Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Thunderstruck and Letters from Iwo Jima

Read the book, it was good. It's from the guy that wrote Devil in the White City, which was incredible. I would read that one first and only read this one if you become a huge fan of the way it's written and the dual storyline deal.

As for the movie, damn. It felt like I was watching a Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List. Very good.

No time for more chatter, but watch the movie, it was awesome.

Crazy Guatemala story

Here is a really fucked up story that happened in Guatemala recently.

The gist: A few days ago a group of three Salvadorean politicians get chased by a car that eventually crashes them and some guys shoot all the people in the car, bodyguards and everything. Both countries are in shock, I mean, what the hell?

A few days later four (or was it three?) people are arrested for the crime. Who are they? Anti-organized crime cops, and one of them was the chief. Crazy.

Then, as they're sitting in jail, a group of men in ski masks breaks into the jail, assassinates the cops, and leave. Jail officials blame the killings on random riots from prisoners, so the prisoners take hostages and demand to have a TV crew come in so they can say that they had nothing to do with it, that this was done by someone.

Organized crime is going apeshit down there and it's pretty scary.

This is the type of story you tell people to impress them what a dangerous country you come from, but it's also the story you have to convince people isn't a commonplace occurrence.

Scary shit, though.

Mock Portfolio

I started a mock portfolio a few months ago and I'm doing pretty well. I have some huge regrets that I didn't put real money into a few investments (LifeTime Fitness, CTSH, and Coach, which I did invest in but sold out of). If I would've, I would be up around 25% in a few months, which is pretty damn good.

But it's easy to focus on all the good picks. But all of my picks are either up big, up a little, or just about even. No big losers, which is a very encouraging sign. It gives you a great deal of confidence that your method of picking stocks can work in the future for some real gains.

Maybe if I can find a good website where I can just punch in when I got into which investments I'll post all the gains. But I don't have time to look right now.

Feel free to email.

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I read this article yesterday and it was pretty interesting. For most people I guess it could be seen as a way to borrow some money. Prosper.com bills itself as the Ebay of loans, meaning that it puts borrowers and lenders together depending on who offers the best deal.

Let's say I want to lend someone 1000 dollars and want an 8% interest rate on that loan. I go out there and look for someone with decent credit that has a history of making payments. There's a certain level of risk involved, as with any investment, but if you diversify and have a lot of money to lend, you can get a pretty good return on your investment.

Now, I know that most people will probably look at this as a way to borrow money, not lend. But the first thing I thought of was that this is a great way for people like me to make money. People who have mastered the basics of personal finance, are saving money, and aren't irresponsible spenders.

This is how people like me can make money the way credit cards make money. And borrowers who want money don't have to pay ridiculous 25% rates to get some extra money. They even have to list what they want the money for, which, you know, take that with a grain of salt.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Taxi Rides

Taxi rides are really interesting. Every time you get into one, you're bound to run into a very interesting character (or just weird). Last night we got into a cab with a guy who had another one of those earpieces in his ear. As usual, they are all ALWAYS on the phone. I'd like to know what cellphone plan these guys have and what the hell they talk about all day. I admit, being in a cab all day sucks, but what the hell do you talk about for that long? I have no idea.

Anyway, this guy was from Nigeria and he asked me where I was from.

"Guama who? What is that?"

"South of Mexico" I wasn't feeling chatty at all.

"Oh Mexico? You from Mexico?"

Then a car almost crashed into us and he starts laughing and saying how that person probably comes from New York or something.

This was clearly a schtick of his, something he does for all his rides whenever he almost crashes. But then he kept going, "or Michigan or California or something, you know. Is crazy!" Little did he know the backseat had a family of four - all from Michigan. Then he kept ranting about people that don't know how to drive, and I had no idea what he was saying. I just kept nodding and saying "Yeah? Yeah."

Cab rides. I should write about every single cab ride I take, it would make a good little compilation volume.

The Glass Castle

I was having some bad luck with my reading choices (Blood Meridian) and so Mindy decided I should read a book she had recently finished. She kind of forced it on me so I decided not to rock the boat and go ahead and read it. After about 30 pages I was hooked.

