A nice way to stay in touch with loved ones, and a convenient way to share my opinions without having everyone just walk away...wait a minute, where are you going? I wasn't finished..

Sunday, April 30, 2006

more bad news

It turns out that Vivendi is concentrating on the entertainment side of their business and sold off the water business to a company named Veolia, who in turn sold off US Filter to Siemens, the German giant, but sold Culligan to a private investment group, Clayton Dubilier and Rice (CDR). Well, we can't buy shares in CDR.

Presumably, CDR will manage Cullican for a couple of years, improve the bottom line and then sell the company to some other corporation. CDR did that with Kinko's. eventually selling Kinko's to Fed Ex.

Man this investing business is tough. I'm giving up for today.

Bad news, good news

Sure enough, Culligan was acquired by American Filter Corp in 1999, which was acquired by the French conglomerate, Vivendi in 2001. Vivendi and its CEO were hit by an accounting scandal in 2002. The company was close to bankruptcy, couldn't afford the interest on the cost of a lot of acquisitions, and the CEO was burning through a lot of cash buying shares of the company on the market, trying to hold the price up. Eventually, the price per share fell from 80 to 10.

Now, it's back around 36. That's with a price/earnings ratio of about 16 and paying a 3.5% dividend. Very interesting. Since it's a French company (but with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange), all its balance sheet and income numbers are computed in Euro's, then converted to dollars. So if the Euro goes up against the dollar that will increase the dollar amounrt of reported earnings.

That all sounds really good.

It's a multi-national, but without the negative connotations I associate with Suez and Bechtel, and it's a friendlier sort of name - don't you think? I'll have to look further into it.


I decided against the options approach to shorting the Dow index. A put would have cost $1400, and to me that meant the index would have to fall 140 dollars before I made any money. I will continue to look for opportunities to sell the future contracts.

I also have to find some other investment opportunities besides the highly speculative leveraged types. I can think of many stocks to sell short, like Daimler-Chrysler, but what can I invest in and hope to earn gains? I'm thinking about water. I'm afraid a lot of people and places are going to run out of water, and people who have water are going to find out it has bad stuff in it. Companies like Hinkley and Schmidt and Culligan's come to mind. But I'm afraid I'll find out these companies have been brought out by big corporations like Bechtel and Suez (and Nestle's). I don't feel morally comfortable investing in the big internationals. Their profit imperatives lead them to do bad things. I'll try to learn more.

Janett and I were talking this morning about evil in the world, in particular she was talking about the Janjaweed militias in Darfur. I told her it was right to feel compassion and sadness, but not to become depressed, because we must remain strong. As you probably know it is my sense that things are going to get worse (a lot worse) before they get better. My imagination conjured up Jerry Fawell and Pat Robertson announcing that the next catastrophe to befall us will have been divine retribution on our nation for tolerating the homosexual agenda.

In fact the catastrophes to come are not God's doing. They're ours. If the avian flu runs amok should we blame God, or should we regret spending 150 billion dollars killing Iraquis instead of investing that money in our health care system?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Trading News

In case you were worried about it, my stop loss sale order got us out of gold before it fell precipitously Wednesday night.

My Dow index short sale order never got filled since the index kept going up. I still want to sell the Dow, but now I'm thinking of options instead of future contracts. If I bought a couple of puts I'd be highly leveraged for a downside gain and the most I could lose would be the purchase price. I'm going to look into it, and I'll let you know what I find out.

Blue Gold Game

We traveled to South Bend Yesterday. Left Home about 8 AM and got to SB around 11 (noon their time). After exiting the tollway we found the traffic turning left on Angela Blvd toward campus so backed up we stayed on the main drag into down town. We found a little diner where I could get bacon and eggs with hash browns and toast for $3.50. Lou and Skip had sandwiches that were also pretty cheap. Plus the place had a sign on the door: "This is a smoking establishment." Wow, I'll say. So add Bob's Cafe to my four star dining list.

We drove over to Notre Dame Ave and approached campus from the south with very light traffic, got to within 4 blocks, parked on a side street and hoofed it. I wasn't much of a guide as we walked onto campus. "That didn't use to be here" But once we got past the circle I was pretty much at home. We walked up the main quad to see the Dome and the Basilica, then headed for the stadium. It was pretty crowded. 40,000 + for a scrimmage, and they didn't open the upper deck. We sat for one quarter behind the band, but they ignored my "Down in Front" demands so we worked our way around to the north end zone. Lou and Skip may have been a little disappointed. It looks bigger on TV. But you feel closer to the players and the game. Anyway, now Lou really wants to go to a game in the fall.

Pretty much Quinn to Samardzjia, not a lot of action for Rhema McKnight. But the word is he's 100% percent after last year's season ending injury. Two highlights the Darius Walker/Tom Zbikowski confrontation. Darius juked Zibby on one long run. Travis Thomas was the featured runner on the Gold team and had an 83 yd touchdown run, and Leo Ferrine displayed great speed to run him down at the goal line.

After the game we went back to the student center for a light lunch (salad for me) at the Sbarro's. The old Huddle now also has a Burger King and Subway - sigh.
Then back across the main quad and down to the grotto, to the lake and south past the Rock and the south dining hall to the new book store. What a gold mine that place must be. I got Janett one of the 2006 model tee-shirts. They were out of Ladies Medium so I got her a Child's Extra Large and saved a couple of bucks.

