Monday, August 31, 2009

I Got You Babe

Even though I'm presently without a clock radio, haunted or otherwise, I still have an alarm. For the past two years or more, I've just been using the alarm clock on my cell phone. And being that I'm on call basically 24/7/365, I always have my cell phone handy. Even when I'm asleep, it's usually right next to my pillow.

For as long as I can remember, I've just used one of the pre-loaded standard alarm tones that came with the phone--I think the one I've been using was called 'Hyperactive'. But no longer.

I've been downloading a few tunes here and there this weekend, and while doing so, I was thinking that I should customize my daily wake-up call with something better. I couldn't come up with anything suitable at first--I mean, I didn't want to use one of my favorite songs as an alarm, because eventually I'd end up hating it. And I certainly didn't want something especially irritating either. Mellow tunes were out, too, because I'd probably just sleep right through them.

But then it became glaringly obvious as to which song I should use. I mean, if you're only going to hear one song every day when you wake up, is there nothing more appropriate than Sonny & Cher singing I Got You Babe, straight outta Groundhog Day?

I think not.

Now, I just have to find a few songs to use as ringtones for whenever some of my 'more experienced' gals call me up. Kinda like the Highlander, there can only be one Mrs. Robinson...


Not Very Sporting

Ok, so we now have evidence that the new furniture is extremely comfy. I was supposed to go to the Henderson Writers Group meeting tonight, but I fell asleep while watching Monday Night Football instead.

I should get a pass on this one, because every time they mentioned Brett Favre, I did my own version of a drinking game. But instead of doing a shot of liquor, I closed my eyes and checked out for fifteen seconds. Well, it was a total Favre-fest, so I was out like a light five minutes into the game. I, like the rest of the sports-viewing world, am completely sick of all things Brett Favre. I'm no Packers fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it would be a wry justice if he threw three interceptions before halftime and then got Joe Theismaned when he goes back to Lambeau this fall. Then he could fade off into obscurity and we'd never have to hear his name again. Well at least for five years, before all is forgiven and forgotten and he goes to Canton as a Packer.

Anyhow, the point is, I fell asleep and didn't wake up until damn near halftime, and it was almost 7:00 pm by then. And I really wanted to go tonight, too, because Linda Lou was doing a reading, and I'd much rather listen to her than a bunch of strangers (and whatever she's writing about has certainly got to hold more interest than fairies and druids and such), and the plan was to cough up the dues, join up, and be official. Oh well. I'm just not used to going out on Monday nights anyways--I'm usually always asleep at that point in the early evening, preparing for an all-nighter at work.

Speaking of work, I was bummed that I didn't get called in all weekend--I thought for sure that I'd be needed on Saturday night, but it was not to be. Kinda sucks when I'm suddenly feeling cash poor after a good month or so. One of my gals even sent me a text message on Saturday night, asking me if I was gonna come join her in a poker game. I wrote back I just spent a grand on new furniture yesterday--I got no poker money. Hell, even if I had a spare hundie in my wallet, I probably would've stayed home, anyways. Now that I finally got a new sectional, I want a new coffee table. And the one I want isn't cheap, either. So that'll be the big purchase for this month.

And since it's the first of the month again, well, it looks like a lean week until the obligations are met. So there will be no poker or any other type of buffoonery for a few days. And right now, I'm in the dead zone when it comes to my other preferred form of entertainment, reading--I finished off volume 11 of the Aubrey-Maturin series, The Reverse of the Medal, this morning, and the next four volumes are still in the hopper at Amazon. And the ending of volume 11 makes me really want to dive right into volume 12. So it'll be a few days before I can scratch that particular itch.

On the other hand, I hoped to start on the Prelude to Glory series by Ron Carter--I ordered the first two volumes over a week ago, and I had a package down at the rental office to pick up today. When I opened it up, I saw that it was volume 2. Damn. According to the folks at the customer service desk, however, volume 1 was shipped out last Monday and should be here directly. I would've preferred to get them in order, as you can imagine.

So I'm bookless and cashless for a few days, looking forward to going back to work. But I'm no longer couchless or sleepless (or friendless...brainless...helpless...and hopeless, unemployed--in Greenland!)


Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Thousand Bucks Well Spent

Woo Hoo! The camp chair is finally out on the patio where it belongs, and I can now have people over to visit. Seriously--none of my friends have been here since I moved in. I had no place for anyone to sit, except for a couple of banquet chairs I picked up at Sam's Club awhile back. But my new furniture has finally arrived, and now I've got room for everybody.

Of course, it didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped. When I left the furniture store yesterday, I was nursing a mild case of buyer's remorse as I drove home. My wallet was lighter to the tune of nine-plus Benjamins, and when I got back to my apartment, I had nothing to show for it except a piece of paper. I was promised that it would be delivered at 9:00 am, so I got up early, fixed myself a pot of coffee, and waited. Around 9:20 or so, I got the inevitable call saying that the delivery guys wouldn't be here until 11:00.


Having just cut through about a mile of the red tape of stupidity this past month with the cabinet fiasco, the investment account hoop-jumping, and my compromised debit card, I was in no mood for more of the same runaround.

But they were good for word, as at 11:01 (I noticed), I got a phone call asking me which building I was in--the delivery truck was at the front gate. But not only did they bring in my furniture, they unpacked it all, screwed on all the legs, set it up, brushed it off, and then took away the huge pile of discarded packing materials, and they did it all in less than a half an hour. Very impressive. I seriously expected that they would just drop it off in my living room, and I'd spend an hour or more moving it around, setting it up, and cleaning up the mess. But no--it was a pleasant experience all around, and well worth the delivery charge.

Here are a few pics of the furnished living room:

First of all, the thing is HUGE. It didn't look nearly as imposing in the showroom, but then again, the showroom was quite a bit bigger than my living room. And the chaise is every bit the same size as a twin bed--and it's quite comfy, too, so I'm sure I'll probably end up sleeping there every now and again.

That formerly vast empty space that was my living room is no longer vast nor empty. I'll need to do a little bit of shifting to make everything fit, because right now the bookcase is right up against the beer fridge. Oh, it still opens, just not all the way. If I move the guitar, the TV stand, and the fridge about three or four inches to the left, everything should fit. And yes, I still need to get a coffee table.

But now that it's here, the buyer's remorse is gone--it seems to be a good heavy piece of well-built furniture, and well worth the price. And I'm glad that my apartment no longer looks like it belongs to a poor college student, too.

Anyhow, now that it's here, I shall avail myself to its comforts, and spend the rest of the day switching back and forth between ESPN, the Military Channel, Discovery, and the History Channel. It's doubtful that I'll find the time to write anything else for the rest of the day...


Friday, August 28, 2009

Henderson's Most Haunted

I think there may be some kookiness afoot here at Casa de Mikey. I seem to be having issues with my electrical gizmos.

First of all, my coffee pot mysteriously sprung a leak, which is odd because those glass decanters are damn near indestructible, and for all these years I've been drinking coffee, I've never broken one. And just out of the blue, it started leaking. Hmmm...

Then, the other day I heard a strange noise--it totally sounded like a Geiger counter. There's plenty of ambient noise here in the apartment--I usually have some music going in the background, or if I'm reading, the only sound I hear is the noise from the air conditioner or the oscillating fans I have running. So it puzzled me for a few days because I couldn't track down the source of the noise. Finally, late one night it was cool enough to turn off the fan in my bedroom, and while I was lying there asleep, I heard the 'Geiger counter' starting to chirp again. I sat up, turned on the light and listened intently, waiting for it to happen again. Eventually, I learned that it was my clock radio.

Now, this clock radio has been possessed ever since I got it. No matter what I did, no matter how many times I read and re-read the instructions, it was impossible to turn the alarm off. Once it went off, it went into perpetual 'snooze' mode, and would turn itself back on every nine minutes. No--that's not the least bit irritating. Back when Falcon Rob and I were living together, I was gone somewhere for a couple of days and the beeping alarm went off, not just the music. Well, Rob couldn't get it to turn off, either, so he unplugged it from the wall. But, it had a battery backup, so it sat there beeping constantly for another day or so until I returned. Rob had buried it under a bunch of towels to avoid the noise, but after that, I just took the batteries out and refused to use it as an alarm clock. It just sat on the nightstand, functioning as a clock only. It was useless as an alarm.

Anyhow, even though I wasn't setting the alarm or listening to the radio with it, it decided to start making random noises throughout the day, like my leg-lamp that it was sitting next to was emitting radiation or something. So I had enough--I unplugged it and tossed it in the trash. It may be the Christine of clock radios, but it's terrorizing the landfill now, and doesn't bother me any more.

