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En-duhl-jer: The one who indulges

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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Final Fantasy Versus XIII Trailer

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To be honest, I have no idea what this game is about. I have literally no idea. After watching this trailer, I still have no clue (I guess if I could read Japanese it might help). It has the name FF XIII attached to it. I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing. I certainly see no resemblance to XIII in any way to what is shown here.

It certainly does look badass though. It reminds me of a cross between Parasite Eve, Crisis Core, Dissidia, and Front Mission. If that’s what the final product is like…I’m all over it! I guess preordering this before FFXIII shipped was a good thing? We’ll see.

Oh…wait…! This ISN’T Final Fantasy XIII-2? Now I’m really just confused!

Thanks for @Nobuooo on Twitter for the original link. Good part starts at 2:40, if you’re impatient!

Filed under Videogames
Jan 27, 2011

Piano Spotlight: Final Fantasy Dissidia

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Final Fantasy Dissidia. The Final Fantasy fan’s dream game. It’s still kind of hard to imagine that this game exists, but…it’s Square, they do like money. I can’t blame them.

So much fan service and cool little extras in this game that the hardcore fan can just eat up. Looking forward to the sequel. Honestly, it’s the only PSP game on the horizon that I’m interested in! Anyway…the music is just beautiful. 80% of it is made up of remixes from older games (certainly not a bad thing!), but original tracks like this are very solid.

Piano. That’s it. That’s all you need. Enjoy.

Filed under Music, Videogames
Jan 25, 2011

Music From Games No-one’s Played

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Ahh, the SaGa series. Oh, how I wanted to love you! I’m a stat whore. I love managing stats and raising levels, but this game was crazy. Absolutely nuts. This is easily one of the most complex RPG series’ ever made. I literally gave up playing SaGa Frontier 2 after I reached a boss I couldn’t beat. But….

…other than that, it sure has a kick-ass boss theme! It invokes feelings of happiness, despair, and anger all at the same time! Very rare to find a song like that. Do you agree?

Filed under Music, Videogames
Jan 17, 2011

Why AT&T Is the Worst Company on the Planet

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Welcome to hell. My own personal form of hell. It’s called AT&T.

 In the coming paragraphs, I’m going to be talking about my experience with AT&T’s customer service, engineering, technical support, billing, and retention departments. This isn’t a happy tale. I will say this upfront, I never took a harsh tone, never raised my voice, never used an expletive, nor said anything (extremely) derogatory or mean at anyone over the 30+ people I ended up interfacing with over at least 20-30 hours of my time. This event will be known to me as: “THE AT&T DEBACLE”. Sure, I got pissed off a few times and displayed some emotions that a bystander may view as “anger”, but I was never abrasive or standoffish. With that in mind, here weeee goooooooooo~! Welcome to my hell. I’ve been here a long time.

Events are numbered, but do not indicate specific times. This entire story takes place over a 7 month time frame (maybe more!)! Enjoy!

Chapter 1) The Peaceful Times

Was an AT&T DSL customer for 5 years; generally pretty happy with it. No complaints. I had phone and internet with them. Other than their terrible customer service and problems moving my services to a different residence a few years ago, I was pretty “neutral” toward them.

What is about to go down is *WHY* I don’t take risks, why I don’t like change, why I take an “if it’s not broke don’t fix it approach to life”, and why if I find something I like and it works well, I won’t change. This will scar me even further.

Ch 2) The Hot New Girl in Town

 I left DSL for U-Verse. The service is brand new in the area, exciting new stuff, actually heard good things and I was excited to try it. U-Verse is a package of home phone, TV, and internet. This sounds good. I would like that. This all started after a salesman came to my door (in a no-solicitation neighborhood;  this should have been a warning) telling me about U-Verse. I let him tell me a story. A story I won’t soon forget.

He promised me all sorts of things like: a free DVR, a special monthly rebate because I told him I really wasn’t interested at the price he was offering it for (later to find out it was a hidden 12/mo commitment!), no installation fee, and the promise of, “If I cancel within 30 days it will be a painless transition back to DSL”. Gee golly! That sounds pretty sweet, how could this not work out?!?

