Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Expectations: Some met, some Waiting

On Monday I wrote that this would be a week of expectations. Many things of somewhat momentous consequence in my life all seemingly coming together. It's now Wednesday, and I thought I'd give an interim report.

The stock trade I wrote about was for a down market. With the market plummeting yesterday, I made money and closed the trade not too far from optimum. This is my first trade since coming back to stock trading after a two year hiatus. Of course, my friend Gary is right when he commented that a single trade doesn't mean a whole lot, and that stock trading (as opposed to investing) is more chance than skill. Those that employ this full time would disagree. In fact, on my personal trade development sheet, I wrote where I thought the downtrend was most likely stop. It was right where it did stop yesterday. Time to reassess now, see where investor sentiment takes us (a pause on the way down or a rebound) and plan the next trade.

My flood study, of two tributaries to Blossom Way Creek in Rogers, Arkansas, goes slower than hoped. CAD help is the problem, as horses switched in midstream and I have received nothing to key-in yet. Hopefully this afternoon or the first thing tomorrow morning I can work in earnest. Completing the keying-in this week is in jeopardy. But I've used the time wisely in studying in the handbooks a new aspect of floodplain analysis that applies to this project, so that's good.

No word on those three proposals for conference papers, yet. Today was the published deadline for submitters to hear back. Down to four business hours (five; they are on mountain time).
Edited to Add: The e-mails came through a half-hour ago. All three abstracts were accepted! Two are for 1-hour workshops, and one is for a 1/2 day training class. More about these in future posts. I should say that acceptance is conditional--upon my meeting certain deadlines for increasingly more detail about the presentations, and upon the reviewers liking the extra material. "There's many a slip," as Pamala Tudsbury said. [in Herman Wouk's Winds of War]

Yesterday I spoke with the editor of, and we had a great visit. He liked my ideas for the first article in the infrastructure series, and confirmed that I can do that and pitch many other things to him. He liked the three or four ideas I gave him for articles and features. I received the contract in the mail today, complete with deadline, word count, fee, and copyright info.

Weight wise, I can't seem to lose any more. I have had three or four consecutive days of eating right and getting good exercise. Normally when I do that, especially when I start at the top of a recent range, I lose four or five pounds. Not this time. Two only. I'm not sure what's going on, unless the extra exercise I'm doing has signalled my body to shut down its metabolism a little. That doesn't make sense, but I can't think of what else it could be.

So, two of my expectations have not been experienced yet, the others have or are in progress. It's a good week so far.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Week of Expectations

Well, a number of projects from last week remain loose today, part of the mix of things that need to be done. One is the stock trade I wrote about on Friday morning. It's a trade that should make money as the market goes down. The market went up on Friday and the trade lost ground, though not terribly so. The market went down today, but the trade still lost a little ground, perhaps due to option time decay. My assessment of market direction appears to be correct, but I may have waited too long to trigger the trade and lost more of the trend than I hoped.

Engineering-wise, I have a flood study to work on this week--two flood studies actually. I have a smattering of miscellaneous stuff to do as well, but the flood study will dominate. It would be nice to have the entire 2.75 miles of waterway keyed in and initial runs made by the end of the week. I'll have to have a little CAD help to do so, but it is doable. The one thing in my favor is the cross-sections are all short. It's a narrow waterway, and only five culverts to model. We'll see how it goes, but I'm optimistic.

Also engineering related, this is the week I should hear on the proposals I turned in for presenting papers at the national erosion control conference in Orlando next February. At most only two will be accepted, so submitting three ideas was to improve my chances of having two accepted. Wednesday is the day they are supposed to notify us by.

Writing-wise, I've already begun work on the first article I will submit to Buildipedia. I won't finish it till I talk with the editor and get a better feel for the style they want. From reviewing the site I believe I will be okay with what I'm planning. These articles will take considerably longer to write than those I do for, but then they pay considerably more. This is a bit of an experiment, maybe even a gamble, but certainly a risk. I approach the week optimistic that it's going to work out.