But then, I discovered a ghost in a different machine--my DVD player. Ever since I moved in here, I've had issues with my DVD player. It would randomly shut off during the middle of a movie, or 'hiccup' and give me the blue screen of death for a few seconds and then continue playing like nothing happened. It was quite annoying. But then, it was only like $35 at WalMart, so I figured I'd get by with it until I coughed up the cash for a new home-theatre system. And no, it wasn't one of those Chinese-made models that catches on fire and is under recall--this one is actually a fairly decent Phillips model.

So the other night, I broke out my Horatio Hornblower boxed set and started to watch the first episode. It was acting up right at the beginning. So I just reset the movie back to the menu page and started over. But then I reached over to turn on the ceiling fan, and the DVD player immediately just shut off--I got nothing but a screen full of gray static. Hmmm. So I 'rebooted' the movie, and then switched the ceiling fan off and on again. Same thing. I was getting somewhere. So I tried again, but this time had the ceiling fan already on--no problem at all. But then I realized the blue-screen-of-death hiccup happened every time the air conditioner kicked on.

Apparently, whenever there's an instantaneous load on my electrical system, it creates a small surge, and my DVD player is especially sensitive to it. Now, I have all of my electronics in the living room hooked up to a power strip, but it's not a beefy surge protector like I have my computer and such hooked up to. So the next item on the agenda is a new high-quality surge protector for the living room.

But that's gonna have to wait. Just this morning I emptied out the contents of my piggy-bank coffee can and went furniture shopping. It's been another lean week at work, and it seemed like I'd never round up enough scratch to buy the new sectional I've been wanting. But I finally had enough cash on hand this morning to do so.

So around 11:30 or so, I got dressed and headed over to Costco, ready to buy a new set of living room furniture. And wouldn't you know it--they were sold out. The had no decent furniture for sale at all--a couple of ugly leather couches and an overpriced futon that looked like it was built out of railroad ties. I was pissed. I really wanted that sectional--it was just like the one I saw at Ashley Furniture a couple of months back, but it was a hundred bucks less and included an ottoman. And I could pick it up and take it home--apparently, if you buy stuff at Ashley, you gotta wait several weeks to get it.

Instead of buying furniture, or anything else for that matter, I just turned around and left, pissed off. I was in no mood to go furniture shopping, but I was also sick of watching TV while sitting in my camp chair, or on the floor, leaning up against the wall like I was hitting the pipe in a crack house.

So I drove around for a bit, hitting a few places I hadn't been before. I eventually made it over to a showroom on the west side, not far from the Orleans. The had a really nice left-handed sectional available, and it was bigger and sturdier than the one I'd been looking at. The color was a little darker, too, but I didn't mind that at all. Unfortunately, the price tag showed the cost to be the exact same amount I had in cash on me--to the dollar. And there were sales tax and delivery charges to take into account, too.

The salesman saw me hesitating--I figured I could go another week if I had to, so he upped the ante by cutting the delivery charge in half if I were to 'take this baby home today'. Well, that was figurative, because even though I bought it today, it won't be delivered until tomorrow morning. So I emptied my wallet and paid cash for the furniture itself, but then put the other charges on my debit card.

Yep, I'm now the proud owner of a new set of living room furniture, and I can't wait for it to get here. And I've done a lot of furniture shopping this summer, but this was by far the easiest and quickest experience yet. Everywhere else was kind of a pain in the ass, and although I would've liked to save a few bucks and gotten my new stuff from Costco, well, I'd still have to load it, unload it, and move it all by myself. And it's 108 degrees here today. F*ck that. I may be paying a few more bucks, but this stuff has a lifetime warranty and instead of me sweating my ass off trying to move more furniture with Linda's flat-tired furniture dolly, I've got two able-bodied Korean fellas to do the heavy lifting for me, and they'll drop it off in my living room at 9:00 am tomorrow morning. That seems like a fair trade-off to me, even though I'm flat broke again for the next few days (all my hundies are gone). Oh well, it's the weekend--I'll probably get called in to work again, and I'll replenish the coffee can soon enough.

That's the news from here--it'll be a dull weekend until I pick up another shift. I'm not taking any money out of the bank to finance any buffoonery, so I'm gonna stick around here at the house, reading, playing the guitar, and watching a few movies, waiting for the phone to ring.

But at least I'll be doing it from the comfort of a new couch.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another Arduous Chapter, Finished!


I can't believe, but it actually happened. I finally have a complete and matching set of kitchen cabinets, after just three months of begging, pleading, cajoling, and threatening. My kitchen is actually 'done'.

I will spare all of the details, but once I hit the three month mark on Sunday, I decided that I'd call down to the office twice a day and raise hell until it was done. Amazingly enough, that's all it took. About a half hour ago, the property manager and the new maintenance manager showed up with a variety of hardware, obviously pilfered from some other poor unfortunate soul who is moving in next week, and set about trying to match up sizes and finishes. It only took about fifteen minutes or so, plus a side trip to another vacant unit, but then, all was done. Everything works, matches, and the doors are finally hung correctly.

I was telling Mamasan just recently that I really like this place--it's clean, quiet, and I love the location, and my apartment is actually quite large for a one-bedroom. My only beef was with the slow response of the maintenance requests. Apparently, the corporate entity that own this property is aware of all the problems they've been having here, and I was told by our new property manager that they've completely turned over the maintenance crew here in the past month (along with herself replacing the incompetent predecessor). So all is well. And I was promised that if the slightest thing goes wrong and needs attention, they'll be on it immediately. So we're cool now.

Hmmm... What else is new?

Well, last night I met up with Linda Lou at a gathering of the Henderson Writers Group, just to see what they were all about. Of course, I felt like I was at a gathering of alcoholics when they made me stand up and introduce myself and talk about my writing experience and such. I think I earned a few points when they learned that, yes, I actually have been published (and paid for it!), and I earned a few more when Linda told them that I get over 700 hits a day on my blog.

Anyhow, it was an interesting gathering, the main activity each week is that members do 'readings'--they print up a bunch of copies of something that they've written, pass them around, and then stand up in front of everyone and read their work. After that, there are several minutes of critiquing from the group. And I've got to tell ya--it's a tough crowd. Imagine a room full of English teachers, each of them grading your work. But the feedback is of the good and useful variety, by people who generally know what they're talking about, not just a bunch of random thumbs up or thumbs down votes. So yes, it was quite the eye-opening experience.

There was a bit of humor, afoot, as you can imagine. The first reader was an older lady who passed out a poem--it wasn't long, maybe nine lines or so. When I first got the handout, I was like Great, I'm stuck in this coffeehouse for the next two hours listening to poetry. I'm in Hell!

Luckily, that was the only poetry offering of the night. But while she was giving her dramatic exposition, I turned over the sheet of paper, took out a pen, and wrote

My Poem

There once was a man from Peru

Who ended his limericks on line two...

and then handed it over to Linda. Of course, we had to suppress the church giggles, but she was much better at it than I was, mostly because I think I'm the funniest person I know, and she has much better manners.

The rest of the evening was quite interesting, and there was some real talent on display. There were also some beginners, and one sci-fi fantasy offering that just glazed me right over--I think I caught a little nap for that 15-minute section. It might've been great writing, but I don't know--once he started talking about elves and witches and monsters and such, well, I just tuned out. I couldn't help it--it's just not my cup of tea. But the whole experience of the evening motivated me more than six months of Linda's nagging, so I'll probably pay my dues and join next week. Now I just need to come up with a story.

After the gathering broke up, I came home and took a two-hour catnap before heading in to work. It was a pretty good night, and I was busy the entire time--locked down for the entire shift. That's always nice, and I made a nice score in the tip department. If I do half as well tonight, I'll consider it a successful evening.

On my way home this morning, Amy called, and we had a nice chat for a few minutes before she arrived at her office and I arrived at my apartment. As funny as I think I am, I think she may be even funnier. Every time we talk, I end up laughing my ass off, and to this day, we still chuckle about our cross-country adventures when she drove out here to Vegas with me four years ago. Seriously, stuck in a vehicle for two days straight with her made my cheeks hurt from laughing so much, even though the journey was fraught with hardship. (Hey... there's a story!)

Once I got back to the apartment, I took a quick shower and grabbed a bowl of Special K vanilla almond for breakfast (my new favorite cereal). Then I gave Papasan a call--we've been chatting a lot lately about books, history, and a few other things we have in common. He turned me on to those Prelude to Glory books, and I wanted to let him know that my first two volumes are on the way. He said that he'd probably be interested in the Patrick O'Brian novels that I've been reading, so I told him that I'd send the first two volumes his way. I think he'll enjoy them--it's right up his alley.

