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Sunday, September 23, 2007


Richmond Musings

Richmond, VA is an amazing city. There is a true downtown, including the state capital with the usual accoutrements - suitable office buildings for lobbyists, law firms, hotels, etc. - and also a terrific restaurant/bar section, small by NYC standards, of course, but high in quality. Unfortunately, this area was badly flooded some years ago, but reportedly, it is pretty much restored. Surrounding the city is Broad Street - a very long avenue accessed at numerous exits by Route 64. When you are driving on Broad St., it feels like Jericho Turnpike on Long Island or Route 1 in South Florida - an endless succession of strip malls, restaurants, car dealerships, etc. Also off Broad Street are the Corporate Parks and the hotels that serve them. In other words, suburban sprawl.

Beyond Broad Street are the residential developments, some of them very high rent. One can see that Richmond is a comfortable place to live for the climbing business executive - enough culture (thanks to UVA) and action to qualify as an "urban environment" but still quiet enough so as not to feel like a big city, and a comfortable, moderate climate to boot. It's also a decent environment for singles - not Atlanta, of course - but lots of reason for hope.

It was encouraging to see the Senate dispense fairly perfunctorily with the Dems' efforts to curtail the Iraq war effort, and also to see the growing backlash against the MoveOn.org left wingers. I am also reading about dissension in the al Queda ranks. The war on terror will have more twists and turns than the world's longest bobsled run, so we needn't get too excited about any of this. But it's always great (and a little surprising) when Americans find their backbones.

On to more trivial items - Mets fans are breathing again after about a week of what constituted a near death experience. caused largely by their exhausted bullpen, not to mention the Phillies' outstanding threesome of Rollins, Utley and Howard. Somehow, the Mets stitched together 3 straight against Florida and a 4-3 road trip. They come home for the rest of their games, needing only to go 5-2 to clinch the division. If worst came to worst, and they couldn't do that, they now also have a strong edge for the wild card, since San Diego's remaining games are on the road. Meanwhile, it looks to me like almost every player in baseball is worn out or injured, and somehow, managers are going to have to rethink the style of play currently in vogue. Mostly it goes back to the way pitchers approach hitters. Instead of going after them and throwing strike 1 and strike 2, we have all this nibbling with the inevitable results that starting pitchers don't go deep enough into games, relievers are overworked, there are too many pitches, too many hits, way too many walks and HBP's, and everybody ends up hurt and tired. This came about because expansion diluted pitching, but by now, we should be getting back to some kind of balance. It also didn't help that the current trend in new ballparks is to smaller fields so more home runs, more walks, etc.

The team that figures out that it is better to go after hitters, and give up the occasional no one on dinger, is the one that will preserve its pitching staff and reverse this trend. So far, I don't see too many takers.

A great example was in today's game, with the Mets leading by three going into the bottom of the 8th, when the usually reliable Aaron Heilman tortured us loyalists by walking the first two hitters. He was very lucky to emerge at the end of the inning with a one run lead (thanks to an outfield assist) since both walkers came around to score. In the "old days," no self respecting pitcher walked anyone with a three run lead late in the game.

It's ulcer city for managers, fans, etc. but it provides further evidence that baseball is still THE game, the most riveting sport, so much better than football, which has not yet attracted my interest. Though I am aware that the Giants and Jets accomplished an unbelievable parlay today, each winning for the first time.

One last baseball thing - a lot of guys are getting boosted for NL Manager of the Year, but if Lou Pinella doesn't get it, there should be an investigation. That Cubs team didn't even figure to contend, let alone win the Central. What a job!

On Monday, I sold 200 shares of Conrad (what again!?)(CNRD) at 15.80 (also from the batch purchased 2/9/05 for 2.25). Now it's a 7 timer, and continues to defy all those staid investing "rules" (don't buy low priced stocks, don't average down, etc. etc.). Then on Friday, I sold another 100 shares of BRLI (BioReference Labs) for 33.32, originally purchased for 9.07 on 5/20/02. About the only tip I have ever received that proved profitable.

The market action is making it look like we have had a correction, and that the bull trend is still in place. Maybe yes, maybe no. A lot of fundamentals look stinky. There is still a credit crunch, consumer spending looks weak (and energy prices are hurting), commodity prices are up indicating inflation threats, and the dollar is weak, possibly forestalling any further rate reductions by the Fed for awhile. On the other hand, one could argue that increasing demand from China, India, Latin America, etc. means that future recessions will be shallow and short, if they arrive at all.

It all makes me glad that I have a mechanically driven formula that drives my transactions, or else I might go crazy trying to figure out what to do.

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