lens. Fortunately I have one of my old spares back at the hotel so I won't be half blind till I get a new one. Made it to the top (behind a semi tractor!) where it was 30 degrees and snowing. Between the clouds and the wind, it was pretty miserable and there was no real point in staying.

Hooked up with Ken & Jennifer for dinner, was great to see their place and meet the kids. They will be back in our area in July, we need to set up a SEMGS special event.

The Denver/Boulder/Colorado Springs area is way too crowded already, yet the housing boom rushes on. Water looks to be a serious issue for the whole area.

Current Location: Denver, Co

June 8th, 2006

01:47 am: Made it to Denver
Wednesday, Kansas, what can I say? We wandered around Kansas City for a bit then headed west again. Cows and more cows. Sun. Wind, lots and lots of wind. Fairly boring drive. We did manage to get a great steak dinner from a place called "Montana Mike's" just before leaving the state, we figured we had to eat steak in Kansas.

Got to Colorado and saw the most beautiful sign: "Speed Limit 75". Roads were a pleasure to drive. The truck seemed to have some issues in Colorado, not accelerating on cruise like normal. Likely due to the crap gasahol they sell out here, finding pure gas seems impossible. Or maybe the altitude. Whatever the reason it was odd to have it drop down to 65 now and then when it usually accelerates even when heading uphill.

Caught another thunderstorm on the way, nowhere as cool as last night but still worth seeing. Denver traffic control is amazing, we drove a long section of surface without being stopped once by a traffic light (they all were nicely green and traffic sailed through).

Current Location: Denver, CO

June 7th, 2006

09:47 am: Tuesday was a long drive. From home to Columbia, MO (about 100 miles east of Kansas City). Construction in Gary (bad), I80 in Chicago (worse, plus they screw traffic up even more by still collecting tolls), St. Louis (bad because they shut down most of the lanes every couple of miles).

Driving through Missouri was pretty cool, we were heading west with a clear sight of the moon and a bunch of stars and a raging thunderstorm to the south of us. Only rain was for a few minutes while we stopped at a rest area, enough to wake us up and clean the windows on the truck. The view of the storm was awesome and lasted several hours. Today dawned to a clear blue sky.

Dinner was a Chevy's a Mexican place. Good food but it took about an hour and a half to get dinner (did not help when they dropped our food off at another table). Manager offered to take a few bucks off our bill, not the point since the time really mattered but the waitress "neglected" to actually do so. WOuld never go back to THAT one but the food was very good.

Once again, staying in Missouri seems to be a problem, we found a hotel with Internet (but not in the room or the lobby or the restaurant, had to sit next to the pool!). Not the best experience.

Current Location: Columbia, MO
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