After all the phone calls were done, I read for about a half hour and then finally went to bed. I was fairly tired after my busy night at work, and I don't think I moved an inch in six hours, once my head hit the pillow. Once I got up, it was housecleaning and laundry time, plus I had my fingers crossed that my cabinets would be done this afternoon, too. Luckily, that was the case, and that brings us to now. And if all goes well, I should have my new furniture by the end of the week, too. But we'll see...


Monday, August 24, 2009

Required Reading

Go over to Rachel's place and read about her visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau. It'll give you something to think about.


Never Never Land

I've got two words to describe my mood right now--bored and restless. I'm torn between wanting to get out of the house and do something--anything--or staying in and being a good boy and not spending any money.

I thought about going out to play poker, but not at any of the local joints around here. I have to work again tomorrow night, and for the next few nights after that, and I don't want to spend my free time in a poker room. I had thought about going down to the Bellagio and feasting on some of the tourists, but the idea of driving down to the Strip and all that it entails just doesn't appeal to me. And since I've eliminated the local rooms and the rooms on the Strip, well, that doesn't leave many options.

I finished off another book earlier this evening, but I didn't enjoy The Ionian Mission as much as I thought I would. Seriously--there was too much poetry that didn't add much to the story, and the author's description of the local Turkish politics in the early 19th century was tedious at best. Or maybe I just wasn't catching the subtlety of it all. I dunno. Maybe I was bored and restless while I was reading. But then, that's about all I've been doing lately besides household projects. Even TV doesn't appeal right now--300+ channels and I can't find a damn thing interesting to watch, either.

I guess I have a case of the Blahs. Or a head-start on a case of the Mondays.

I've been trying to think of something interesting to write for a couple of days, but I've kind of been drawing a blank there, too. The other day, on my way home from work, I was listening to ESPN radio and the hosts were talking about stuff they've never done, more specifically, stuff they've never done that other people find quite common. It was in interesting discussion, and I thought Oh man, I could easily write about this!

Some of the more interesting things that were brought up were that one guy had never had a condiment in his entire life--he'd never had mayo, mustard, or ketchup on a burger, hot dog, or sandwich in his life. Another person said they'd never eaten a banana. Listeners were emailing in, and a few offered up random things like never owning a wristwatch, never having driven a stick-shift, never lived in a house that had air-conditioning, etc. And, strangely enough, a lot of people wrote in saying they had never seen a single one of the Star Wars movies. Which I guess isn't so strange to kids born after say 1988 or so. Besides, the last three were so god-awful that I can't blame people for not seeing those.

After listening for awhile, I thought I could easily come up with a litany of common things that I've never done, but having had a couple of days to think about it, it's tougher than I thought. I thought of Linda Lou who has never eaten guacamole, and tried to think of common stuff that I've never had. But she's a picky eater, and her list is probably long and distinguished, where as mine, I'm still thinkin'. I'm willing to try most anything, but I never had sushi until about 1998 or so. And it took awhile longer before I tried caviar.

But something common that I've never tried? Hmmm... I don't think foie gras or truffles are considered common (but I may have eaten stuff where truffle oil or shaved truffles were included, I just couldn't tell), but, truthfully, I've never tried either of those. But that's a far cry from never having eaten mustard.

So foodstuffs probably isn't really a great category, as far as this litmus test goes. On the other hand, I can proudly say that I have never, ever, in my entire life, even tried to smoke a cigarette. Oh there is a photo or two of me out floating around in the ether of me holding a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, with a satisfied glaze on my face, but it was staged. I've always thought cigarettes to be nasty and distasteful, and I was never tempted, even as a teenager, to try it. Cigars, on the other hand, are refined, tasteful, relaxing, and civilized...

But digging deeper into the 'Common Stuff I've Never Done' topic, one other thing I can think of is that I've never read a single Harry Potter book or seen any of the movies. It just never appealed to me, so that was an easy thing to miss.

I've also never seen a single episode of the original Star Trek series, either. But that's about all that I can think of.

What about you guys? Anything rather common in the everyday world that you've never experienced?


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Death of a Coffee Pot


I'm going to be coffee-less for a couple of days, it looks like. My coffee maker, though still intact, is useless without a proper decanter. And somehow, the glass decanter suffered a mortal wound today.

I was making a leisurely Sunday morning afternoon breakfast of French toast and bacon, and thought, it being a gray and overcast day, that coffee would be better than fruit juice this time. I was making my way back and forth between the stove and the TV (the Cardinals game was on), and I noticed the coffeemaker making a whole lot more noise and sizzle than usual. And there was steam coming from the bottom of the pot, not just the top. Odd.

But I ignored it for a few and busied myself with the tasks at hand, attending to my bacon and watching Smoltzie hook himself up to the juvenation machine and strike out seven Padres in a row. On one particular pass through the kitchen I noticed a growing brown puddle on the counter, spreading in all directions, threatening to engulf all within it's liquid grasp. Something was amiss!

So I hastily filled a cup, and then grabbed a few bar towels to fight the encroaching hazelnut tide that was sweeping across the kitchen. I fetched the mostly-empty pitcher of chilled coffee from the fridge, and dumped in all that was left from the decanter, saving whatever precious elixir I could.

Upon closer inspection of the glass decanter, I noticed a small crack along the bottom edge, like a rock chip in a windshield. And as soon as I filled it with cold water, it spiderwebbed itself into about a three-inch crack, marking the end of my coffee-making adventures, at least for a few days.

Other than that, breakfast was pretty damn good. But now I have to go and spend a few bucks on a new glass decanter. They're only about $11 at WalMart, but I was hoping to avoid going there for at least another week or so.

As far as other fascinating news from the home front goes... My new dining room clock--well, it doesn't look so good on that big damn blank dining room wall. By adding a twelve-inch clock in the middle of that huge frontier of open space, all it does is draw attention to the big empty wall, so it didn't look good at all. I've relocated it to the kitchen instead. I've decided that I'll just save my pennies and eventually buy me one of those big wooden ship's wheels that has a clock embedded in the hub, instead. That'll look much better, anyways, especially if I flank it with a couple of hurricane lamps or something of that nature.

Then, a new dining room table. And a new headboard for my bed. And a coffee table. And some art for the walls. And oh yeah, a couch and a coffee pot...


Trying To Make the Dull Seem Interesting

Sorry for the dearth of updates, but there just hasn't been anything exciting happening in the life of Mikey all week long. But I'm going to do my best to act like a Mexican sportscaster doing a soccer game--the action may be boring as hell to watch, but you'd never know by hearing it.

First of all, this week was much slower for me than the past two (but I am not alone--all the cocktail waitresses were also complaining about how slow things were this past week, too), and I didn't work nor earn nearly as much as I would've liked. Oh well, I live in a feast or famine world, and I'm used to it. (And just as I'm writing this, the phone rang--tonight's graveyard dealer has called in sick, so I just picked up a shift!) Also, I've not done much socializing at all in quite a while, either. The two gals that I had been going out with several times a week this summer, well, that has pretty much run it's course, and I'm back to being an unaffiliated gentleman of leisure.

I've only played poker once in the past week, too, and it was nothing to speak of--I got stuck big time right out of the gate, and only a furious comeback let me walk away with just a $35 loss for the evening before the game broke. Since I'm trying to maintain a frugal lifestyle as of late (my addiction to Amazon notwithstanding), that was a rather disappointing showing.

Speaking of Amazon, I've got two orders in the hopper right now. The first one I've already mentioned--the next couple of O'Brian novels, plus a couple of guitar workbooks. The other one came about because of a couple of things--a conversation with Papa-san this week, and a random comment by Falcon Rob.

Rob commented about the Doyle Bramhall CD, Birds Nest on the Ground. I discovered it back in 1994 when I was working part-time at Bull Dike Lesbian Central Borders Books & Music in Phoenix. It was one of the sample CDs that they played overhead in the store, and let me tell you, it just kicked ass, musical and otherwise. It's great guitar-based blues, and Doyle actually spent many years as a part of Stevie Ray Vaughn's band, so he has the chops. There is a blues cover version of I Can See Clearly Now on the album that is just about the coolest cover tune I've ever heard, and a five-minute long instrumental dueling-guitars style riff called Take Your Time, Son that would also rock a million faces, if only he had the audience of Bon Jovi. He also goes old-skool with a cover of Elvis' Marie's The Name, of His Latest Flame, which, on the musical family tree, appears to be the grandfather of Jessie's Girl.

