From OpenTable (the restaurant guide/reservation service):
“Bistro Z is the premier destination restaurant in Westchester County. We exceed all of our guests expectations by serving only the finest quality food.”
Rocky wonders: “How LOW can expectations be?”
Skinflint. Miser. Penny-pincher. Frugal. Tightwad.
All of these adjectives describe Rocky in most matters. However, Rocky throws open his wallet and spares no expense for three important purchase categories: automobile tires, bath towels, and orange marmalade.
During her recent two-day trip to London, Trophy Wife’s marching orders were clear: find a jar of Fortnum & Mason’s finest Orange Marmalade, and carry it home for Rocky’s (discount) crackers and crumpets.
Trophy Wife scored a bottle of “Wake-Up Marmalade” early in the day, and all was well until Heathrow Airport Security seized the jar from her luggage as a “security threat.” Horrified, humiliated, and fearing the “Wrath of Rocky,” she ran to the Airport’s Duty-Free Shop, where she fortuitously found the marmalade section next to the Cuban cigars and over-priced single malt scotch. Unfortunately, the Duty-Free Shop’s marmalade selection was sparse, and she selected a jar of Sir Nigel’s Orange Marmalade. (Fortnum & Mason produces more than 40 marmalade varieties.)
From the marmalade bottle: “Noted 1920′s actor-manager, Sir Nigel Playfair was used to getting what he wanted – like the thick-cut, tough-guy marmalade remembered from his childhood rather than the effete flapper versions fashionable at the time.”
After sampling the marvelous marmalade on generic Stop&Shop water biscuits, Rocky agreed that he would no longer consume “effete” American marmalade . A tough guy like Rocky deserves a tough-guy marmalade. But in a show of tenderness, Rocky thanked Trophy Wife profusely for her valiant efforts, and gave her a sticky peck on the cheek.
[Disclosure: Terrorists should note that airport security will detect explosives dissolved in blood orange marmalade . ]
At the behest of his daughter, Rocky sampled his first “Pinkberry” frozen yogurt in New York City’s Greenwich Village on Sunday. Pinkberry has a cult following, and it was time for Rocky to audition for the cult.
The small cup of plain with two toppings cost $6.25 — and while Rocky found the concoction uninspiring — he found the profit potential intriguing.
An unscientific 10 minute demographic survey revealed all of the customers in the store were ultra-skinny women under the age of 30 and just one skinny man (whose attire and makeup were sexually ambiguous.) Judging from their fluency in Pinkberry nomenclature, all were regular customers. The tiny store was grossing over $300/hour — on a cold, rainy March afternoon!
Rocky started salivating. Not from the yogurt. From the profit potential!
But before he could grow lascivious about live cultures, Rocky looked out the window and noticed two stores across the street with “Opening Soon” banners in their window. Red Mango and “YourGurt” had Pinkberry’s prodigious profits in their sights. A frozen yogurt war would soon commence – and monopoly yogurt profits would undoubtedly become the first casualty….
[Disclosure: All that glitters isn't gold, and all that shines isn't Pinkberry pomegranate with strawberries. But the jingle is worth a listen: click here. ]
Flush with profits from a recent trade (and a 20% discount coupon), Rocky headed to his local CVS/Pharmacy to treat himself to an indulgence.
He passed on the bubble bath. (skin allergies)
He passed on the organic chocolate bars. (weight gain)
He passed on the automatic blood pressure monitor. (don’t ask, don’t tell)
He settled on Yoshi Blade – “the one knife whose sharpness is guaranteed.”
Rocky enjoys late-night informercials, hence he knew Yoshi Blade is a ceramic knife that’s guaranteed to stay sharp; won’t rust or pit; can replace a drawer full of metal knives; is made of natural eco-friendly materials; and its design is ideal for precision cutting and thin slicing.
After paying $18, he headed home and severely gashed his finger while opening the sharp plastic wrapper. Alas, Rocky discovered that the plastic wrapper would prove to be a better knife than Yoshi Blade (as seen on TV).
“When all else fails, read the instructions,” thought Rocky.
Fearful of a paper cut, Rocky carefully unfolded Yoshi Blade Care and Maintenance Guide, (a booklet containing more detail than his Dell Computer User Guide.)
From the Guide: (verbatim)
- DO NOT use Yoshi Blade or the side of the blade to chop food.
- DO NOT use Yoshi Blade to cut frozen food.
- DO NOT use Yoshi Blade to cut hard cheeses.
