Thursday, September 24, 2009

Exercise in Futility

I've had stock options at four of the companies I've worked for, but I've never made any money off of them... until now. Stock options are supposed to be a great tool for aligning employee interests with the bottom line, but in reality, they're more like a lottery ticket. In my case, they were more like a scratch and win lottery ticket, because I'll be lucky if my gain after taxes is $200. I'm not complaining since these options were set to expire in a couple of weeks and they had been underwater since May.

This experience was reinforced my belief that I don't have the stomach for active stock market investing. I like to make informed decisions, but even if I studied the markets all day and knew how to decipher a balance sheet, over a two-week time span, any individual stock can tank or go though the roof for reasons that no one could have anticipated. I finally decided to just pick a price that looked reasonable but was still high enough that it made me feel like I was still making some money and submitted a limit order. It executed yesterday afternoon near the intraday high and after today's 2.3% drop, the stock is now trading just barely above my strike price, so as it stands, I'm looking like something of a Wall Street genius right now. Unlike a compulsive gambler, instead of feeling a rush from all of this, I'm just glad that it's over and that I have a little bit of extra cash in my pocket.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Broken Dreams

A few months back, I raved about a newish band on the scene called Alberta Cross. I just finished listening to Broken Side of Time, their first full-length album, on lala and my enthusiasm has waned considerably. The album is thoroughly overproduced, robbing them of the hard-edged blues rock sound that drew me in to their music. Another downside of all that studio polish is that I never found their song lyrics very good, but it was pretty hard to decipher a lot of them on their debut EP. No such luck on Broken Side of Time. I still really enjoy their debut EP and I suspect that they might put on a pretty good live show.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Bad Goys

I just finished reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and I can honestly say that it has changed my life. Not because it's a great book, because I really didn't enjoy it that much. I just couldn't really get into it. For one, I'm not a huge fan of murder mysteries. I enjoyed the dialog and I didn't really find the Chabon's use of Yiddish too distracting, I just felt that the story never really developed enough momentum. The story is organized into relatively short chapters that all end with a punchy one-liner, which was amusing at first, but by the end, it started to feel like Chabon was putting more effort into his chapter endings than the overall plot.

So how did this slightly above average alternate history murder mystery change my life? For one, it's made me finally realize that there's no point in trying to read a novel if I'm not going to be able to be able to finish it in 2-3 weeks. I lose too much of the story if I try and read a novel 10 pages at a time. The other thing it has made me realize is that it's better to seek out books that I really want to read instead of reading whatever happens to fall in my lap. I've been meaning to read Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for a long time, but every time I look for it at the library, it's checked out. I don't tend to buy a lot of new books, and while you can often find gems at the used book stores that I love so much, you're unlikely to find specific titles. I picked up Yiddish Policemen's Union from the remaindered rack at Barnes & Noble, which can also occasionally yield gems, but if you take the money I've wasted on second-rate discount titles over the years, I could have bought a small library of decent books instead. Or better yet, I could just request the titles that I'm interested in from the library and read them free of charge.

One final note, according to this article from last year, the Coen brothers are working on a film adaptation of The Yiddish Policeman's Union.