Sunday, May 1, 2016

My son, the artist



I did not have the luxury of studying and working in the field I really enjoyed but my son do. My college housemates (all majored in EE) were surprised that I switched major from Electronic Engineering (EE) to Industrial Engineering even I had all A in EE courses. I thought there are more jobs when I returned to my native city Hong Kong; I stay in the land of opportunities.

I still have the concept of starving artist in my mind. In college, a professor told me the department of Art should be closed. The art student next door could be the most beautiful lady in the campus. Hence, I did not agree to close the department. I was and still am very shallow.

I do not understand art, so I do not really understand my son’s work. Without art and music, life is not worth living. Life without bread is not a life. Everyone should set his/her priority. He won the grand prize in his first art exhibit. Due to my lack of knowledge in art and my natural bias, I copy the following from a blog on art (KnowYourScene):

Eric Pow is from Quincy, MA and doing some really amazing artwork with paper. He uses his mixture of cultures, being an American born Chinese, as influence for the pieces he creates. He studied Graphic Design while in college, but also learned art techniques and philosophies that he applies to his work. When explaining why he uses paper in his art, he counters with the statement, “There is an understanding of other mediums such as paint, where painters are not questioned on why paint as medium”. He also explains, “I create art out of paper because it is the medium that relates to me the closest”. Some of the techniques he’s using to create these pieces are paper cutting, paper quilling, and paper carving. These styles and techniques have a long unique history, which he goes more in depth with on his Website. You can also find more of his artwork on his Etsy, where he also sells the bulk of his creations. In case you were reading this and wondering if he does custom pieces, the answer is yes. He can be contacted through his website or you can Email him directly.”

Saturday, April 30, 2016

On travel



This is the main article of my travel books. I use traveling to Rome where the cruise line starts as an illustration. It should apply to other travel planning. Most are just common sense. It may be repeated in Personal Impression.

Where to go

My cruise started in Rome, so I did not have a choice to choose cities. However, I would avoid the following countries or cities due to:
·         Political unrest or at war (most countries involved in the Middle East conflicts today for example).
·         Sanitary problems (such as India).
·         Pollution (such as Beijing).
·         Safety (many South American countries).
·         Some countries require visas and valid passports.

When to avoid

·         Summer in West Europe (as most are taking vacation and it is flocked with tourists).
·         Golden tourist weeks and Chinese New Year in China.
·         School holidays/vacations if you have a choice.
·         Winter in many colder countries such as the Baltic.
·         Hurricane season in Caribbean countries and tornado season in the tornado alley in the US.
·         Typhoon season (usually during summer) in Asia. 
·         Snow storm.
·         During conventions – check them out for the cities you want to travel to by googling “city name, month and year, convention”.

Make compromises

We cannot eliminate so many places and times to travel. Besides wars and natural disasters, we can reduce most problems by the following:
·         Talk to your doctor to have all the shots that help you in case of eating contaminated food.
·         Avoid street foods especially in emerging countries. Eat more fruits and food with disposal skins such as bananas. One old lady in Thailand selling street food uses the same bucket of water for the entire day.
·         Eat hot food (or cold food) supposed to be hot (or cold).
·         Do not drink tap water unless you know they are safe. For some cities, avoid water even for brushing teeth.
·         Check whether your planned trip is in season for any possible storm.
·         Avoid snowy regions unless there are good reasons such as skiing. Same for connecting flights.
·         Picking pockets is quite popular in Europe including St. Petersburg. When you carry a bag carelessly and/or a camera, you’re the target. Sometimes they work as a group. Do not talk to strangers especially beautiful girls. Gypsies are very skillful in picking pockets.
·         My friend told me some money was stolen from the hotel safe in South America.
·         Ransom for kidnapping is quite popular in South America.
·         They have devices to read your credit cards.
·         Many live on $2 per day in India. Stealing or cheating you $10 could be the entire expenditure for the whole week.
·         Be especially careful in non-tourist areas especially in high crime areas.
·         Do not be too friendly unless you trust your strangers.
·         More relaxed and less expensive during off seasons.
·         The legal-brand products are protected and enforced in Europe. Leave the imitators home and do not buy them in the street.
·         We used the tours in China. They are low priced due to promotions. They make the money from the commissions they make by taking you to shops and factories. Avoid buying these over-priced merchandises as much as possible.
·         Check the merchandise you are buying. They could replace them with defective items or expired medicines. 
·         Enjoy the over-priced shows they take you as they cannot make money on the tours alone.
·         In China, typically breakfasts are great especially in big cities. The more remote the place is, the worse is the food. However, the scenery is far better in remote locations. If I want to see concrete forest, I would visit New York City.
·         If you plan the tour yourself, try to have a local tour for some attractions that individuals cannot take full advantage of.
·         Thailand has a lot to offer. Japan is very expensive to stay. Hong Kong has lost its shopping paradise due to its high rents.
·         Vancouver and Toronto have the best Chinese food in term of quality, safety and price.
·         Do not over eat in cruises. The delicious foods are usually not healthy. Have a full breakfast if you have an excursion later. Cut down in greasy food. For example, have one scramble egg instead of two and one beacon strip instead of multiple stripes. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.
·         I missed many delicious (but not too healthy) meals many times. Try local offers.  Make reservations early on specialized restaurants on days at sea. Even at extra cost, most are usually great deals.
·         Tipping in the cruises is pretty compulsory. In Europe, tips may be included in the bill. Beer and wine could be cheaper than mineral water.