- DO NOT use Yoshi Blade for carving poultry or meat with bones.
- DO NOT cut on ceramic plates, marble, stone, glass or tile.
- DO NOT bend, twist, pry or apply force on the tip or side of the blade.
- DO NOT use Yoshi Blade to smash garlic or other foods with the side of the blade.
- DO NOT place Yoshi Blade in or near open flame or heat source, as ceramic blade will get hot.
- Yoshi Blade is NOT dishwasher safe. Hand wash only in warm water with mild soap and never let Yoshi Blade soak in water for any period of time.
Rocky thought he understood the instructions. Yoshi Blade cannot be used for cutting, carving, chopping, twisting, stirring or any other activity normally reserved for knives.
(It suddenly became clear how Yoshi Blade can replace a drawer full of metal knives: put Yoshi Blade in a drawer, and order Chinese Take-Out.)
[Disclosure: Rocky lives dangerously. He put Yoshi Blade in his dishwasher. ]
Rocky always looks for an “edge” in his market speculations, but rarely finds one.
In contrast, Rocky always looks for an “edge” in his brownies, and often finds one. As any brownie aficionado knows, the crispy, chewy edges are the best part of a brownie. Rocky’s technique is to cut the crispy, delicious edge from around an entire brownie pan, and leave the gooey middle bulk for lesser mortals.
This habit always drove Rocky’s daughter crazy, as she would bake a gorgeous fresh pan of brownies — and return to find all of the crust surgically removed and only mutilated innards remaining.
Rocky’s daughter gave her dad a birthday present that solved the problem: The Baker’s Edge Brownie Pan. This cleverly designed pan has a maze shape, so that every brownie has a chewy, crispy edge. Rocky thought the invention to be brilliant and dubbed it “his best birthday present ever.” (Except for the birthday when Trophy Wife rented a full-size excavator for a day, and Rocky and his friends dug some holes for fun.)
Here’s the amazon.com link to the brownie pan:
[Disclosure: The first batch of brownies was magnificent. Every brownie had two crispy/chewy edges, and some brownies had three edges!]
Back by popular (or unpopular) demand, Rocky asks his readers, ”What’s this food?” As always, the winner will receive a unique prize of dubious monetary value.
Hints: This food was purchased at the local Whole Foods Store. It’s certified organic. They are a dried fruit. And this fruit is mentioned in a popular children’s book.(In the Humbert Household, Whole Foods is not-so-affectionately known as “Whole Wallet” … which is a reference to its prices. But they sure have some wierd stuff!)
[Disclosure: "Big Al" won the last Name-this-Food contest with a correct guess of a British Pub Pickle&Cheese Bap. If this were the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes, Big Al would be ineligible. But this isn't the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes, and Big Al is invited to participate!]
As a valued Admirals Club® member, we want you to be the first to know that beginning October 1, 2010, American will offer alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer and spirits, free of charge to customers visiting any of our domestic clubs, in addition to complimentary coffee, tea, soft drinks and juices. Domestic clubs will offer well brand liquors, house wine and beer as a complimentary service on October 1st.” Menu items vary by location, and include fresh salads, sandwiches, hot entrees and small bites. All menu items are available to enjoy in the club or for carry-out.
Rocky appreciates the gesture, and instead of visiting his local Applebees or TGIF, he’s planning to “hang out” at the Admirals Club, where he can throw back a ”cold one” while charging his cellphone. He also expects that American may discover a surge in Admiral Club membership in college towns.
[Disclosure: Rocky has no position in American Airlines (AMR) , Applebees (DIN), or BUD stock. But he may re-examine a three-way-arbitrage....in the morning.]
Rocky recently returned from a brief visit to the United Kingdom. Despite the proliferation of Starbucks and McDonald’s, the quintissential pub lunch still survives (for better or worse). In this case, it was for the the worse, although a pint of proper English Bitter helped wash it down quickly.
Rocky purchased his HP12C Financial Calculator 25-years-ago, and the calculator has been a loyal, trusted and always-present companion ever since. It witnessed and assisted in life’s most important moments:
- It computed the per-carat cost of Trophy Wife’s engagement ring; and the closing costs of The Humbert Family Estate.
- It calculated the required vitamin pills during pregnancy, and the travel and parking time to reach the local hospital.
- It provided a “Discounted Present Value” for a lifetime supply of Rogaine. ($11,000); the cooking time for a gargantuan slab of discount bbq meat (3 days); and the hours required on a treadmill after eating the slab of meat (3 days).
- It inspired The Second Law of Rocky.
