Friday, August 31, 2007

Brew Review: Dos Equis Amber

Dos Equis Amber (Mexico)
Appearance (0 to 4 stars): 4. Amber, yes, just alluring with a rich, dark caramel tone.
Aroma: 3.5. Slightly sweet, a tad nutty, but not overpowering.
Flavor: 3.5. Not as sweet as I recall from the college days, but nice anyway. No funky aftertaste.
Texture: 3.5. Goes down with a bit of carbonation. Smooth and rich.
Drinkability: 4. Not as heavy, of course, as a stout or porter, and not as tart as a lager.

Overall score: 18.5.

Cost: $3.
On the label:
Summary: Not as good as I remember, but it still scored very high. I guess my taste for stouts has increased. This is a nice, smooth brew without that lager funkiness.

A bite of forbidden fruit

I was a bad boy today. I broke discipline, chased a stock (sorta) and bought it while it sits high above its moving averages. Naughty, naughty.

That's what Apple can do to me. I sold my shares long (a few months) ago at $93 and regretted it ever since. Call it a longing for a lost love. It was my fault, babe. I should never have left you. I'll treat you like a princess now. Please take me back. Yeah, it's that tacky, that emotional. OK, let's just say I've been using Apple products long enough to know that I trust the Co. Yeah, I would've bought at 111 two weeks and one day ago. Complete, utterly cultish faith.

But I didn't have dry powder then. I did today. And after I bought my nephew his beloved piece (another one) of Under Armor — yes, he wears it almost daily — I scoured my A and A- grade stock picks for bargains. The rest of my A graders were far above their MAs. Some of my A- stocks were reasonable. Flowserve was up like the rest of the market, but within its moving averages. So was (is) Google. Even Blue Nile was just a skosh above its 13-day MAs. At 84, NILE is well below its high of 98.

I kept pining for Apple, though. The stock is off its high (149), Monday is Labor Day, which leaves only Tuesday as a possible ramp up to Wednesday's probable introduction of new iPods. Or not. I find myself thinking more like a trader than an investor. I have no plans to trade AAPL. If the stock dips on Tuesday, maybe I'll get more. Or maybe I'll stick with discipline and shop for a reasonable price in NILE.

CEO would've been a good buy yesterday at 116, but it gapped to 122 before the opening bell. Crazy behavior for an oil and gas Co, but I've come to expect that out of CEO. I find myself as interested in the geopolitics surrounding China's No. 2 oil/gas producer as anything else. Still don't own a share.

Apple? I'm halfway back to what I had before I sold in May. The fruit is good. The buy at this price, though, should be forbidden to all cult members.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

China, oil and changing geopolitical times

Given my utter adulation of Cnooc (CEO), China's No. 2 oil and natural gas corporation, this piece offers some balanced perspective. Gal Luft of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security explores the impact of China's accelerating need for oil.

Fueling the dragon: China's race into the oil market

Here's an excerpt:

In the Western Hemisphere China concluded oil and gas deals with Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador. But its main country of interest is Venezuela, U.S.' fourth largest oil supplier. A series of oil agreements signed in early 2005 allow Chinese companies to explore for oil and gas and set up refineries in Venezuela. Chinese state-owned oil companies have also begun seeking ambitious oil deals in Canada, the top petroleum supplier to the U.S. China’s continued penetration into the Western Hemisphere could have profound economic and political implications for the U.S. Considering the fact that both U.S.’ and Mexico’s domestic crude production are falling, the U.S. cannot afford to lose chunks of the crude produced by the two countries that together supply a third of its oil imports. With less oil available to the American market the U.S. will be forced to seek this oil elsewhere, primarily in the Middle East, hence becoming more dependent on this tumultuous region.

Luft's piece touches on the battle between China and Japan for potential oil/gas turf beneath the East China Sea. Things are not comfy there right now, I'd say.

Here's a series of solid pieces and threads that include Cnooc's attempt to buy Unocal in 2005. More insightful and resourceful than the average stock message board. America's paranoia over China's bid for Unocal


Kohnotori is so easy to miss, located between Puck's Alley and 7-Eleven on S. King St. A more famous restaurant is next door, but Kohtonori offers so many tasty and reasonably priced pupus. It's been more than a year since my first visit, but I plan to go again in the near future. They have some simple, yet eclectic pupus.

