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Billie Joe McAllister and AIG Haunt ME

I was at the grocery store last week. I do that much more often these days, as I feel that's the least I can do to show my thanks to my Sugar Momma. I'm usually prowling the aisles at about 4:18 or so, giving myself a couple of leisure minutes to leave home after the closing bell.

My wife still ridicules me, because I call it "Grocery Store" and not "Supermarket" or "The Market". I also refer to our local grocery bohemoth, Giant, as "Grand Union", a defunct chain that we left behind in New York nearly 20 years ago.

To her discredit, she refers to TV stations as "numbers", as in "let's see what on the numbers". She also derides my reference to single family detached homes as "private houses".

So whose side are you going to take?

But I grew up in a time when grocery stores didn't have parking lots, nor product selection. Every woman pulling one of their personal folding shopping carriages looked like an old lady, regardless of actual age.

Now, everyone drives and those carriages aren't even allowed in the grocery store, and you don't have to be wealthy to live in a single family detached house.

But while mindlessly shopping last week and dutifully crossing off the items on my carefully crafted list, the ersatz overhead music was a familiar tune that I hadn't heard in years.

Ode to Billie JoeRemember Bobbie Genrty? The big haired Country and Western singer who had a crossover song that made her, I think, a one hit wonder. That song was with "Ode to Billie Joe", the sad song about teenage suicide and a hidden secret.

"Was the third of June, another sleepy dusty delta day...". Does that ring a bell?

Well, I haven't been able to get that song out of my head for the last week. Humming it, singing it and whistling all through the day, until I hear the expression "Stop, you're giving me a headache".

 

Today was another one of those sleepy dusty delta days in the market. It was unnecessarily hot, humid and boring. As far as delta goes, unlike other wizened options traders, I don't believe in The Greeks.

The tease of some early upside was just that. A tease. As many other days in the past two weeks the optimism evaporated. Almost made you want to do something rash, but fortunately, I'm restricted to the basement and the windows have been filled in with cinder blocks.

Yesterday I was pretty excited about the opportunity to pick up additional shares of Textron, S&P SPDR, BP, Williams-Sonoma and some others that escape me right now, in anticipation of quickly sellng some weekly call options.

But the market just seemed to want to do nothing but jump off that Tallahatchee Bridge.

And you want to know what's happened to my appetite?

To do so, you'll just have to download the lyrics.

Truth is, I wasn't fully into the markets today anyway.

For today was the day my youngest son was heading out to Army basic training.

On my side of the family, he's first generation American. We have no military history in my own family. We were the people typically rounded up by soldiers, so it's a very foreign concept for me.

There were lots of little things that needed to be done today that took precedence over the markets. As it was, I was still sore from moving him out of his off campus apartment and was dealing with themuscle spasms from working that carpet cleaner machine over one of the filthiest carpets I'd seen since my own student days.

Even though I know that I can easily enter my order criterion and have them executed without my presence, I like the thrill of pushing the button and the anticipation of watching the trade get completed. So not too much got done.

Today, I did make some early call sales in those SPDR's and Freeport, but the others that I was hoping would materialize, never did, as the market was unable to survive that leap.

There was also that overhang of where the AIG re-IPO would price. WIth the government's break-even point set near $28.60, it seemed likely that the whisper number was going to be $29. Why people slowly worked the closing share price to $29.60 is as unclear as the nature of the object Billie Joe and his girlfriend threw off the bridge before his fateful plunge.

What was also unclear was why I didn't sell an AIG weekly call on Monday, when AIG was above $30, particularly when talk of a $29 price was already making the rounds.

Or maybe the fact that I didn't just sell my AIG position outright haunts me, as AIG has opened the morning at about $28.30

What really haunts me is that I ignored the warning signs. WHy in the world would E*Trade be a co-manager of this issue? Maybe because no one other than a sucker would want to buy it?

Yopu certainly wouldn't pick up shares to ingratiate yourself with E*Trade for a shot at their next "big IPO".

I'm not even certain why I care so much about AIG. It represents only a small portion of my portfolio, but it haunts me and my 0.0023% of the current outstanding AIG float every bit as much as much as Billie Joe's plunge haunted that nice young preacher, Brother Taylor.