It's kind of like Running with Scissors because it's about someone who had a fucked up childhood. But this girl had to be more responsible and had to grow up a lot quicker than most kids. The interesting thing about it is the way it's written. The author is currently a writer for MSN. She's a gossip columnist, so you aren't getting incredible literature here, it's all about the story. But that doesn't mean that the simplistic, almost detached prose should be dismissed. It becomes part of the story.

I read an interview with Jeannette Walls (the author) and it turns out her first draft felt like it was written by someone else - someone who hadn't actually lived through the experiences. So she rewrote it. But it still has that feel. It still feels like a hyper intelligent 15-year-old wrote it, which just adds to the feeling of how much this kind of childhood can fuck you up. Not that she's still fucked up, but stuff like this will color you for the rest of your life.

Current Read: Thunderstruck, by Erik Larson: By the guy who wrote Devil in the White City, which was awesome. So far, this one is building up for just as good a climax, except of course it isn't in Chicago. But still, this guy is good.

Dreamgirls vs Music and Lyrics

As strange as it may sound, I watched both of these movies recently and it's pretty clear which one was my favorite. As much as I enjoyed Eddie Murphy's performance, Hugh Grant is just too likable and has some great lines (with his patented delivery). The movie kept me entertained all the way whereas some parts of Dreamgirls seemed to drag on a little.

So the winner is Music and Lyrics.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Chicago Portfolio School

There is a debate everyone has to plow through when considering working in advertising: go to portfolio school or not? Basically, all it is is a school dedicated to building a killer portfolio, which will eventually lead to a job in advertising.

I was thinking about going to the Chicago Portfolio School last year but couldn't get enough of a consensus about what it was like. The big ones - the Miami Ad school, the Atlanta Portfolio School, and so on - are well known, but I couldn't find a lot on the Chicago school.

Well, last week I met someone who is in the program. He's in it for what I want: copywriting. I asked so many questions I think I scared the guy. But it was helpful because it reassured me in my decision, which is to just do it on my own and keep my job (with school, you basically have to quit, or at least work part time).

He said that, if you aren't motivated, then it's a good option. Well, I don't consider myself an unmotivated person, so I'll just stick to my own system.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Guitar Hero II

I had heard about this game for a while now. It being labeled a "rhythm" game kind of turned me off. But last night after the Super Bowl (which, along with the weather, we shall not discuss, ever) we played it and it was really fun. I can see the difficulty levels slowly building up and taking you to a crazy level of "guitar" playing, which is one of the really positive aspects of video games (that slow, steady, frustrating progression of overcoming something that, at first glance, seems impossible).

In case you're not familiar, you hold a guitar in your hand and you have to strum certain chords in step with what's happening on screen, as the music plays depending on the right notes being strummed. Click here for more info.

In all, it's a really fun game great for large groups of drunk people.

Word Play

Saw this movie yesterday about crossword puzzles. It was really interesting to see people that are so obsessed about something I've kind of just seen on the periphery. But as with anything that's well done, it sucks you in and gets you interested in the subject matter.

The extent of my crossword puzzle experience is the People magazine one, with Mindy. That's easier than the NYT's one, but seeing these people finishing them in around two minutes makes me think I can do it too.

Can I? We'll see.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Spring Training is coming

The buzz for the start of Spring Training is starting to build up since, frankly, there's nothing else but Barry Bonds to talk about. So here's my sleeper pick to surprise everyone during the Cubs' camp:

Angel Guzman

He was a highly touted prospect a couple of years ago before he had some shoulder problems, followed by surgery. His stock has since come down, especially since the rotation is looking like it's going to go like this:


That five slot is wide open, but it's hard to envision Mark Prior, if he's healthy, not getting it. But I like the work that Guzman did towards the end of last season in the minors - his control was back, something he's always had before the injuries.

Also, if you look at how he fared in the fall, you can see that his control was spectacular and that his strikeouts are up near his innings pitched.

Look for him to break out big time and maybe steal that five slot, he may even have Rich Hill, whom I think is great, looking over his back.