Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Notes on Stock Picking

Jenni's strategy on picking great stocks:

 
 

beta greater than 1 is risky (good for under 45 years old)

 
 

Look for growth stocks (if you're under 45)

 
 

eps=1.50 or higher

 
 

Small cap - 5% of portfolio or so. Look for $7/share or greater, 25% growth in sales and earnings, net profit margin >7%

 
 

Net income/shares=earnings per share (EPS)

 
 

Share price/Eps= Price equity ratio

low Pe= good by (or could mean bad news is looming ahead)

Stock screen: p/e less than 30

 
 

 
 

PE/EPS expected growth % 1 yr= PEG <1=good buy 1=1 fair >1=overpriced

-use to evaluate growth stocks

 
 

PE/EPS expected growth 5 year=YPEG <1=good buy 1=1 fair >1=overpriced

-use to evaluate regular stocks

 
 

REVENUE value:

Price Sales Ratio = PSR

(Shares outstanding * share price + debt)/revenues over past 4 quarters= PSR

-the lower the psr the better

 
 

Shareholder equity/# shares outstanding = book value

-the closer you can buy to or lower than book value, the better

 
 

Shareholders equity/net profit= ROE (return on equity)

-the higher the ROE the better

 
 

Debt/equity= Debt to equity ratio

-the lower the better

 
 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On Selflessness

Everything is about me - about what I want or, when I'm "trying" to be selfless it's to please God or others so he (or they) will love me. Not often out of a sense of gratitude and love for God am I joyfully spurred to love those he loves but instead a deep insecurity that God does not love me because I'm not good enough and a never ending drive to gain his love and approval.

 
 

Have I ever *really* loved anyone selflessly, unconcerned with earning approval (by God or man) or filling the emptiness in my heart? Rarely. Only at chance moments with my husband, with my friends, with our dogs, and even with celebrity strangers that I pray for. Usually it comes about paired with pity or empathy when I sense one is victimized or hurting in some way and my heart yearns to comfort them and there seems to be no trace of selfishness in those moments.

 
 

How do I move past this now that I am aware? (And I am only aware of it this week due to a thoughtful question posed by our Monday night group leader on the topic of what drives us and gives us our sense of value.) I see only three options:

 
 

  1. I have to just stop caring about being loved. I don't know how to do this; how to give up wanting to be loved.
  2. God has to fill me up somehow so I'm no longer so desperate for love that I make it the focus of every interaction. He has yet to do this.
  3. I have to achieve a monumental level of self-denial and discipline whereby I do not hopelessly give up on being loved but I no longer allow it to be the focus of my interactions. Live with the emptiness instead of pretending I no longer care about being loved, yet still give my all to others for their sake. This is a level of suffering I'm not sure I can manage.

     
     

    I really need to work on cultivating a love for others that transcends self and focuses on their best interests. At this point my problem seems purely practical in that I'm not sure at all how to go about doing this given the infeasibility of the three options noted above.

     
     

 
 


 

Friday, July 10, 2009

Myrtle Beach 2009

First weekend in June I took the Travel group to Myrtle Beach for a relaxing weekend. It was an empty itinerary to be populated as everyone saw fit- swimming, relaxing in the pool, etc. It went as planned except that we could never find the restaurants we wanted to (stupid GPS), a blind man literally smash-walked into our rental car on my side (he missed the crosswalk by about 5 feet), and my fellow attendee got the shock of learning her boss passed away suddenly while we were in MB as folks from the office called her to ask where he could be. We also learned that North Myrtle Beach is the shagging capital of the world (apparently it's a dance of some kind?!).

 
 

Definitely a weekend I will not forget.

 
 

Pics or it didn't happen:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=123957&id=603259739&l=0ab5a5d3cb

 
 

Rome, Italy 2009

As I mentioned previously, the weekend of May 15th, I took a mileage run to Rome and brought a friend along from the travel meetup (http://www.meetup.com/nova-travelers).

 
 

It was simply phenomenal. Not only a cultural journey but a spiritual one as well.