But as opposed to the predictably melancholy outcome of a Country and Western song, tomorrow is another day. AIG may haunt me now, but could just as easily profess itself to me.

Either way, the Ode of AIG will someday come to its conclusion. These things always do. Yet, Billie Joe McAllister still remains a complete mystery and will for all time.

Life still goes on. Even though Papa caught a virus that was going 'round and died last Spring, and Momma (not my Sugar Mommma) doesn't seem to want to do much of anything, it's got to be different for us.

I hugged my child yesterday as we dropped him off at the hotel right outside the base from which they will be leaving tomorrow at about 4 AM. I know that he will be a very different person the next time I see him.

As it turned out, I saw him 2 hours later, as he called to say that he left his phone charger at the house.

Not so different. Maybe a little taller.

So tomorrow is back to normal, I'll be carefully watching how the Ode to AIG works out and will try extra hard to squeeze some income out of these ridiculously priced stocks.

Billie Joe is lucky he never had these kind of problems.

Is Twitter a Life Changer?

At the strong recommendation of my son, I opened a Twitter account about 3 weeks ago.

I wasn't certain why I would do that. After all, I was very happy sitting at home, watching TV and trading stocks and options.

Occasionally, I'd actually work someplace in my professional capacity, but those occasions were becoming more and more rare.

HeroinBut being unable to access the Methadone that my body so desperately needed, I'd become addicted to Twitter faster than I could tie a tourniquet.

It had all started innocently enough. My son told me that Twitter would be an additional great way to get word out that I had published a new book.

The first thrill didn't come right away, but delayed gratification, like that in finding a $20 bill in the pocket of pants you haven't worn for a year is especially sweet.

In this case, on the very first day after Tweeting, I had a significant, maybe coincidental uptick in online sales.

So curiousity and the need to try just once more took over rational thought.

The goal, and it quickly has taken over my life, was to get followers. People who would drink the Kool-Ade, but pay for the book, before they swallowed the deadly elixir.

More was better, and definitely the Tweeting fed on itself.

As opposed to Facebook, where I had an account, but proudly paraded the fact that I had no friends, this was completely different. I was able to withstand all of the insidious Facebook tentacles. I was strong and resolute, never letting it get hold of me. But this Twitter thing, it really was just different.

I was so busy reading, Tweeting, replying and retweeting, that I barely even noticed the nosedives that some of my favorites stocks were taking day in and out.

I wasn't accustomed to seeing my holdings underperform, but this was a perfect storm of bad performance from the likes of Goldman Sachs, Freeport McMoran, Mosaic, Rio Tinto and Williams Sonoma.

Thank God I had my Twitter. I just kept fiddling with Twitter while my stocks burned.

Twitter has to be the most egalitarian place in the world. It's amazing the varied social strata that have had an opportunity to throw their 140 letters at me.

More importantly, they got a share of my 140 spaces worth of wisdom.

As you age, and I have, you definitely become a creature of habit, but this new venture was more than enticing.

I already had an addictive personality and this took hold of me quickly.

Together with that addictive personality comes the realization that as you get older, you also get stuck in your ways, just another form of addiction. The addiction to not changing

My habits were CNBC and Comedy Central, albeit, I try to catch Brian Williams each night, while silently mourning the absence of Brokaw.

I have a number of favorite personalities on CNBC, as well as a number that have left.

My only real problem with CNBC was their unwillingness to have either Joe Kernan change the spelling of his name to "Quernan", so that he and his cohorts, Becky Quick and Carl Quintinilla could be referred to as QQQ. Besides, how stock market friendly is that acronym?

I realized that was much easier than having Kernen, Kwick and Kuintinilla. I think that acronym was already taken.

Other than that, a few loud on air personalities were just background noise, with the exception of Kudlow, who always conjured up thoughts of "Shrill, baby, Shrill, whenever he came on air.

But still, I was a devoted watcher. Kernen, Greenberg, Griffeth and Pisani were all comforting and credible voices. For some reason, to me, Jim Cramer was also a voice of calm.

Go figure.

What I was unprepared for was the series of events that got me to watch a segment of FOX Business.

The Twitter stream got me to watch a Dennis Kneale piece on the controversy regarding a proposed Disney trademark on Navy SEALS.

