The Best “Deli” Is Not In New York, It’s In Los Angeles

Growing up in a WASPy family, I was late to the world of deli food.

Then one day, in my early twenties, I found myself in Los Angeles during lunch time. LA was not (and still isn’t) my “hood”, so I had no idea where to eat besides the usual fast food joints.

Fortunately, I happened to be on La Cienega Blvd, home to a number of fine delis.  I wandered into one, ordered a roast beef sandwich, and that was all she wrote. I’ve been a deli fan ever since.

Over the years I’ve sought out great deli food, both at home and abroad. One of my favorite things about going to Las Vegas was treating my Saturday morning hangover to the soothing relief of sour pickles, matzoh ball soup, and kreplach at The Stage Deli in Caesar’s. Alas, it is now gone.

That said, I am not an expert in deli, however, Bill Handel, the well-known LA morning talk show host at KFI 640 is.  He states unequivocably that Los Angeles has the best deli food in the world, adding that the key to knowing if a deli will be good is that “the waiters have to be rude, the waitresses have to be over 80 years old, and have to have smoked for at least 40 years.”

According to Handel, the best deli in America is Brent’s in LA.  On this point, he has some serious allies.  Zagat’s has rated Brent’s as the #1 Los Angeles Deli for 16 years in a row.  And even The Food Network has sung its praises in “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

Handel’s other suggestions for the best deli food in LA are Nate & Al’s, Goldblatt’s, Junior’s, Langer’s, and Labels.

And what of the better-known delis such as the world-famous Jerry’s Deli?  Handel has one word for it.

“Inedible.”

Listen To Bill Handel’s Complete Los Angeles Deli Review On The Fork Report.

Making Trade Setups Come To You.

About once every five years, against my better judgment, I get roped into going to a professional baseball game with my friends.  I always rationalize how “it might be fun this time,” but sure enough, by the time we get to the fourth or fifth inning I am bored out of my mind.

I mean I can only put up with so much….

…..ball…..strike….step out of batter’s box…..foul ball……foul ball……throw to first to keep runner honest……foul ball……foul ball……naked guy on field…..foul ball….foul ball…….balk……

If I’m going to go to a sporting event it has to be something with some action, like hockey, or basketball, or curling.

Last season I ended up going to a Los Angeles Angels game, and just as I suspected, it was a snoozefest.

However one of the things that I have to admit was pretty cool was how the servers now come to your seat to take your order, and then deliver the food right to you.

In life we are taught from an early age that we have to go after what we want, and that anything worth having is worth is worth pursuing.  But sometimes it’s nice to just sit on your ass and have a mega-beer and a double jalapeño nachos placed gently in your lap.

When trading, it can also be to your advantage to have setups brought to you instead of having to hunt them down.  By using the “Triple F” method, you can set up your watch list’s to do just that.

The first “F” stands for “filtering”, the process by which you take your macro list of stocks and bring it down to an actionable one.  This can be done with EOD technical and fundamental scans or by just visually reviewing charts one by one in order to find candidates that are approaching entry points.

The results can then be put into three different groups; day trades, swing trades, and long-term trades (or no setup).  Transferring over your day trade and swing trade lists to your real-time charting software then sets the stage for the second “F”, which is “focus.”

Here you can configure and organize your stocks in a way that will keep non-movers out of your way, and bring potential trade setups right to you.

Swing trade candidates by definition will usually be farther away from entry points than day trade candidates, and you don’t want them to get in your way until they are ready to go.  Set alerts on these stocks at 50 cents below your intended buys points, and then minimize the list so it does not take up valuable screen real estate.

Now focus on your day trade list.  Set alerts there as well, which will tend to be closer to entry points than those on the swing list, but also make sure to set your list to auto sort every 5-10 seconds.  If your software has the capability, you want to sort by the “% change in average volume” column criteria.

This will then constantly push stocks to the top of your list that have the highest increase in volume relative to their average, and volume is what moves stocks.  If you don’t have that column criteria available, you can just use “Volume” instead, which although not as effective, will still push movers to the top of the list.

You can now limit yourself to monitoring the stocks on your day trade list that are constantly being brought to the top, and forget about those at the bottom.  If any stocks on your lists get near entry points, your alerts will trigger causing them to automatically be loaded into your chart windows.  Setups literally are brought to you.

This gives you the freedom to watch the indexes or market barometers, monitor news feeds, or look for intraday setups without worrying that you will miss a potential trade.  This system works best when looking for breakout trades, long or short, but can be modified to work for trades off of pullbacks to support or resistance.

And the third “F”….well there isn’t really one, but the “Triple F” system just sounded better than the “Double F” system.

How To Determine Overall Market Health: Talk To Your Dentist

The market has been on a nice run lately and many people think that the worst of our economic problems are behind us.  In fact recently somebody told me that they were beginning to buy stocks “like crazy.”

The problem is, the person who told me that was my dentist.

There is an old saying that goes something along the lines of “when your dentist tells you to buy stocks, it’s time to sell,” (a variation on the “Time magazine cover” theory).

