From Ashes Arose the Phoenix

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My least favorite subjects in high school were English and what used to be called Social Studies. Given that I attended a high school that was internationally known for its emphasis on science and math, I’m not even certain why the non-science classes were taught. There’s really not that much in life that can be achieved with the written word.

Fast forward a generation and both of my kids are fascinated with history and have relatively little use for math and science. Fortunately though. they still have some use for me. The youngest one was able to make his first real phone call from basic training yesterday and it was a special Father’s Day treat.

My oldest son came over for a Father’s Day visit and did the barbecueing, which is something that I really dislike doing. It was great.

We also independently paid our visits to Selhamos. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are sad days to visit cemetaries, especially when you see so many young kids there.

And there were.

Death is also not one of my favorite topics, even though I do love the obituary pages. I do, however, like the concept of resurrection, just not necessarily in a religious context, despite the fact that I spent 4 years in a Jesuit college. Clarence Clemons

If I could choose a resurrection for anyone that’s died in the past 24 hours, no doubt that I would choose Clarence Clemons. I last saw him and the E Street Band 2 years ago. I still wear a T-Shirt from that concert tour at least once a week.

Even though “The Big Man” had to be lifted onto stage back then, man could he wail.

But resurrection was not the sort of thing they taught at my public high school anyway, which back in those days was predominantly Jewish. What they did sometimes teach, however, really taxed the imagination and my patience for learning.

Within my least favorite classes was a subset of least favorite topics.

That was Greek mythology. That stuff was about as believable as the concept of the Greeks readily accepting the fact that their economy may no longer support the right to retire by age 35. But when you think about it, the EU could just as easily been in a position to bail out the Phoenicians, but for some simple twists of fate.

Hated it. Just couldn’t identify with any of the characters or gods, although that Oedipus fellow….Interesting.

So no one is more surprised that I am for the title of today’s blog, ripped right from the mythological headlines.

What’s somewhat fascinating is that I also once owned a Pontiac Phoenix.

It was one of the then new GM series X-Cars that was supposed to revolutionize the American automobile industry. Even then, I don’t think I knew what exactly about that series of car was so spectacular, but Consumer Reports gave it glowing reviews in its inaugural year, only to do a complete about face by the next year.

PhoenixMy Pontiac Phoenix caught fire while I was driving it on I-95 in Rhode Island at about 4:30 AM enroute from Boston to New York. I recall driving on a pretty deserted and dark road when I saw someone flashing their brights in my rearview mirror.

That car then pulled alongside me and started honking wildly.

When I didn’t respond as that driver thought I should, he turned his courtesy lights on so that I could see him and frantically made sweeping hand and arm gestures which I really can’t recreate on paper.

Since I wasn’t expecting to be playing Charades and was never very good at mime interpretation, I just kept on driving, ignoring the lunatic to my side as best I could.

As it turned out, the under-carriage of my car was on fire. At some point a combination of flames from the hood and smoke, on an otherwise smokless and flameless early morning, finally drove the point home.

Although I never did finish that drive home.

I’ll spare you the details, because I’ll probably end up using them for another blog, but in the days before cell phones, it took quite a while for help to arrive.

Ashes. Phoenix. There was no resurrection

And so we begin another new options cycle this morning in the aftermath of another miserable week and another miserable month. The June cycle may as well have all gone up in flames.

Oh wait. It did.

Sure, I know that the S&P 500 actually finished the week with a 0.1% gain, but most people still think of last week as having been the seventh losing week in a row.

I know that I do.

As much as I’d like to see Clarence Clemons resurrected for at least one more show, I’ve got no such hopes for June 2011.

The only thing that helped to make it less of a total loss of a month were some of those last minute options sales that were made in some pathetic combination of desperation and addiction. Those pulled in nearly as much as the previous three weeks.

Interestingly, it actually made me realize that there was an opportunity to return to the past. Back in the days when I ran a monthly service offering 4 or 5 trades in the 2 days before monthy options expiration. But I gave that up. Once a month was entirely too infrequent. But all of a sudden its become clear that the weekly options offered the opportunity to actually make those recommendations much more frequently.

So with that ever worsening ADHD I suppose that’s the next venture. Re-establishing that newsletter and the market for it. Yet another pile of ashes, albeit self-imposed, ready for resurrection.

But first, it’s July. Making something of the ashes left behind after 7 weeks of losses. Although those losses were mitigated a bit by the options sales, as I noted a few weeks ago, I was under-hedged, since I kept thinking that the market would reverse course.

It probably will come as a surprise to no one that was not the case.

Of those last minute call options that I sold in Mosaic, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Textron, DuPont and Dow, only the Microsoft and some of the H&P shares were assigned. I had been expecting and hoping for more and had planned on possibly picking up shares in Visa, Sallie Mae, Riverbed Technogy and Home Depot.

I actually bought Home Depot last Monday, just to pick up Tuesday’s dividend and then sold a call option. That was a good series of trades and I still think Home Depot may be a good holding, even at a slightly higher price. So I will likely pick up replacements for my assigned shares.

Beyond using the phrase “From ashes rose the Phoenix” I really didn’t do much research to see what the mythological context was or what lessons can be learned from the ancient tale. It just seemed like an apt thought.

That point was actually driven home as the new Szelhamos Rules blog just reached its 20.000th hit this Saturday.

I say “new” because the original version ran for precisely one year. After the first year, regular readers were redirected to a new site called “

You’ll have to use Google Translate to figure out what that means. It was one of Szelhamos’s favorite Hungarian expressions.

But from those ashes arose the new Szelhamos Rules, and as a Father’s Day gift, my son has said that he will oversee an entire re-design of the site.

Told you. A great Father’s Day.

I hope that you all had the same.



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