The Deipnosophist

Where the science of investing becomes an art of living

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Location: Summerlin, Nevada, United States

A private investor for 20+ years, I manage private portfolios and write about investing. You can read my market musings on three different sites: 1) The Deipnosophist, dedicated to teaching the market's processes and mechanics; 2) Investment Poetry, a subscription site dedicated to real time investment recommendations; and 3) Seeking Alpha, a combination of the other two sites with a mix of reprints from this site and all-original content. See you here, there, or the other site!

28 April 2010


Watch me...

-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist


27 April 2010

A Brief History Of Pretty Much Everything

Student Jamie Bell created this flipbook -- entirely out of biro pens -- for his AS art course. His masterpiece required:
* ~3 weeks (on and off)
* ~50 jotter books
* ~2100 pages.

Turn on your speakers, and enjoy three minutes of utter brilliance...

Jamie received "full marks." Sheesh, I would hope so!
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist


25 April 2010

Good analysis, whether right or wrong

I knew naught of Michael Kahn, but this one article alone indicates I should gain familiarity quickly.

Of course, you can read the analysis for his forecast of coming market action, and possibly come out ahead. Do not misunderstand my recommendation, though. Sure Michael has a market prognosis, but what I truly like is his willingness to embrace several aspects of technical analysis to arrive at his conclusion. I care not at all whether time proves him right or wrong, only that his embrace of multiple disciplines affords him a perspective unseen by many.

I since have discovered Michael's blog. So far, so good.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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Introducing Mad Hedge Fund Trader

Thanks to Seeking Alpha, which aggregates many of The Deipnosophist posts, I have come to discover Mad Hedge Fund Trader.

Now I know nothing about the "mad" part, but I can attest to the author's insight and understanding, intelligence, his storied and enviable career, and his wit and irreverence. (Which I really enjoy!) I appreciate his comments in reply to my posts. I now make a daily habit of visiting his website for his perspective on the markets, investing, and everything in between.

You should as well. To that end, I include his site as a permanent fixture in the blog roll to the left.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist


23 April 2010

Fitch warns Japan about debt rating

I mentioned in my post, A Tipping Point for European Debt, that Europe is not alone; England, Japan, and the US could suffer similar dire financial circumstances.

Well, today, Fitch warns Japan to get its financial house in order or suffer a downgrade in the quality of its debt. This is no idle threat; a lower rating means higher interest rates on its sovereign debt. And higher interest rates means increased costs to service that debt. And increased costs could spiral quickly out of control.

This all smacks (is similar to) a maintenance call; if you have ever invested on margin you know what I mean. The first rule of maintenance calls is never pay them, always liquidate. The problem with paying them is that the problem(s) that caused the maintenance call has not gone away, so new maintenance calls are likely... and you have only so much cash. Sadly, if you instead liquidate, you must sell many more times the amount of the call just to meet the call, which effort rapidly becomes asymptotic; the two data points only seem to converge.

Which returns us, and Japan, to the beginning: Get your house in order, stat, or suffer the consequences. Problem is the consequences of Japan getting its house in order has negative ramifications for its international trade, for its domestic economy... but also for us all.

Not a pretty picture.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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22 April 2010

A tipping point for European debt?

The chart below measures each European nation's budget deficit as a percentage of its GDP; three of the five PIIGS countries (Spain, Greece, and Ireland) lie to the far right (exclude the EU16 and the EU 27). Italy's debt load looks manageable absolutely and comparatively, until you dig deeper. For some reason, Portugal is not shown.

Of the five nations, only Ireland does the necessary heavy lifting, the painful work, to close its deficit; meanwhile, the dream of easy money continues for the other nations. What happens, though, if that dream becomes nightmare? Perhaps interest rates rise, as they will, and the debt service load becomes unmanageable -- what then? Perhaps no buyer anywhere steps forward at any blandishment (rate) to own more of that nation's sovereign debt -- what then?

Really, there once was a cycle for this type of event. When interest rates dropped, debtors would re-finance at better terms and longer term to lock in the low rates. The result was increased liquidity for the debtors, which enabled them to withstand the other side of the cycle, increasing rates.