The concept behind this saying is that there always has to be a “greater fool” to sell your stocks to at a higher price in order to make money.  This greater fool is also referred to as “dumb money.”

Your dentist’s day is presumably filled up with important dentally things like patients, cavities, and spit.  He doesn’t have time to watch the markets on tick by tick basis because his focus is on running his practice.  The theory goes, that by the time the markets have come into his purview, it’s usually via the constant attention given to them by the general mass media.

By that point everybody that is going go be in the market already is, and when the dentist buys he will have nobody else to sell his stocks to at a higher price and thus becomes a “bicuspid bagholder.”   Hahaaa…hah…hah….biscup bag…..see….cause he works on teeth…hah…hah…..get it?   Meh….!

Besides the dentist indicator, I have seen other non-traditional indicators of market health over the years.

For a long time, the amount of space my local bookstore dedicated to “Investing” titles could give me a clue.  When the market was going crazy in the dot-com bubble of the late 90’s, it seemed as if they occupied shelves that went on for miles.  But after the bubble popped they were reduced to one lonely “Charlie Brown” type shelf in the back corner of the store.

The sudden appearance of TV commercials for trading services or study courses can often be an indicator that you might want to start raising cash.  And if you hear the terms “Ka-Chin-Go” or “Gorilla Trades,” run for cover.

30 Years Of Time Magazine Covers & The Stock Market (via The Big Picture)

The American Dental Association

The Blog Post That Changed My Trading Life.

Ever since I bought my first stock at the age of eighteen, I always had a job to rely on for my steady income.  This meant that I felt no pressure to trade and could be patient in waiting for the right market environment and right setups to arise.

However that changed when I sold my business in early 2005 and decided to trade full-time. I suddenly felt a “pressure” to trade, knowing now that this was my only source of income.

I had just come off of a twenty year run in a business in which sixteen hour days and six-day weeks were the norm.  If I was not constantly driving my business on a daily basis, not only would it stagnate, but it would ultimately fail.  Because of this ingrained mentality, NOT trading on a daily basis felt counter intuitive to me.

I abandoned the previous style of trading that had worked for me so well and switched over to a “hyper trading” mode.  I felt a need to constantly find setups to trade and thus I was continually switching between methodologies in an effort to drive my profits.

As you can guess this added up to a lot of frustration, a lot stress, and a lot of losing trades.

Then one day I came across a blog post on Trader X’s site called “Chasing Success.”

I talk to numerous people through email every week who are struggling to be successful at trading. And, I find two common traits in most of them:

1.) They trade too much – most of the people struggling make multiple trades daily, some as many as 10+ round trips.
2.) They have a lack of focus.

……I call this “chasing success”. The bottom line is the person does not spend enough time on any one method to really understand and execute it properly. They bounce around, and before they know it a lot of time has passed and they are still struggling.

If you pick something and stick to it, you get good at it. Once you get good at it – once you perfect it, THEN you can add something else to your arsenal. 

Remember, this was in  pre-StockTwits days, and up until that point I had never heard somebody talk so plainly and in such a common sense way about trading.  It was as if a lightning bolt struck me and shocked my out of my sinning ways.

It took a while to completely sink in and I had a number of stumbles along the way, but it was the beginning of the transformation of my trading life.  I began to take a “trade less, make more” approach and narrowed the types of trading setups I took to just a handful.

Trader X doesn’t post much anymore and he doesn’t seem to want to engage in tweeting (can you blame him), but he was a minimalist trader before it became the trend.  And from his site I not only learned a ton about trading, but it was my first introduction to other great trading teachers like Trader Mike, Trader Jamie, and the High Chart Patterns Group.

I can only wonder what would have happened if I had never found that post.

See The Complete “Chasing Success” Post (Trader X)

Wall St. Warrior (Trader Jamie)

High Chart Patterns Group (HCPG)

How To Draw A Trendline With Stocks.

(Sorry, video no longer expands.)

The Euro, The Deutsche Mark, And The Greatest Charity Idea Ever

(Note: There are ten questions I ask in this post.  Please feel free to submit your answers to some or all of them).

I spend a lot of time thinking about outlier ideas.  When I was a kid it was things such as “would I have to board up the second story windows in our house in case of a zombie attack” or “how many blankets would be needed to keep me warm if my family ever moved into an igloo?”

So it’s no wonder that I once came up with an odd but interesting idea while looking at a bag of old foreign coins that my grandparents had given me.

I probably had that bag of coins (which consisted of the leftover change from numerous vacations to Europe and Asia) since I was seven or eight years old. For as long as I could remember I was fixated with the idea that some of that money still had value. However, since I was just a dumb kid I never pursued it any farther and put the bag away in some cabinets at my parent’s house.

A couple of years ago, as I was clearing out those cabinets in preparation for the sale of their house, I came across that mysterious bag again.

My boyhood fantasy of finding value in those coins came rushing back, but it still remained a silly idea.

None of the coins had any numismatic value. None had any silver or gold content. Most were of small denomination and from countries that had devalued their currency a number of times.  Even the coins from the continent were worthless since the introduction of the Euro in 2002……

….or were they?