 
 

All the pics are here in these two albums and I suggest you open them up in a separate window to peruse while reading along:

 
 

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=123915&id=603259739&l=48578dc285

 
 

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=123942&id=603259739&l=8a0ce6e112

 
 

All the videos are here (look for the 4 labeled Rome):

http://www.youtube.com/jenniparks

 
 

 
 

We set off for Rome on Friday evening, arriving in the city Sat morning. This gave us 2 full days (Sat and Sun) in the streets of Rome before heading back to the States Monday afternoon. I know many of you think it's crazy to spend just a weekend overseas but my philosophy is solid. I can go to bed Fri night in my own bed like the rest of you go to sleep in your beds and wake up in Manassas, VA (*yawn*) or I can go to bed on the plane Fri night and wake up in Rome for the weekend. Seems like an easy decision when framed in that context doesn't it?

 
 

My usual strategy is to hop off the plane, refreshed from sleeping on the plane and begin my day with a burst of activity and that's exactly what we did. The flight over was rather uneventful. We flew Alitalia, a Delta skyteam partner and despite the rumors that it's a snap to get an upgrade to first class on a domestic ticket I found it impossible. The food was really good even in coach, so I wasn't too disappointed. We did find a source of great amusement in the numerous BA flight attendants gathering for a BA flight at the next gate over in Boston while we waited for our Alitalia flight to board. Dolled up in form fitting red suits with high heels and identical hairstyles (swept up bun) and makeup the ladies looked so familiar. Where had we seen them before? Aha! Anybody remember the Robert Palmer video for Addicted to Love? Give these BA agents guitars and you've recreated the scene. It was uncanny how similar the troupe looked. Perhaps Palmer got his inspiration for his girls after a BA flight - he was british right?

 
 

After arriving at FCO, we waited patiently for our speedy train to take us from the airport to downtown Rome and then enjoyed the ride into the city. The countryside between FCO and Rome reminds me a lot of California but speckled with the bright building colors of South Beach Miami.

 
 

The Termini station in Rome was a flurry of activity. Sexy Italians speaking Italian at every junction. I stepped off the train and immediately fell into the familiar vibe - amazingly Roman culture (at least as I perceived it) was similar to that of Manhattan. Bustling, laughing, stylish and trendy. With delicious Italian markets and food all over the place. They even have NY Style pizza (errrr I suppose NY has Roman style pizza).

 
 

It was just a short four block walk from the termini station to the Hotel Romae (http://hotelromae.com/en/) where we stayed. It was a great find and my hours spent pouring over hotel reviews when planning the trip proved fruitful. The hotel was lovely - a condo building that had been converted into 3 separate hotels with lobby offices on different floors. The staff was friendly, wifi was free and the antique elevator was an adventure with its narrow shaft and cast iron framework. The little basket of toiletries in the bathroom was adorable- they even gave us tiny facial sponges. (Actually, it turns out later when my roomate read the package carefully that those cutesy exfoliating facial sponges I used to wash my face were shoe shine scrubbies. Uh….)

 
 

After we put away our things, took in the view from our room, admired the complimentary fruit basket and stretched out for a few moments to rest it was time to venture out into the city. For the first day I planned an ambitious afternoon tour of Vatican City (important to go on Sat since it's closed Sunday) and then dinner and strolling in the heart of Rome across town. Hotel Romae is conveniently located on Via Palestro near the Cipro metro so it was easy to catch the subway to the neighborhood just outside of Vatican City. From there we grabbed a quick bite to eat (fresh pizza - delicious!) and walked to the Vatican and began our tour. We started with the Vatican museum. The place is phenomenal. So many pieces of prized art conveniently housed in one location. Greek and Roman sculpture, Egyptian art, gardens and more. (I hope you are looking at the pics just now in the other window. Are you?) I loved it all, but my favorite spots were the Egyptian mummies (very cool and reminded me of the bog bodies we saw in Dublin), the sculptures where the genitals had been covered by plaster fig leaves under a particularly modest Pope's direction, and the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is just spectacular. I took pictures of it all to share with you. Which ones from the collection do you like the best? Be sure to take note of the really amazing 2-d painting that appears 3-d, maintaining the illusion until you get very very close to it in person.