Basically, it's just a killer album that would appeal to anyone, blues fan or not, and I can't say enough good things about it. Anyhow, about 12 years ago, I lost it to the sticky-fingered lead singer of the band I was in at the time--our plan was to cover I Can See Clearly Now just like Doyle did, but you know, things have a way of not working out, and I never got the CD back once our version of Slash-and-Axl parted ways.

Back when Rob and I lived together in the Man Cave over on Green Valley parkway, one night I told him of the album's amazing ability to lift spirits, calm the raging sea, and bring about peace in our time, and he brought it up in the comments section the other day. It's been out of print forever, but occasionally available for resale on Amazon. After I got that reminder, I went back to look and see what the prices were like on any copies that might be floating around out there. Holy shiat, was I ever surprised to see that a re-seller had it available for only $3.50! So I swooped in with my handy-dandy MasterCard and snagged myself a copy. It's on the way as we speak, and very soon I shall be dancing around the apartment doing my Tom Cruise-in-Risky Business imitation, minus, of course, the tightie-whiteys. And a couch. And Rebecca De Mornay, come to think of it...

But that's just one of the treasures that's on its way to my lair. While I was talking to Papa-san this past week, we were discussing various books we've been reading (both of my parents read a lot, and as a kid, the house was always full of books). I told him of my latest affair with historical fiction, and he offered an enthusiastic recommendation of the Prelude to Glory series by Ron Carter. I told him that I'd look into it.

Well, everywhere I've looked, the series is highly recommended, and it's a seller's market. The prices seemed quite out of line with other historical fiction. But the lack of availability, the long list of positive reviews, and the high prices seem to indicate that people are buying what the author is selling. So again, I looked around, and due to the miracle of the internet, about five minutes into my search, I found the first two volumes at a used book dealer in Texas for the bargain price of about twelve bucks each. Sold!

I look forward to reading them, but it won't be for awhile yet--I'm going to finish all of Captain Aubrey's adventures first.

Besides that, my weekend has been kinda, well, dull and predictable. Although, I had the good fortune to stumble across a local San Diego channel the other day while giving the TV remote a workout that seems to be the local affiliate for the Padres. And the Cardinals are in town for a four-game set this weekend, so I've been able to watch my Redbirds stretch their lead in the central to eight games. And tonight my thumb was especially busy, with the Nascar race from Bristol on ESPN, plus the Chargers/Cardinals NFL game on, too. Just as my sports watching was winding down for the evening, I realized that I had a perfectly good TV sitting in the dining room not doing anything but taking up space and collecting dust. So tomorrow, I'll probably fish out some extra co-ax and a splitter, and hook up the second TV. I was going to do it anyways, before the start of football season, so I may as well get after it.

As far as other plans go, not much else is going on. I *may* be able to pick up the new furniture this week--at least I hope to, as long as I get in a couple more good nights at work and they haven't sold out at Costco before Wednesday. On Monday night, Linda Lou and are are planning on descending upon the Henderson Writers Group and letting them bask in our awesomeness. And I fully intend to hear an endless stream of compliments while dodging anything in the way of unnecessary constructive criticism. Or they all may stand speechless, what with being in the mere presence of two literary giants such as we.

Actually, it'll be my first visit, so I'm just gonna kind of be unobtrusive (not one of my greater talents, alas) and watch from the sidelines. I have no idea what goes on at these gatherings--they could sacrifice a goat while reading poetry in the nude and it wouldn't surprise me. Although it won't rival the excitement of The Girls Next Door partying in the VIP room, I'm sure it will be an interesting gathering, regardless. And I might learn something, too.

Oooh, and speaking of Linda Lou, she's on the market again, legs and all, so all you young dudes in the greater Henderson/southeast Vegas area better look out, it's cougar time! And believe me, there ain't nothin' sexier than an experienced woman cruising around in a classic Saturn with a dented roof, singing along to Neil Young, on cassette. Trust me, you are powerless to resist...

(Ass kicking coming my way in 3...2...1...)

With that, I am spent. I'm gonna call it a night--maybe grab a sammich and prepare myself for a night at the red-felt tables.

Peace out, y'all!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

What I'm Spending This Weeks Allowance On

A) Hookers and Blow

B) Porn

C) Cheetos and Weed

D) None of the Above

Of course the answer is D--Y'all know that the only money I spend anymore is on filling up my bookshelves with stuff from Amazon. No poker, no crazy biatches, and sadly no cool new restaurants in awhile, either. And any leftover big bills go in the couch fund coffee-can piggy bank. Oh yes, soon I shall be luxuriating my ample backside on some fine microfiber encased furnishings, while I do my damnedest to wear out the batteries on the remote control.

In the meantime, I do a bit of reading, as you may have noticed. No, I don't want a Kindle, either. I like the feel of a book in my hand, and I love to be surrounded by a collection of interesting books. I'll keep my music and photos digitized on a hand-held device, but I still prefer to read the old fashioned way (in the can, with my pants at my ankles!), and that's not gonna change.

So this time around, I got volumes 10 and 11 of the Aubrey/Maturin series on the way, The Far Side of the World, and The Reverse of the Medal (right now, I've just started reading book 7, The Surgeon's Mate), but that's not all. I still have that acoustic guitar sitting in the corner, and I'd rather it be used for something other than a dust magnet. So I ordered a couple of beginner-level instruction books--stuff with basic chords and scales and exercises. I'd really like to get back into it, without the expense of actual, you know, lessons.

I was sitting around picking at it the other day, and I was completely amazed that I pretty much lost all previous ability. I don't know how it happened, but I used to know dozens of songs, and right now, I can't play a damn thing. It's like whatever I've learned these past few years had to push that old useless knowledge out of my head in order to make room. Kinda like that time Homer Simpson took the winemaking course and then forgot how to drive.

So I'm looking forward to the next visit from the UPS man. My intention is to set aside a half-hour every day to practice and re-learn everything, and to bring back that muscle memory in my fingers. And next weeks allowance will probably spent on a new music stand. And a couple more Jack Aubrey books, of course...


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some Times I Feel Like a (Hazel) Nut

It's been another busy day for me, although I got enough sleep and nobody woke me up by knocking on my front door or making my phone ring. The first order of business, once I got up, was to head on down to the bank and make another deposit. No problemo, but there was further evidence on display that I'm quite the misanthrope, especially when I first wake up.

In my job, I'm required to be nice and friendly to everyone I come in contact with, and although I don't have to initiate conversation when I'm dealing a poker game late at night, I can't be a stoic, either. My income is about 90% dependent on my personality, while job skill makes up the difference. But when I'm off taking care of personal business, I don't want to mess with people. Get in, get done, get out. It's not that I'm rude, I just don't want to talk to strangers in the bank, or in the grocery store, or at the gas station. Part of that comes with living in Vegas, where about 95% of the time when a stranger walks up to you and starts talking, they either want to 1) bum some money 2) sell or buy some drugs, or 3) offer up their body for rental purposes. So I've grown wary. Back down South, strangers say hello and offer up conversation all the time and it's perfectly normal--out here, it *is* different.

So today, I put on a Captain Morgan t-shirt before I left the house. And while I'm standing in line at the bank, I hear a voice behind me say I could sure use a drink, did you bring any with you? I'm used to hearing one-sided cellphone conversations all the time, so I thought nothing of it and just kept staring straight ahead. A few seconds pass, and then I felt a tug on my arm (Another no-no. Don't touch me, people!), and I turned to see a 70-year old lady asking me if I had any rum available.

It kind of caught me off-guard, because I didn't realize that I was in fact wearing a Captain Morgan t-shirt, so I thought it was a strange question to ask, aside from the fact that 1) I don't want to talk to strangers on my free time, especially when I'm holding a hand full of hundred-dollar bills, 2) I don't like people touching me.

It took me a second to 'get' what she was asking, but luckily the next teller became available and all I could manage was a mumbled No ma'am as I shuffled off. I don't know why, but that encounter kinda threw me off my game for the next couple of hours. It just struck me as odd. I guess the bottom line is that most people are more friendly and less cynical than I am, but working in a casino certainly has it's ill side-effects.

After the bank, it was off to the Wally World SuperCenter to get some grocery shopping done. Normally, I prefer to do my shopping in the middle of the night, when there is plenty of parking, very few other customers about, and the checkout area is blessedly free of morons who still don't know how to use an debit card. And even though I got out of work kind of early this morning, I was too lazy to do it then. Besides, I knew I'd be out and about anyways, having to go to the bank.