And in personal matters, I'm in the last big push to lose a few more pounds before I meet my classmates of 40 years ago in three weeks. It seems no matter what I do I don't lose any more. On Saturday I picked blackberries (3 quarts) in the heat for a couple of hours, and ate only what I'm supposed to eat, yet this week I was barely down from last week. I must have breathed some heavy air along the way. I shall have to go on my dad's diet: only water, and that just to wash in.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A New Writing Gig

On June 16th I reported that I had applied for another on-line writing position, something to counter my Suite101 writing and perhaps earn some real money from my writing. I said that I was waiting for "the other shoe" to drop, meaning for something to go wrong in life, since something always seems to go wrong when I try to ratchet up my writing. The day the other shoe did indeed drop, which I wrote about on June 21st.

Well, I now have the chance to see if that other shoe is as big as it seemed the day it happened. Today I heard back from the site, and they have accepted me as a contributing writer. The site is It's a site dedicated to the engineering-architecture-construction industry. Heavy on building issues, it also deals with the infrastructure engineering and heavy construction that consumes eight to nine hours of my weekdays, and some on weekends. The pay is very good for web writing. In fact, the per/word rate is better than for that genealogy article I had in a national print magazine last August.

Next week I'll be discussing the contract and expectations with the editor. It seems they want me to write in three areas, two different types of articles. And some of it will be article ideas that I generate myself. That will be fine with me. Each article will be similar length as those I write for Suite (or a little longer), but it appears they will take more research. The word-smithing requirements should be about the same.

So, I'll keep everyone posted here, and let you know what happens. I'm trying not to get too excited, for this may be a more involved process than I think it is. For right now, though, it's a good way to head into the weekend.

Money, meet Mouth

Three weeks ago I wrote on this blog of how I had been doing some research into stock market trends, and that from the research I saw signs in the trading of 25 May 2010 that the market would turn around and begin an uptrend. That's exactly what happened. A couple of days later I told my wife that I had accurately made the call, and she brought me up short. "It's only a call," she said, "if you put some money into it."

Of course, she was right. I took all the stock trading training with her that we originally had, though she's had some more since then that I didn't have. But wanting to concentrate on my writing, I let stock trading go, and barely looked at it all through 2008-2009. What little time I did spend on it, I spent on overall market research. I found a pattern that looked promising to me (wrote about it later in a Suite 101 article), but really didn't want to get back into trading. Consequently, that pattern I'd watched came and went in February of this year, and I wasn't watching to see it happen and take advantage of it. It happened exactly as my research suggested it would.

In the spring, when I decided to come back to trading, I also decided I would study the major market movements for a while prior to placing trades. So I began doing that, and wrote a number of articles from that research--but placed no trades. Until yesterday.

The research I did Wednesday night convinced me that we were in a short-term market pull back, one that might give up as much as 10 percent of its value. Already it had fallen 5 percent. I had done several paper experiments with trades designed to take advantage of these short movements, including to the downside. I didn't get the trade ready on Wednesday night, but decided instead to watch the market opening on Thursday and be ready to enter a trade if 1) the downtrend continued for the first half hour of trading, and 2) it did not exhibit any reversal just after the first half hour.

That's exactly what happened. So I fired off my trade, a put option in the S&P 500 index. It filled at my limit price. I could make this trade because my work yesterday was to be all at my desk, on the computer, so watching the trade during the day was easy. Easy to sneak a peak at the market from time to time.

Well, the market went down, and the value of my trade went up. It wasn't a large trade; I'm not about to retire on the gains. But it was nice to be able to say: I studied the market; determined its probable direction; planned a trade to take advantage of that movement; placed the trade; and by the end of the day saw the value increase by 5.6 percent. That's a good result.

Of course, it kind of makes me wonder why I'm bothering with writing, which pays next to nothing even if you are successful. Both writing and stock trading have their own type of creativity. Both have subjective and objective elements. Both can be frustrating and fulfilling. But due to time constraints I can't be both.

What's an engineer to do?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Well Done, USA Soccer Team

I fell in love with soccer while living overseas, and seeing weekly matches in the English FA Cup league, and some Italian and Spanish league games. So today I simply say congratulations to the USA team, winning over Algeria and advancing to the next round of the World Cup tournament. Well done.

With two goals disallowed under questionable circumstances, the USA actually scored 6 goals and gave up 3, and should have had two wins and 7 points. A very good performance.

Good luck in the round of 16.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Other Shoe Dropped

I can't believe I haven't written anything here since Wednesday.