On the way there and back everything was really green and pretty. I saw cows and horses and even some sheep. I guess all the pigs are in Iowa. (sorry, Mark.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Big Fellow

It was giving me the creeps having that picture of the tOSU coach below. So I had to add this picture. By the way this picture is "subject to copyright" Does that mean I'm in some kind of trouble?

Gold Again

Sorry to bore you with this subject again. It's just one of my keen interests. Louie, my trading partner, has lost some of his joie de vivre in recent months and hasn't been in a risk taking mood, so I finally opened my own trading account. I did a mini-gold April contract in March and made about $400 on a minimal investment, so I figured I was ready for something bigger. I went long a 100 oz June contract last week (when my April contract was closing out,) and then BOOM a 40 dollar jump in the price of gold from Friday to Wednesday. That means we made $4,000 in three days. What fun. I've got a "stop loss" sales order in at $7 below the market to get out of the contract when the market adjusts downward. That means for example that I'd automatically close my position when the market weakens, and have maybe a $3,300 profit instead of selling today fot the whole $4,000. But in the meantime if gold continues to move higher we'll continue to profit. Deciding where to take profits is one of the tricky parts. Placing a stop loss sales order at a pre-determined price allows one not to worry about making that sell or not sell decision everytime the mearket looks a little shaky. Worst case the price could drop $7, trigger my sell order and bounce right back. Then instead of having a where to get out problem, I'll have a where to get back in problem. But that's an OK problem to have.

Emboldened by this recent good fortune, I placed an order to sell a mini Dow contract. The order is to sell the Dow June contract if it falls to 11250. Its at 11320 now, and whenever the Dow gets up around 11300 I think its going to drop back down, and one of these times it's going to drop Big Time. With a mini Dow you only make or lose $5 for every $1 move in the market price of the index future. Maybe if I do OK on a Dow short with the mini contract I'll try a regular contract where the gain or loss is $10 per every $1 move in the market price.

Worst case for an excitable type like me is that the markets just go sideways and spoil the fun. Well, we'll see.

PS For Lauren I tried to add a snapshot of Cheaty, Did it work?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Well, It's time to start getting excited about the Fighting Irish. The annual scrimmage, the culmination of spring training, is on for next Saturday in South Bend. My pal, Louie, and I will be going down there, driving down and back on Saturday. (No jacked up motel rates for us. Some of those places not only double their rates, they require two night reservations.) My only misgiving about not staying Saturday night is that I won't be able to attend a benefit dinner the Monogram club is throwing for Pete Duranko who played on the 1966 national championship and is now afflicted with Lou Gehrig's Disease. I won't spend $150 on a room, but I'd spent it to hang out with the guys who remember Pete Duranko. He and Larry Conjar epitomize for me those great western Pennsylvania football players, who, to use Coach Weis' words, played "all day tough".

Well, I nearly predicted the score in the Fiesta Bowl. Only problem was I got it backwards. That was a hard game to watch. I wasn't so upset with our DB's giving up the "big plays". I was upset that both our defensive and offensive lines looked small compared to the Buckeyes. Since most of our linemen are returning starters this year, it's up to the coaches to get them to play bigger, and I'm sure they will.

Coach Weis must have felt out-coached by Cheaty McSweatervest last year, and I'm sure he didn't like that very much.

Behold the Lamb of God

At Willow last week, Pastor Hybels spoke about "substitutionary atonement". Kim appreciated his sympathy for the sacrificial lamb, which was always unblemished the most innocent.

I liked hearing John the Baptist's exclamation "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world". These words were in the offertory of the mass. the point where I was always paying the most attention. Not only did John perceive Jesus' mission, but asserted all men would be his beneficiaries, not just the Jews.
What a unique vision for his time and place.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


I don't usually rant but if I hear about one more Gnostic text "which may provide insights into early Christianity" I'm going to break something. If some looney, bug eating Egyptian hermit monks tried to incorporate the existence of Jesus into their Babylonian paganism, they deserve the ignominy of the oblivion to which they have been relegated.

A year ago we were hearing about the Gospel of Thomas, then six months ago it was the Gospel of Mary Magdalen, now it's the Gospel of Judas. I suppose in part, the media is trying to cash in on the DaVinci/Grail craze, but to gush over these writings as though the "supressed" texts are anything but garbage is a not so subtle attempt to dilute and subjectify Christianity. It is this anti-Christian tendency of the media which I find so annoying.

Monday, April 03, 2006


I've been E-mailing and posting comments to others' blogs, but I haven't foregotten my legion of readers. Hi everybody. Last week was crazy at that weird job I described previously. Then, there was a lot of e-mailing going on about Noah (in Afghanistan)needing a computer. My brothers and sisters and my cousin John got interested and got involved. Mike and brother John really looked into the subject and decided on some high power jobby great for games and John even made sure the system would support Vonage so Noah can call home via the internet.

Everybody is chipping in, but more importantly everyone really wanted this to happen.

Steffy and I shared a secret misgiving, "Does everybody remember how Noah is" asksed Steffy. If this computer survives a tour in Afghanistan with Noah it'll mean Mommo's not just looking out for Noah, but his computer as well.

Janett and I are foster parents to Noah's cat Audrey while he's away, and the poor little thing is just now able to sleep through the night. She had a relapse Friday and attacked little Malachy (several times) during a visit.

Is Easter coming soon? Janett made me give up gas station hot dogs for lent.

PS - Kim fixed the links to family blogs. "Cofused Internet" is Noah's, and that's little Audrey being thrown into the snow, or was she so terrified that jumping into the snow was preferable to Noah's attentions?