So I headed over to fight the masses. I ended up spending a small fortune, but I got a new clock for my dining room, a reading lamp for the living room, and a supply of more canned goods for when the zombie apocalypse happens. I also picked up some hazelnut creamer and a bottle of Frangelico, which for those of you who don't know, is hazelnut-flavored liqueur.

I love me some hazelnuts, which in my world is right up there with the cashew at the pinnacle of nutty goodness. But they don't make cashew-flavored coffee--yet--but when they do, I'll be the first in line to buy it (along with the bacon-flavored variety, too!). In the meantime, I'll do with the hazelnut.

While I was shopping a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to the checkout clerk and she told me that she loves to use that Don Francisco Hawaiian Hazelnut coffee to make iced coffee. I'd never thought of that before, but having tried the iced-coffee at Jack in the Box, Starbucks, and a few other places, I had decided that it wasn't for me. But her idea sounded like it was worth trying.

Since I make a full pot every time I'm in the mood for coffee, but seldom drink it all, the leftover usually goes down the drain the next morning. Not anymore. In fact, yesterday, I brewed a full pot, let it cool, and put it in a pitcher in the fridge.

When I got home from the store today, I put some cold coffee, ice, flavored creamer, and a splash of Frangelico in my cocktail shaker, gave it a little cha-cha-cha, and let me tell you, it was soooooo good. Nectar of the gods and all that... Very refreshing on a hot day like today.

Of course, since we've already established that my math skills suck, once I sat down to balance the days purchases in the checkbook, I realized that I'd overspent my allotment. So back down to the bank I went, making another deposit. That was quite irritating.

I was still wearing my Captain Morgan t-shirt, but I figured I was safe--there was no way that friendly old lady would be there again, and at the exact same time I was, so I felt no need to change clothes.

The second time around was ideal--got in, got done, got out--and nobody stopped to talk. I'm home for the duration, now, about to spend the balance of my afternoon reading how Captain Aubrey is going to escape being a prisoner in the War of 1812. Oh, and I may fix myself another glass of iced coffee while I'm at it.

Y'all be cool.


I've Got Your Library, Right Here!

Yeah, yeah, yeah...

I see your lips moving, I hear some noises being made, but it's not registering...

See, I tried the library awhile back, and it just didn't work for me. First of all, the books that I've been buying from Amazon recently, well, it's a set of books that I want to keep and re-read over the years. Those Patrick O'Brian novels are a wonderful thing to add to any collection , so I don't mind spending the cash for them at all. It's money well spent.

Secondly, yesterday, it was like Christmas in August--I got three different shipments delivered throughout the course of the day--a shiatload of books, plus my new guitar stand and tuner. So I've got plenty to keep me busy for the next several days.

But getting back to the library--I utilized it a few times, but overall, the experience was less than satisfying. First of all, I wandered around for over an hour the last time I was there and couldn't find anything that interested me, much less the three books on my 'shopping' list. Second of all, the library is a lot like the DMV, except with shorter lines and a whole helluva lot more kids. Not my chosen hangout. And everyone that works there reminds me of a bunch of liberal-arts majors that washed out of the restaurant business, and they all seem to have the personality of the Barefoot Contessa. Not my scene. As far as I'm concerned, the Library is either a gentleman's club out on Boulder Highway, or the smallest room in my house--the one with no carpet or windows.

On the other hand, the local Henderson library has a pretty good collection of classical music available to loan, so if I ever find myself down there again, at least I can rip some Classical Thunder to my iPod.

Moving on...

I've been looking for another good options trade to make, but man, I've been out of the game so long, it seems like there is just not much volatility anymore. Back in the go-go days of ten years ago, there were such juicy premiums in all of the tech stocks, but not anymore. I can't find ten good stocks over a hundred bucks right now, and I don't want to stake my fortune on Priceline and Google. It seems as if the juice has been completely weezed.

I did, however, find a decent spread yesterday that I could do with Google options, but as risky as it is, it only yields about 10%, and I find myself thinking Do I really want to risk $2700 to make $280? It gives me pause, and I think I'm gonna just keep on looking.

I can't think of anything else of note going on in the world of Mikey, so I'll wrap it up for now.


PS. How 'bout them Redbirds, eh? 8-2 in their last ten, up six games in the Central! Woot!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hey Everybody It's Music Time!

The sad truth: I'm out of books.

I have nothing left to read. I've plowed through everything on my bookshelf and every poker magazine I can get my hands on. Sitting on the can is now a quick in-and-out affair. I'm quite bummed by this development--usually I have my timing down better and just about the time I finish off my current book, the fine folks at Amazon and UPS conspire to deliver my next volume.

I guess I didn't account for how much free time I'd have this past weekend, and well, here we are, browsing around on Amazon like a hyperactive kid loose in a candy store, pointing and saying I want that! I want that! Oh, I've got stuff on the way, but it won't be here until Wednesday at the earliest, more likely Thursday.

So instead of reading today, I watched a little bit of TV, of course, but then I dragged a huge Rubbermaid storage tote out of the closet and started going through my CDs. Y'all know about my recently-gained affinity for old 60's lounge music, so I dug up all that I had on hand. And then I spent most of my afternoon ripping them to my computer and organizing them. Once that was all done, I compiled it all into one huge playlist called 'Martini Time' and copied it onto my iPod.

I wanted to do the same thing with all of my Eighties music, but that's gonna have to wait until tomorrow--I've been sitting in one place for so long that my ass is asleep. But now I am up to my ears into skinny-tie and indoor-smoking music. Ooh, and the new season of Mad Men starts tonight, too... I may have to pour myself a Manhattan and bust open a pack of Lucky's.


Sleeping In On A Monday

Oh yeah--is there nothing better than snoozing till around 10 am on a Monday morning? Don't you all wish you could? Heh. And then, making the day even less Monday-like, I've been lingering over a pot of coffee and enjoying the fact that I have absolutely no commitments lurking about to derail my good mood.

I know I'm being lazy today--I should've had a new post up early this morning for all you office drones--it's against my code to wait this long (actually it's more like a guideline...). But sometimes, it's tough to escape the grip of the pillow.

I had a wonderful weekend--it was sunny, but not too hot outside, and since I'd worked so much last week (even to the point of tasting a little of the forbidden fruit of overtime), I was in no danger of having to answer the phone and hustle down to the casino in the middle of the night. Finally, I was able to relax and enjoy my free time. Unless you've been on-call 24/7 for the past year straight, you have no idea of the sense of freedom that I've felt.

Aside from getting some much-needed sun and pool-time this weekend, I've also managed to erase all evidence of the overwhelming stupidity I encountered last week--my bank account is secure and I have my new debit card. My E*Trade account is all up to speed and I was able to transfer money into it this morning. And presently the materials are being gathered to finally fix my kitchen cabinets.

In between all of my housekeeping chores, I also managed to get an awful lot of reading done, too. I finished off Book 5 in the Aubrey/Maturin series last night, Desolation Island, and I am patiently waiting for the next four volumes to arrive. According to the good folks at Amazon, they should be here by Thursday at the latest. I'm also waiting on a guitar stand, an electronic tuner, and some back-to-the-beginning music books. I have seriously forgotten every one of my practice scales and most of the chords.

Last night, I was sitting outside of Lucille's BBQ at The District with Linda Lou, and Gary Moore's Still Got the Blues came on over the outdoor music system. It's a great tune, and while we were sitting there enjoying the music, I was telling Linda that back in the day I used to be able to play it pretty well, but right now, if you put a guitar in my hands, I'd be totally lost have no idea how to play it at all. Believe me, it's not like riding a bicycle.

But lost musical ability aside, I still had some fun last night. Linda Lou's sister, Lori Biker, was in town along with her husband, and the four of us got together for a little tourist-style buffoonery. I met them over at the 'M' Resort early in the evening, and we sat in the center lounge for about an hour having drinks and telling stories. I downed about three Sin City Cocktails, which is basically a chocolate martini, while everyone else had beer. The great thing about the lounge there at the M is that it's got all the ambiance and just-as-hot cocktail waitresses as does the Parasol Up lounge at The Wynn, but instead of $14 martinis, the ones at The M are only $8.50. Sweet.

After a few rounds of eye-candy and drinks (even Lori was amazed at the hotness of the waitresses there. I think her quote of the night was Damn, our waitress is so hot that I'm starting to get interested!), we paid our tab and headed over to The District at Green Valley Ranch for dinner.