Well, yes I can. On Wednesday the other shoe dropped. I wrote about this in a post last Wednesday, that every time I try to ratchet up a little the amount of time/effort I put into my writing, something happens in life to negate those intentions, something to prevent me from more time writing. Having applied on Wednesday for a contributing writer position to an on-line magazine, I said I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something to rear-up in life and prevent me from doing that extra writing should I be accepted. It happened Wednesday night.

My wife was in Oklahoma City. My mother-in-law was staying with me, since she had been having low blood sugar attacks due to her difficulty regulating insulin doses and eating to be in sync. Wednesday night I rushed home from work so we could eat a rushed supper and rush to special church services in Rogers, our denomination's district assembly for North Arkansas. We arrived right as the service started, getting the last handicapped space and convenient seats on the back row.

It was hot in the church, way too hot. Lots of standing during songs and up and down during the service. Then making our way to the car, greeting people as we went. By the time we got to the car I could tell she was having a low blood sugar attach. Unfortunately I didn't think that she probably had some glucose pills in her purse. As the attack deepened on the 30 minute ride home, I considered stopping somewhere to buy her a sugar drink, but decided instead to get home as fast as I could.

By the time we got home I had to almost carry her in the house. Now sparing some of the details, I called 911, the paramedics were there 10 minutes later, her blood sugar was 35 (dangerously low), they pumped a glucose feed in her and her sugar went up to 371. Because of the wild swing, I had them take her to the hospital; it was by that time 10:30 PM. At 15 minutes after midnight they called me to say she was fine and could come home. So I went there, another half hour drive each way, picked her up, and wound up home and in bed about 1:30 AM.

I'm sure my mother-in-law will be staying with us for a while, perhaps permanently. That's fine, but I know it will be one more drag on writing time, on research time, on pleasure reading, on just about everything. Call it a reduction in already limited discretionary time.

I haven't heard from the magazine yet, but I don't know if I'll be able to write for them even if they accept me. The other shoe did indeed drop, on the same day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Waiting for the Other Shoe

That's a horrible cliche, I know: waiting for the other shoe to drop. But that's the way I feel today. My reason for saying that is that today I took a big step in terms of writing assignments. I applied to an on-line magazine for a writing position. It appears it can be part time, and either replace my writing or go along side of it.

The magazine is for the construction industry, both buildings and infrastructure, and includes engineering topics. They pay very well for on-line writing. If accepted, and if my articles pass muster, I could make some real spending money through this site. They have several types of articles to write, of varying lengths and for different payment. I don't know how long the evaluation process will require, but at midday, Wednesday June 16, 2010, I'm optimistic.

So why am I waiting for the other shoe to drop? It seems that every time I try to ratchet up my writing activities, something gets in the way. My time gets usurped for things that must be done. My CEI work suddenly increases. I'm expected to do something else. Computer crash, car crash, home repairs, etc.

It is predictable. If I try to increase the time I spend on writing, something will come into my life that prevents my doing so. I have wondered if this is God's way of presenting closed doors, an indication that writing is the wrong direction for me to go. When I put writing aside for a time to do some other needed item, nothing ever interrupts my doing that item.

So we'll see what happens. Maybe this e-zine won't accept me. Maybe I'll get into it and discover it's not as lucrative as it appears. Maybe I'll find it's not a good site to write for after all. We'll see. If the other shoe does drop, I'll fall back on one of my standard comforts: Retirement is only 7 years, 6 months, and 14 days away.

Monday, June 14, 2010

To Write or not to Write

I had a weekend that should have resulted in some major writing accomplishments. My wife is in Oklahoma City, helping the kids and grandkid out. My mother-in-law stayed at my house from Thursday through Saturday, because she had been having low blood sugar blackout. But by mid-day Saturday she was much better, and decided I should take her home. I did so, going on to the office to complete my Life Group lesson for Sunday. Saturday night I had to prepare some breakfast food to take to church Sunday, consuming an hour of time. Sunday was Life Groups and church and then home. I should have had an easy time of accomplishing much in the way of writing.

So what did I accomplish? In terms of writing, only the Life Group lesson, nicely presented on two sheets, in columns, with photographs, and lots of fill-in-the-blanks. In terms of enjoyment, much. I watched the USA-England draw in the World Cup on Saturday, punctuated by my weekly trip to Wal-Mart during the halftime and early second half, for groceries. And I read a couple of hundred pages in the book I purchased last Friday. It's a biography of John F. Kennedy that I hadn't seen before. I'm sure I'll post a review of it when I'm done.