Ch 3) The New Girl is Actually Kind of a Bitch

I hated U-Verse. It didn’t take long for me to realize this. No local channels for free? Piece of junk standard def channels? Eww… The internet was nothing spectacular either for the rate I was paying! Expensive, worthless ($50 for TV is fail for basic cable), can substitute with cheaper alternatives,  and the entire service is a single point of failure . If it goes down, your phone, internet, and TV *all die*. This happened to me twice in a three-week period;  I was down for a total of 3 days. Was down ZERO days with DSL for 5 years. Ehh…

Plus all sorts of promises were lies: No DVR ($15/mo if I wanted it), no HD channels ($10/mo if I wanted it), there *was* a $30 installation fee, my promo rate of $18 off the bill was a hidden  commitment. Basically…IT’S A TRAP! I managed to get out of this commitment because the reps understood the deception that took place here. I’m skipping being yelled at by customer service for asking for a DVR for no fee (because that’s what I was told I would get…) and listening to fun conversations with the on-site install team talking to their internal customer service teams trying to figure out what went wrong with my account. When members of your own company tell customers that they are disorganized, well…you start to question your commitment with them.

It was hilarious, so much back-and-forth between AT&T itself, where chaos ensues, and I’m laughing because this is what happens to me when I have to call AT&T CS.  Sorry to ruin the plot, but one of the themes going forward is: AT&T has no idea what the hell they’re doing…even internally. 

Will note that I had no problem with their physical on-site install teams. They were awesome! If AT&T is Pandora’s Box, they would be the “hope”. They really are very capable. I guess that’s something?

Whatever. It wasn’t for me. No big deal. I gave it a shot, I liked my old service better.

Ch 4) I Want My Old Life Back

My old Bellsouth DSL had a promo for $25/mo for 12-months. Gee, that sounds nice, I’m canceling U-Verse anyway, let’s go back to that! I just need to have phone service with AT&T to get the rate. Sounds good to me…that’s what I had prior to switching to U-Verse anyway. Nothing could be better. This leaves me pretty optimistic. Would have stayed with U-Verse had they matched their own promo, but they wouldn’t do it. Their loss!

Should be no problem, right? All I’m doing is going back to the same thing I had not a month prior. This couldn’t possibly end badly…right?

Ch 5) Pain. Sadness. Longing for the Old Times.

Apparently switching to a different service from the same company is like trying to play the game OPERATION blind-folded while underwater. It took oh so much time and energy to get it to work (“work” is used in jest). Scheduling the cancellation of U-Verse and transition back to DSL left me down without internet for a week and a half. A week. And a half. Not quite the seamless restoration I was promised by my sleazy door-to-door salesman…

I’m not even going to go into what was needed to switch from VoIP to TELCO. Use your imagination. I call this the DARK TIME. I missed the NBA playoffs (CAVS lost…Lebron is probably gone… Edit: Yep.), was unable to maintain my top ten ranking in an online game, and was just generally not able to be part of 21st century America. Still no real explanation for why going from DSL to U-Verse was almost instantaneous, but going the other way around was like being in a SAW movie.

Ch 6) The Bitch Won’t Let Me Go

Once I get AT&T DSL back, more fun begins. My account info is still tied to U-Verse (even after all that time) so we have to wait for that to clear…even though I actually have service, I can’t use it! Two more days pass. More downtime. It keeps piling up.

Ch 7) This Isn’t What I Wanted

Finally the day comes when I get my internet back! Yay….err, wait, what’s this? I wanted the EXTREME speed (EXTREME isn’t that fitting, but I digress), but instead, I was given the slowest speed, DSL-Lite. No idea why! No-one knows. Just to note as well, I was under the assumption that EXTREME 6.0 (I ended up getting 3.0) was what I could get. Eventually find out that it isn’t available in my area…not exactly thrilling. At this point, I’m still pissed, but at least I have SOMETHING!

Ch Ate) I’m Back Baby! Wait…What are you Doing?!