 
 

Once we had made our way through the Vatican museum we entered St Peter's Basilica and the square. The building reverberates a sacred presence and it was a blessing to stand inside it. Pictures cannot really depict the enormity of the structure- the place is huge. I feel it's impossible to stand in a basilica such as this one and not engage in conversation with God. God who is so holy and mighty, see all who have come to worship you here. We were lucky enough to catch the tail end of mass (I recorded it and the link is below in the links to all the videos). I felt a tremendous sense of peace and belonging to stand in that place before God and I cried as I thanked God for loving me. Walking out of the basilica I read one simple plaque that brought deep sorrow and anger. Peter - this Peter whom the basilica is named in honor of and who is considered the first pope - stood up against the injustices of perverse and twisted worship. He spread the good news that God loves us and that only through grace (not works) are our sins forgiven. So what could bring such sorrow and anger here? Reading that the basilica was built using funds raised through the selling of indulgences (the forgiveness of sins via payments to the church). What a slap in the face to everything Peter lived and died for. To use those funds to build a basilica and then put his name on it as though he would be honored. It was sickening. We are so sick and sinful as a people.

 
 

We took the metro back to our hotel and rested for a bit before setting off again for dinner at Campo De' Fiori. Campo De' Fiori is one of the great squares of Rome. At its center is a statue of a heretic (Bruno) who was burned alive on the spot in 1600 (he preached that the earth revolved around the sun). The square is alive with tourists and shopkeepers in the evening. While dining at one of the hotspots on the square we saw a busy florists market, a mime, a unicycle riding juggler and a naked hottie who leaned out his window after getting out of the shower. The food was fantastic! I had a starter of Italian cheeses with fig jam (excellent combination) and then a main course of lamb while my travel roommate enjoyed the gnocchi. After dinner we walked to Piazza Navona, the site that was once a racetrack but now has been converted to a beautiful oblong square with a majestic fountain. We reveled for a bit in the scene and then hailed a taxi back to Hotel Romae where we promptly collapsed for the night.

 
 

Breakfast Sunday morning was a treat, especially as it was included in our room rate (another reason for you to book Hotel Romae). Served across the street at The Yellow Bar, we had our choice of breakfast items from a simple continental affair to a filling traditional breakfast with eggs and more.

 
 

After breakfast I planned to lead us on a full day of history touring in downtown Rome but the travel roommate wasn't too keen on the plan. She opted to stay in the hotel neighborhood while I went off by myself. It was a new feeling to explore a stranger city on my own. I felt really free to see whatever I wanted, stop whenever I wanted and eat and shop wherever I chose. I loved the bit of free/me time.

 
 

I set off for the Colosseum first. The famous Roman Colosseum - site of all the games. As I stood in line for tickets it occurred to me that my strategy of blending into European culture was working. I may not have looked like a Roman (too tall; too fat) but I wasn't pegged as an American with my pretty skirt and sandals. The beggars, tour hawkers and junk peddlers all made a beehive to pester the Americans in the long line. They were easily marked of course by their propensity to wear shorts and sneakers. I felt smug and superior to have outfoxed the intruders. I did have a few couples stop and ask me questions in French, so I can only assume I somehow gave off a French manner or appearance. I take that as a compliment!

 
 

Once I'd purchased tickets and entered the Colosseum my mood changed. I walked around the structure - an imposing and beautiful piece of architecture - and recalled the horrific events that took place there. The Christians fed to the lions, the other innocents brutalized, the animals killed. So much agony in one place, condoned by the patrons. As wave after wave of tourists passed me with their Colosseum t-shirts and magnets and other mementos I felt repulsed. Why is there a gift shop here? Would anyone put a gift shop at Auschwitz? Do people not really understand the gravity of what took place here? And there was a bride! A bride having a reception there in this house of death. Very sad to me. Rome was twice now the reminder of the depravity of man.