I probably should have read more than 225 pages, but I watched four episodes of "Criminal Minds" and two of "Forensic Files". I enjoy both those shows. I read on the commercials, but I imagine if I hadn't spent those five hours with the TV (actually, six and a half hours including Germany vs. Australia), I might have come close to finishing the book.

But I really should have been writing. I could have had more than ten glorious hours of word-smithing. Sunday late-afternoon I went to The Dungeon intending to do some writing, but got in front of the monitor, fingers on keyboard, and couldn't write. It's not writer's block, for I had plenty of ideas. It was more, "Why am I bothering? Am I ever going to sell anything?" And I decided to not waste my time on that.

I don't know what I'm going to do. I imagine this funk won't last forever, and I'll be back writing again. Meanwhile I'm committed to this series of Bible study lessons, and will write that weekly. I shared a synopsis of my China Tour novel with our Life Group on Sunday, and everyone said it was a book they would buy and read. So I'll continue on. But man, it's difficult right now.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Two Down, Two to Go

Yes, yesterday the SW "I" Street CLOMR project was stuffed into a FedEx envelope and today was dropped off at the LOMC Clearinghouse in Maryland. My second flood study is done--until I get comments back from FEMA, if they don't approve the submittal. While the work was tedious and intensive, I actually enjoyed doing this project, or so it seems in hindsight. I just need to figure out how to generate some articles for from the project.

Speaking of that pursuit of mine, I published my 99th article there last night, about recent stock market trends. Despite that, my page views are considerably below where they were two months ago, and still well below my highs from October 2009, when I had just 50 or so articles posted. Today looks better as far as page views are concerned. Revenue is still in the toilet, however, with no turnaround in sight. Oh, well, I guess I can go back to thinking of Suite as just "platform building".

The rest of this week at work I'm trying to do some miscellaneous tasks that I've put off for a month or longer. One is a water system evaluation in my own town, Bella Vista. I had the first of two site visits scheduled for tomorrow morning, but will have to put that off one day due to a health situation with my mother-in-law. That will give me more time in the office tomorrow to get other miscellaneous projects out the door. It feels good to finally have some time to spend on them.

As far as getting back into the thick of writing, I don't see any light yet. My wife will be gone for ten days beginning today. Normally I get lots of writing done at those times, but if I have m-i-l duties in her place, writing time may be difficult to come by.

So next week I begin flood study number 3, the Perry Road flood study. We're designing the widening of Perry Road, and installing larger and longer culverts. This will affect the floodplain, though I'm not sure how yet. On the heals of that will be the McKisic Creek flood study in Centerton. I may actually try to work on that simultaneously with Perry Road. I'd really love to knock both of them out in a month and see my way clear to get back to training.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Not Much Time for Nothing

I had great plans to write some blog posts last week and over the weekend. Life got in the way, however. This second flood study has become an all-consuming monster as I try to make an extended deadline—extended through the goodness of the reviewer for FEMA’s consultant. I even went in to work about four hours on Sunday. Today, finally, the three drawings are done, my computer models are correct, the request to burn CDs has been turned in. And the original of the computer models and my engineering mini-report are on my desk, ready for making hard copies tomorrow. All that remains is a title sheet and dividers between the sections. Well, I still haven’t seen the drawings off the plotter. I still have to put my seal and signature on them, and write a certification, but those are minor. I’d say it’s a guarantee I’d have it out the door tomorrow except…

…I’ve been called on to go to Eureka Springs (an hour east of our office) tomorrow, to chase a new drainage project. That will consume my day from 8:30 AM to about 2:00 PM—prime time for copying, assembling, and packaging submittals. We have an admin assistant who can do most of that, but it’s nice to be available for the unexpected glitch.

I find these flood studies to be all consuming as far as brain power is concerned. I get home at night drained, and don’t feel much like writing. What time I do have has gone to study for the Life Group lesson series I’m teaching. Perhaps I can cobble up a post on that this week.

After this flood study goes out the door, I have two other things I have to jump on real quickly, get them knocked out, then go to the third flood study. This one will be from scratch, I think. I won’t have to struggle over whether to fix other people’s mistakes or just let them ride. Won’t have to second guess how another engineer built the model or drew the map. That, at least, will be a nice change.

