Friday, May 22, 2020

Go Long!

I wrote this for an article on long term investing - full disclosure: I am long the stocks I wrote about. And happy as hell that I am.

Now is the time to start LONG TERM investing in stocks. But before you can do it - you need to understand the company. 

1. Assume the crisis will last a year and the recovery will take five years. It probably won't play out like that, but you have to have a long term focus. If you need the money before then, don't buy stocks.

2. Make a list of industries that may not survive, or will certainly be hurt for the long term. That is the start of your do not buy list. For me that list was some Airlines, some (maybe a lot) Cruise lines, some retail brick and mortar stores, some restaurant chains and Hotels. Not all companies within those industries will be hurt - but I don't want to spend time figuring out who will survive.

3. Make a list of industries that will survive, and likely thrive in the long term. That is the list that will have your targets. Companies on this list will benefit from the above collapses - the money has to go somewhere. For me that was grocery stores (especially those with delivery), online retailers and computers / phones / online entertainment.

4. Pick the strongest companies within those categories. Who has the most cash to survive this? Who are YOU doing business with right now? More importantly - who do you ENJOY doing business with? Who will you stay with after the crisis? For me that was Kroger, Amazon and Apple. (Note - I already held Kroger. Their stock price went up when this started, so I didn't buy any more.)

5. Take a look at their finances - I don't get hung up on this one. I read a really good book on the subject (Phil Town, Rule #1) - it's a simple approach to investing (I further simplified it). For the sake of today's analysis, I asked one question: Who has enough cash to survive this crisis? Amazon and Apple have around $100 billion each. They're okay.

6. Buy on dips. Amazon and Apple both had significant price dips during this crisis. Sure I'm in it for the long term, but I still like to get things on sale.

7. Don't follow the prices every day. That will mess up your strategy.

8. Diversify. I've been really really right on two stock picks (Apple and Amazon). And I've been really really wrong on way more than two picks (like the time I bought BP just before the tanker spill). And I've been somewhere between right and wrong on a bunch of picks. The two winners have more than made up for all the missteps. There's always the temptation to say "Damn - if I had put all the money in Apple..." But there's also the idea that "Damn - if I had put all the money in BP." 

A final note: If you don't understand it, don't buy. I don't understand banks, oil stocks (as I proved many years ago with the BP purchase) or medical stocks. They might do fine in this crisis but they're not for me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

12 thoughts on May 12.

(This post was going to be originally titled 11 thoughts on May 11, but I had a social distancing / baby bird photo post for that date. I also had other ideas for today's post, but I'm not sure I want to keep kicking the can down the road, because 31 thoughts on May 31 would be really tough).

  1. My in-laws homemade raspberry wine is the best tasting wine on the planet.
  2. Especially when I drink it with my father-in-law.
  3. If I judged potential pets entirely by what they ate I would like rat snakes a lot more.
  4. And dogs a lot less.
  5. Almost all of the productivity enhancing tools I have in my arsenal cost less than $100. Like really good four color pens or fine point magnetic white board markers.
  6. Know the problem before jumping to the conclusion. I thought I needed a big desk in my home office area. Beth said "What you're describing sounds more like a table than a desk." She was 100% right. A six foot table solved it (see also #3).
  7. Another way to say #6 is this: Listen to your wife, Phil.
  8. It doesn't happen every day, but some days when I read I see something that blows my mind:  That happened this morning when I read (somehow for the first time) about the 64/4 rule - which is a nice extension of the 80/20 rule (or Pareto Principle). (The link isn't where I first read about it, but it does a great job of explaining it. Bottom line: 20% of the effort produces 80% of the results. 4% of the effort produces 64% of the results. (There is also a 50/1 extension of the rule, but I haven't gotten my head around that yet).
  9. When it comes to a garden, tomatoes are a great example of the 64/4 rule. Plant three plants, water them when needed, get a ton of tomatoes.
  10. Green beans are a good example of the 20/80 rule. (80% of the effort produces 20% of your crop). That's one of the reasons we don't grow them. 
  11. The other reason is because they're green beans.
  12. The wild raspberries we grow are a great example of the 50/1 rule. They grow. I spend about five hours, total, in June picking them. And they miraculously turn into my in-laws homemade wine.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mothers Day Social Distancing Style

We wanted to get together with Beth's mom and dad for Mother's Day, but we also wanted to keep them safe.

Beth figured out the answer: She would make dirt dessert and we would sit on one end of the garage. Beth's mom and dad would sit on the other end.

Beth's dad volunteered a bottle of wine for the proceedings. And it was their homemade Raspberry wine - the best that they make. The others are good, but raspberry is the best.

We set a table in the middle of the garage for the wine and dessert. We sat on one side

The weather wasn't great, but the company was
and Beth's parents sat on the other.