 It takes two more days for me to get the speed I should have gotten initially; would have been a week, had I not demanded escalation. I finally feel satisfied. Three weeks later, I have internet DSL back and it’s the right speed. I am content. This is where the plot twist comes! I’m like JACK BAUER, I can’t be happy for more than one episode.

Ch 9) I Just Want to Watch My Bear 

Eight days after I get my speed back to what I want…it gets DOWNGRADED back to the slowest speed! Didn’t see that one coming (did you?!) and I expected a lot of the earlier nonsense! Begin the LOL now. Inexplicably, I’m now at DSL Lite which is 75% slower. It wasn’t until I tried to watch a bear play with a stick (KUNG FU BEAR) on Youtube that I realized there was a problem; buffering, it is slow. Speedtest.net confirms.

 Ch 10) Phone Tree Puzzles

After talking with 5 people and going through hoops with them making sure I’m not an idiot, “Is your modem plugged in? Is your computer on? Do you know how to wipe your own ass?”, I finally get someone to actually check the line provisioning. What do you know! I’m at DSL Lite! Fantastic! I already deduced this. Inquired as to how this would happen when I didn’t initiate it…no one has a clue! Ended up talking to 5 people about it when it was all said and done! It’s a plum mystery folks! I think it was OSAMA BIN LADEN. Or maybe we can just blame OBAMA…everyone else does.

Ch 11) I Just Want to Make an Omelette!

 I’m quoted it will take 5 days until they’re able to get me back to the higher speed. LOL. Are you kidding me?? I said basically %^&* that. Do this TODAY, “But sir, it takes 5 days…”. No idiot. That would be if I wanted to “upgrade my service”. I don’t want an “upgrade”; I want a “restoration” because one of the hamsters in the hamster wheel powering your internet took a dirt nap. After bitching (at this point, this is when I was the most angry), wow, what do you know…it gets escalated and it’s working when I get back home. Amazing how that works.

Funny side note, one of the phone transfers that happened was from somebody who “referred” me for an upgrade and sent me to the referral department. The little prick tried to get money off of my situation by doing an “internal referral”. Another theme: AT&T are douchebags who don’t give a crap about your situation, but if they can personally benefit then they’re gonna go all out!

Great, good. I’ve got DSL back and it’s the right speed. After waiting weeks for this to finally be fixed, it is. Thank Jebus. Can I go on with my life now?

Ch 12) Do Not Pass Go! Do Not Collect $20! 

A month later, I get my bill. I was waiting for this. I knew it was coming…it’s not right. They’re overcharging me. This would be the “surprise twist” the entire audience sees coming a mile away, but it has to happen because the plot can’t advance without it. I call. First person: they say five words. I say: “Sorry didn’t get that…hello…? Hellooo?”. Click. They hung up on me. Fun. Not the first time it’s happened by the way. Wait fifteen more minutes getting back to the same spot because AT&T is always experiencing “abnormally high call volume” at 11AM, 2PM, 5PM, 10PM. It doesn’t really matter. Someone’s always upset with AT&T.

Ch 13)  Can I Strangle Someone Yet? 

Eventually talk with someone in DSL Billing. I say I’m supposing to be getting a credit. I’m not. They say: “Sir you aren’t applicable for this rate”. I say: “Look at my encyclopedia of notes for this account; you should clearly see that at least five people have said I’m supposed to get this rate. They say: “Oh you’re right, the last person you said told you this, but they were wrong”. Me: “What…why?” Them: “I don’t know. I’m not able to do anything about it here; you’ll need to speak to retention”. Me: “Fine. Whatever”.

Ch 14) Signing a Deal With the Devil

 Speak with retention. Learn two things: 1) I need to have an “extended” long distance plan with them to be eligible for this rate. Must have been in super-fine print because I never saw this condition. Against my better judgment I agree to this; $5 extra a month. 2) I won’t actually *see* this rebate on my account until 3 months later. More deception. It’s not a 12-month commitment. It’s a FIFTEEN MONTH COMMITMENT! I lol’d. Really loud. Let’s use the more appropriate form: LOL.

