Thursday, November 29, 2007

Into the fray...

After several years of neglect, I finally got motivated to get my finances in order. I've had money sitting in a few different retirement accounts and I never really bothered to check and see what they've been up to. It turns out they were automatically dumped into money markets for some reason, which are good for, say, loose cash you don't need, but bad for long-term growth. So I rearranged everything and now I'll be a multi-billionaire when I retire in 10 years.

Relatedly, I've also gotten interested in stocks. After only two weeks or so of research, I've come to the realization that playing the stock market isn't too much different from playing roulette. I don't gamble at casinos except for roulette, and when you play you get an energizing sense of anticipation as you watch the ball go around and around until it lands on "00" and you lose $50 in 45 seconds. Stock investments seem to be kinda like that, though it's much different because you at least have an opportunity to make an informed decision about your investments rather than blindly choosing "red" and "black".

Does anyone know what these people actually do?

Yesterday I plunked some change into E*Trade, having been watching it oscillate between $3.50 and $6.00/share over the last two weeks, and having read about potential buyouts by other firms. I couldn't help but check the ticker every 30 minutes, expecting it to shoot up. Of course it didn't, but I did know that going into it.

Sure, a financial firm with a big mortgage debt doesn't seem like a great pick right now, but that's why I think it is. The chance of it going under is slim, and before it does it'll very likely be bought out. It's been crippled with debt and has seen its stock tumble from $26.00/share in June to where it is now. If it's bought out, I win, and if it recovers over the next few years, I win. I think the same strategy will work for Citigroup, though it's probably more of a long-term investment than E*Trade. Of course, I'm a blind novice, so I'll probably lose my shirt, but hey, it's a good way to learn, and the more I try, hopefully the more successful I'll be.

I have some other stocks I'm eyeing, and I'll probably be updating the ole' blog as I buy in.

For those interested, I bought 100 shares of E*Trade on 11/28/07 at $5.30/share.

Here's the latest ticker.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Hero

Man arrested for shooting traffic camera

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Police have lost red-light cameras to traffic accidents but never to gun play. "This is the first one that's been shot," Capt. Gordon Catlett said of the wounded camera at the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Interstate 640 — one of 15 camera-equipped
intersections in the city.

Clifford E. Clark, 47, was charged with felony vandalism and reckless endangerment for allegedly firing at least three rounds from a .30-06 hunting rifle at the camera, knocking it out of action.

He was arrested after patrol officers heard shots around 2 a.m. Sunday, spotted a minivan leaving the parking lot of a closed business and pulled it over. Inside they found Clark and the high-powered rifle.

Clark, now facing a $50 fine if convicted and loss of his rifle, refused to say anything about the incident to police, leaving the motive unclear.

Catlett, who oversees the red-light camera program, said 6,798 drivers have been photographed running the red light at Broadway and I-640 and ticketed since the camera was installed in 2006. Clark was not one of them, he said.

I've always dreamed of shooting a stop light camera out of raw enmity, but I've never had the guts, nor the $50, to go through with it. What I find most humorous is that felony vandalism and reckless endangerment with a firearm only add up to a $50 fine in Tennessee. Shit, I wonder what you'd have to do to get slapped with a $500 fine? Shoot speed, strangle a puppy and throw babies off a roof?

This reminds me of my trip to Tennessee in senior year of cool-ege when a few buddies and I visited an old friend in Nashville. Posted on the walls of every bar bathroom you can find were advertisements for DUI Mike, who was an attorney that did exactly what you think he would do: get you out of DUIs. I made fun of DUI Mike while in the bathroom and some well-meaning countryboy was sure to get the facts straight by saying that, "Hey, don't make fun of DUI Mike. DUI Mike got my buddy out of a DUI." Touche.