As you can guess by the picture, the bottle of raspberry wine did not survive the proceedings.

It was a fun party. We laughed and told stories (as usual).

I've had my share of wine and desserts during the shelter at home order. But this wine and this dessert tasted the best.

Speaking of Mothers Day - the bird that built a nest in our garage is now a mother:

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19: Day of RE

Yesterday I did my usual "Name your day". But instead of focusing on what I needed to do, I focused on what I wanted to do.

I named it the Day of RE:


Now that I think of it, I would argue I needed a day of rest anyway, so it was also what I needed to do.

I read a little over half of the book "The Walk" by Richard Paul Evans. It's a good book. (Started out depressing as hell though).

Here's the problem. The guy is walking from Seattle to Key West. I'm 80% of the way through the book and he hasn't made it to Spokane yet. Either he's going to have to walk onto a jet, or it's a series.

I looked it up. Sure enough, it's a series.

I'll likely get in line for the next one. It's pretty decent fiction so far.

I also started reading (via Audible) the book "Finish" by Jon Acuff. Highly recommend that and anything written by him.

I also spent some time working logic puzzles in my Games Logic and Mystery magazine.

Side note: When I picked it up, I noticed the back had an add for More Menthol filter cigarettes. Yeah, the magazine is pretty old.

Games magazine used a three star rating for their puzzles.

One star - Smooth sailing (my favorite kind)
Two stars - Uphill climb (I do them, sometimes successfully).
Three stars - Proceed at your own risk.

Yesterday I finished a three star puzzle. It took an hour, but that's what you do on the day of RE.

Today I was REfreshed. I woke up and had some breakfast (egg whites, black beans and salsa, thanks to Tim Ferriss via Jon Acuff for the idea), and I'm ready to kick some butt.

Good thing because today is the Day of Home Projects.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Task Management - is it a hot dog?.

I don't know that the HBO series Silicon Valley was made to help me manage my day and be more productive, but sometimes that's what happens.

For example: I can get really anal about my tasks - what goes on what day, where can I best do that, etc. This is because I'm a big believer in the Getting Things Done (aka GTD) methodology.

The problem is - I can get tied up in that analysis on a daily basis, to the point that it affects my productivity.

Enter Silicon Valley - and the "Hot Dog" app.

WARNING: If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you have two choices - watch the clip below, or (Spoiler alert) just keep reading.

I now give you a second warning to allow you to choose wisely.

WARNING: This clip is from Silicon Valley. Like pretty much every clip from Silicon Valley the language is TV-MA.

Hot dog scene

How does that relate to my day?

When I look at my daily schedule and task list, something is either a hot dog (i.e. a task I will do today) or it's not. If it's not today, I kick it to tomorrow, or back to my in box. If it is today, I do it.

What I don't do is worry about questions like "if not now then when?" or "If not here then where?"

I eventually DO worry about those questions, but they are done in one large mass of work, called the weekly review.

The final advantage of this method. As I look at each task I mentally say "HOT DOG!" or "NOT HOT DOG!"

Okay, I say it out loud.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Attending a Toastmasters Meeting on every continent - South America

Yesterday I completed my fifth of six continent Toastmasters meeting by attending a meeting of the Lima Toastmasters 3098 club in Peru.

The meeting was packed. We had close to 40 people in total.

It wasn't just Toastmasters from South America. It was Sweden, India, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Hungary and Canada.

And I'm sure I missed a country or two.

The meeting started with table topics. Instead of a word of the day we had a phrase of the day: Once upon a time.

That made it easy on me when I was selected to do a Table Topic. I was shown a picture of a handmade table with a plant on it. My story started "Once upon a time... there was a Toastmaster who wanted to build a table for his plant."

From there I went to how he built the table, but it wasn't level, so the plant kept sliding off.

Eventually he bought a table from IKEA, but that table required assembly too.

Fortunately his wife helped him.

And they lived happily ever after.

And now you know why I don't win Table Topics contests.

A final note: The Lima club celebrates their 60th anniversary this year. Quite an accomplishment!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19 - A bigger network + Zoom

On Saturday I watched my friend Todd Taylor win his Division Speech contest. Todd is a Toastmaster from Cuyahoga Falls (aka Cleveland area). Todd and his wife Jennilee invited me to their club to speak (virtually) and gave me feedback. On Saturday I started to repay that favor.

Thanks to my network I have gotten speech feedback not only from my core speech team in Cincinnati (Michael Davis, Michael Pope and David Levy among others) but also from Toastmasters in Cleveland, Chicago (Jeff Stein), Denver (Rich Hopkins) and New Zealand (Kingi Biddle plus several members of his club).