Not now, though; certainly not for the countries in Europe. (And not for England, Japan, and the US, which all are in equally parlous financial condition.) Does there exist a tipping point that investors perceive to be too much debt? Is this really one giant con game -- investors conned and no one convicted?

Which leaves us with Dorothy Parker's memorable phrase, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die." Except this time, few enjoy the party, I fear... and the piles of debt just keep growing larger and larger.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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Businessman has meltdown in hotel lobby

Okay, so I know the video is staged, obviously so... but it still is funny (in a sick way)!
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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Google, now slower than poured molasses

I moved all my cloud services to Google a few years ago for one primary reason: Google's servers were blazingly fast.

Note the past tense in the previous sentence. Now, and for the past ~2 months, many (most? all?) of Google's servers run slower than poured molasses. In a painful reminder of dial up modem connectivity and bandwidth speeds, I now watch web pages load element by element... and if a site includes Flash or other bells and whistles, forget about it.

GMail is the worst offender. I have followed each step of Google's prescription (use Chrome, clear its cache, use the non-secure http page not the https page, etc) and still I could brew a pot of coffee in the time it takes a message to delete or another message to open. Really, I could percolate a pot of coffee in the amount of time Google now requires.

The problem is not my ISP, nor my computer. A COX technician stopped by on Tuesday, tweaked this and that (unnecessarily so, he said), pinged and trace-routed several websites, and other tests, and discovered what I already knew: Google has a problem with its servers -- and only they can correct it.

So how about it Google? I know you read this blog, so perhaps you will forward my post to the appropriate Brainiacs and resolve this problem...?
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist


21 April 2010

The New $100 note

I watch this video, and think, "Wow. Impressive (product)!"

As the page states, Know Its Features. Know It's Real. But even apart from that, I appreciate that, finally, the US joins the rest of the world with a colorful, even pretty, bill of currency. I mean, c'mon, the same drab green for all denotations?

And yet this is perhaps the only time I perceive a product that is well-designed, even well-built, that I hope and pray is not manufactured ad infinitum. An objective our government seems hell-bent to pursue with devotion.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist


18 April 2010

Dirt! The Movie

The engaging documentary, Dirt! The Movie, employs droll animation and interviews with everyone from Nobel laureates to humble farmers, in order to demonstrate that dirt is "the living, breathing skin of the Earth." Yet it also makes a convincing case that years of destructive practices have yielded a bitter harvest: starvation, drought, floods, and global warming.

Tuesday, 20 April
PBS (Check local listings)

I enjoyed the documentary last week, and was equal parts impressed and charmed.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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Test your knowledge of geography

Take Lufthansa's test (Warning: - can be addictive!) to determine your knowledge of geography.

I scored high... so high I remain in the air, with no permission to land!
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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16 April 2010

You're 15, Voyager -- Happy Birthday!

Oh, sure, I enjoy science fiction (not so much fantasy, though!), but even if we discount that fact, the video below is still cool.

The $64,000 question, though, is whether it makes you want to buy and read any of the books. Does it...?
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist


14 April 2010

Interesting perspective

Ian, over at Ekonomi Turk, shares that he had "analyzed the relationship between Roubini's popularity in Google search results and S&P 500 index." And the results he finds are pretty interesting.

Roubini's popularity correlates negatively, and significantly so, with the S&P 500 is no surprise. That a one (1) unit increase in Roubini's popularity corresponds to a 114 point decline in the S&P is fascinating. Which means that, on this measure, fair value would be...

Well, check it out for yourself!
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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13 April 2010

Raymond Crowe - hand shadows

Really brilliant display of talent, but 3 minutes is too brief...

-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist


11 April 2010

Who Can You Trust With Your Money? -- A Review

Talk about betrayal. Not to diminish the impact of a man philandering on his wife, but to lie and steal from your mother, from your family, from your friends, from your colleagues, from your clients -- and, yes, from your wife -- is betrayal of the highest order of magnitude. Really, who can you trust?

