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Bet on the US, I am

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

How could you not be aware of the plummeting US economy? Everyday the headlines of stocks plummeting and new layoffs grow louder. The short-term future may be bleak and I believe that the economy is due for a correction after so many years of prosperity. Despite all the scariness, I am continuing to invest in US stocks and I am not the only one. Warren Buffet, a personal hero of mine, wrote a great opinion editorial over at the New York Times.

“I’ve been buying American stocks…Why? A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors.”

There are ridiculous values out there right now. Great companies trading at unreasonably low prices.

“Over the long term, the stock market news will be good. In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.”

While nobody can predict the short-term movements of the market, invest in the long-term. I am a long-term investor and I will be putting my bets on the United States.

If you have not read Warren Buffet’s mentor Benjamin Graham’s book The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition)
I highly recommend it. It is the most influential book of my investing life.

Here are my basic stock investing guidelines:
1. To buy a stock is to buy a piece of a company
A lot of people forget this principle. If you do not believe in or like the company do not buy the stock.

2. Buy what you know
This is the famous investing advice given by Peter Lynch.
Since I work in the gaming industry and spend all my time researching games, it is an area I understand. So I would rather buy stocks in gaming companies that I spend the majority of my time researching instead of a Bio-tech company that I know little about.
This rule also applies to products that I like and use. If a company does not produce a product or service I use, I will not invest in that company.
Check the balance sheets of the stock. I personally never invest in a company that has any debt. Also read their quarterly reports especially the risk segment. If you read this segment and still think that the stock is worth owning then you may have a winner. Learn how to read the numbers and balance sheet of a stock.

3. Do not buy stocks you are not willing to hold indefinitely
“Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.” – Warren Buffet
I’m not trying to turn a quick buck in stock investing. Again it comes back to whether you like the company enough to own and hold a piece of it indefinitely.

4. Buy slowly
Do not move in on a stock all at once. If the stock continues to go down and you like the stock, continue to buy in. If the stock goes up, I generally do not continue to buy in.

5. Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful
Above all this is what drives my investing.

Disclaimer: Stocks involve risk; I’m only telling how I personally invest. Any investment decisions you make are your own.

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Book Review of Craig Thompson’s Blankets

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

I was walking the floors of the San Diego Comic Con when I happened upon the Top Shelf Publishing’s booth. I was in a hurry to reach one of the random panel discussions on the schedule so I picked up a hefty graphic novel with the title of Blankets on it and asked the writer and artist Craig Thompson, “sell me your book in one line.”

He replied, “Neil Gaiman said it best I think, ‘moving, tender, beautifully drawn, painfully honest, and probably the most important graphic novel since Jimmy Corrigan‘.”

“Here’s your thirty dollars,” was my answer.

What I got in return for my money was a heart-breaking, moving, page-turner that had me racing to the end to discover what happens, yet at the same time not wanting for it to end.

Blankets is an intimate autobiographical story about a young troubled artist growing up in a devoutly Christian family. It follows him through the abuse he suffers at the hand of others, his feeling of powerlessness, his loss, his fears, his hope and his first love.

Because this book is based off of actual events the characters never act according to a script and that comes across on the page. The relationships are complicated and three-dimensional. This lends this book its self-effacing, real quality.

We follow Craig through his formative years as a youth in Wisconsin sharing a bed with his brother Phil. Through the hot and humid summers and freezing winters he deals with bullies, vindictive teachers and even molestation from a babysitter. The writer expresses his insecurities about his ability to make a difference in the world around him. He is unable to protect his younger brother and feels guilt over this powerlessness. Craig finds escape through art and religion. On through high school we follow the author as he meets his first girlfriend from Christian winter camp, Raina. Through her we are introduced to her own complicated family life. Raina’s parents are getting a divorce and family problems abound. They find solace in each other. Thompson does not spare us the details in his 582-page tome and as I mentioned before, the novel is not predictable and for me to reveal anymore would be criminal.

What makes Blankets remarkable is Thompson’s mastery over the comic medium. His images and words are haunting and stay in the mind long after you put down the novel. He melds innovative fonts together with art that carries both movement and emotions. I sat there reading and watching the story progress dumbfounded as the artist did things that I have never seen done before. This is an example of a master at the height of his craft. There is one particularly poignant scene that I would like to highlight that illustrates Thompson’s command. This scene occurs when the main character burns his childhood drawings to escape the memories of his youth. Needless to say that Blankets is a work that had a profound effect on me.

See my other related articles also:
Tony Huynh Recommends
Book Review of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust
Tao of Jeet Kune Do Book Review – The Art of Street Fighting

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Book Review of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

A one sitting read, in the space of a few hours, manages to capture your imagination and take it on a magical journey into a mystical land fraught with peril and full of grand adventure.

Few novels paint a setting that makes me envy the characters that dwell within it and convince me to give up the electronics driven paradise I currently live in for an imaginary land, but somehow Neil Gaiman manages to do just that in Stardust.

The story goes that across the wall from a small British Victorian village is an enchanted land. Many who pass through the wall are never heard from again. The villagers guard against others passing through the portal, the only exception is that once every nine years there is a fair that takes place where residents from both sides meet to trade. It is here that Dunstan Thorn meets a beautiful girl from beyond the wall.

Their union produces a boy and he arrives at Dunstan’s doorstep in a basket with a note proclaiming his name to be Tristan Thorn.

Almost eighteen years later, Tristan, in his efforts to win the heart of Victoria Forester, makes a vow to bring her a shooting star and he sets off to travel past the wall in the search of the prize for his love.

On his adventure, Tristan is introduced to a host of interesting characters, most benevolent and some quite the opposite. Much of the book is a moral tale, where one is rewarded for selflessly helping others and it is through this friendly assistance that he finds his star. As it turns out, the star is not a cold lifeless rock, but is instead a magical girl named Yvaine.

Although the novel is predictable, it nonetheless is relentlessly entertaining. I was surprised by the spectrum of emotions I felt during Tristan’s journey. The prose is eloquent and never ceases to amaze me how well it seizes your imagination and convinces me of the existence of this fictional world. The best way to describe this book would be a Hayao Miyazaki flick without all that crap about the evils of man corrupting nature.

By the end of the novel I had a grin from ear to ear, but a little later that is replaced by a feeling of loss as it dawned on me that the book was over.

This book would be very appropriate and relevant to young children were it not for an errantly misplaced scene with a fairly graphic depiction of sex.

The movie adaptation of Stardust (Widescreen Edition) is quite good also.

Words of warning: Do not buy the graphic novel of this book without first having read the version without the pictures. The paintings in the graphic novel, while pretty were unnecessary and actually took away from the wonderfully depicted characters and settings of Gaiman’s writing.

See my other related articles also:
Tony Huynh Recommends
Book Review of Craig Thompson’s Blankets
Tao of Jeet Kune Do Book Review – The Art of Street Fighting

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