1. Don't miss the yellow and white sign.
2. Busy on a weeknight.
3. Chili powder was mild.
4. Beef tongue? It was good. Pupulemeter: 3 1/2 stars (out of 4).
5. Tofu disappeared before my eyes. Melts in da mouth. Pupulemeter: 3 1/2 stars.
6. Fried gizzards. Had to try. Was pretty good. Pupulemeter: 3 stars.
7. Chicken. Ono.
8. Not your typical musubi. Crunchy/roasted on the outside. Not bad. Pupulemeter: 2 1/2 stars.
9. Gohan. Pupulemeter: 3 stars.
10. Chicken liver. Looked like art. Tasted like liver. Pupulemeter: 3 1/2 stars IF you like liver. (And I don't like the stuff normally.)
11. Asparagus. Came with a dollop of mayo. Pupulemeter: 3 stars.
12. Chicken cartilage. Had to try it. Crunchy, salty. Pupulemeter: 2 1/2 stars.
13. Roasted garlic. Was sweet, ono. They give around 20 cloves. Pupulemeter: 3 stars.
14. Hiroshi digs into ... what?
15. Mushrooms. Succulent with grated daikon. Pupulemeter: 3 1/2 stars.
16. Hiroshi's soup. Looks good.
17. Lotus root with meat. Crunch, tasty. Pupulemeter: 3 1/2 stars.
18. Easy to miss this place. Look for this sign.

2626 S King St Ste 1
Honolulu, HI 96826-3248
Phone: (808) 941-7255

This restaurant is located behind the old Mo'ili'ili Barbershop location (pictured at top right on this page).

Brew Review: Longboard Island Lager

Longboard Island Lager (Kona Brewing Co.)
Appearance (0 to 4 stars): 3.5
Aroma: 2.5
Flavor: 2.5
Texture: 3.0
Drinkability: 2.5

Overall score: 14.0

Cost: $3
On the label: "Hang loose with a refreshing Longboard Island Lager. It's a spirited beer with a light sand-washed color. Thirst's Up! It's a smooth crisp ride all the way in."
"Since 1994, Kona Brewing has been been committed to making handcrafted brews of uncompromised quality. We invite you to visit our brewery and Pubs whenever you are in Hawaii. Mahalo!"
Summary: Disappointing, to say the least. Aftertaste of a tangy, though tart brew. Would go great with spicy food on a sweltering, muggy day. However, it is 2:30 a.m. and I am eating nishime with this brew. I liked Kona Brewing Co.'s special coffee beer. This one, though, is a bit of a klunker.

Big moment for Big Ben

Right or not, I just get the feeling that Ben Bernanke is content to watch the carnage.

He could be sitting there, in his tower on a campus, watching the commoners below riot against armored men with swords, sieves and AK-47s, waiting for the last drop of blood to spill. Then turn back to his writing, his journaling, and his commitment to let the chips fall where they may. It's just survival of the fittest in an environment of greed, greed and more greed.

You bought a ticket to be part of the carnage, did you? You're paying the price soon enough, if you already haven't. You didn't buy a ticket today? Goody for you. Stay on the sidelines, now. Don't let the sharp, pointy instruments of death get near your or the kids. Back up some.

Part of me wants him to fix the damned fed rate. But a different part of me actually agrees with him. We live in a world, our American universe, where greed encourages us to cannibalize. You have good credit? We'll make money off you. You have bad credit? Nice. We'll make a TON of money off you. Don't worry, you can afford 24% interest. And don't forget to sign up for our max savings program (5%).

You have no credit? Well, uhh, what's that? You don't like taking out loans or credit lines, and that's why you have no credit? Ma'am, we can't do business with you. Obviously, you won't make us money because you'll pay back your debt too quickly. Please go get a line of credit at a store, pay their outrageous interest rate, and come back to us in about a year.