 
 

With a somber heart I left the Colosseum and proceeded across the street to the Forum. The forum was the heart of Rome…not in Italy but in Roman times. Most of the original Roman buildings were buried by weather and man over time and although the Italians knew they were there they never had the drive to uncover them. It's fascinating to me that they just left everything buried. Eventually it was all uncovered by archeologists and put on public display. The grounds and buildings are still impressive and I learned a lot on my self-guided tour, especially when I craned my neck to listen in on other tours being led. Did you know that the word 'Capitol' comes about to refer to the seat of governments simply because the Romans happened to build their seat of govt on a hill that was already named Capitol Hill? Fascinating. The Forum grounds held another sad monument to human disgrace- a majestic arch built to commemorate the last siege of Israel by the Romans. It depicts Roman soldiers carrying off Jewish menorahs and other cultural icons and was constructed under force by the Jewish slaves the Romans carried out of Judah in victory when they sacked the place. Very very sad. The Jewish slaves were also the laborers who built the Colosseum.

 
 

Once out of the forum I ascended steps toward the top of Capitol Hill to view the modern Capitol. As I climbed the stairs I saw a small sign advertising a prison and a nun standing outside. It piqued my interested so I ventured over to investigate and discovered it was none other than the famous prison where Paul and Peter were in chains. I walked down the spiral staircase to the dark and damp cellar where the marble column the disciples were chained to still stands. The tears began to flow again. This was a very emotional trip. I stood there and thought about what the disciples had endured for the sake of the Word and asked myself what I am willing to endure for God. Am I suffering enough for his sake?

 
 

Eyes still damp, I ascended into the light of the sunny Roman afternoon and continued my climb to the Capitol. I stood before it and let my eyes take in the beauty of the architecture before walking down the busy street on a search to find a good place to eat lunch. I found myself at a small café named Café Roma where the waiter told me I would find excellent French and Italian cuisine. I had the lunch special: lasagna. It was unlike any other formulation of lasagna I'd ever tasted- it was made with a béchamel sauce layered between sheets of pasta and meat sauce. So very good. A fusion of the French and Italian I guess. I'd love to have it again.

 
 

After lunch I headed for the Pantheon, stopping at several small shops along the way. I purchased some cutesy souvenirs and homemade pastas to take back to the States and chatted up the locals. Fun times! At the Pantheon I ran into yet another bride. This time I decided to take her picture. I'm going to start a new photo collection on facebook: brides around the world. Every vacation I go on I seem to run into brides. Brides and pigeons. I will take pictures of both. Yes, the album will be titled Brides and pigeons around the world.

 
 

I also passed a shop selling- get this - Duff beer. And the slogan was written exactly as it is on the Simpsons. So did the Simpsons rip off a foreign concept or did a foreign business rip off the Simpsons?

 
 

The Pantheon is just brilliant. First, all the columns were stolen from Egypt. Just like the French were fascinated with the Romans, the Romans were fascinated with Egypt and appropriated many of their belongings into Roman culture- especially their obelisks and columns. And I don't mean they stole the design, I mean they ripped the actual columns out of the ground and brought them to Rome. What was so much more fascinating about the Egyptians that out of all the lands they conquered the Romans most favored the Egyptian items? The Pantheon was a Roman temple dedicated to all of the Gods. Today, the most prominent God featured is Christ. It's a bit sickening to see tributes to Christ standing alongside idols fashioned for other faiths. Sort of reminds me of the Washington D.C. Cathedral and how they sell new age books in their bookstore and hold multi-faith sermons in their chapels. God would not be pleased; he's a jealous God.

 
 

I needed to get back to the hotel quickly after the Pantheon tour so I hopped on the city bus. Was that ever a mistake. My illusions of the appeal of strapping Italian men vanished as I stood among them. They may look pretty but they stink. I'm not sure whether they just bathe less often than Americans or whether they bathe as frequently as we do but don't wear deodorant. In any case…yuck. And on the bus of course all the men are courteously standing and holding the hand straps with their arms held high.

 
 

Once back at the hotel we opted to stroll down the block for dinner at Mama Angela's. The food was superb as we'd come to expect in Italy. The waitstaff was friendly. One of the waiters, while not particularly handsome, had the thin serious pose and body type of an Armani model. As the staff tried to lure us in with promises of great cuisine and delicious desserts I asked if we could have a picture with the Armani model for our dessert. But of course he said. We all laughed at my little joke. As we progressed through the dinner courses (see the pictures, they were so good!) we eventually came to the end of our meal and our waiter asked us if we were ready for dessert as it was included in our meal. I was about to say we wanted to take dessert back to our room for later, but I stopped and decided to see what dessert entailed first. Imagine my embarrassment when the waiter announced he would go get dessert and headed toward the front door, coming back with the Armani model look alike. Head bowed down in my hands I wanted to sink into the floor as the other patrons looked on. By God I was so grateful just then that I had *not* asked to take dessert home. He sauntered over to us, smiling ear to ear and posed with us for pictures. We paid the check and left.

