Prague Twin

Friday, March 30, 2007

The 2nd Amendment

On my last day in the United States, I exercised my 2nd Amendment right to posses firearms. My uncle took me out shooting, and it was a blast (no pun intended). Here is what we shot...

This is the classic Smith and Wesson Model 15 revolver. It is a fine gun with a very smooth trigger. It is like butter.

Next we fired this CZ 52. It is a lot harder to squeeze the trigger on this semi-automatic pistol than on the Model 15, but I really liked it.

Moving on to the rifles, we started with the WWI era M95 Styer. It is Austrian made but is engraved with "Budapest" across the barrel. That is testament to it's age. The cartridges were as old as the rifle and huge. Oh, what a kick this baby delivered. I scared the hell out of myself every time I fired it, and that is with ear protection.

The M1 Garant was the standard issue rifle for American servicemen in WWII. The simplicity of design is matched only by the Kalishnikov or AK 47.

This Yugoslav SKS is the precursor to the AK 47. Still widely used by militias world wide.

Finally, we got to try out the classic M16 which is what U.S. servicemen are being issued today. The one we fired was actually an A 15 (civilian version) with an M 16 upper. The cartridges were the smallest of all the rifles, but the velocity of the bullet makes up for the lack of size. I was able to hit a bowling pin at 100 yards on my third shot. Not bad for a rookie. This rifle is light, accurate, and rather attractive if you ask me.

What impressed me about all of this was the lengths that my uncle had to go to to keep these guns in compliance with California gun laws. For example, the M 16 had to have a permanent magazine in the receiver and it had to be loaded from the top. How that stops crime, I have no idea. I can see why gun enthusiasts are against gun laws. They accomplish nothing but they sure do make life difficult for those of us who believe in the the 2nd amendment and the exercise thereof.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

America: You Gotta Love it!

So no problems at airport security. In fact, this is the first time in over 5 years that I didn't get twenty questions at customs. I was through customs with my luggage in 20 minutes. A new record. Having said that, the nice Finnish girl that sat next to me had to go into a massive line for non-U.S. passport holders. Perhaps that is why tourism is falling. In fact, in all my travels, only Moscow made their visitors wait so long. Generally, European customs go quite quickly for everyone.

Ironically, then, it was on the European side where I experienced some delays. I was frisked twice (once in Prague, and once in London). The second frisking was a really good one. I haven't been touched like that by a man in quite some time. (Calm down, just a little joke there).

I was really curious what the deal with the liquids would be. What you can do is buy water at the duty free shop and then they seal it a transparent plastic bag. This increased my cost of water for the flight ten fold, but no big deal. You can bring your own fluids on board so long as they come in less than 100ml containers. It doesn't matter how much fluid is in the container, it is the size of the container that matters. So for instance, you can bring a full tube of toothpaste in a 100ml container, but if you bring a 200ml tube of toothpaste that only has 50ml of toothpaste remaining, it will be confiscated.

All and all, a very civilized and efficient trip. No complaints. (Except that water thing, sheesh!)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Coming to America

So here I go! I've paid cash for my ticket, I have one of the oldest, most beat up, replacement passports in existence with extra pages added in Mozambique. I have stamps from two Arab countries, and a Russian Visa. I'm a Czech resident to boot.

Let's see if they let me in the country!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Don't Get Too Excited

Equities have seen a bit of a recovery so far this week, after last week's melt down. But as the title suggests, this is no reason to get too excited. Tuesday saw the biggest gains, whereas Wednesday was flat, and Thursday saw modest gains (about half of Tuesday's). It is encouraging that the market is not diving all at once, but they rarely do. What is discouraging is how volatile the market seems to be. Yesterday was quite choppy, and the trend for the week was the market opening in a completely different place than it closed the day before. There is usually some adjustment overnight, but these gaps in the chart in between days is pretty unusual, and indicative of volatile markets.

Today will be another hurtle for equities. With European markets opening lower, and the mother of all data (Non-Farm Payrolls) coming out, we could see this weeks gains evaporate quickly.

Having said that, a poor employment number (which is widely expected) could actually boost stocks as interest rate expectations would drop. However, next week's inflation numbers (specifically the CPI in one week) will be the thing to watch. Persistent inflation concerns will force the Fed's hand and make it impossible to cut rates, even in the interest of saving the struggling housing market, or the equities markets.

So investors, don't get too excited just yet. There is still a way to go, and I still believe that we will see the Dow drop to at least 11,750 in the next few weeks.

As a side note, one of the major sub-prime lenders has stopped taking loan applications. There is trouble brewing here.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Now for something completely different...

You can see a higher quality version of the below video, and listen to the whole album if you want at

If you like hip hop and Gypsy music, this may be the first group to combine the two. I saw them in concert last night in a great venue in the center of Prague. Great fun. It was the band leader's mother's birthday (47) and he gave her a cake on stage.

There is quite a bit of animosity between Czechs and the Romany population. Here in Prague, some of those problems are being broken down. Last night was such an occurance with Czechs, foreigners, and Romanies all having a good time without any problems.

The night lifted my mood and hopefully broke my silence. Having said that, I travel to the U.S. on Saturday, so there may be a bit of a pause coming up for me.

Belly of the beast, here I come!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How I'm Feeling

I wanted to write a long, rambling post. Instead, I though I would post a picture from a good friend of mine's website.

This is how I am feeling.

Libby Convicted

Cheney's former cheif of staff has been convicted on 4 of 5 counts.

As is usually the case in these types of trials, it is the effort to cover up one's actions that buries them. Whether revealing Plame's identity was legal or not, the point is that at the time they thought what they were doing was illegal, and they committed crimes trying to hide what they did.

If he gets more than 3 to 5 I'll be surprised.

Monday, March 05, 2007

It Isn't Over Yet

After loosing about 5% last week, European markets have opened about 1.5% down this morning. Dow futures are calling for a 100 point drop at the open. So, although we got a bit of a bounce out of the huge drop last Tuesday, it looks like we are going to still go down for a while. The German market has been particulary hard hit, loosing 5.5% last week and is now down 2.1% in the first 10 minutes of trading the morning.

The Yen carry trade does seem to been unwinding with the Yen gaining against the major currencies very rapidly. The Yen is up over 2% against the Euro during the Asian session overnight, indicating that people are getting out of those risky carry trades. Indeed, risk aversion seems to be the name of the game everywhere, with selling continuing everywhere. The dollar is actually recovering a bit, except of course against the Yen.

But where is the money going? This is hard to tell. Gold is dropping, oil is dropping, commodities are dropping. Money is being changed into Yen, dollars, and Euros, in that order. Even the Pound is dropping. The hedge funds are likely shorting the market at the expense of 401K holders and the like. Once they decide they have made enough money, they will buy back the stocks they are shorting, and the bloodletting will end.

The question is how much is "enough" for hedge fund mangers? Looks like we will soon find out.