Save money

·         Again, travel in off season would save you a lot of money.
·         In Rome, order the entrance tickets to Vatican Museum on-line to avoid the long line especially during tourist season.
·         If you have not, try to avoid the crowd by going in the afternoon.
·         Most attractions in Rome are within walking distance. Get a good map and plan your walking trip. Take the bus if you’re tired especially in the hot summer days. Two days and three nights is fine for most. One extra day would be more relaxing. Try TripAdvisor.com.
·         Avoid eating right in the attraction or places you see a lot of your fellow tourists. Just around the corner or you could find a lot of local folks and they could be the best eating places.
·         If you really want good food at good prices, use the internet for research.
·         Most hotels in Rome have breakfasts included. If not, include the breakfast cost for comparison.
·         Try to find a hotel close to the train station or subway station.
·         Hotels usually provide free maps. Ask them for assistance in planning your trip.
·         The train service in Rome is excellent. It is very simple to use the machine to buy tickets. Some ladies assisted us. Avoid them as they’re trying to get as much tips from you as possible. There is no free lunch.
·         Use the internet to find the cost and the train schedule.  Most trains to the same location have both an express train and a slower train. Depending on when will the express train arrive, a slower train could be faster.
·         We use the train to go to the seaport where we board our cruise ship. It is about an hour ride if my memory serves me right.
·         We took a cab from our hotel to the train station. We could walk over there easily even with luggages.
·         From the internet, we booked a shuttle from the airport to our hotel. It is cheap and there are many other options. They stopped every hotel during our ride. We’re not in a hurry so the free city tour was worth it.
·         The online travel agency gave us a big discount for ordering excursions. We took the package of three ports. It turned out they were very decent and good value.
·         We also had onboard credit. You cannot use the credit to book excursions before the cruise (that is why it is called ‘onboard’).
·         Using the onboard credit, we booked another excursion. The excursions seem to be more expensive if booked on board and some popular excursions were sold out.
·         The difference between Caribbean cruises and European cruises is you need to take the excursions in Europe as they have so much to see. Do not save the money by touring yourself.
·         The cruise lines make their money in excursions and drinks.
·         There is always a main show in every cruise. Some folks may see it two times. Try to arrive early for this show.
·         You should plan at least one day (3 days for us in Rome) before the cruise.
·         Rome, Barcelona and Copenhagen that I have visited have a lot to offer. Actually I have been to Rome three times. The ruins are still ruins, but I found something new every time. A special pass for transportation and museums was offered in Copenhagen and it was worth every penny.
·         We paid Euro in Europe and exchanged some local currency in Copenhagen. I prefer to use credit card as seldom as possible. Remember the password for your credit card. The best rate is exchanging local currency in a local bank if you have time.
·         We stopped in Munich for a few hours. We took the escort service for sightseeing. You just tip them (not compulsory) at the end of the service. Use the internet to book this service that is available in many cities. Our ladies were knowledgeable and friendly.
·         On our way back, we stayed in Dublin for three days. It has a lot to offer too. If we have time, we should visit outside Dublin. Book the air to include stop over. Later add-on would cost you a fortune.
·         Some may want to understand the places before they go. Internet is your best friend. I try to avoid doing the same for the cruise as it would take out some surprises. The social director uses the same jokes for all cruises. Just me.
·         Pack as lightly as possible. Do not really require a suite for the formal nights in cruises. Just a tie, long pants and a jacket will do for men.