When DUI Mike died unexpectedly a few years ago, there were rumors swirling that, ironically, he died when a drunk driver hit him. This isn't too dissimilar from the hilarious rumor that local fitness "celebrity" John Basedow died in the Thai tsunami in 2005. Here's the originating seed of that rumor. It even inspired some amateur photoshopping (below). Upon hearing this, Basedow himself quickly took action, and wrote on his MySpace page, "John Basedow is not only still alive but has never even been to Thailand." John Basedow smart.

Note the cherubic glow surrounding Dr. Basedow. Also note the hot pants and amazing abs.

Anyway, though DUI Mike does maintain an eerie posthumous web presence, he just died of a heart attack. Tennessee is a straaaaaange place.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Brice Lord predicts snow days this year

Okay, so maybe the title is a little misleading, because

Brice Lord's prediction for snow days this Winter = 0.


I've lived in this goddamn city for 4.5 years now and I have not had a single fucking snow day. I'm sick of it. I'm tired of it. I'm sick and tired of it. I want a snow day. We've had plenty of bullshit like getting off work 2 hours early, or getting in 2 hours late, but that's for suckers, and I'm no sucker. We did have that one day off when that pussy "hurricane" Isabel hit DC in 2003, but by "we" I mean "everyone but me" because I was scolded for getting into work the next morning---hungover as hell mind you after going to two different hurricane parties the night before---an hour late.

So here's how this Winter's snow day forecast will go. Sometime in mid-to-late-December there will be a dire 20% threat of 1-2" of snow 3 days from Monday, and that's all anyone will talk about in the office until we end up getting cold rain that Thursday morning. Regardless of this, some woman (this is specific to my office, so no offense to my female readers) with a high-pitched whiney voice will start waxing idiotic about how "they're saying" the rain will change to freezing rain this afternoon and "I heard we're going to get let out at 3." Apparently Whiney has a spy in the Office of Personnel Management and everyone else in this city doesn't. She also seems to have a poorly-tuned sixth-sense for weather prediction, because I end up working until 6pm and NOT going home to smoke weed and do snow angels in the middle of Connecticut Ave. [ETCW! does not condone the consumption nor possession of illicit and hilarious narcotics.]

Anyway, this will repeat roughly every 3 to 6 weeks throughout the winter until we break 70 for the first time in March. At that point it'll become evident that, once again, we haven't had a single snow day all Winter, and once again I'll want to push Whiney out of the 9th floor window. Oh right, she's too fat! God I'm heartless.

I blame the big three for this snowless imprecation: global warming, god, and Gyromite. I also blame the trend of decapitalizing "Winter", but I'm finding it hard to identify evidence for this in the literature. I guarantee that Old Man Winter and Jack Frost are none too pleased, though.

All in all, if it's going to be cold, it may as well snow, because that's all it's good for. Otherwise we're all just walking around in fancy zippered blankets and not having profligate Springtime bunny sex for nothing.



Perhaps a rain dance next time?

I'm sure the atheist "blogosphere" is proudly abuzz with Georgia Governor George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III praying for rain, but I'm guessing the old coot thought it worked since Georgia was hit with a violent thunderstorm a day later. Never mind that the same storm blew the roof off of a Baptist Church in Tennessee and injured three school children with flying glass, and that it delivered an inconsequential amount of precipitation. No matter. If I were him, I'd probably plan to pray for rain next Wednesday and again next Friday. Just a hunch.

Anyone ever read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by the way?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oh, email.

I left for Orange County on Friday for a business trip and returned last night. As of Sunday afternoon I had about 9 new emails. When I checked my email this morning I had 54 new messages. Oh, the horror.