Through what I can only call “nerdly-hyper-focused-minutia-web-searching” I found out something that completely stunned me.

I found out that many of the “obsolete” currencies from European countries were exchangeable for Euros at their respective central banks long after the changeover date, and that some are still exchangeable even today.

As the chart above illustrates, as of today you can still exchange banknotes (paper money) and coins for Euros in Austria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.  Banknotes only can still be exchanged in Cyprus, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, and Portugal.  Some countries have end dates for redemption (a few in 2012), but Austria, Ireland, Spain, and Germany’s are indefinite.

Germany, with the world’s fourth largest GDP is the one that got my attention.  As I probed further I found out that with a few minor exceptions, German coins and bills from as far back as 1948 were eligible for exchange. You can even exchange Deutschmarks by mail.

This left me with a number of tantalizing questions.

Question #1: How many DM’s could there really be left out there?

According to this chart from the Bundesbank, as of November 30th, 2011 there is a total of 13.31 billion D-marks still in circulation.  The exchange rate is pegged at 1.96 DM per Euro, which translates into roughly $8.9 billion dollars USD still floating around out there.

Obviously a portion of that $8.9 billion would have been destroyed or lost over the years by circumstance, so let’s estimate that figure at five percent.

That leaves $8.46 billion USD.

Question #2: How much of it is still in Europe?

My first reaction is to say that a big chunk of it is still in people’s hands in Germany and the surrounding countries since that is where the DM originates.

But by the same token it would seem that those same people would have been the most aggressive in turning their money in when the Euro exchange process began. They would have been the people with the most notice, the most convenience, and the most motivation to turn their DM’s in.

But let’s say that fifty percent of the outstanding and surviving DM’s are in Europe, that still leaves $4.23 billion USD somewhere else

Question #3: How much of that might be in the United States?

Taking Europeans out the mix, The United States is by far been the largest source of tourism to Germany.  It has the largest number of citizens with German heritage and it also has the largest foreign military presence in Germany.

That means for sixty years family members, servicemen, and tourists have been traveling to and from Germany, each time bringing back the unspent bits and pieces of that lost $4.23 billion in their wallets, purses, and luggage.

I am willing to say that twenty-five percent of that total is possibly in Asia or South America, leaving $3.23 billion USD in the States.

Question #4: So where exactly are those DM’s in the United States?

And there’s the rub right?  Whatever money is here in the US is probably spread about in small amounts, hidden in desk drawers, old coffee cans, or bags like the one my grandparents gave me.

The bag my grandparents gave me had a little over $100.00 USD worth of DM’s in it, which I have to assume is a rather large amount for an individual to have.

(Note: I sold all the DM’s on Ebay.  All of the coins were common date, with no collector or precious metal value.  With shipping costs the sale totaled about 95% of the then current exchange value.  You can find “lots” of common DM’s being sold on Ebay on a regular basis, which usually sell between 90-95% of current USD value.  Remember, the DM/Euro rate is fixed, but the Euro still fluctuates against the USD).

This begs the next question.

Question #5: How can you monetize DM’s dispersed in small amounts among millions of people?

There really is no commercial way to monetize all these DM’s from business standpoint.  It’s not even an issue of being able to reach the millions of people who might have a few DM’s here and there, because you could set up a web site to do that (which I saw attempted at one time).  It’s more an issue of motivation and scale.

Most people can’t be motivated to make even small beneficial changes in their lives let allow to dig through their clutter in order to find DM’s, put them in a package, and mail off only to get a few dollars in return.  You just couldn’t get enough volume to make it profitable.

However, I think that charitable organizations could make it work.

Imagine your local church, synagogue, school district, Kiwanis club, or any charitable organization doing a “foreign coins fund-raising drive”.  They would ask their members to gather all their old foreign coins and put them in a “drop box”.

The drive could run for a couple of weeks, a month, or even a year.  It could be regularly mentioned at the close of every service or in each newsletter.  People would be motivated to take part because they would be taking something that LITERALLY had no value to them, and converting it into monetary value for an organization they believe in.  It is akin to them taking some dirt from their backyard and having it accepted as a contribution.  They might even get a tax deduction.

Volunteers could be easily taught which bills and coins had value and they could be sorted according to type.  You probably would not just get DM’s, but Pesetas, Guilders, and other “obsolete” currency as well.  Not to mention all the Pounds, Euros, and other “active currencies” that would probably find their way into the drop boxes.

Since all the work would be done by volunteers there would be no monetary cost, just the time of those involved in the process.

In the words of Dana Carvey imitating Johnny Carson, “it’s weird, wild stuff….”, but it’s fun for me to think about.

In conclusion, let me leave you with a few more questions to ponder…….

Question #6: Once you have gathered all the currency, what would be the most cost-effective way to get it exchanged?

Question #7:  What do you think the deal is with people buying obsolete DM’s on Ebay?

Question #8: Why do you think these countries are still willing to exchange obsolete currency for Euros?  

Question #9: Am I just smoking crack and this concept is full of shit?

Question #10: Does everybody already know this and the “Emperor has no clothes?” (With me being the Emperor….get it?)