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Sunday, October 30, 2011


Halloween Edition

Fine weather we had here on the east coast yesterday. Wind, cold, and sleet made for a truly miserable pre-Halloween preview of winter. In New England and upstate New York, the snow stuck, reminding some of us of the famous Halloween snow storm that hit Minneapolis about 15 years ago.

Otherwise, we have had a delightful October. In fact, since Hurricane Irene made her unwelcome visit, things have felt more like late summer than fall. But while the leaves were very late in changing, if they had changed at all, a lot are on the ground now.
Of course, it was pretty nippy in St. Louis for the last two games of the World Series, and a memorable event it was. I have to admit to feeling some regret that the Rangers couldn't get the last out in game 6 and win their first title. I thought their manager did very well in handling his staff that game and had every reason to believe that his closer could hold a two run lead in the ninth. But that's a problem with today's game, in my opinion. You don't depart from the formula, and that says your eighth inning guy gets that inning and your closer finishes. Frankly, I didn't think Feliz had been all that sharp in the Series.

It made sense for Ron Washington to play to nail it down in game six with the lead, but if you are going to do that, you have to go right down the line with it. To me that meant going longer with Holland, who I thought still had good stuff in the eighth even though he was touched for a homer and a single. He looked comfortable, had only thrown 23 pitches, and likely could have finished the eighth and perhaps started the ninth. That would have allowed Adams and Feliz to come in later, if at all.

The point is that once you bring in Holland, he is no longer available to start a game 7. So to me, once you bring him in, you bite the bullet and go as far as he can take you to get to Feliz. If he takes you the rest of the way, so much the better and you simply explain to Feliz why he didn't pitch in between swigs of champagne.

I realize this is not the current book for managers. They kowtow to closers who feel slighted if they don't get the automatic call for the ninth inning. So be it, but closers are losing too many big games, if you ask me.

Having said that, that game six goes down as one of the great post season classics that I would happily sit through again on tape some day. That puts it up there with my other favorite amazing games, the 55 Dodgers, winning game 7 thanks to Sandy Amaros' catch in Yankee Stadium's left field corner, the Pirates winning a 10-9 thriller in 1960's game 7 on the Mazeroski homer after the Yankees rallied to tie, the 1962 Yankee win in game 7 when Bobby Richardson caught McCovey's scorched liner for the last out with the tieing run on third, the 1969 Mets win on Tommy Agee's two great catches, the Mets winning the game 6 marathon over Houston in the 1986 NLDS and rallying to win game 6 against the Red Sox the same year, and the Cardinals dramatic win in game 7 over the Mets in 2006, when Endy Chavez great catch kept the Mets in the game.

I really have mixed feelings watching Netflix implode. Long time readers will recall we took gas on Blockbuster, and its downward slide was accelerated by Netflix' aggressive pricing and adaptation to a business model that made Blockbusters' retail brick and mortar stores obsolete.

So we got that, but in fact, it now appears that Netflix pricing was simply predatory. With Blockbuster in bankruptcy, Netflix has inflicted substantial price increases on its customers, and its business model doesn't seem so attractive with profitable pricing. Netflix shareholders have already gotten their comeuppance, but that is not doing former Blockbuster shareholders any good.

The fact is that while the various anti=trust regulators make life miserable for companies trying to merge, they are less interested in protecting competitors from predatory pricing strategies, which arguably should be their main concern. Mergers often strengthen the remaining competitors and can benefit consumers. Consumers did not benefit from Netflix destruction of its rival.

So is it sour grapes or do BBI holders have a real beef? The fact is that there were plenty of reasons to ditch BBI, even ignoring Netflix actions. As soon as BBI was spun out of its parent and forced to borrow to pay a special dividend, we knew something was up, and could have sold to minimize the losses. So there are lots of villains in this piece and BBI holders had a chance to control the damage. Nonetheless, this was one of those stituations where corporate America did a lot less than its best.

So this week, it's back to National Harbor, MD for a week of meetings in proximity to the nation's capitol. I am not excited, but there's no way out. Maybe I can play bridge one night if I can keep the schedule open.

One might have thought that I got my fill of bridge in Danbury at the Regional last weekend, playing six sessions in three days, but the fact is that my game is slowly improving, and bridge is one of those games that is exponentially more enjoyable the better you play. Not that, like golf, it can't be enjoyed at almost all levels of play, but when you are pretty much oblivious to what's really going on with a hand, you kind of miss a lot.

In Danbury, I played part of the event with a visitor from Nova Scotia who was seeking her last few gold points to achieve Life Master before going in for cataract surgery. So it was a thrill for her and satisfying for me to finish fifth overall in the event and get the points she needed. There are people who play every day professionally, and I can see the satisfaction they can derive from helping their clients achieve their bridge goals. (Yes, there's a whole other world out there playing cards that you probably didn't know about.) But I'm not quite ready for that yet.

Still with the aforementioned weather turning lousy, I expect to attend a number of tournaments this winter; I already have my gold points, but need some others to get to Life Master status myself.

Thanks to the rally following Europe's latest phony bailout, we're back to about even for the year on the market, and have another decent profit taking opportunity. On 10/21, I bought 1800 more shares of Hauppauge Digital (HAUP), a value buy at
1.15. Please don't confuse "value" with safety. On 10/24, I sold 100 shares of Fastenal (FAST) at 35.46. We paid 19.52 on 6/26/06. Then we made two sales on
10/28. First was 200 shares of Conrad (CNRD) at 14.90, a nice profit from the 1.30 we paid on 4/26/05. Then we sold 100 shares of Quanta (PWR) at 21.55, accepting a loss on those shares since we paid 31.48 on 11/6/08.

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