There was talk of going to the Elephant Bar, but we decided on Lucille's instead. I like the Elephant Bar, but every time I go there, I feel a little bit ripped off--it's like their prices are too clever by half. But Lucille's, it's damn good, and I was in the mood for BBQ anyways.

We only had to wait about 20 minutes for a table, and it was a nice night out, so waiting outside, people watching, wasn't a bad way to kill time.

Dinner, of course, was excellent--I had some baby back ribs and BBQ tri-tip that was oh-my-god good, along with cheese grits and BBQ beans. All were excellent, but the grits and the tri-tip really stood out. Linda and Lori both had the Meg-Ryan-in-Harry-Met-Sally style cajun pasta, and Russ (Lori's hub) had a brisket sandy. Everyone loved the food, but Russ said that the mac-and-cheese he had on the side was kinda lame and tasteless. And while it sounded like a good idea when we first sat down, dessert was out of the question--we were all pretty stuffed by the end of the meal. And it was fairly reasonable too, as four entrees, two beers, and one Coke came to about $86 before the tip. I recall having lunch there some time back that ran me upwards of forty bucks, so this check was a pleasant surprise.

We had a great visit, and it seems to me that Linda has got some righteous rants in the hopper, and her blog will be most interesting in the coming weeks. Also, it doesn't look like her book is gonna be completely ready for distribution by Labor Day, so I'm gonna force her to make good on her ultimatum and to face her irrational fear of birds. Sometime next month, we're gonna go down to the pet store and she's going to actually have to touch a bird. Touch, hell, I'm gonna make her stand there with a parrot on her shoulder, pirate-style. The whole experience should make for a great You-Tube video at the very least.

Anyhow, after dinner, we said our goodbyes and I came back to the castle to watch some SportsCenter and do a little reading. I didn't finish my book until around 2 am, but after that, sleep came easy. There's not much going on today, but I don't want to get too worked up anyways--my work week starts up again late tonight, and if it's anything like last week, I'll need my rest.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beautiful Saturday

Man, what a gorgeous day it is out here in America's Playground! It's sunny, clear, not too hot, and just a whisper of a breeze to keep things comfy. Absolutely wonderful.

My Friday night was rather nondescript. I started out with the best intentions of just staying home and doing nothing--the DVR is full and I have a couple of books that I'm still reading. But around 10pm, I was bored.

So I headed down to a nearby casino and bought into a 4-8 game. It started off ok, and I was up about $60 within the first half-hour or so, but then the game started to get thin, and the short stacks started calling down with anything, feeling like they had nothing to lose. I took a couple of ridiculous bad beats, and found myself stuck almost a hundred bucks instead of being up sixty. Ugh.

But I fought my way back, and luckily I was in a game that had three reliable 'calling station' players who would stay in with any pair or any draw, no matter how dead they were drawing, and I managed to climb out of my hole. I was back to being up $10 in the black when the table went shorthanded and the game broke up, which was a helluva comeback.

The table I moved to after that was kind of interesting, in a detached way, because it was what some folks call 'jackass poker'. Lots of raising and capped bets, and then when the showdown finally came, junk hands seemed to win. Certainly a great game to be in, but I just wasn't in the mood--there was a lot of sniping and arguing going on, and I didn't want any part of it. I think I sat there for about twenty minutes, never playing a hand, before I called it a night.

I played maybe two hours or so, and walked with a ten-dollar profit. Yay Friday night.

I came home and read for a bit, but my eyes were heavy and I went to bed around two in the morning. I got a wonderful eight hours of sleep, though.

When I got up, I realized I had a Saturday all to myself--no chance of getting called into work. So I got dressed and headed out before it got too hot out. I drove over to the Post-Net store in my old neighborhood and faxed in my paperwork to E*Trade, then stopped at the bank to deposit another five Benjis. I'm still on my 'save every dollar' kick, and having an extra $500 in my wallet with nothing to do all weekend in this town is kind of a recipe for irresponsible behavior... Basically, I was removing the temptation. Oh yeah, I can always hit the ATM if I get the urge to go out, but that's just adding an obstacle, and my inherent laziness will keep me from doing that. So no more poker for me for a few days, and certainly no going to the bar or whatever other trouble I could scare up, either.

When I got home, I noticed that they'd refilled the pool and that it was crystal clear--and there were no kids afoot. So the first thing I did was put on some trunks, mixed up some coconut rum and DCwL in a sports bottle, grab a book and a towel, and head out to the pool.

The water was a little brisk, freshly refilled and not having time to sit and bake in the sun for a few days, but I got used to it after just a few minutes. I lounged around for about 45 minutes, soaking up the sun, before I decided to get out and make use of the chaise lounge. I set up in the shade of a palm tree, intending to read my book, but the sunglasses I had with me were my prescription set. They're made for long distance use, and damn near impossible to read with. And taking them off wasn't an option, either. Even though I was in the shade, it was still plenty damn bright outside.

So I just sipped on my drink and kinda dozed for a bit, dreaming I was on a beach in the Caribbean instead of in an apartment complex in Henderson. I stayed there until some more people showed up and started making noise, and then I came back in the house. My plan for the rest of the day? Not a damn thing. And I'm hoping tomorrow is exactly the same.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Math Suks

His name is Rusty and he's a 'C' student!


An astute reader, who wasn't kind enough to leave his name, pointed out a glaring error in my options exercise that I wrote about yesterday. Holy hell, I made an error by a factor of ten, so just ignore all that nonsense and I'll find another, simpler trade to use as an example this weekend. See what happens when you take all that time off? Your brain turns to mush.

But my brain was turning to mush already this week--I've ground out more hours in the poker room this past week than I have in a very long time, so I'm gonna use that as an excuse. Well, that, and the phone rang about six times while I was making that post, so my concentration was interrupted. But as soon as I went back and looked at it, I was like Holy shiat--that can't be right!!!

Anyhow, it's good to be home. I had another good night, and unless it gets crazy-busy this weekend, I should have the next couple of days off. (Of course, if that phone rings, I'll jump on an extra shift, that's for sure). I have no plans except for maybe drinking with Linda Lou and Lori Biker, otherwise I may go play in a cheapie tourney over at Joker's Wild.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Starting To Get That Itch Again... [UPDATED]

Warning: This may be a tough one to get through...

No, not that itch, you dirty-minded gutter snipes. I'm starting to feel like I need to spend my days doing something productive, instead of sleeping, reading, and doing housework all the time. Lately I find myself skipping ESPN and the Military Channel when I watch TV, and instead flipping back and forth between CNBC and Bloomberg.

I want to get to the point where my money is working harder than I do (which wouldn't be too tough, some would say...), or at least where I'm pulling down enough money from the market each month to cover expenses. That's not gonna happen overnight, but at least now I can see a way to do it.

Back in the day, my approach to the market was little different than the way a slightly drunken tourist approaches a dice table--throw some money down, follow a hunch or two, roll the dice, and hope for a big payoff. Sometimes it worked, sometimes, not so much. But even so, by Friday there was always more money to put into play.

It wasn't all a crapshoot--I managed to do pretty well for myself in the go-go years of 1998-2000, but when the bubble burst in 2001, I not only lost my job and my truck, but the entire $80,000 I had in my meager portfolio, and damn near my house, too. (If I recall correctly, I think I sold my condo for a tidy $1000 profit about three weeks before it got foreclosed on. I took that money to Vegas with Eddie B, and after an epic bender of a weekend, I more than tripled it). And eleven months of unemployment put me about as close to bankruptcy as you can get without actually calling one of those lawyers you see on the late-night tv commercials.

Anyhow, that journey has been well documented in these pages, but in the end, it contributed to bringing me out here to Vegas, doing what I do now. It took over seven years, but the burden of that debt is now a distant memory, and I'm back to square one--almost where I was back in 1997. Ok, maybe I'm actually at square two or three--since I have a growing nest egg that I refuse to touch until I'm either old and retired or on the verge of living under a bridge, collecting cans and donating plasma to make ends meet. And the experience has bought me a little wisdom, too, something I didn't have twelve years ago. So 'square one' may be oversimplifying it a tad...

Just this morning, I was on the phone with the folks at E*Trade, getting my account squared away--well, actually, finding out how to get my account squared away, and I found myself chomping at the bit, ready to dive back in headfirst.

One of the small obstacles in my way, is the fact that I need to fax in a copy of a current utility bill, so that they can verify my home address. I asked them if I could just scan a copy and email it, but they said they're not equipped to accept forms submitted in that medium. Fair enough, but now that I'm no longer a prairie dog in a cube farm, I don't have access to a fax machine. All those years working in offices, I took for granted that I could just step ten feet away from my desk and send a fax--sometimes for business needs, but more often for personal use. And I don't even have a land-line telephone anymore, so even if my printer/scanner/copier thingy could be used as a fax machine, I'd have no way to send one.