 This may just be a character flaw. I like easy. Instead of thinking about it and mulling it over, I took the least resistance path and just said, “OK”. If I just would have said “NO” in 2), this wouldn’t have happened. However, things like this make for good drama. Does anyone really want to see me just cancel AT&T and the story ends? I think not!

At this point I agree to this absurdity simply because I’m in shock. She tries to apply the rate now, but now she tells me she can’t because I have a “pending rebate that will not stack with this offer”. Oh! Mysterious! Unfortunately I need to wait 4 days before we know what this mystical rebate actually is because even the retention lady doesn’t have access to it (theme: AT&T is disconnected). It sounds like it’s from U-Verse…U-Verse just refuses to stop ensnaring my life even after I killed it. What a bitch.

Ch 15) A New Hope…Dashed

 No one ever figures out what this mythical rebate was (are you surprised?). I get a manually adjusted credit and a guarantee that the next month will be resolved. It wasn’t. It won’t be…for FIVE MONTHS. I literally had to call every month after my bill came and had them manually adjust it. I want to lie down…

However, during this time, another promotion for AT&T DSL becomes available: $15 for 3.0Mbps downstream DSL! Hey! That’s what I have! Good lord, for $15 I may be able to put up with this nonsense. I inquire. I am rejected. “I’m sorry, this promotion is not valid for existing customers”. Baffled, I say “Wait…what?! You’re going to sabotage and anger your existing base? You won’t adjust it for me?!”. I ask to speak to retention. They won’t budge. I am even angrier now that I’m in a 1-yr commitment paying a rate that I could beat if I could just cancel. This promo also doesn’t require you to have phone service with them. Anger rising.

Ch 16) Happy Ending!

Enter month five of calling for manual adjustment. I grow weary of this. I ask when it will stop, and somehow manage to bring up the subject of the $15 rate again, perhaps out of sheer annoyance. I get sent to retention again. This one apparently isn’t a moron. I’m told, “Yeah, we can actually just cancel your existing contract and replace it with this one year $15 rate. Does that sound good?”.   Whaaaaa—?? Good news?! NO WAY!

Have I made the case that no one is on the same page at this company? It is literally a crap shoot if you are able to get someone who knows what they’re doing. I say “yes”. I am joyful. I haven’t been this happy in quite some time! I’m getting decent internet for $15! All it took was restarting another year contract with a company I hate. Whatever. I value cheapness over principles. Everything is well with the world. What else could possibly go wrong?Fade to black. Everyone can go home now.

You think that’s the end of the story?! This is like Dragonball buddy. When one saga ends, another begins.

Ch 17) The Phantom Menace

Problems in DSL land. The line is damaged. DSL only stays online for maybe 10-15 minutes an hour and then craps out. But, here’s the cool part! When you make phone calls…a soul of a departed AT&T customer service rep (let’s just call it that, because I have no other explanation) dials a RANDOM phone number and connects me to it while in conversation with other people! It’s like unintended three way calling with random parties! Hey! Cool! AT&T sponsored prank calling! One time I got a bank. One time I got an Indian dude. Everyone was all very confused. I’d never seen or heard anything like it in my life.

I will admit, it was kind of interesting, but…I’m still pissed. My DSL doesn’t work, and calling people is an adventure. Fun note: this happened while on the phone with AT&T customer service. They had the same initial reaction I did, “Wow. That was weird, I’ve never heard of anything like that!”. I could not make this crap up if I tried folks…this is your AT&T. Or maybe it’s just mine. Have I been a bad boy this year? I tried to be good. 🙁

Ch 18) Happy Ending II…No, I Lied Again.

 Someone is dispatched on site to take a look at my line. “Uh, sir we don’t see any problems with the line”. What do you know…it’s a miracle. All they had to do is show up and “voila”, there was never a problem at all! The problem is fixed, and nothing had to be done. AT&T is amazing like that.

Other than my general dismay at more downtime and more unbelievably weird problems with this company, I am again “at peace”, but no, it’s not done yet (man I wish it were, this has to be getting boring by now).