- It deserves credit for every successful (and unsuccessful) arbitrage that Rocky executed over the past 25 years.
Desite dents, scratches and worn feet, HP12C never let Rocky down. Yet suddenly, two days ago, age caught up to HP12C. The display dimmed, and commas/periods randomly appeared and disappeared.
Even though Trophy Wife hates Reverse Polish Notation “RPN,” she recognized the dangers of an unreliable financial calcuator, and located the tiny replacement batteries in a nearby town. Alas, new batteries did not fix the problem: HP12C was approaching the inevitable end of its life…. (Sentimental readers: the YouTube Video of the Byrd’s song “Turn Turn” is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgq8_EmOSM0 )
But in calculators, as in life, there is always a silver lining! As HP12C faded, Rocky studied the financials and prospects of HP Corporation (HPQ), and concluded that it could be an interesting investment… if entered at the right price.
Amazingly, this opportunity occurred just one-day-later … as the CEO resigned amidst a sexual harrassment/expense account scandal. Rocky started buying HP stock around 6pm ($42), because the stock lost $11 Billion (11%) in value on the news. He will buy more if it keeps declining solely because of this resignation news. (The stock is trading at 9x earnings, so that means Mr. Market attributes $1.22 Billion in EARNINGS and $19 Billion in SALES to the just-departed CEO. Rocky thinks Mr. Hurd was a fine CEO, but he is neither Steve Jobs nor Warren Buffett, and the reaction presents a Rocky I opportunity.)
[Disclosure: Rocky doesn't believe that the disclosure of his future purchase of a HP calculator constitutes material inside information that will impact HP's stock price. He appreciates that the CEO's expense account irregularities could be just the tip-of-an-iceberg of problems. And he never provides investment advice. ]
The Hampton Inns hotel chain recently added personal waffle makers to its breakfast buffets in 1,800 hotels, and this provides Rocky with a new research project. See story here: http://news.travel.aol.com/2010/06/17/hampton-inn-officially-adds-waffles/
Behavior Finance is already a ”hot” topic, and the spread of do-it-yourself waffle bars enables Rocky to introduce the world to “Culinary Finance” — an interdisciplinary endeavor that studies the duality of dough in one’s wallet and dough in one’s oven. Rocky made this connection while staying at a hotel chain whose room deodorizers emit a fragrance not-found in the natural world.
[For submission to the Journal of Finance]
ABSTRACT- This paper studies the relationship between self-made waffle success and self-made financial success based on three random visits to a Hamptons Inn Hotel Chain Complimentary Breakfast Buffet during July, 2010. We demonstrate that waffle results predict investment results with statistical significance. Previous research demonstrated that a “Watched Pot Never Boils” (M. Mother (1920), however, this is the first paper to extend those results to a “watched waffle iron.”
We identify several classes of waffle failure: (1) Early exit resulting in an undercooked waffle; (2) Late exit — resulting in a burned waffle; (3) Systemic Waffle Iron failure/stickiness. We demonstrate that these three conditions also arise in investing (early exit/late exit/no exit); and may be a metaphor for Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
The paper observes that the most successful waffle users (1) read the directions before pouring batter; (2) stay at the machine’s side for all of the 2 minute and 30 second cooking period; (3) are not distracted by impatient spouses. Men wearing short pants had the highest success rate. Women carrying Fendi purses and wearing tight white pants had the lowest success rate.
[Disclosures: The results are preliminary and have not been independently verified. Because the waffle iron "beeps" annoyingly after the cooking is finished, Rocky excluded deaf people from the study. There is no relation between Warren Buffet and Breakfast Buffet.]
Rocky suffered insomnia last night. While drinking a warm glass of cold milk, he caught up on the latest trends in criminal behavior: banana theft. He will mercifully spare his readers the many bad puns which come to mind…
From the Daily Journal of Cumberland County, NJ:
VINELAND — A commercial trailer containing $15,000 worth of Del Monte bananas was stolen from the Vineland Produce Auction. The owner, Daniel Hernandez, told police he parked the loaded refrigerator truck on the North Main Road produce auction lot around midnight Saturday and locked it up, just as he always does. His shipment of 900 cases of bananas was due to leave the block Sunday afternoon.
When Hernandez returned at 11:30 a.m. to check on the temperature of the truck’s cargo, the vehicle was gone, police said in a report released Wednesday. Police followed muddy tire marks from where the trailer was parked that went along North Main Road to Vine Road and turned east before disappearing, police said.