So the first step in this journey of a thousand miles is to hike my ass down to Kinko's and send my documentation in. No problemo--and for my situation, it's like crossing the Rubicon--I'll be on my way, and no excuses will do.

Back when I first moved to Vegas and didn't know a damn thing about how this town worked, I told everyone who would listen that my plan was to work at night full time, and then spend my days at the computer, trading, following the market, looking for trends, blah blah blah... Didn't turn out quite the way I planned. Full time? Please...

Anyhow, if these first furtive steps in the economic recovery keep up, and I somehow manage to keep getting scheduled four days a week, income certainly won't be a problem (at least the feast-or-famine cycle will level out a bit). And my schedule is just about perfect the way it is now, so spending my days at the computer doing a few trades here and there after I come home from work won't be a problem, either. Hell, I'm even going to bring back the old TV before football season starts--the idea was to be able to watch two games at once, but now, during the week, I can watch both CNBC and Bloomberg at the same time, while I sit on my soon-to-be-purchased couch with my laptop, trying to stay one step ahead of the pack.

That's the plan, at least...

Some of you folks have expressed interest in my views of the financial world, especially when it comes to picking stocks. I'm sorry to say, however, that if you're looking to me for stock picks, you're probably better off buying a lottery ticket. I have a few favorites, but I don't have the acumen y'all give me credit for. Seriously, if I were a genius stock-picker, I'd be updating this blog from beach bar in the Caribbean, with sand between my toes and an umbrella drink sitting next to my mouse.

But there are other ways to make money in the market, besides just buying stocks. Me, I prefer options, but that's just because it's my background, and I do have a bit of a gambling streak in me. As far as I'm concerned, one of the best ways to make money (and remember, I'm an optimist, a Bull by nature--hell, I'm a Taurus fer cryin' out loud), is to sell naked Put options. But that requires a whole lot of equity and a strong constitution, and it's not for the risk-adverse. Dialing it down a bit, the next best thing in my book is credit spreads...

I've talked about 'em before, and fundamentals, sentiment, and technical indicators aside, one of my favorite stocks to use in this endeavor is Google (symbol GOOG). It's volatile and expensive, and that means good premiums on the option contracts.

I'll do a whole Options 101 post over the weekend so that I'm not speaking an entirely foreign language, but let me toss out the trade I might be doing if my account was up, running, and funded... (actually, I'd wait to make this trade on a day when the price of the stock was down, but for sake of having an example, here we are).

This here is what we call a 'Credit Spread':

SPO 10 GOPUB @ $1.45
BPO 10 GGDUN @ $ .45

In semi-plain English, what I'm doing is selling ten contracts of the Google September $410 puts, and at the same time buying ten contracts of the September $370's. (SPO is 'selling puts to open' and BPO is 'buying puts to open')

Google closed today at $462.28, up almost four bucks. Being an optimist, I believe that the price of Google will continue to rise, or at least, not fall below $410 between now and the third Friday in September (that's when the contracts expire). If that happens, then we make money.

How do we do that?

Well, if we're selling a contract @ $1.45, that means that we bring in $145 for each one (each contract represents a 'round lot' of 100 shares, so you multiply the premium by a hundred). If, as in the example, we sell ten contracts, then you collect premiums of $1450. With me so far? If not, re-read this paragraph.


But, we can't just sell these contracts 'naked'--if you did, then you're obligated to buy a thousand shares of Google at $410 per share if the market tanks and the share price drops off the table. Do you have $410,000 lying around? Me neither. So you have to hedge, and buy some lower-priced contracts.

So we buy the September $370 contracts, which gives us the right to turn around and 'put' those shares to some other unfortunate mope for $370 each. So if the world turns to complete shiat and you wake up one morning and Google is trading at two hundred bucks, you're on the hook for $410,000, but then again, you can force somebody else to take 'em off your hands and recoup $370,000. But that's just theoretical. It doesn't usually happen that way... (Stocks rarely drop from $400+ down to zero--unless your name is Enron--and even then, it doesn't happen overnight, so you have to be a real moron to lose forty-odd stacks of High Society that way).


So you sold those contracts and collected $1450, but to hedge, you have to buy the other side, and those contracts cost forty-five cents, which is actually (times a hundred) $45, and since you're buying ten of them, that's $450.

You collected $1450, you spent $450, and now there's a thousand bucks in your account. (Minus, of course, a reasonable and customary brokerage commission). You don't get that money right away--it's not free and clear until you close the contracts or they expire. But if Google stays above that magical $410 mark for the next five weeks or so, then you keep the cash.

However... there is a downside. When you do these credit spreads, your maximum gain is the premium received, in this case, a thousand bucks. Your maximum possible loss is the difference between the strike prices-- $410 minus $370 ($40, which in our case extrapolates out to $4000) minus the premium received. So if Google tanks you could lose three grand.

The bottom line:

Max possible gain -- $1000
Max possible loss -- $3000 <--- [updated] WRONG! It's $39,000, so it makes the whole exercise moot. Off by a factor of 10, so ignore all of this... we'll do a different one later. (Told ya I was rusty--I'm used to doing this with lower priced underlying stocks, back when the market was more volatile. My bad!) If it starts to move against you, you could still get out and close those contracts at a loss--you don't have to take the maximum loss by waiting.

At most brokerages, in order to do a credit spreads, you'll need to have the maximum loss amount available, so while those contracts are active, you've basically got three grand on the table.

If everything works out and the price stays above $410 upon expiration of the contracts, then you keep the cash and get to do it all over again. You can easily do this kind trade six times a year, or if you're savvy and don't take unnecessary risks, you use those premiums you pocketed to allow you to do the same type of trade with more contracts each time--all with just three grand at risk. (The problem I ran into over and over again with clients is greed--folks always seem to kill the geese that's laying the golden eggs, and I'll explain more about that in another post).

Anyhow, that's the kind of stuff I'm looking at doing, and granted, you don't need to watch the market obsessively, but there is some babysitting involved--anytime I've got at least $500 out there on something that could expire worthless, I'm never far from a computer.

Once I get some real money in the account, I'll start doing index credit spreads--but that's a whole new can of worms and not for the faint of heart. And we're a long way from there. But that's my road map.

Of course, just like my poker stories, once I start making some real trades, I'll post 'em here so that y'all can follow along and celebrate my successes and poke fun any time I crash and burn.


A Little Zip

Woohoo! I'm home early this morning, the side effect of having the same people win all the pots in the poker game over and over again. I don't mind--I'm in the middle of a long week, so a short shift is ok this time.

After I pulled the ripcord at the casino, I finally hit the grocery store, something I've been putting off for far too long. Of course I stocked up on the essentials--coffee, bread, OJ, canned goods for when the inevitable lean weeks return, etc. But when I went to get a jar of salsa, I saw a new must-have item--Hint of Jalapeno Tostitos. I've been munchin' on the Hint of Lime version almost exclusively for some time, but when I saw this, I had to give it a try. I'm sampling the goods as I type this, and I give 'em two thumbs up. Very tasty.

The great thing about them is they have some zip, so they'd go great with like bean dip or even plain old salsa like I'm doing right now. Like I said--very tasty--we may have a new favorite on our hands.

While I was shopping, I also picked up some chicken thighs (better flavor than the boneless-skinless breasts), and I think I'm gonna make some pasta alfredo with grilled chicken, mushrooms, and black olives. That should be pretty good. I figure if I just marinate them in some olive oil and Italian seasonings, it should turn out pretty well. But that'll probably be tomorrow night or maybe this weekend. I also got my hands on some fresh ears of corn and a couple of packages of frozen shrimp, so I'm looking forward to some quality time in the kitchen.

Speaking of this weekend, word around the campfire is that there will be some buffoonery on tap with my main cougar, Linda Lou. I'm not sure exactly what we're gonna be doing, but I'm guessing that dark beer and live music will be involved.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hump Day For Everyone!

I just realized that not only is it Hump Day for the rest of the world, but it's Hump Day for me, too! That hasn't happened in almost five years. Yep, I'm actually working five days this week (plus I'm also On Call this weekend), and I realized that I'm halfway through. Woot!

It's been a very busy, and lucrative, week for me, and I'm knockin' on wood that it keeps up. The economy must be turning around--at least as far as I can tell, because the last two nights in a row there's been a waiting list for a seat at my poker game at 3:00 in the morning. That hasn't happened in I don't know how long. I'm happy about it, but man, when I finally get home in the morning, it's Go Directly To Bed, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.