Ch 19) Where We Go From Here, Nobody Knows

Fast forward to the present; a few months later. I have blocked out the terrible experiences with AT&T…until today. Now we have a wide-spread connection problem. The entire southeast is experiencing severely degraded performance (http://bit.ly/dX1g9N). I’m only getting about 30% of the promised speed during peak times. I should be getting 3.0 Mbps. This has been going on for weeks. I have to imagine it’s Netflix’s doing. But, what do you know? AT&T is underprovisioning customer’s lines to save cost. Service level agreement? Bah. What’s that? Who cares! Screw you AT&T.

But wait…yes! I have created my own website! I have an outlet to complain about my terrible experience with the worst company on the planet to a wider audience. Catharsis at work. I have a ton more phone calls to look forward to! I will record this one though! I have to, it’s for the good of all mankind.

Ch 20) Choose Your Own Ending

a) AT&T gives me a million dollars.

b) AT&T goes bankrupt because they’re a terrible company.

c) AT&T continues to bone me because I’m too much of a baby to change my service.

There’s just one thing left to say….I hate AT&T! I look forward to the day when I can break ties with this terrible corporation for good.

Filed under WTF
Jan 11, 2011

Adventures in Trading

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For some time now, I’ve been fascinated by money. It opens up doors, it enriches your life, hell…it just makes you happy. Who can argue with that? Now I have no desire to be super rich (not in the slightest), but I think we can all agree that, with all the uncertainties that life puts forth, wouldn’t it be nice to be comfortable financially? Yeah, well how? There are plenty of illegal means that may net you some money (and jail time…), but assuming you’re made up of a high moral caliber, the next best thing is…the stock market. Make no mistake, it’s a pretty corrupt place. I sometimes feel dirty playing in it, but it is what it is. You can make a lot of money really fast here. You can also lose it all. I’ve been on both ends, I know.

I’ve always, always wanted to “play” in the stock market. Watching the DOW on the nightly news as a kid made it feel like it was “adult game”, and I wanted to be apart of it someday. I knew I wanted a shot at it when I grew up. Two years ago, I finally had a decent chunk of capital to dedicate just to “investing” and gave it a shot. After many highs and lows, I’m sharing my experiences. If you’re interested in trying your hand at the game (or have done it awhile), here are some helpful hints and observations I’ve learned along the way.

Without question, the entire thing is legalized gambling. Some forms of investing seem more like gambling than others, but it’s all a gamble in the end. It’s a psychological experiment on human emotions. Greed and fear. It is fascinating. It is thrilling. It is deadly. You may be able to make some gains here and there not knowing what you’re doing, but if you’re an amateur, you will eventually get slaughtered. Here are some general topics that can get you started on your way. I may use jargon below that you’re unaware of. There is a lot of it to go around, so if you’re unclear of the terminology, I would highly suggest checking out the very informative website Investopedia. It’s just like it sounds; an encyclopedia on investing. Highly recommended and a very good place to get started.

With that, here are the things I’ve learned after a few years of playing:

  • Emotion

The entire stock market is manipulated. It is run by people with a lot more money than you have. They have fancy computers that trade for them and react to changes in the market instantly. They will do things that take money from you. Things will appear to go up or down for no reason. They are the ones that control the price of a stock. Always be aware of this fact! Unless you’re a millionaire, you aren’t going to be able to sway price action, you’re just trying to get a small piece of that money pie. The best advice is to know that this is a fixed game and how to learn the signs of what’s to come.

The easiest way to lose it all in the stock market is to lose control of your emotions. This is how the “big boys” make lots of money. I’m sure you’ve heard this before: “buy low, sell high”. If you follow this one rule, you’ll probably be OK. But, trust me…fear (low) and greed (high) are powerful things to overcome. We’re not machines after all, but to be successful, you have to become more like one.

Most of the trades that have devastated my balance (there have been a few) have normally come from getting greedy after a big gain. Know when enough is enough because there’s always a time to walk away. Conversely, know when it’s time to panic and get out. Normally when you start panicking, that’s probably the best time to buy (or sell) more (ironic huh?). I would suggest taking emotion out of this and setting a 20% stop loss (a way to automatically trade when you’re in the red).

