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Sunday, May 11, 2008

 

The Maneater at Bethpage

I played Bethpage Black for the first time since before it was "fixed" by Rees Jones (The Open Doctor) - in fact well over 10 years since the last time. The course is beautiful, and in magnificent condition despite almost constant play, with very good teeing grounds, refurbished, though still intimidating bunkers, and good greens (not great - but you never went to the Black for the greens). NY state residents play for $60 green fees, and enjoy a US Open caliber course - perhaps the greatest value in golf.

There is but one problem - the lengthening of the course and the steepening of the bunkers, the thickening of the rough (though shorter than I recall it) has made the course all but unplayable for the average weekend player. In the old days, I would say the Black was suitable for players at about a 14 handicap or better. Now, I would say 10 or better to play, and 8 or better to enjoy. On all but one of the par 4's, even a good drive was not enough to put me in position to get home in regulation. The four par 3's are all playable (though 17 is an awful handful at a 190 yard carry uphill over bunkers) and the three Par 5's are too (with difficulty). But that leaves 10 excruciatingly difficult Par 4's (actually, the short second is still a handful since the second shot is straight uphill and well bunkered).

In addition to the difficulty is the little matter of traversing the hills and dales without benefit of an electric cart. Since caddies were in short supply on Mother's Day weekend, we made the mistake of pulling hand carts, a physically demanding way to play there. Better would have been to put eight clubs in a carry bag. Anyway the idea is that though it was great to see the changes in the course I loved as a younger golfer, it's no fun playing there now at my dubious skill level and age.

If the pros thought this place was difficult the last time with the soft fairways and long carries, it doesn't figure to be any easier next year when they return for the Open.

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A column in the Wall St. Journal this week posited that the securitization business had bottomed out and perhaps the Capital Markets were beginning their recovery. Forget it. Yes, there are securitizations being done, but only the ones that were standard before the mortgage boom. No one is going to buy into any of those non-transparent situations again; even investors reaching for yield now know better. The Capital Markets promoters, of course, want us to believe otherwise, but this is a sign of their desperation. They are finished.

Now the accounting gurus have to figure out how to make the rules work for investors again. Taking securitized assets off the balance sheets of financial services companies and banks was a disaster. Same for mark-to-market. Look at the difficulty the Street is having trying to figure out where AIG stands. By now, a lot of the shoes have dropped, but probably not all. And our prediction that a significant number of hedge funds would go belly up in 2008 has already come true.

So what is an investor to do? I wish I knew, but all I can say is the musings trading and investing strategy is still working (see the archives for the description) and as long as it does, I will continue to follow it. But that's not to say that it's not scary times out there.

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We may have $4 per gallon gasoline, skyrocketing utility and food bills, and higher health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays, but at least the NY music scene continues to bring joy. At Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola alone in May, we had the Joe Lovano nonet (ending tonight) and the Bill Charlap Trio coming in for 12 days starting May 20. In June, it's the legendary Lee Konitz and then Dr. Lonnie Smith. Around town this month, you can see drummers Lew Nash and Jimmy Cobb, pianists Don Friedman and Hank Jones, another legend, sax player Eric Alexander, etc. etc. There's no place like NY for jazz, that's for sure.

Also coming in June, the JVC jazz festival with so many great shows. These include Sergio Mendez at Carnegie Hall (June 21), Poncho Sanchez at Le Poisson Rouge (June 23), Al Green and Dianne Reeves at Carnegie Hall (June 27) just to name a few.

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On Wednesday, I sold 100 shares of Petroquest (PQ) out of my IRA for 23.64. These were shares I bought on 1/19/05 for 5.00 so that was OK. Meanwhile, another of my holdings suffered a long overdue reverse split when Cardiodynamics (now CDICD) went 1for 7. Since that did not even get the price to $2, I think the company should have gone 1 for 10 or even 20, but maybe that would not have left enough shares outstanding. Let's see if the higher price attracts any more interest in this beleagured stock and company.

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