So when will I get back to writing? Don’t know. The situation at Suite101 is not good. Something has happened to the web site business model. Page views and revenue has tanked. I’m not writing hardly anything there any more, though that’s partly because of the time and brain drain thing. I’ll try to keep posting here, but I see lots of difficulty ahead.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Stock Market Move Called (sort of)

This post would be a lot more impressive if I had posted it Friday or Saturday, as planned, but perhaps it still has value.

Tuesday May 26 was a wild ride on Wall Street. The market plunged at the open , traded down hard most of the day (about 3%), then at the end of the day rose just as hard as it fell. Some of the indexes closed up a reasonable amount for a normal trading day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down less than a half percent.

I had watched the market a little during the day, casually, since I didn't have any stocks in my account. But I didn't hear about the late day rally until driving home. I thought from the report, "The market made a hammer today. Better look at charts tonight."

A "hammer" is a candlestick pattern of a price variation, such as a stock, a stock index, or really any commodity whose price varies. Candlesticks are a way to display price variation so it is easy to read the important information of a security's open, high, low, and close for the period. Any period actually. Candlesticks can be drawn minute by minute, for half-hours, hours, days, weeks, months, or even years. Any time period you want. Different types of traders use different time frames. I was thinking of a hammer candlestick on the daily chart.

So I studied the stock index charts that night. All the major indexes had indeed made a hammer of one type or another. I came upstairs from the Dungeon and told Lynda it looked as if the market was about to go on a run to the upside.

So what happened? Wednesday and Thursday saw strength in the market. While many indexes went down on Wednesday, they closed well above lows of the previous session. Thursday was up strong. At some point on Wednesday, when the market was strong at midday, I told Lynda, "I nailed it."

She reminded me that you can't claim to have nailed it unless you put some money behind your prediction. And I hadn't. Knowing the busyness of the next few days at the office, I knew I couldn't watch trades, so I didn't place any on Tuesday night. Had I done so, and managed the trade according to risk-reward rules, I would have made a few percentage points on a trade over two or three days. I could have accepted that. The movement, of course, may be rather short-lived, as the market today closed below the close of last Tuesday. It's still above the lows of the 26th, so the movement may not be over yet.

Lynda did take a position on a stock on Thursday, based on my prediction, and made 1.5% from Thursday to Friday, closing out then. I'd take 1.5% overnight any day.

So, I guess I'll keep watching stock price and volume patterns, trying to figure out where the money is moving, and what is happening, spotting the trend, making 1.5% every few days. Maybe, just maybe, I can make some money with all this training I've received.

Holiday's Over; Back to Work--But on What?

Well, the Memorial Day weekend is over. I'm back at work and trying to put my mind and heart into it, finding that difficult. We had five guests at the house Saturday through this morning, relatives, most traveling from southwest Kansas to Louisville for a family wedding, breaking their trip with a visit to us. They left this morning, probably ten or fifteen minutes after I left for the office. It was a good weekend. Lots of good meals, relaxation, conversation, some war movies yesterday, game playing (by some; I didn't take part in that), and sitting on the deck conversing and watching birds.

But that meant I didn't take much time for writing projects or research or reading. I read about ten pages in the book on which I'm basing the Life Group lesson series I'll begin teaching this coming Sunday. And I re-read the last couple of chapter in The Shack, just in case I was called on to teach the final lesson in that series last Sunday. But other than that, no reading. And no writing on my blog.

I have three or four posts I've been thinking of, which wouldn't take too much time. I guess I'll be fleshing them out and trying to post daily this week. I'm not going to post goals again this month, as I still am uncertain of where I'm going with my writing career.

Last week I contacted the principal of the Christian school our daughter graduated from, to discuss whether their art teacher would be interested in having their art students illustrate Father Daughter Day as a class project. He sounded interested, but said he had to run to a meeting and would get back with me. That was last Tuesday, and I've yet to hear from him. Is he uninterested, or just forgot? Should I call him, or just let it go as another rejection? For now, I'll do the latter.

Well, back to the grind. I reviewed one drainage project today, and will now jump back on that flood study I wrote about last week. Only a day or two to go on that, methinks. Then I have two or three more flood studies backed up, waiting for me to release them from their current impoundment.