Finally, one last comment that ties in with emotion: endless watching. Minute after minute. Did it go up? Did it go down?! Aww crap! Go up! Go up! Gahh…it’s tanking….holy crap, there it goes! Trust me. It will happen. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s necessary. But mostly it’s counter productive. When you first start out, you will absolutely be glued to your monitor watching price movement. It’s fine as a start, but you will destroy yourself if you continue to do this long-term (it’s still hard for me). This depends on what your investment goals are (we’ll talk about this later), but in general, don’t do this. It will exhaust you mentally. You will have anxiety. For your health and your mind, take a position, set a floor and a ceiling on when you will get out and stick by it (unless something changes to upset your initial prediction). If you are able to master this, you will make a lot of money.

  • Research

I will admit, I don’t do this nearly as much as I should and I’ve paid for it. Buy on fundamentals, you will not regret it. I’ve bought a lot of “crappy” stocks because they were cheap and appeared undervalued. This can make you money, but it’s more risk than it’s worth. Buy solid companies, buy market sectors that have growth opportunity, move on when a different sector gets hot. Just be aware that “popular” stocks normally won’t make outrageous gains. Buy stocks that are “under the radar”, but still have good fundamentals. Once they become “popular” it’s probably time to move on. Hey, it’s like music…once the masses get ahold of a band, it’s normally lost its luster. It’s the same thing in the stock market. Small and mid-cap stocks are more fun to play in than large cap stocks. They have better price movement and can make you more money.

Here’s  an example as to what I’m in right now. Casino stocks: LVS, WYNN. China is exploding. These companies are setting up operations in China to build casinos and hotels. Huge growth opportunity. This is where I’m playing right now in early 2011. Always be on the look out for things that “make sense” like this. Do *not* solely buy a company on the brand or your experience with them. It may help you in some regard, but never buy based on company loyalty. Just because you like a company, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to buy their stock.

Google finance and Yahoo finance are both very good tools for watching stock news and up-to-date price changes. Yahoo message boards are a good source of up-to-the-minute changes. Just be aware that most people posting are idiots. It’s normally a good idea to sell when people are getting super excited on an up move. It’s normally a good idea to buy if people are predicting doom and gloom! You’d be amazed at how often this works, I’m not kidding…

  • Trading style

This is a big topic because it can mean a few different things. One of them is just exactly “how” you want to trade. Do you want to buy and hold for a long time (long-term investing)? Do you want to trade as a job (day trading)? Do you want to look for patterns in the market and trade at specific times (swing trading)? Take a guess at what I think the best is. If the story of Goldilocks told us anything, it’s probably best to go with the middle of the extremes.

Buy and holding is stupid (sorry). Yes, it’s easier, you may get some dividends from it, you may save a little on taxes, but…it’s not going to maximize your money. Day trading, on the other extreme, is expensive (will eat you alive in broker fees), generally nerve-racking, a full-time job, and you need to have a special status on your brokerage account to even do it! Most people can’t fall into this category even if they wanted to. So, what do I suggest? Trading on the highs and lows. I normally have a day to a month time window when I trade. It’s agressive (I’m impatient), it can be dangerous, but it has the potential for high reward. The downside is that it can get expensive with trading fees, is still pretty nerve-racking, but it has high reward potential, and it will make you learn a lot.

Another topic of trading style is “which side you’re on”. This may come as a surprise to you, but you don’t have to be on the “buying” side to trade. You can actually predict a downfall and make money by selling short a stock or selling puts (options term). This is a powerful tool and you shouldn’t ignore it. To make a lot of money, you really should play both sides, and you shouldn’t get attached to either. You should trade based on how the market is trending. To prepare for this, I wouldn’t suggest holding large positions for very long. This will allow you to react faster to market changes. There is nothing worse than being stuck holding something you don’t want to while the tides change. Sometimes it’s hard to cut and run when you’re down (even though you should).

Then there’s the matter of  “what” you should be in. Should you diversify or hold just a few stocks? Most people say focusing on one stock is a huge no-no, and can severely damage your capital. Yes, that’s very true. But, if you pick the “right” stock or sector it does have the highest reward potential. I don’t diversify. I pick one sector and one or two stocks I’m interested in. It’s easier to manage and lets you feel like you “know” a stock.