And we're just getting started. Michael Pope has set me up to speak at a Cincinnati club this week, and another club in Barcelona. Spain!

I didn't have a clue what a big network plus Zoom could mean for speech development, or any project for that matter. Now that I do, I can't go back.

I know there is at least one virtual Toastmasters club out there, and I'm guessing there will be more by the time this is all over. I'll be looking to sign up.

Meanwhile, I get to check South America off my virtual Toastmasters meeting list this week, as I will be attending a meeting hosted in Lima, Peru (I'm attending, not speaking).  That leaves Asia as the only continent left on my checklist. Ironically, Asia has more Toastmasters clubs than any continent outside of America. Not so ironically, I'd have to get up early to attend their meetings - and I haven't been able to pull that off quite yet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Visit to my cardiologist / the Phil Barth diet plan

I have mentioned my cardiologist (Dr. Brooks Gerlinger) before - he's hilarious and a great Doctor.

Yesterday was my annual check up.

A couple of days before the check up I got a call asking if I wanted to make the checkup an e-visit. I declined. As much as I'm good with staying home I didn't really see how they could do an EKG via Zoom.

Besides - I lost weight in the past year. And unless they were going to have me step on my home scale, I couldn't prove that.

(Pause for self reflection: If I hadn't lost weight in the past year, would I have taken an e-visit, even though it meant no EKG? Hmmm.)

After passing the COVID-19 temperature check test at the front door (97.2 - that's my normal) I went to the office. They took an EKG, took my blood pressure and (most importantly) got my weight.

When Dr. Gerlinger walked in I could tell that he was smiling (through the mask). "Wow! 18 pounds! How did you do it?"

"Well, you know, diet and exercise. Also not wanting to visit you more than once a year."

That was true... but it wasn't the entire story.

In October 2019 I stepped on the scale. There was about 10 percent more of me than necessary (I weighed 214 lbs to be exact).

When I had my heart attack in August 2015 I weighed 216.

Two pounds away from 216 and heading to the holidays is not a good weight.

So I wrote a contract with myself.

  1. I will record everything I eat every day.
  2. I will finish under my target calories 90% of all days (this allowed for Thanksgiving, Christmas and maybe another party or two.
  3. I will hit my target exercise numbers six days a week.

And (here's the important part): If I break any of these items I will take (an unnamed person) to lunch. And I'll buy.

The unnamed person is someone who is the anti-great things person. It's someone that sucks the energy out of everyone else. Someone who thinks the world revolves around them. Someone who lies. Someone who I haven't had to deal with for over a year, and someone who I never want to deal with again.

And I will do this until I weigh 195.

Take the unnamed person to lunch? I'd rather eat kale.

Every time I looked at a cookie I saw this person's face.
Every time I looked at a doughnut I saw this person's face.

I called my diet plan "Here's a buck because you suck".

And I now weigh 195.

You may not know a person like this. But maybe you have strong political leanings. What if you promised yourself you would send money to the OTHER political party if you didn't keep your diet?

(If you just answered "I would never do that" then you might not be ready to do it. And that's fine - you might not be two lbs away from your second heart attack either).

There are also websites that will help you do this diet method.

Additional notes:

The person is not on Facebook.
The person does not read my blog.
Still, I'm not going to give clues as to this person's identity. It's not important.

Credit where credit is due: I got the idea for the diet plan from the Stephen King story "Quitters Inc."

(And yeah, if I hadn't lost the weight I would have gone e-visit).

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19: Thinking outside of the box (or being less pig-headed)

There's a fine line between perseverance and stubbornness. Or pig-headed-ness.

One of my faults is that sometimes go past that line. Way past that line.

For instance: This week Beth was attending an online kick boxing class. I spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get the MacBook to broadcast wirelessly to our LG TV.

The LG TV was on our home WiFi. The MacBook was on my cell network. The home WiFi is (just barely) good enough for the TV. But if we really wanted to make things fly, we needed the cell network.

I thought about defining the LG TV to the cell network. But what would happen when I took the cell phone with me when I left the house (you know, in another month or two)?

After thinking through the possible scenarios one hit me.

Plug a HDMI cable into the MacBook. Plug the other end into the TV.

Problem solved. I have no idea why I didn't want to try the cord before. After the fact it seemed so obvious.

Of course there is another even more obvious solution - one that Beth presented early on: Just put it on the computer. That screen was big enough. The computer also didn't have the small picture delay that we got when the MacBook converted the HDMI picture to the "ideal" one for the TV.

Maybe the better idea to carry past COVID-19 is listen to my wife.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Getting great speech material from the pastor

On Friday I got a text from our Pastor, Pete Elliott: "Can I use your Peru story as part of my message on Sunday?"

I said "Sure!" I wasn't sure what he was going to do with it, but I was pretty sure he wasn't going to say "Phil was a big baby when we got to Peru."

