iPad 3 ordered!

Well, now I’ve made it official.  I pre-ordered the iPad 3 this morning.  It’s a white, 64GB WiFi only model.  I should have it at home by next Friday and I’ll get to lay my hands on it when I come back to San Diego a week later.  Exciting!

iPad 3 pre-order receipt

iPad 3 pre-order receipt

Paris is getting nicer!

Well, February was a disappointment in Paris after January’s super mild weather.  I was hoping that spring would come earlier this year and that perhaps February would even be better.  In the end, it was much colder than expected although it didn’t rain nearly as much as I thought it would.  Maybe those two things balance each other out?

But now that we’re into the second week of March, I can say that things are definitely taking a turn for the better.  Today the sun’s out and the temperature has gone up considerably – 10 degrees easy – and it looks like it’ll stick around for a bit this time.  Nice & sunny at a brisk 52 degrees and getting to mid 50’s this weekend and into next week.  Now we only need to have the trees budding and everything will be perfect!

Paris in January

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I have an opportunity to be in Paris frequently this year for work and I’m taking advantage of it to really get to know the city and improve my French.  January has been lovely.  Very mild; some rain but not bone chilling cold and some very nice days in there as well.  It’s been wonderful!

On the Pont des Invalides looking up the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower.A Parisian sunset.

Florence, Italy

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The last time I was in Florence was 1998.  It was part of a European road trip that I did with friends after college.  I’ve always loved Florence and now have an opportunity to go back.  A colleague suggested we do a quick weekend in Florence and since it was my birthday, I decided why not?  The weather was just perfect.  It was a very mild winter throughout Europe and this particular weekend in Florence was beautiful.  No rain or snow and clear blue skies.  A bit cold but hey, it’s still winter!  Here are some photos:

The famed Duomo of Florence, Italy.

The famed Duomo of Florence, Italy.

The Duomo at sunset.

The Duomo at sunset.

Shopping at Panerai.  :-)

Shopping at Panerai. 🙂

At the Pontevecchio.

At the Pontevecchio.

At the Piazza della Signoria with my colleague.

At the Piazza della Signoria with my colleague.

Stock picks for 2012

by phuoc 0 Comments

Last year at about this time, I selected 4 stocks from the Dow 30 as my picks for 2011. It’s now time to see how they did. They were McDonal’s, Intel, IBM, and DuPont. Bought in 4 equal amounts, the cost basis were:

MCD – $49.8K (650 shares at $76.60)
INTC – $50.0K (2400 shares at $20.85)
IBM – $50.2K (340 shares at $147.48)
DD – $50.0K (1000 shares at $50.03)

All were purchased on 01/03/2011. Total cost basis: $200,039.

At the end of this year (12/30/2011), the market values were:

MCD – $65.2K ($100.33 a share)
INTC – $58.2K ($24.25 a share)
IBM – $62.5K ($183.88 a share)
DD – $45.8K ($45.78 a share)

Total value = $237.9K ($231.7K in equities & $6.1K in dividends). Total gain for 2011: 18.90%. By comparison, the Dow 30 was up 5.53% in 2011 and the S&P 500 was flat at -0.04% for 2011.

For 2012, I’m buying these 4 stocks from the Dow 30 in equal dollar amounts:

MRK, INTC, CVX, and WMT (Merck, Intel, Chevron and Walmart). The only remaining stock in that basket from last year is Intel, although both DuPont & IBM were close in making the cut again. Check back next new year’s to see how these stocks fare. If I can beat the market next year as well, awesome. Good luck investing!

My iPhone 4S

I have to say that after almost two months with my iPhone 4S that I like it even more than ever. It’s my first iPhone ever, having come from Android devices most recently. What’s really impressive to me is the usability of the phone. The screen is smaller than my HTC EVO but looks better. In fact, you can argue that a smaller form factor is actually better in a phone so that may not be a big deal at all. The interface is awesome though. Some may call it simplistic but it works and it works fast. Sure, there are crashes but they’re few compared to what I had to endure on the Android devices and it just kicks you back to the main screen rather than makes you wait a few seconds while the UI reloads on Android. That was so annoying.

Siri is not gimmick. I use it pretty regularly, especially when on the move. Taking the dog for a walk and being able to respond accurately to text messages is a godsend. It used to be that I would have to stop walking to type back a message on the touchscreen keyboard. Android had voice dictation too but having used it I can say that it’s not nearly as accurate. The only feature I miss is Swype. My friends and I did ditch voice dictation for Swype since it worked so much better. If Swype was available on the iPhone it would be perfect. Additionally, searching for things on the web is just easy with Siri. Like many things that Apple does, it just works.

Last but not least is the camera on the iPhone 4S. It’s hands down the best camera I’ve used. Yes, my HTC EVO had an 8 MP camera but the image quality from that camera sucked balls. On the other hand, the camera on the iPhone 4S kicks ass. I find myself carrying my point & shoot with me less and less but taking more & more pictures. Mind you, these are the snapshot variety that just documents life but I’ve gotten some really great shots with it. Some users have even made the iPhone 4S camera into a serious one making very decent art with it. They say that the camera that you have with you is the best camera and that is certainly true here. Most of the pictures I’m posting now are from the iPhone. But more than that, it does videos as well. The quality is very good, and not just for a phone! It’s just very good.

If you’re thinking about whether or not you should make the plunge, don’t think anymore. Just do it. You’ll be glad you did.

What’s up with Netflix lately?

Am I detecting some problems with Netflix lately?  Not just from from their recent amateurish actions that alienated many of their customers but something even deeper.  As a Netflix power user, I’m beginning to see some troubling things.  Just to clarify though, I’m a subscriber of their DVD’s through the mail program only – I do not care for their streaming service since the latest debacle.  It was a nice add when it was included in the monthly fees but I’m not going to pay for it.  I understand Netflix wants to move here for growth and what they were trying to accomplish but full transparency would have been a better explanation (i.e. the content owners, read Hollywood, wants to charge more for digital content so sorry, we have to pass that on to you… but no, Netflix didn’t say that was the reason.  Dumb, dumb, dumb)

In any case, it used to be that the Netflix queue was super responsive.  That is, when DVD’s are sent back, the queue almost immediately shows that they’re received and the next DVD’s in line are being prepared for shipment.  Once they ship, they move to the part of the queue showing the DVD’s at home and an email arrives in my inbox.  Now, I don’t even get emails until after the fact and sometimes way after.  Additionally, the queue will show that some DVD’s are received and others are not while I know for a fact that they all have been.  They were all mailed back together for example and invariably much later in the day those DVD’s would then show it us received.  This did not happen previously.

Also, the queue ships out of order.  Sometimes DVD #10 gets shipped first and it’s happening with more regularity.  I tend to strategize my queue by placing the most wanted DVD’s or new releases at the top position and it used to work pretty well.  Now it’s a crap shoot.  Then there was a day recently when the queue disappeared altogether and I was told that if I wanted to receive DVD’s quickly I should keep my queue stocked.  Well, it was stocked and lost by the system somehow.  That day nothing shipped out.  But then miraculously the queue came back but seemingly out of order.  Later it resolved itself and things went back to the order I had left them in.

However, these strange events have me wondering if there’s something up with Netflix.  Maybe when they were getting ready to split the service between the streaming Netflix and the ill-fated DVD only business Qwikster they screwed up the system somehow.  Or it was at that point but when they tried to reverse course and bring everything back together.  Any way, it may be nothing but these are things that have not happened before and it just got me wondering if there are bigger problems at Netflix then we know about.  Only time will tell I suppose.