Finally, there’s “how” you should play. There’s two choices, purchasing shares or options. Small potential, less risk. Enormous potential, huge risk. That’s the difference. Options are time bounded, straight up shares  are not. You buy a stock, and you own it. You buy an option and you “might” get a chance to own it if it reaches a certain price by a certain day. I’ve pretty much gone exclusively into options trading. The same change in price normally equates to about five to ten times more for your dollar with options (but it works both ways; hence the risk). Options are a *huge* topic that I’m not going to go into here. Just know that you really need to know what you’re doing to play in this realm. I feel like I’m at this point now, and I have made a decent amount, but it is very risky. It probably doesn’t help that I’m very impatient though…

  • Entry and Exit points

Emotion will get the better of you if you don’t set clearly defined points where you want to enter and exit a position. Like I mentioned before, “buy low, sell high”. There are two main kinds of traders: technical analysis and event (news). I fall in the former. I love math and statistics. Stocks are like a giant math problem that you can solve. There are enormous topics on technical trading. Search the Internet, you can find it. From Bollinger Bands, to MACD, to candle stick analysis, there are ways to “know” when something is about to happen by looking at the past. Others just like to trade on “events”, news. Earnings are coming up, company A is planning on building Y. Company C is parterning with Company D. This is nice to know, but is normally reflected in the technical charts too.

The biggest piece of advice is to “get confirmation”. What do I mean by that? If you anticipate that something is about to “reverse” (about to go up from a bottom or fall from a high), you should get some confirmation (whether it be a day or a few minutes later; depending on your time threshold) that your theory is right. Yes, you will lose a chunk of potential gains, but it is much, much, much less riskier. Trust me. You will get burned if you get a signal that ends up being a fake-out. It will happen. Wait for a stronger confirmation before starting a big position.

  • Cutting Losses

Sometimes things aren’t going to work. You guessed wrong. Hopefully, it’s just the exception case. If you’re doing good, you should have a 70-90% “guessed right” ratio. Now if you’re holding shares and not options, maybe waiting is OK; you will most likely eventually get back your losses. But, if you’re tying up capital and other stocks are moving and you’re not able to buy it because you literally can’t (you have no money to do so), then in essense you’re losing money by not being able to participate. Sometimes it is more advantageous to sell at a loss and move on to something more profitable. Just don’t make this a common occurence and you’ll be OK.

  • Broker and commissions

I’ve done a lot of research on good online brokers. I’ve used two: Tradeking and thinkorswim. Tradeking has cheap rates. thinkorswim is amazing. I now only use thinkorswim. They have the best charting software out there (look it up, it’s true), and they match anyone’s options rates!! Sold. I love thinkorswim. Highly recommended brokerage firm.

For the most part $5-10 is what you’ll normally pay on average when buying shares of stock. Options are much more complicated. They can range from $5-100+ depending on what you’re doing. It goes a lot more depending on just how many option contracts you’re buying. This can quickly rack up to huge costs in fees, so if you’re playing the options game, be careful and pace yourself. thinkorswim matches anyone’s options rate though, so again, I highly recommend them. I would not recommend E-trade. They have high minimum balances and potential annual fees. No fees with ToS.

Finally, let me talk about margin accounts. A margin account is like a “loan”. Generally, if you have a margin account your broker will allow you to “borrow” 2x what you have in your account; e.g. balance is $5000; you can buy up to $10000 in stock. Granted, I would highly suggest *not* over leveraging yourself and buying that much because it’s money you DON’T OWN.

Why I would suggest getting one though is for one simple reason: the day trading rule. The SEC prohibits most traders from buying and selling a stock on the same day three times in a 72 hour period (or something like that; look it up! :)). If you DO NOT have a margin account you must wait THREE DAYS after you sell something for the funds to clear and then you can buy something else. This is debilitating. With a margin account, this restriction is lifted and whenever you sell something, as long as you have a margin account to cover it, you can buy and sell as much as you want (up to 3 times still). I know it’s confusing, and I didn’t do a good job of explaining it. Look up “day trading rule” for more information.