More notes from the road...sort of

I was in the process of putting together a follow-up to my wildly successful "Notes from the road" whilst in Geneva, Switzerland when a microbial interloper interloped. My guess it was the bouillabaisse I had at the cafeteria that did it, and having ignored my own cardinal rule of no sea-based foods in cafeterias, come Thursday night (two Thursdays ago) things started to go south. By that Friday morning, it became pretty evident that I had eaten something that didn't like me very much, and it was tearing me up. My flight was set for the next day, Saturday, and as the day wore on it became pretty evident that wasn't going to happen, so I had to change it to Sunday, which cost me about $200. Of course, what guarantee did I have that I'd be ready for a 15-hour day of air travel with no control over what I could eat? So, for another $200 or so, I had a Swiss doctor call on my hotel room and check me over for about a half hour. She told me I probably had bacterial food poisoning and it had set up camp in my intestines. Pretty sweet stuff. She gave me a prescription for 3 different meds, one of which was a strong antibiotic which ended up killing the bugs off. Of course, getting to the pharmacy, which isn't 24-hours like CVS by the way, was a bit of an ordeal itself, considering my state. She also told me what I could only eat bread, plain rice, and plain pasta for the next few days. If I could find a brothy soup, that would be okay too, but good luck finding a non-cream-based soup in a city that borders France. Anyway, I was able to find a Vietnamese place that had a chicken noodle soup, and get my meds, without too much issue. My ritual of getting Wingos the minute I get back home from a trip had to be put off a week, and I lived on soup and crackers for about 2 more days after getting back. It's amazing how much you miss solid food and things that taste like things after only a few days.

Anyway, there's a few more little tales I wanted to share while in Geneva that were either pretty funny or interesting.

Auf gut Gl├╝ck!

So the first night I'm at the hotel I call down before I get to sleep to ask for a wake-up call at 7:00am. The standard practice of performing the wake-up call is to call said hotel occupant at the requested time in order to wake him/her up. Around 5:05am I woke up in the middle of a dream about Erika Christensen (just kidding) to a repetitive knock on the door. It was still pitch black outside, and I thought the cleaning crew was going around a bit too early. It's Europe, so you never really know what's going to happen in hotels. After throwing on my jeans to cover up my huge dong I go and open the door and there's this hotel employee who says, "Bonjour! Bonjour! Wake up call! Wake up call!"
Naturally, I'm perplexed, I look at my watch, and sure enough it's 7:00am. But seriously, what the fuck? How confusing is that for someone who just woke up? Couldn't they just have called me, as the name "wake up call" implies? Silly Swiss. Of course I couldn't have that weird scene happening every day, so I had to rely on just waking up on my own and therefore ended up being about an hour late every day.

A big 450-foot jet of water coming out of Lake Geneva known as "Jet d'Eau," or "Jet of Water."

Another little observation of mine was that no matter where I went, I was known and referred to as "the American." At a restaurant, one waiter told another that "blah blah blah the American blah blah blah blah." At the hotel, "the receptionist told the other that "blah blah blah the American blah blah blah blah." When the doctor came to my hotel room, she called someone and asked a question because "the American blah blah blah blah blah blah blah." Obviously I don't speak any French whatsoever, Spanish is my game, but no matter the language the word "American" is still pretty much the same. Take note, my Swedish friends!

This is not Epcot Center, actually, this tram is part of Geneva's excellent public transit system. The woman in white ended up getting hit by the tram, by the way.

At the conference I went to I met people from all over the world. The most memorable interactions were with representatives of Lesotho, one of two countries enclaved within South Africa (just because of novelty), Iran, Syria, Palestine, and North Korea. I was particularly amazed to see anyone from the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" at all. You hear and read so much about these places, so that when you actually meet someone on a personal basis a lot of your preconceptions are challenged. Of course, the people I met aren't responsible for the massive human rights abuses in most of the countries I listed, so it wasn't too difficult to have a conversation with them. In general, I did notice that most of the Arab countries' reps never said "thank you" for the complementary materials they took, they just kinda walked away. Having sat in on one of the general sessions, which looked exactly like a UN meeting with translators in overhead booths and earpieces so you can understand what everyone is saying, I was able to pick up that "shokala" or similar meant "thank you" in Arabic. So even a simple "shokala" would have done.

A big, fancy, important building somewhere near Lake Geneva.