The trailer was a white 1994 Great Dane carrier unit with “Atlantic” on the rear doors and “Carrier” on the front. The total theft, including the value of the truck, is estimated at $25,000.
Police have no suspects.
[Disclosure: Rocky thinks the Police should have no difficulty finding suspects. Mae West knew the signs of banana theft: " Is that a banana in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" He also notes that the bananas were stolen from a "refrigerator truck." This is suspicious, as the Chiquita Banana Song specifically warns against keeping bananas in the refrigerator: .]
Rocky made a “wrong turn” over the weekend, and found himself in the parking lot of Big G’s Deli in Winslow, Maine. http://big-g-s-deli.com/index.shtml
Several facts about Big G’s deserve attention:
1) Their sandwiches are approximately 144 square inches in size, and the bread is approximately 4″ thick. Big G certainly earns its name, as Rocky, Trophy Wife and Rocky’s Daughter all shared a single sandwich – and were unable to finish it.
2) Rocky’s daughter is a pickle afici0nado. She found the pickles provided with the sandwich lacking, but ordered extra pickles as a side course. Big G’s charged $.10/pickle (plus tax) for extra slices. She recommended the extra pickles wholeheartedly. (They were kosher dills, not the half-sours provided gratis.)
3) While waiting to order, one walks by a rack of pre-packaged, homemade, “moon pies,” “sticky buns,” and chocolate chip cookies. Each and every item weighed more than two pounds. BIG G’s indeed!
4) The menu displays the customary warning that “some products may contain peanuts and were prepared on equipment that processed peanuts.” However, there was NO disclosure that a Toyota Prius parked in the Big G parking lot was actually a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich in disguise. Peanut Allergy Sufferers Beware!
As a shareholder of Kraft Corporation, Rocky just finished reading his annual proxy statement. He rubbed his eyes after noting that CEO Irene Rosenfeld’s 2009 compensation was valued at an eye-popping $26,345,201. Since an 18oz Oreo package retails for $3.29 and contains 46 cookies, Ms. Rosenfeld’s compensation equates to 368,352,354 cookies. That’s more than one million Oreos per day!
Wall Street trader compensation increasingly includes deferred stock — as they are required to “eat their own cooking.” It is unrealistic to expect Ms. Rosenfeld to consume over one million Oreos per day, hence a more reasonable compensation package should also include Chips Ahoy and Fig Newtons.
Rocky further notes that Kraft stock performance has badly lagged its peers over the past five and ten years, and has roughly matched its peers over the past twelve months.
[Disclosure: Rocky always unscrews his Oreos before dunking in milk.]
The Company said the waffle shortage lowered the company’s fourth-quarter sales by 2 percent, and the stock is down 5%. See: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=aqjyWpquFFmI
Rocky noticed the signs at his local grocery store that apologized for the Eggo shortage. Luckily, as part of his Y2K disaster preparation, Rocky kept a stockpile of waffles and Tang in his generator-powered underground bunker.
He’s currently checking the prices on Ebay to see whether he can unload his waffles at a profit.
A representative of the National Waffle Association, (yes, it exists), declined to comment on Rocky’s arbitrage activities.
[Disclosure: Trophy Wife is not fond of frozen waffles for breakfast. She's strictly a fresh banana and Special-K kind of gal.]
While the US CFTC aim their regulatory cannons at crude oil speculators, their Italian cousins have their daggers out for “spaghetti speculators.”
Roberto Sambuco (aka “Mr. Price”), Italy’s so-called Guarantor of Price Surveillance launched a fresh investigation into manipulation of the dry spaghetti market. See:
“The price of pasta is a scandal and the result of speculation,” Bloomberg News quotes Italy’s National Farmers’ Association. Bloomberg says Italians eat an average 62 pounds of pasta each year.
Rocky has been known to “throw around his weight” in the crude oil market, but if the spaghetti scandal heats up and boils over, he’ll be forced to start watching his carbs.
He also added an Olive Oil (EVOO) / Marinara Sauce “spread” to both his Bloomberg monitor page and a loaf of Italian bread.
Lest the speculators and collusionists drive prices even higher, Rocky’s “Plan B” will be a switch from Linguine #7 to Capellini #9. Alternatively, he may purchase the Ronco Pasta Maker Kitchen Appliance. (As seen on TV.)
Is there a housing-like bubble in the spaghetti market?
No. But there’s bubbles aplenty in Rocky’s boiling pasta pot.