-------------------

For more of my reasoning, check out the book described next. It has 800 pages (6*9) for $9.99. It could be the best $10 you ever spend.

The above is an abstract from my book "Complete the Art of Investing" which is available from Amazon.



I challenged to have the best-performed article in Seeking Alpha history, an investing site, for recommending 5 or more stocks in one year after the publish date. The concepts for that article are discussed in this book.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Introducing Technical Analysis



The basics

Technical analysis (a.k.a. charting) is easier to learn than expected. It represents the trend of the market (a stock or a group of stocks) graphically. If more investors are in the market, a stock or a group of stocks, its trend is up until it changes. We divide the trends into short-term, intermediate-term and long-term.

The chartists usually do not consider fundamentals as they believe they have already been priced in the stock price and some fundamentals are not available to the public. To illustrate, a new drug has been discovered, the stock price of the company jumps initially by insiders and the informed. Its fundamental metrics do not show right away but many are buying to boost up the stock price.

The volume is a confirmation. When the stock moves up or down by 10% with a low volume, the trend is not confirmed.

The trend of the stock price is not straight line in most cases. Hence a trend line is usually drawn to indicate the direction of the stock. Many believe the stocks fluctuate in certain range (i.e. channels) and the chart draws the upper value (the resistance line) and the lower value (the support line).

When the price passes the channel, it is called a breakout. Darvas, one of the oldest and successful chartists, profited from the breakouts of the resistance line and believed the stock is close to the support line of the new channel. Hence it has a long way up.

If it is so simple, there will be no poor folks

It works most of the time, but do not bet all your money on it. For chartists, 51% is great (same for playing Black Jack). Some trends reverse very fast such as the bio drug stocks in 2015. You need to hedge your bets such as placing stop orders. Most do not want to spend their lives in watching the trend from a big screen. Most novices use too many technical indicators and lose to the professionals.

Simple Moving Average

The basic technical indicator is SMA-N. It is the average of the last N trade sessions. When N is 20 (or SMA-20), we classify it as short-term. Similarly, SMA-50 is intermediate-term and SMA-200 is long-term. I prefer 50, 100 and 250. This trend duration is important. For example, you do not want to place long-term bets using SMA-50 uptrend. There are many modifications to SMA that I do not find them better such as giving more weights to recent data. Finviz.com includes this information without charting.

Defining the trend periods is arbitrary. I use SMA-350 to detect market plunges and SMA-100 for stocks. 

Trend is your best friend

Most use TA for trending for short durations. Investors can also use TA to time the entry and exit points for better potential profits. Value investors usually are patient and they do bottom fishing and they search for ‘oversold’ condition using RSI(14).  Again high volume is a confirmation.

Many sites provide charting free of charge such as Yahoo!Finance. Finviz.com provides a lot of technical indicators without charting such as SMA% and RSI(14). It also provides screen searching for stocks that meet your technical analysis criteria.

TA patterns

There are many TA patterns such as Bollinger Bands and MACD. The patterns are based on the stock prices and many times they prove correct predictions especially on stocks with high volumes and high market caps.

Sites for TA

There are many free sites for charts with explanation of the technical indicators. Popular ones include BigCharts.com, SmallCharts.com and Yahoo!Finance. Fidelity includes some unique features such as P/E. 



-------------------

For more of my reasoning, check out the book described next. It has 800 pages (6*9) for $9.99. It could be the best $10 you ever spend.

The above is an abstract from my book "Complete the Art of Investing" which is available from Amazon.



I challenged to have the best-performed article in Seeking Alpha history, an investing site, for recommending 5 or more stocks in one year after the publish date. The concepts for that article are discussed in this book.