 
 

Our last adventure for the evening was a long walk from the Piazza del Popolo to the Spanish steps and finally ending at Trevi fountain. I am pretty good at getting most of the major sights crammed into my itinerary in just a few days. We passed a lot of lovely shops along the way that I took pictures of (see album) and also fell into a lovel chapel that beckoned to us with delicate music emanating from its doors.

 
 

Monday morning we had another splendid breakfast at the Yellow Bar before dashing off to the train station, catching the train to FCO and boarding our plane for the states. We did not get in until very very late because our connection in NYC was delayed for several hours. Many passengers were tired and frustrated waiting for the plane to DC from NYC but I tried to keep focused on the great adventured that had just played out and was able to wait with a smile on my face.

 
 

Overall I give Rome 5 stars (I'm sure the Romans were waiting for that holding their breath in anticipation). There is fresh flowing water all over the city through public fountains (not at all like our drinking fountains, but actual fountains). I learned a little Italian (Did you know that Prego means "You're welcome" ? All this time my pasta sauce has been welcoming me everytime I open the pantry and I never knew it. Although there were often people around who spoke English, when they didn't I found they often spoke French so my lack of fluency in Italian did not crush me. I look forward to going back to Rome again and there are many other places in Italy I can't wait to visit.

 
 

It was also very neat to see the movie Angels and Demons just a few weeks later and being able to remember the feel of standing in most of the places the scenes were shot.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seattle Pics

This just in: I found and uploaded the Seattle Trip pictures today.

 
 

They are here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=123750&id=603259739&l=73aaa65c9e

 
 

 
 

May Roundup

I blink and it's July. Not exactly sure how that happened. I believe we left off in our tale of The Amazing Adventures of Jenni at April and the Hawaii trip. Seems so long ago now.

 
 

While I was in Hawaii my man of steel (Jonathan) and my sweet sister Suzie worked diligently alongside our friends Dani and Clayton to renovate our backyard, staining the deck and fence. This was all under the guise of making our outdoor area shine for the Today show taping. Ahh yes, did you know I was supposed to be on the today show? They were going to do a segment on the rise in popularity of supper clubs in the down economy and just when we had everything tentatively scheduled swine flu took over the headlines and out the window went the proposed fluff piece. I didn't even get my 15 minutes of fame. :( At least I got a nicely stained deck and fence though right?

 
 

The first weekend in May I actually stayed home (shocking!) and got my left arm looked at by a local doctor that Saturday. (Sunday I took my travel group on a tour of Annapolis, MD topped off with a sailing trip and a gourmet lunch I catered. We all had a great time and Dani and my sister Suzie stood in as assistant organizers and did a great job!) I had meant to schedule the appointment with the bone specialists but when I asked friends what kind of doctor that was they replied "osteopath". So I booked an appt with a local osteopath. Imagine my surprise when I got there and found out that a DO is really just one step above chiropractor and most of them end up operating as family med doctors since getting a DO is easier than getting an MD. Not really a bone specialist by any means. All she did was refer me to get x-rays and then when the results came back referred me to a *real* bone doctor (an orthopedic) to interpret and work with the results. This is all the result of an injury to my left arm sustained on a tubing trip last year on vacation. I was tubing with Jon down a river, our tubes tied together, when we began to approach a 1 ft drop. I panicked and asked Jon to help us swim toward the calmer side of the river sans drop. He told me to relax and let go and have fun. In my sheer terror I grabbed a rock as we passed it and attempted to hold on with all my strength. That didn't last long, soon my left arm gave out in weakness and over the drop we went. We lived, as Jon theorized we would. But my arm was left with serious pain for the whole week and when we returned home I went to my doctor and asked for help. She gave me something to lift and upon observing me lift without any deep agony declared it was probably just a muscle pull and it should get better on its own in a few weeks. It never did. So a year later, I finally decided to get help. Long story short (too late) my arm actually broke in the accident- the tip broke off- and when it healed the torn muscles grew back around it and like a splinter it irritates the muscles as they move. So I'm on a month of physical therapy 2x a week and if that doesn't work to end the pain I might need surgery.

