Empty Nest

I love the “empty nest.”
I don’t get all the people who bemoan the fact that their children have made lives for themselves. These days that isn’t terribly easy to do, so instead of being saddened, it seems that pride is called for when looking at the empty bedrooms.
And the cleaner house. And the lack of towels and socks strewn all over the place. And the discovery of unknown sleepover friends. And the milk returned to the refrigerator.
Ah, empty nest.
Literally within days of the second of our two boys leaving our home, my wife had his bedroom painted pink.
There was no mistaking the message, yet she’s the sentimental one and the one with the parental instinct. I would have chosen nature’s way and just eaten the young before they had the opportunity to suck all life out of us.
This past Saturday evening we went to the house of some friends for a “planning session.” We’re traveling together to Europe in September, literally minutes after their nest becomes seasonally empty.
They have the right idea.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids and am very happy when they come for a visit, have dinner with us or call.
I’m also happy when they leave.
There are lots of other things that make me a bad person. Those feelings will just have to stand in line.
When I see Facebook postings, as I did this morning from my oldest son who is currently in Cambodia, I’m glad that he’s not here for me to look directly into his face.

“Got my first massage today. After around 45 minutes she told me to turn over and giggled. She then flipped on a TV and played me the last fifteen minutes of “Homeward Bound”. Incredible Happy Ending.”

At least this way, I don’t have to ask if the happy ending was related to the movie.

Sharing information like this so readily makes me appreciate how Facebook may end up being the $100 Billion IPO that Friday’s breaking news indicated. Getting that kind of information from Cambodia in real time is priceless, although the “happy ending” may have put my son back an extra few thousand Cambodian Riel.

At more than 4,000 Riel to a dollar that IPO is going to be immense to the man on the street in Phnom Penh.

The bottom line is that my kids are always welcome to come back home at any time and for any reason, even if there are guns blazing.
That’s life and it may be what ultimately distinguishes us from the animals. What other species has members of the younger generations returning to the fold?
Despite the fact that the Supreme Court has defined corporations as being indistinguishable from individuals, in the corporate world it really isn’t that easy to come back home.
About 4 years ago I wrote about Michael Dell’s return to take over the faltering enterprise.
From a shareholder’s perspective four years is long enough of a time to say that it hasn’t really worked out that well, unless you take the position that without the return of Michael Dell the company would be further engulfed in the cesspool that the computer commodity business has become.
I’m always amused when analysts suggest that it’s too early to tell how Dell’s second tenure is working out.
Dell has a special place in my heart because it is the very first stock that I sold at a loss after I had start6ed utilizing a covered call strategy. At some point it dawned on me that the number of option cycles necessary to make me who again may have exceeded my life expectancy.
That may be the true definition of “dead money.”
With Jerry Yang’s re-departure from Yahoo! that chapter has at least been been re-closed.
On the other hand, two notable exceptions, Charles Schwab and Howard Schultz do show that the return of a founding father sometimes is just the right tonic for a floundering business. Neither of those two relied on a strategy of lower pricing to regain market share, as Schwab is more expensive than its peers and Starbucks is in a class all by itself. Instead, they just restored the cache through inspired leadership.
A statistical analysis shows that a surname begininng with the letters “Sch” is highly correlated with a successful return to the helm once left behind. Maybe it has nothing to do with inspiration or vision.
When it comes to stocks, I’m always happy to welcome back home, other than for the few that are dead to me.
Just like people in your life, they bring you joy and then they can disappoint, as well. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, the net result is enjoyment.
Barely a week ago, I had my shares of Riverbed Technology assigned. Riverbed is one of those companies that I have, more or less owned continually over the past four years, with the only respites coming due to assignment.
According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, at my current age, the average person has as much saved up as RIverbed Technology has generated for me in options premiums since August 2008.
Normally, I would have expressed the number in terms of my “1964 Color TV Metric,” but I wanted to be a bit more obscure on this one. I doubt that any reader is going to do the minimal research to figure out how much that figure is, but RIverbed Technology has always left me with a “happy ending” even when taken away due to option exercise.
Like my son, I like “happy endings.”
I suppose that had my shares not been assigned last week, I’d instead be faced with disappointment upon learning of Riverbed’s plunge coming on expected earnings, but poor guidance and getting caught in the Juniper Networks bad news, just as it was caught up a month ago in Oracle’s bad guidance and statement that it was seeing a slowdown coming.
Sometimes it really is true when your parents told you not to hang out with certain people or groups because you’re likely to get into trouble.
Riverbed travels with a volatile crowd and gets carried along for the ride, especially when it’s a downward ride.
By the same token, sometimes it’s true when you told your parent that it really “wasn’t my fault.”
But I was more than happy to welcome RIverbed back into my empty nest.
After all of those years, there’s a place in my heart, even though this is all supposed to be an emotion free zone.
With shares down a bit more than 20% in the aftermath of the earnings release, it was time to re-open the doors.
Now if it was your child returning to the roost after a week you’d probably want to do everything you could to get them right back out the door and give it a real chance. That’s the advice you’re given when sending your kid off to school to be away from home for the first time. If every kid who moaned about wanting to come home after the first week of life in the dormitory, college campuses would be ghost towns.
But look, even a parent who always gives their child the benefit of the doubt gets wary at some point and takes steps to protect themselves and their interests.
For me, that some point was immediately, as that’s how long I waited to sell the monthly call options despite having still three weeks to go until expiration and further price appreciation.
Or decline.
I love Riverbed, but its unpredictability makes me appropriately wary.
Invcreasingly I’ve come to rely more on selling the weekly variety of options, but sadly, there aren’t any for Riverbed.
The monthly options make me feel more like a parent that’s looking down the road and seeing the empty nest still 20 years away. Those weekly options are just great for feeling the grip of servitude being eased in the very near future.
By the time the days’ trading settled out, my shares were already in the money.
No matter. Even if it all gets said and done tomorrow, it would end up as a 4.8% gain for the three weeks of putting up with the equivalent of dirty towels and hidden away beer cans.
ANd I know that someday, maybe someday soon, it will be time to say goodbye to RIverbed once again.
But we both know that we’ve gone through the motions before and we both know that there will always be room for an old friend that’s almost part of the family.
The empty nest is great, but the nest was pretty great, too.