Is Ignorance Good?

I spent much of the day in an unusual environment cut off from the simplest pleasures to which I have become accustomed.

I believe that it's called "work". Since it's not really something that I have to do anymore, it's not really servitude, it's just work. Although I've been very fortunate in always having had good jobs and having been associated with very good people, it was still work.

Forget about the fact that for 20 of those years I actually expanded my mind, gained some professional stature and actually accomplished some worthwhile things, I would rather have been in my underground vault counting the day's receipts and profits.

I continue to get a kick out of people who profess to really enjoy what they do for a living. Not that it isn't possible, it's just that it seems so highly unlikely.

Even Mel Brooks, who for a while really had his pulse on human behavior, got it wrong, when he said "It's good to be the King". I'm sure that these days, even King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia must wonder who's serving whom when he has to release $135 billion in funds to pacify the populace with social program spending.

Not too long ago, one of my sons convinced me that I really needed to watch "It's Always Sunny in Phildalephia".

I was somewhat resistant because I don't want to emotionally commit to a new show and then see it get cancelled. Besides, if it wasn't on CNBC or Comedy Central, I wasn't really interested.

Poor Paul Reiser. I still grieve.

But this carried very little liablity, because the show had already been on for 5 years or so and now was being run in syndication on Comedy Central.

IgnoranceNow, as I've become a fan, the characters of this show are the ulimate representation of ignorance.

Since I have been to Philadelphia, I agree with that characterization, but the weather forecast would be more accurate if the show was entitled "It's Always Sunny in Riyadh". Surely, ignorance knows no national boundaries.

Today, though, I was the "Mayor of Ignorance".

For the previous 30 years I hadn't really appreciated how delightful being a stay at home empty nester could be. The ability to trade as needed made staying a home a true and profitable delight. Maybe not as profitable as toiling away on a regular basis, but as a bonus, it's something that is far from being "work". I was actually getting a kick out of being me.

But today was different. As much as I looked around there wasn't a single La-Z-Boy to be had. Although I did have a computer to call my own, there was no familiar background news of an ever-running television tuned to CNBC. I was beginning to question my decision to not drag along my laptop and stream CNBC through the Power E*Trade trading platform.

No coffee machine, no beautifully soft double ply toilet tissue and no dog in my lap.The people surrounding me were nice, but I had to wear socks and real shoes.

Still, trading opportunities weren't denied to me.

Although I knew that the pre-opening was portending a positive open, I had no idea why the market performed so well throughout most of the day. I was cut-off from all forms of meaningful communication.

I was trading, but had no idea of why. All I saw were the price movements.

Early in the morning, I actually bought back the Freeport McMoran shares that had been assigned to me, yet at a price lower than the assigned price.

As Freeport then climbed later in the aftrenoon, although still trailing the market, I sold in the money calls with a Friday expiration. If I could get 2% return on every stock every week just by getting lucky like that, I wouldn't have to write this blog. I wouldn'ty have to share my ignorance with anyone.

But I still wondered.

Was there news of a resumption of Chinese growth? Were copper prices going to sky-rocket? Was Pizar coming out with a Freeport McMoRan movie in 3-D?

No clue. I traded purely out of ignorance, fascinated by numbers red and green.

I also sold Visa call options expiring this Friday at an incredibly nice premium. Why were they so high relative to the next week's premiums? Don't know. Ignorance reigned.

Now before I try to portray ignorance as a bad thing, I did want to digress a bit toward my new found world of social media.

It was about 6 weeks ago that my son convinced me that I needed to "Tweet".

Up until that point, I thought that Tweeting was only a means to let people know about the mundane things going on in Ashton Kutcher's life.

He also convinced me to finally open up my "friend vacant" Facebook account and use it, together with my Twitter account to shamelessly promote my book.

Done and done.

On top of that, I just got a FourSquare account, as well, having entiltled my home address as "La-Z-Boy".

Here's where the ignorance is bliss part comes in, though.

Now that I have "friends", I get to see what's going on with them.

Most of all, I get to see what going on my my oldest son, who has always been quite the party animal. Fortunately, the youngest son is doing Army basic training right now, and it's not very likley that he's doing anything beyond the pale, other than learning how to impale.

Not only do I now know what my son is up to, I also get to see what his frends are doing. What kind of debauchery and havoc they are wreaking.

I've also learned alot about the world of Twitter hashtags and acronyms.

#PMGDDO is "Puking my God-damn dinner out". It took a little bit of concerted effort to figure that one out.

Context is everything, especially if it ends up on your shoes.

Do I really need to know this?

Here's one place that ignorance would be a good thing.

What little I could garner from today's events came from the New York Times web site. I learned that Michelle Bachmann, who announced to the world on Sunday that she would be announcing her presidential candicacy yesterday, actually announced her candidacy yesterday.

Reading between the lines, it would have appeared that she did so on Sunday.