 
 

The second weekend in May the man and I took a mileage run to Santa Ana and turned it into our own 13th wedding anniversary getaway. We stayed at a Marriott just down the road from Disneyland and spent the day there enjoying the rides and shows. The Aladdin performance there is really really good- broadway caliber and if you get the chance to pop in and see it, it's well worth it. We enjoyed the alone-together time and laughed a lot, especially over a chinese menu handed to us by a delivery guy on the street. It offered such 'Engrish' delicacies as "bbq friend rice", "chicken fingas", and a side of Italian spaghetti with every entrée (what?!) . We kept the menu for posterity and future giggles.

 
 

The third weekend in May I took my travel group (http://www.meetup.com/nova-travelers) to Rome. I've got so much to tell you about that trip that I'll cover it in a separate entry.

 
 

The fourth weekend in May (memorial day weekend) the hubby and I jetted off to Seattle on another mileage run. It was my first as a Gold elite (middle tier of the 3 tier elite status rank on Delta) and I was so excited to have made that accomplishment. It's not too hard for people who travel with work to reach 50k miles flown in a year, or even in 5 months like I did, but it's quite difficult for someone financing all their own travel and doing it on weekends. There is a whole science to analyzing trip fares and performing all the segment calculations to squeeze out the max miles on a run and to keep the cost at or under 3 cents per mile. Anyways, we had a great time in Seattle. I love connecting with my sister in law Liz (hubby's brother's wife) because she's so sweet and really brims with the love and joy of God. She's like a little sun in our universe of people, brightening everything. It my second trip to Seattle in my life, and since on the previous trip I didn't do much sightseeing we really put some effort into visiting some cool places this time around. We went on the Seattle Underground tour and that was very very impressive. Seems downtown Seattle used to be about 1 story lower than it is today but after a big fire they took the opportunity after razing the buildings to build the city up an entire story, leaving the original storefronts underground after the streets were raised. You can tour the labyrinth of underground buildings and old sidewalks. The group that leads the tour is quite knowledgeable and a lot of fun. This is definitely a must-see tour for your next visit. Besides the underground tour, we also took a cruise through the locks- indescribably awesome- and filled ourselves to the brim with good food from Ivers. Jon got in a lot of wrestling and playtime with the nephews while we were there- I think they really were excited to have him there. Its harder for me because boys in general (not just theirs) seem so alien to me [always want to smash things and be aggressive and so much energy] since I'm a frilly girly girl but I still loved spending time with them. I just have no frame of reference for what is normal boy aggression. It's good I never had boys, I'd be trying to turn them all into sensitive-musician-wouldn't-hurt-a-butterfly-metrosexuals or something. Even though I like Alpha males, they scare me a bit.

 
 

The last weekend in May we stayed at home and it was nice to catch up with Suzie. She'd been living with us since April yet I'd spent most weekends away from her. I love her so much, and it was such a blessing that she came to live with us for awhile. She really helps me to see me through her eyes, which makes me feel better about the person God made me and is calling me to be. She has so much going for her - she's bright and funny and very extroverted. And she is so loving and giving. She took the pressure off me with mom and dad a lot as she stepped in and took over some of the caretaking while she was here. I often pray that she finds the path God is whispering her toward, whatever that may be. I want the best for her.

 
 

While Suzie was here she documented her stay with photography and videos. I hope you will check them out.

 
 

The photos are here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=123737&id=603259739&l=a35c195547

 
 

The videos are here:

Sailing - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VB6Mcbvwtww

The Parks Family (Jon Jenni and the Girls) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQ84C2YApog

Danielle Rides Gabe to Victory - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0QoKtL3iCQ

 
 

 
 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Is This Thing On?

Is anyone out there reading this? (Blogger insecurity and insignificance complex setting in)...