(Even though that would have been accurate).

quick side note: A few years ago pastor Jay Madigan mentioned me in a message. It was in reference to my alleged propensity for telling bad puns.

One more side note to Jay: "Hello pot? This is the kettle. You're black."

Back to the original side note:

After the service Beth said "Pastor Jay mentioned dad today".

My son Kenny didn't miss a beat: "Yeah he also mentioned the devil".

Back to the original story: Pete talked about Peru and my speech.

And I found myself saying "WOW! That's a better way of saying it in my contest speech."

So I got permission, and modified the speech.

Note: The material is still over 75% written by me... actually about 95% if we go by word count. So no rules have been broken.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Something I will continue past COVID-19: Creek exploration

We have a small creek (more like a ditch actually) that runs through the back of our property. It becomes a bigger creek when it gets to my in-laws property.

Approximately once (twice if we're lucky) a year we go fossil hunting in the creek at my in-laws. Frequently this has been done with groups of Cub Scouts or later on Boy Scouts, because you're never too old to explore a creek.

It's a great chance to hunt for fossils, or other cool rocks.

I found these circles in the creek bank. I'm still not sure what they are. I picked at one and it fell apart, so I'd say it's not a fossil.

The stay at home / social distancing environment has given Beth, Tommy and me two chances (so far) to explore the creek. The increased frequency is something we want to keep doing after COVID-19.

For me the woods and the creek are the ultimate place for social distancing.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

In praise of Sgt. Schultz

Thanks to our antenna we now have MeTV.

Thanks to MeTV we now have one episode of Hogan's Heroes each night. (Some areas get two, but we have local news from 10-10:30.

Tom and I rarely miss it.

Which makes me wonder why:

It's not for the plot. Well, except for the episode where the Germans have something that could turn the war and they are storing it close to Stalag 13, and it will take some kind of elaborate ruse for Hogan and the gang to blow it up... and someone gets threatened with the Russian front.

It's not for the realism. I mean - was Germany the size of Rhode Island? Hogan is always popping over to Paris or London for a quick visit with someone. Really?

It's not exactly for the humor. It's funny, but so were Wings, Threes Company and Friends. And I don't watch reruns of those shows. (Except for the Threes Company episode where Jack fell...)

Best I can figure: It's for Schultz. And some of the other characters. But mostly John Banner. His facial expressions, his voice, his comedic timing.

Hochstetter also is good, but he's not a regular. So it's mostly Schultz.

The other characters are good - but so were the Friends characters. The show needs an anchor to bring me back for reruns.

Like Fez and Red in That 70s Show.
Or Kramer, George and Newman on Seinfeld.
Or Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory.
Or - the most obvious example - Charlie on Two and a Half Men.

(Remember that episode of Two and a Half Men where Charlie got drunk and picked up a woman? Good times).

Two and a Half Men is the most obvious example. Berta was great. Other cast members were really funny. But without Charlie, it sucked.

I'm not sure Hogan's Heroes would suck without Schultz but it wouldn't be as good. And thankfully we never had to find out.

Then again, I could be wrong... it's very possible "I know nothing!"

Friday, May 1, 2020

Something I may or may not continue past COVID-19: Combing my hair back

As my hair got longer I needed to do something. Then I decided to try combing it straight back. Like Gavin Belson on Silicon Valley, or (sometimes) Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio. Or Gordon Gekko.

Or – as Tom pointed out – early editions of Drako Malfoy.

So basically, the only difference between me and movie stars, wizards and/or people with at least nine figures net worth is the hair style.

And the number of figures in my net worth.

Oh and movie stardom and wizardry.

My hair isn't a decision I take lightly. Except for a failed experiment with parting my feathered hair down the middle in 1980, I’ve always parted my hair to the side.

That said, I’ve noticed a three advantages to the slicked back method:
  1. It feels more comfortable.
  2. I can take off or put on a shirt without messing my hair by simply doing it from front to back.
  3. If Mike Dardis is unavailable to do the channel five news at 11 I could fill in.

There are also some disadvantages to it: 
  1. Most of the fictional characters who wear their hair like that are portrayed as a-holes.
  2. Let’s just say – in theory only - I have a receding hairline on the sides. Combing it back would expose that.
  3. If Mike Dardis is unavailable to do the channel five news at 11 I might have to fill in.

In the end there is one thing to note. It looks less bad than other options right now.  And it’s not for lack of trying. I tried the hybrid method – comb back and to the right. I thought I might look like Robert Herjavec on Shark Tank.  It wound up looking like Buster Poindexter.

So combing back it is.

There will come a point where I either have to get it cut (in back) or get a pony tail. But for now, I’m all set.

I need a haircut.