Reminds me of the extraordinarily unsuccessful bank robber who would pass a note to the teller:

"This is a stick-up. I'll be back tomorrow at 10 AM to rob you formally"

When Chris Wallace asked Michelle Bachmann if she was "a flake" on his Sunday broadcast, he was also leaving a question on the table.

Yes, she's ignorant, as well. Just listen. You'll see.

But it doesn't really seem to matter, as she is now an official candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, who somehow was able to participate in the recent Repu\blican presidential candidate debate without being a candidate.

Another place that ignorance seems to have reigned. Apparantly, being smarter than a 5th grader is not a requisite for a legitimate candicacy.

But as the day came to a close, ignorance didn't seem to be so bad. No breaking news stories to deal with, no local cable advertisements and no disingenuous talking heads seeking the world's approbation.

All of a sudden, I'm not so distressed about working again later this week and twice the week after.

By then, I should be FourSquare's "Mayor of Ignorance".

           

Somedays it just doesn't Pay

Today was one of those days that you just wished that The End of Days had actually occured.

As if a 280 point drop in the Dow Jones wasn't enough, watching Trump eat his Pizza with a fork and knife in a prototypical New York Pizzeria joint was enough to question everything in life.

Trump PizzaDuring World War II, reportedly American GI's tested suspected spies by peppering them with baseball related questions. That was one sure way to test someone's stripes. If you fell for the old, was Joe DiMaggio your favorite Brooklyn Dodger question, your ass was toast. Especially if you answered "Yah".

No doubt, after seeing Trump elegantly dining on Pizza, one would be well justified to question the nation of Trump's birth. Even Kenyan's know how to eat Pizza.

They certainly don't stack their slices and they'll usually walk the extra 20 feet to bypass the Albanian Pizza place for a chance to get some really authentic New York Pizza, made my authentic Italians.

Let's be clear, The Donald's excuse for using a knife, fork, spork, whatever, doesn't hold up to well. He said that he eats it that way so that he can bypass the dough, to keep his weight down.

The stacking sort of speaks a different story, unless Trump uses one of those Intuitive Surgical Da Vinci robotics to extricate the mozzarella and tomato sauce from between the soggy crusted slices.

Palin Star of DavidAnd then, there's this image of Sarah Palin with her daughter Piper apologizing for pushing a cameraman. Well, as if the Jewish people don't have enough problems, Palin is wearing a huge Star of David.

It was pretty unmistakenable. Maybe she was just trying to be prepared for any possible host awaiting her upon last week's cancelled Rapturapalooza.

Don't know, but once again it has me questioning everything. I had no problem with a Tina Turner beating Ike Turner or baseball bashing Rod Carew wearing the Star of David, but this? Too much. Just too much.

These sights were no way to end an absolutely horrid day.

Like most days that the markets are opened, I eagerly look forward to the days' action.

Today was no different.

But like most days recently, our Dachshund, Laszlo, has been waking up and howling at an obscene hour in the morning.

Letting my Sugar Momma sleep, I get up and let Laszlo out with the full intention of going back to bed.

That never happens. Just can't do it.

And so, I wait more than 4 hours waiting for that opening bell with my days' trading strategies all planned out. I was fully expecting a rebound in Research in Motion and another upward bump in Freeport McMoRan.

Besides, the pre-open numbers indicated only a mild drop. Plenty of reason for sustained optimism.

But for the first time in a very long time, the market acted in an appropriate fashion for the economic news at hand.

The ADP employment numbers and then the ISM (Institute for Supply Management) data were not very good. But instead of moving in the irrational direction, the market actually did what a normal person would have predicted.

Given yesterday's 128 point climb, today's numbers gave a good reason to take some profits, but it was really an overdone reaction.

Given that Friday are the official government job numbers, I can't imagine another such reaction for the release of numbers that should roughly mimic ADP's numbers. The caveat being whether there are substantive revisions to previous month's data.

Unfortunately, I'm not very well hedged and today was quite a hit. Normally at this stage of the month I'm fully hedged, but I change gears a bit if the previous month didn't have many assignments. That usually means that I'm holding positions that are in negative territotry and I expect price rebounds.

In a perfect world, I'd rather make profits from an always upward spiraling stock price, but that's just not the way of the world. Sometimes stock prices move downward and options premiums offest those paper losses very nicely.

That was the case during the May 2011 options cycle. I chose to not write June call options on a number of positions until they exhibited some price rises.

That was the strategy that I used during the early period of the post 2009 recovery. Back then, I went for capital gains on the stocks and smaller call option premiums.

For the pasy year, however, especially when volatility was high, I was particularly happy with the options premiums that came with near the money strike positions.

So today ened up being a total disappointment.

Rather than rapture, today was definitely a day from Hell.

Trump, Palin, The Dow Jones and Laszlo.

But at least my day tomorrow will have a much better chance of improving.

Don't think Rep. Anthony Weiner will be able to say the same thing, although I guess we both could be guilty of letting the dog out.

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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