Bonnie Kirchner tells us who when it regards our money in Who Can You Trust With Your Money?; an important, necessary, and timely book. Just as only Nixon could open relations with China, only Bonnie Kirchner could write this book. Kirchner is a Certified Financial Planner practitioner, was one of New England's leading TV personal finance reporters... and was a casualty of her ex-husband's (Brad Bleidt) notorious Ponzi scheme.
On November 10, 2004, I was on top of the world. My husband and I were commemorating a major milestone for the radio station we worked so hard to build. Finally we were taking programming twenty four hours, seven days a week. I couldn't have been more satisfied with my career, despite the grueling hours and the toll it was taking on my personal life. The morning after the celebration, our company's receptionist came to my office door with a package. It had my husband's writing on it, and I think we both drew the conclusion that it was an attempt by Brad to be romantic. "Too little, too late" was what I was thinking. Our marriage had been deteriorating since its inception five years prior... I opened the package and found a small recording device with a sticker pointing to the play button, which said "Press here" on it, once again in Brad's handwriting. I hit play. "Hello, Bonnie, it's me. Straight to the chase here. Tragic, tragic news..."
(From the book's Introduction.)
So this guy Bleidt is the largest Ponzi schemer in history (that is, until Bernie Madoff strides into the picture), and he lacks the courage to tell the truth in person, resorting to taped messages so he can continue to hide under his rock. Or fester in jail. The 6 minute interview below offers a taste of what Kirchner endured. And the quality of her insights displayed to great advantage in Who Can You Trust With Your Money?

Bonnie Kirchner obviously is a quick study. She offers many tips on how to spot the red flags that could alert you to dishonest financial advisors:
• Do a “broker check”
• Check references
• Ask the right questions about any disturbing regulatory or disciplinary history on the part of the advisor or his/her firm
• Be wary of any discrepancies you discover or a lack of a desire on the potential advisor’s part to provide you with requested information
• Don’t accept vague explanations when it comes to investment strategies to be employed for your money
• Verify where your investments will be held and what insurance coverage exists
• Uncover potential compensation arrangements and determine whether or not they are in line with your expectations
• Assess whether the advisor is overly eager to accept your assets and if so, why?

Successful investing often confounds investors; Kirchner offers to her readers, in plain English, the answers she found to the questions posed above, and many others; her guidance helps investors of all types, shapes, and sizes.

The true beauty of Who Can You Trust With Your Money?, though, is that Kirchner does not stop with discerning fraud perpetrated by financial advisors, but delves deeply into the topics of wealth management and estate planning. Her book offers no Holy Grail of successful investing, nor how to uncover the next Google/GOOG; it ventures neither topic. Kirchner's subtle message is that successful money management requires effort, just as with successful relationships; no paved road to easy wealth exists.

Not what you want to hear, I am sure. Diligence and effort present their own rewards, though. As with all good things in life, the journey can trump the destination; Bonnie Kirchner shines a guiding light to help you on your way. In doing so, Who Can You Trust With Your Money? earns my highest recommendation; a book that belongs in every investor's library as handy resource, if not read frequently for the many insights it contains.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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05 April 2010

Inside Out

TortureGhost detaineesAnd a massive cover-up that continues even today.
This is the propulsive thriller that reveals the disturbing truths hidden behind the headlines. A thriller only former CIA operative turned bestselling novelist Barry Eisler could write, and a story that urgently needs to be understood.
Marooned in a Manila jail after a bar fight fatality, black ops soldier Ben Treven gets a visit from his former commander, Colonel Scott Horton, who explains the price of Ben's release: find and eliminate Daniel Larison, a rogue operator from Ben's unit who has stolen ninety-two torture tapes from the CIA and is using them to blackmail the US government. But other players are after the tapes, too, and to find Larison, Ben will have to survive CIA hit teams, Blackwater mercenaries, and the long reach of the White House. He'll also have to find a way to handle Paula Lanier, a smart, sexy FBI agent who has her own reasons for wanting the tapes and is determined to get them before Ben does. With the stakes this high, everyone has an angle—everyone but Ben, who will have to find the right alliance if he wants to stay alive.
Available 29 June 2010!
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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