That short segment, and my basic laziness, since my remote control person only works 6 days a week, had me staying tuned to FOX.

And then I got upset.

Why didn't CNBC tell me that Liz Claman was still alive? And what had they done with Ted David. 

As I stayed tuned, among the first things I noticed was that FOX actually had an anchor of color. There was more than red, green and paleface. As it turned out, though, he was only a guest, but I appreciated the gesture.

My first dilemma was at 3 PM. Claman versus Griffeth.

I feel so dirty. I stayed with FOX.

But that was nothing. I was soon to go on the high of a lifetime and then crash harder than this fragile frame could possibly withstand.

With all of the jokes about Saturday's impending rapture, at about midnight, while I was watching the Letterman show, I decided to check my "Klout" score.

For those of you that don't know Klout, it's just another one of those derivitive Twitter entities. This one purportedly measures how important you are in the Twitersphere.

Using 4 basic measurements, ultimately your "Klout Style" is found in one of 16 squares in the 4x4 grid.

The ultimate place is in the upper right corner, Box #16. That makes you a "Celebrity. You know, people like Ashton Hutcher, Daniel Tosh and Charlie Sheen.

And then you had me. A Twitter newbie, I had after 3 weeks made it to "specialist", in the #3 Box.

But at mid-night, it became clear that I was one of the remaining souls on Earth, not having joined my more deserving brethren in The Rapture.

How did I know that? All of a sudden, I was a "Celebrity".

There I was in the #16 grid, with ny thumbnail surrounded by Jim Cramer, Larry Kudlow and my own son. Non-Rapture worthy, all of us, to be sure.

That Klout algorithm was incredible. Someehow it had already accounted for all of those previous Twitter users that had gone on to their great reward in the Heavens.

But rather than being saddened at being left behind, I just had my addiction reinforced. I wanted more. More Tweets, more retweets. I wanted to get to that non-existent #17.

My life had changed. I had followers, I had Klout.

But then the jokes on Twitter about the Rapture ended.

Was it because those left behind were saddened to be so, or was it something else.

No matter, I was a "Celebrity" basking in Twitter glory.

I was even thinking of IPO'ing my Box #16.

But then came the fall. It was brutal.

No Rapture Everyone right where they always were, and sure enough, I was a "Specialist" once again.

I don't know if Cramer and Kudlow took their demotions as hard as I took mine, but then again, they didn't fall as far and as hard as I would.

In the blink of an eye, I'd seen the Twiiter Klout heavens and then ate the dirt in its depths.

My poor son fell evcen further, but he's an adult and on his own.

Yes, my life has changed. I want back at the top. I don't care whether it takes CNBC, Fox or Bloomberg, but I'm getting there.

 

Pangs of Guilt

I never really thought of myself as a "user", but obviously I've been in deep denial.

Years ago, I saw an obscure movie on HBO. It probably had a very short theatrical release. Up until 5 minutes ago, I thought the name of the movie was "Dutch Treat", but a check of IMDB finds a different movie by the same name.

For me, the most memorable line of the movie that I seem to have forgotten was "You car is your dick. RIght now, you have a really small dick". That was the life lesson taught to a mid-west kind of innocent guy who moved to California.

Well, Twitter is the same.

I think you measured by your number of followers and your "Klout".

FacebookYesterday, I decided to take some drastic actions to increase my number of followers and "Klout", since both had stalled out in the past week after some nice and steady growth. Like most men, I wanted bigger Klout.

I wanted to cast a Klout shadow that would make Anthony Weiner envious.

First, I opened a Facebook account.

I actually had one, that was closed to everyone. I used it only to be able to place Facebook ads. I was proud to have no Facebook friends. I actually worked that fact into nearly every converstaion that I had with real people.

But since I now want to sell books, I was told that I need a Facebook presence and a page for Option to Profit.

Okay. The page went up and I was immediately stunned to see how many suggested friends were out there for me. Some names sounded slightly familiar, most not at all. Was I getting Alzheimers? Was there a reason I wasn't remembering my "friends"? WHo were these people?

But before I get back to Facebook, I also decided to start following all of my Twitter followers. Previously, I had about a 4 to 1 ratio. I followed relatively few people and maybe, as a result, I had relatively few followers.