I couldn't sleep all day, as per my original plan, however. I had errands to run. First of all, I had to trek over to the far side of the apartment complex to get my mail, and when I did so, I found that I finally got my new debit card. No more Washington Mutual--woohoo!--it's now Chase.

So then I headed down to the local branch to deposit a few hundies for the truck payment, and I changed my pin and activated the card and did all that housekeeping stuff. The teller told me that the branch isn't gonna change over to Chase and get the remodel done until October, but whatever... I knew waaaay back in 2001 that Washington Mutual was a shiatbag company, but I never had a problem with my accounts until just these past few weeks. I'm just glad that I never owned any of their stock. The one change I've already noticed, however, is that they're always trying to sell me something or upgrade me every time I go in there. Not gonna happen. Eventually, I'm probably just going to use the account as a conduit to fund my stash over at E*Trade, and use their free checking instead.

After the bank, I headed over to Target to do some shopping and I was less than satisfied. I don't know what happened to the place in the past couple of months, but damn, it's like they tripled their prices on everything. I used to prefer to go there over WalMart, if only for the fact that the checkout lines weren't such a clusterf*ck, but their prices were just way out of line.

Seriously, you expect me to pay $13.58 for five razor blades? Three bucks for a can of shaving cream? $4.84 for a bottle of body wash? Shiat, I may as well shop at the 7-11 on the corner if I'm gonna be paying those prices. Fark that. I eventually found a few things on sale that I needed--carpet freshener, DCwL, Bounce dryer sheets, and I picked up a few other household items like garbage bags and a hanging sponge holder for my kitchen, but damn, it was a head-scratcher wandering around in there--usually they could easily compete with Wallyworld, but not now. Luckily I remembered that I had a $15 Target gift card in my wallet that I've been carrying around since last Christmas, so it took a little of the sting away once I got to the checkout line.

When I got back home, I stopped at the rental office to pick up my latest package of goodies from Amazon. Yep, I got books 3, 4, and 5 in the Aubrey/Maturin series, so that's pretty much what I'm gonna do with the rest of the afternoon--get started on reading the next installment. And since I'm not spending money on anything but groceries, gas, and bills this summer, I logged back onto my Amazon account and treated myself by ordering the next four O'Brian books, plus a new guitar stand and pocket tuner. I've been practicing, but I can't find my old lesson books anywhere. So next week, I'll probably order a new guitar book so I can practice basic scales and chords--I need to retrain the muscle memory in my fingers, as I've completely lost it over the past seven or eight years.

That's all for now...


PS... Tip of the day--Never do a Google Image Search for 'Hump Day' with SafeSearch turned off. I'm just sayin'...

Quote Of The Day

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

--Ben Franklin

I came across it yesterday and forwarded it to Linda Lou--I thought it was quite appropriate and was surprised that I'd never seen it before. It obviously struck a chord with me, but unfortunately, I'm afraid I'm lettin' ol' Ben down this week.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Devil Has Come to Tsavo Henderson!

The Dirt Devil, that is...

Finally, after almost a full week of waiting, my new vacuum cleaner has arrived. Just as I was logging onto my account on Amazon to check the tracking status a few minutes ago, there was a knock on my front door--it was the UPS man.

Of course, as much as I'd love to cut the box open and get to cleaning the floors here at the apartment, I can't do it just yet. I forgot to go to the store this morning after work and get some carpet freshener. But I will tomorrow morning. Besides, I was just exhausted, and wanted to just come straight home--the last two nights in the poker room have kicked my ass, and I've got three more to go. (But that's a good thing!) Hell, I'll even have some--gasp!--overtime on my next check...

I was talking to Mamasan this morning, and told her that if this keeps up, I may be able to go buy that new thousand-dollar sectional next week, and relegate the camp chair permanently out the the patio where it belongs. Boy, that sure would be nice--all I would need then to complete my living room ensemble is some sort of coffee table and a new picture or two on the wall. Once that's done, the next item is a new bookcase headboard for my bed, and then a better looking dining room table. After that, I'm completely furnished except for odds and ends (oh yeah, I want a new set of nightstands, and maybe a side-table for the dining area, but neither are that big of a deal).

Hopefully business will continue to pick up and the recession will soon become a distant memory. If that's the case I'll start doing some option trading again (or at least share a few ideas here), and building up the nest egg again. I've got the retirement funds chugging along nicely, but I don't do anything with them except buy and hold mutual funds--it'll be nice to 'get back in the game', as it were.

As glad as I am to be back at the keyboard again, my life is kind of boring right now. I'm working more than twice as much as I used to, and I'm on a money-saving frugality kick right now, so my recreational options are somewhat limited. I've scaled way back on the poker playing (I mean, who wants to work all week in a poker room, and then spend their free time hanging around in the same place? Not me...), and I haven't had any new dining adventures around town in quite some time. In fact, the only eating out I've done in a month was having dinner at Cheesecake Factory with Linda Lou, and when Angy was in town, we went out to PF Chang's one night. On the other hand, I found out that Pie Town Pizza on Green Valley and Sunset will deliver to my apartment, and I've taken advantage of that knowledge twice now.

There's also a gal I've been kinda-sorta seeing on and off for a couple of months, but that ain't goin' anywhere. All it does is cost me money and she's chock-full of bat-shiat crazy, too, so I've been dodging her calls for the last week or so. I'm not quite a hermit in a cabin working on a political manifesto, but right now, all I do is work, read, and sleep. Hell, I haven't even done any fun cooking in awhile, either (although today I boiled some sliced onions in four bottles of Amber Bock, then added a few Johnsonville Beer Brats, imparting a nice aroma to the house. Once they were cooked through, I tossed a couple on the grill and had a great lunch).

I guess I'm just waiting for something interesting to happen, and when it does, y'all will be the first to hear about it...


PS. Okay, so I've been back for about a week, and I just noticed that I've used two pictures of Michael Douglas holding a gun... Coincidence?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Two New Favorites


I think I have two new favorite words to add to my daily lexicon. Of course, you all know that my all-time favorite word is Buffoonery, with Asshat running a close second, but now I'm also going to elevate the words 'Jackassery' and 'Moronitude' to most-favored-nation status.

Seriously, I've experienced so much of both in the past week, that it truly boggles the mind. And the past 24 hours have just been chock-full of both. I *could* go on another self-righteous rant, but I shall refrain. I don't want people to think that I'm an angry person by nature, it's just that I have a low tolerance for stupidity, and I've seen more than my fair share lately.

On the other hand, the gal in the rental office must have lit a fire under somebody's ass, because I've had two more people come out and measure my cabinets in the past two days, and the guy that was here this morning was most apologetic and accommodating, asking me if it was all right if the cabinets aren't done until the end of the week.

End of this week? Hell yeah!

I thought about tossing out a funny-yet-inappropriate Jules Winfield quote right about then and go with 'Shiat, Negro, that's all you had to say!', but luckily my brain engaged before my mouth did. Besides, we're both white as Wonder Bread, so it probably wouldn't have made much sense to the maintenance guy, unless he'd seen Pulp Fiction a few dozen times. And of course the whole experience would've been reported on *his* blog about all the weirdos and freaks he runs into on a daily basis at the apartment complex. Heh.

Yeah, had to go over and measure cabinets again for the fat guy with no furniture. Dude only speaks in movie lines and song lyrics. I swear, I should've stayed in college...

Anyhow, the downside of having my new cabinet facings done, is that I now realize that my kitchen cabinets are actually two different colors. Yep, now that it was pointed out to me, it really bothers me. Kinda like realizing halfway through the workday that you have on one black sock and one blue one... The cabinets at one end of the kitchen are the 'old' finish, and the cabinets on the other end are new. And it's plain as day, but somehow I never noticed until somebody said something about it yesterday. Seriously--I just never saw it.

Anyhow, I guess I'll just put up with it, but it's the kind of thing a gal would just freak out about. At least the gals I hang out with...

How can you possibly live in a place where the kitchen cabinets are mismatched?!?!?!

--I dunno, I never noticed it before.

Somehow, I doubt that answer would ever fly...

Anyhow, that's the news from this end of the world. On an interesting note, I called the finance company today to get the payoff amount on my truck, and found out that 1) the gal that answered my call, I shit you not, was named 'Levitra', and 2), I'm more than 3/5ths of the way to owning that sucker outright.

That put a spring in my step...


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Don't Bother Me

I'm watching football!!!! Woohoo!