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The Un-Fun Side of the Atlanta Ice Storm

Following the freezing rain we had around sunset began the period of tree collapses. The snapping often sounds like a gunshot. You can the feel the frozen ground tremor as the once majestic structure crashes into it. Fortunately, we only have 1 pine tree left on the property (ravaged by pine beetle infestation a few years back). We do have a poplar that I worry about from time to time. It seems very healthy though.
It’s painful for me to see my bermuda grass frozen over like this. I know it really isn’t doing it any harm. I walked through it a couple of times tonight with the puppies (those poor guys are a whole other story). The only way I can describe it as it looks like peanut brittle (it was twilight when I walked through). Weird, wild stuff.

Ice Storm in Atlanta

There is nothing more enjoyable than sitting home during an ice storm and watching the fools on tv. Well, maybe the more enjoyable thing would be to sit home on a weekday and recuperate during an ice storm.
Things to watch for during the storm:
1) All the traffic reports. There is something about the sight of 18 wheelers getting stuck on spaghetti junction that really warms the heart on a cold day.
2) The interviews with people the day before who were about buying milk and bread. I’m assuming these people woke up this morning and had french toast to celebrate being iced in.
My favorite was with this one guy who was at the downtown Kroger. He said “I’m justing getting some beer and wine – you know, the necessities for the weekend.”
3) The interviews of the people at the airport who woke up this morning, didn’t bother to call their airline, drove through this mess, only to find their flight was cancelled.
Oh well – hopefully we won’t lose power. The lights are flickering now.

A Lesson in Politics and Statistics

I enjoy reading a wide array of blogs – Fred Wilson’s perspective as a venture capitalist makes his blog an interesting read (although there hasn’t been much finance talk of late). He’s been talking a lot about Politics as of late. In this latest post, he makes a couple of commonplace assertions that are just plain old false.
“For example, he just re-nominated ten nominees to the federal court who had already been deemed unfit to serve by the last Senate. That’s not compromise.
Oh really? The Senate deemed these nominees unfit? I’ve combed the records and I do not see one case where debate or a vote was brought up about these ten nominees. What I do see is a filibuster that has been launched by a minority of members of the Senate. According to Fred’s assertion, America deemed civil rights as an unfit principle back in the 60’s because a few Senators (Al Gore’s father among them) filibustered for 74 days in order to delay debating and voting so as to weaken the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“UPDATE:  It looks like half the country agrees with me that Bush is no "uniter".”
Again, this is not true. And it is really misleading for CNN to indicate that. What this in fact says is that half of the 1007 people who have telephones and answered them felt that Bush is not a uniter. There is a key difference here. First, people without telephones are not counted. Second, people who are on the ‘Do Not Call’ registry are left off. Third, people who look at their caller IDs and do not recognize the name and thus don’t answer the phone are not counted. And fourth, people who use their answering machines to screen their calls are not counted because CNN/Gallup doesn’t leave messages. Most people that I know fall into one of these four categories.
Telephone polling is no longer the good indicator it once was. This poll is statistically irrelevant in terms of American citizens and only represents the feelings of people with telephones who are not employing any automated or manual mechanisms to screen their calls</b.

Welcome To Atlanta

I guess you thought firing guns in the air during celebrations was something only done in the middle east. It happens quite frequently in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. A UGA student was hit while sitting in the Georgia Dome watching Miami vs Florida just before halftime.
Update – a second woman says she was hit by a stray round at the peach drop (about .3 of a mile from the Georgia Dome where the Peach Bowl game is played).
I guess the government schools failed to teach these people firing guns in the air about Newton’s Law of Gravitation.

A Company Called TravelZoo

I don’t exactly remember whether it was 1997 or 1998. What I do recall is seeing a unique proposition from a startup company called TravelZoo. In exchange for signing up for their service, they would alot 3 shares of the company to you. For each additional person you signed up, you could get an additional share. I was traveling for leisure off and on, and so out of curiosity as to how good their travel deals were, I bought in.
Time passed. I contracted for a company that had an American Express travel agency on site. Not only did they help with my corporate needs, but would also assist in finding and booking air, hotel and car deals for my personal travles. I did not need the assistance of TravelZoo, and thus, unsubscribed from their mailing list.
November of 2003. I get some information about TravelZoo going public and needing to verify my information. They had done a 2 for 1 split, and I had a whopping 6 shares. I still had the same email address as I did in 1997, but my address had changed several times. I updated them and forgot about it.
In April of 2004, I got an annual report from this company. I was sure they were only worth $3 or $4 per share, and was pleasantly surprised to find them around 5 or 6 (as I recall). Then in June of 2004, I started to see some odd stories pop up about this company and the trading volumes associated. It seems that all of the investors who were like me were interested in snapping up more shares. But it seemed only around 4,000,000 shares were floating out there to be traded. Enter a classic supply & demand problem. The stock price had been drived up north of $20 a share. I immediately executed the paperwork needed to issue a stock certificate.
When the certificate arrived, I rushed to my broker’s office and deposited it. The next day, I sold for around $17 a share. Not a lot of money – but it was the best kind: Found Money.
Today, TravelZoo (Nasdaq:TZOO) is trading around $92 a share. It has been as high as $110. Am I sorry I got out? Nope. Fundamentally, this stock might be worth around $20 a share (I rationalized $9 a share based on the information I had last June). I tried to short sell the stock over the summer when it was trading in the $50-60 range. There were not enough shares outstanding to accomplish that feat.
This is a classic case of supply and demand outweighing the fundamentals. It reminds me a lot of the late 90’s when suddenly everyone had internet access and a brokerage account. People are investing in a company that, as far as I can tell, generates revenues from selling advertising on its website and in a weekly email newsletter that lists travel deals. It’s trading at 356 times earnings. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has some of the best and brightest programmers in its stable and is implementing innovative technology on the desktop and network. It is trading at $194.50, 233 times earnings.
What is wrong with this picture? And not to sound greedy, but when there are no option chains or shares to be sold short, how can I make money off of it?

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