Maybe, the reason for that was my content was "drek", but I'll choose to ignore that possibility.

So follow I did and lo and behold, I increased my number of followers by about 20%.

I'm a user. No doubt about it. Facebook, Twitter. It's all about getting people and then getting their people and their people's people. All to buy books.

That's when the reality hit.

If I thought that my Tweets were tripe, that all changed when I saw what was now pouring into my Twitter stream.

Holy tripe.

Here comes the guilt.

I need to unfollow most of those new people. I feel badly about that.

I do, because when someone no longer follows me, I feel just a little bit sad, although I often wonder why they were following in the first place. Was there anything in my Tweets or blogs that indicated I would be a good place for learning a daily Russian word?

At first I thought that I just couldn't do that sort of thing, because I really wasn't that kind of person, but then came the realization.

I stopped being a guilt ridden person that day that I gave up on buy and hold stock strategies. It has to all be about the outcome, not the process.

These days, I'm in and out. Not quite a day trader, but one whose trading pattern more befits my attention span. I also have way too much regard for my mental well being to be a day trader, although I do make about 4 trades a day.

For example, I expect that today, I'll be buying shares of Home Depot, Transocean and the Financial Sector SPDR, with the cash that will come pouring in from assignment of my shares in AIG, GS and JP Morgan.

I plan to write in the call options immediately on all three, with expiration this Friday.

Home Depot, in fact, goes ex-dividend on Wednesday and if it gets exercised, I'll be happy and just buy something else and again sell call options.

No guilt there. Just want to wring every cent out of those shares as quickly as possible. Sort of like Jack the Ripper.

So I started the Twitter pruning this morning with a newly discovered guilt free feeling. Sorry "Great Deals in Southern Florida" peddler. Sorry "Job Bank in Sacramento" guy.

And so it went.

But being a cautious kind of guy and still wanting to retain my followers, I hedged my bets. Not much of a surprise, considering how I trade.

I decided to start by dumping those people that had lots of followers. Looking through their Tweets, I couldn't understand why they had so many, but I figured they would never miss me and would be less likely to reciprocate.

If that works, then it's time to prune down those that seem to have a strong evangelistic tone. I'm all for religiousity, but I want mine in spasms of more than 140 spaces.

As the soon to be old saying goes "You lost me at Lord".

Now, back to Facebook.

My sister immediately found my presence. I had long resisted her suggestions to join and become a part of "communities" of our past.

Her response was "OMG" and then posting a photo of us taken in a photobooth, probably about 45 years ago, back in the days when we had such things as booths.

My oldest son, posted this one Twitter: "Just received a #facebook friend request from @theacsman #sellout"

I'll have to agree with both of them.

Not being one of great diplomatic talents, Sugar Momma and I went out for dinner last night with two friends. Interestingly, they had also found me on Facebook and sent in their "friend requests" an hour before our dinner.

 I accepted. What else could I do?

Then at dinner we spoke about many things.

I only wanted to know how to go about "de-friending" people. Not them, of course, just people.

Forget the guilt.

As I was starting to look at the "wall", that monstrosity that I had somehow created, all of these obscure friends of friends were now appearing. There was no "greater plan" and my Option to Profit book theme was getting buried.

Remember, all I want to do is sell books. I really didn't need to know about little Moishe's bris and how scrumptious the whitefish was.

It's not becasue I'm anti-social, I just don't care.

And that too, extends to stocks. I really don't care about all of the details. I don't even necessarily want to know wehat a company makes or what services it provides.

I'm a user. I just want it to make money for me.

Is that so bad?

Now, if it turns out that the Facebook page gets my "friends" to read this blog, I'll have some explaining to do, but then at least I'll know that the advice to start a Facebook page was a good one. Better yet, increasing book sales would really make the point.

My new friend, Adam Pflantzer, at Shmish.com (a nice financial news aggregator site),  has told me that I need to put my facebook address out into the ether, so here it is: http://www.facebook.com/TheAcsMan

There's nothing like profits to ease the guilt pangs.

So here's to friends and followers. Especially the ones that buy books, post on their walls and the walls of their friends and their friend's friends.

And so on and so on.

 

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