[Disclosure: From the Ronco Pasta Machine User Manual: "With a powerful yet quiet motor, this incredible machine also makes sausage, cookies, and small bagels." Trophy Wife notes that Rocky's fagottini already resembles a day-old bagel with cream cheese.]
Rocky calculates that, over a lifetime, re-using his plastic fork should save nearly $1,000. Based on Fidelity’s retirement website, this amount should compound into $10,000 if invested 100% in stocks.
Sadly, a calamity just occurred. The tensile strength of Lean Cusine #17113 (“Asian-Style Pot Stickers”) exceeded the strength of Plastic Fork #15072-CC. A dramatic, violent and frightening fork fracture ensued. (See photo.)
The Lean Cuisine description reads, “Tender dumplings filed with a blend of chicken, cabbage, onion and carrots.” Rocky believes that “tender” is a mischaracterization, and he’s consulting with legal counsel to investigate whether a class action lawsuit should be filed.
[Disclosure: The Lean Cuisine box fine print also states: "CAUTION: Do not prepare in a toaster oven. A reheated plastic tray can warp or melt." Rocky suggests that Lean Cuisine should add the warning: "Always wear eye protection when using plastic cutlery."]
For New York City apartment dwellers, Channel 11′s TV Yule Log may be their only fireplace. But is it also a solution for Global Warming?
The day-long video of a burning log always intrigues Rocky. Despite its continuous combustion, the log never decreases in size.
Rocky spent many a Christmas day staring at the Yule log (in-between bites of leftover Chow Mein) — unsuccessfully looking for evidence that the film was a continous loop.
During the 2009 baseball season, Trophy Wife bought a 55″ HDTV, and Rocky just parked himself in front of the huge new TV. He hopes that HD will either show the video to be a loop — or more likely, that the Yule log is a source of permanent, clean and renewable energy.
[Disclosure: Happy Holidays to all! Internet news reports that the video Yule log has gone national. Check your local listings for time and channel! See: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/dec/24/fireplace-yule-log-becomes-ubiquitous-holiday-tv-o/news-breaking/ . ]
Thanksgiving traditions vary widely. In the Rocky Humbert family, the tradition includes an emergency call to the Butterball Turkey Hotline.
From the ButterBall Website: “No question is too tough for these turkey talkers, and they are ready and excited to tackle any challenge you throw at them. Give them a call at 1-800-BUTTERBALL.”
2008: While reaching inside the bird to remove the gizzards, Trophy Wife’s hand becomes stuck. She twists. She turns. And despite agility acquired during years of Pilates training, her hand remains jammed inside of the avian cavity. The Butterball Hotline Expert solution: “Cook the bird with the oven door open, and leave Trophy Wife’s hand inside. However, be sure that the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees before removing from the oven.”
2007: While eating the bird, Rocky swallows the Butterball’s plastic pop-up timer (which had not popped-up during cooking.) The Butterball Hotline Expert advice: “Butterball pop-up timers contain non-toxic ink. If you feel a poking sensation, it probably means you have a fever. Take two aspirin.”
2006: It’s always a challenge to lift a fully-cooked 25 lb turkey. Rocky was responsible for this year’s roast, and he cooks the bird with the plastic webbing intact. He thought this would make lifting easier. He was right. It made the lifting easier. It also resulted in a plastic-covered turkey. The Butterball Hotline Expert advice: “Sir, there are several hundred callers on hold with genuine emergencies. I don’t have time for a crank caller.” Click.
2005: Trophy Wife loves to make sweet potato casserole with a coating of mini-marshmellows. The challenge is to get the marshmellows perfectly brown (but not blackened.) Trophy Wife places the casserole under the broiler and walks away. Four minutes later flames are visible. Rocky doesn’t call the Butterball Hotline. He calls the fire department.
[Disclosure: Let's talk turkey. Rocky wishes his blog readers a Happy Thanksgiving. And in the words of Norman Bates, (a carving expert,) please be careful with your ccc-ccc-cutlery!]
From Bloomberg News: “Coffee prices pared losses in New York after a fire burned overnight at a Sara Lee coffee and tea plant in New Jersey that roasts millions of pounds of beans each year. Firefighters were still extinguishing hotspots from the fire, the fourth at the plant since October 2008.”
Four fires in less than a year???
Rocky believes Starbucks’ French Roast coffee already has a burnt taste. Now, competitor Sara Lee (which packages Chock Full Of Nuts) appears to have devised a new process for a darker, deeper, richer flavor….
How does one make New Jersey roast? Just burn down the building.