If you break this rule, your broker will place a 90 day trading restriction on your account. It’s happened to me. It’s easy to do. It’s not fun.

  • Tax Implications

 Aww, let’s end on a sad note. Taxes. You knew it was coming. It’s always lurking in the background. So what does buy and hold trading have over everything else? It puts you in the long-term gains tax bracket (generally 15%). You must hold shares of stock for 1 year to be in LTG; obviously, buying and selling options makes this impossible. Short term gains comes in around 25%. This means you sold stock less than one year old. Even though you take a 10% penalty, the luxury of not having to wait an entire year before selling is normally worth it. I would suggest doing this with your company stock (if you have it where you work) and dedicating an investment account solely to the pursuit of making a lot of money quickly. You can use another account to rely on steady long term gains. That’s what 401ks, IRAs, and company shares are for, in my opinion.

Last note. The wash sale rule. It is the most confusing thing I have ever read. I still don’t understand it. The IRS doesn’t even understand it. You will get different answers everywhere you go. In general though, the government allows you to write off losses on your taxes, BUT if you attempt to buy *more* shares of a stock after you have LOST money already from the same company, it’s called a wash sale, and you are unable to write off the loss on your taxes! The understanding is…”hey, you lost money on this trade, but you’re still trying to make money off it by buying more; we’re not letting you claim this as a loss now”. I think it’s stupid. Be aware of it though. I believe you can claim up to 5k in losses on your taxes. Hopefully, it won’t have to come to it though!

Well, hopefully you learend something. If you’re interested in trading, I plan on doing more indepth articles, so watch out for those. In the meantime, happy trading!

Filed under Investing
Jan 11, 2011

Why isn’t this game here yet Nintendo?

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Today’s music comes from the, yet to be released in America, Wii game, Xenoblade. Why on Earth this game does not have a U.S. release date is beyond me. From everything I’ve seen of the game, it is  absolutely stunning. Hurry up and set a date on this game Nintendo!

I don’t really know what to say about this song. It blows me away. I could listen to it for hours…days (I have). Piano and violins. I love it.

Filed under Music, Videogames
Jan 10, 2011

Website Spotlight – Cheapassgamer.com

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Every now and then I’d like to spend some time spreading the word and talking about some cool useful websites. Some may be very well-known and you just may not know a lot of tricks or cool things about them.  Others might be hidden gems that make you go, “wow, how can I still be a functioning human being without knowing about this”? Sound like fun? Yes? I thought so too. The internet is a powerful tool. You can pretty much do or find anything you want, if you look hard enough. The only thing in the way is ignorance. I won’t have it! No sir.

Today, we’re going to talk about cheapassgamer.com. The name pretty much sums it up. Like videogames? Like not wasting money? You’d like this site. If you’re paying full MSRP for videogames, hardware, or accessories…you’re about to be shocked at how stupid you are! 🙂

Most games on consoles today run around $50-60. The best shot you have at getting them cheap comes around the first week of sale. After that, it’s normally a few weeks, months, or even years (Nintendo is notorious for never dropping their prices) before you’ll see any price drops. Cheapassgamer.com (CAG) is fundamentally a forum site. It has other bells and whistles, podcasts, contests, blah, blah. I’ve never used them. 90% of my time is spent at the “Video Game Deals” forum (there are other forums dedicated to other things, but the site’s focus is games). It’s about as simple as you can get.

Check out this page and you’re pretty much good to go. That’s it. You don’t need to sign up for anything, everything is completely free. Browse for game deals in the forums or post your own findings. You should be able to find tons of deals on older games. I normally pickup games sub $20 because I don’t mind waiting a year for a new release to drop in price. But that’s not to say you won’t find things cheap when they come out. SOMEONE will always be offering an incentive for you to buy. CAG will help you find that “someone” (i.e. website or storefront).

This is a very nice “small-ish” community of gamers. It’s been around for many years and is very respectable. It’s a great community and is essential for any self-respecting hardcore gamer. Just be warned. You may save money, but you’ll probably end up spending more than you normally would! I know I have…

Filed under Websites
Jan 5, 2011

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