That whole line of reasoning is effed up. People who pay their interest quickly or even completely avoid credit when possible should be rewarded, not kicked to the curb. Our culture rewards (temporarily) horrible spending practices. Then we wonder how we end up $1.3 trillion in debt to China.

We're a damned greedy nation, and Bernanke may be one of the last sane men with some responsibility toward the future. He's not responsible for our sordid past. I'm just glad I ain't him.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Oh well, there will be other opportunities

With 15 minutes left in the session, all of my A and A- grade stocks are officially overpriced. That doesn't mean they can't ride up 10% or 20% from here. They're just great growth companies with solid fundamentals that are selling at a premium right now. Less than two weeks after bottoming out due to the stupid, #!@&*# subprime mortgage mess, there's no bargain to be had.

It'll take some digging to find a decent growth company, maybe one of my B+ or B picks, that is still viable, still trading within its moving averages. Until then, I'm putting the cuffs on myself. The Buy button has been disabled. For now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Brew Review: Singha

Singha (Thailand)
Appearance (0 to 4 stars): 3.5
Aroma: 3.0
Flavor: 3.5
Texture: 3.5
Drinkability: 4

Overall score: 17.5

Cost: $3
On the label:
Summary: Quite shockingly good. Crisp, goes down really smooth, and zero funky aftertaste. I now realize that my experience with Asian beers has been poor in the past, but I have found Singha and Tsingtao Draft to be excellent, and I don't even like lagers in general. Looking forward to my next Singha.

Check out more at Singha's website.

Kam Bowl/Kapiolani Coffee Shop

Kam Bowl is no more. Sure, the home of great ox tail soup is still alive.

Kapiolani Coffee Shop moved out when Kam Bowl shut down, but the ambiance, the history, the location, are all gone. I suppose I'll take my nephew to visit Kapiolani Coffee Shop in its new location some time. Won't be the same seeing Walgreen's there soon. But here's an ode to one of my favorite old-school eateries. These photos were taken two years ago, long before Kam Bowl closed down.

When my nephew, Josh, was still a student at Kapalama Elementary School, this was one of our favorite places to eat at. Same when he was going to summer school at Kamehameha. Talk about prime location for hungry kids and hungry old guys.

My pals Donald and Kua came along, too, since we all know and appreciate truly good local food. Especially when it's pretty cheap. Donald pulled a surprise on me and order a breakfast meal. I didn't know they served breakfast any time! Bacon looks good, eggs even better.

I've been watching a lot of PBS and National Geographic channels lately, so the sight of yolk breaking reminds me of critters stealing eggs from eagle and turtle nests. There was even an episode of No Reservations when an African tribal hunters found some eggs in the bush. They cracked those eggs open over a large, flat rock and let them cook under the scorching sun. The eggs were scrambled, gritty and (to the hunters) very tasty. Anthony Bourdain, the host, could barely eat the eggs. Too much dirt. Yum.

I worked in Burger King. I grew up eating a Big Mac now and then. But the hamburger deluxe at Kapiolani is simplicity and complexity in a beautiful combination. I could go for one right now. Sometimes I like mustard in my burger, but not in this one. Simple ketchup and mayo do fine. A burger just ain't a complete burger without tomato and onion. I'm that spoiled. At Kapiolani, this burger is just $2.50, totally stacked. Pupule-O-Meter: 3 1/2 stars.

When I first took Josh here, he was in kindergarten and I wasn't sure if he could get his mouth around a burger, let alone finish one. Guess what? He always finished his burgers, sometimes before I did. I never saw a little, skinny kid eat so much! One thing I did for him was to cut the burger into quarter pieces. Made the job a lot easier. This is also one of the only ways he'll eat tomato and onion.

There's something primal about a beautiful plate of freshly-cut, freshly-cooked french fries, or wedges. At Kapiolani, these are probably the best bargain. Just $2.20 and takes two normal people to finish it. Remember to sprinkle your salt (and pepper) on it while the fries are still wet. Once it dries, forget it. Salt bounces off to the bottom. And let the fries cool off for a minute or so because the interior of each wedge is still hot, hot, hot. Once it cools, it's the perfect combo of tender potato inside and crispy exterior.

This has nothing to do with any of our meals. It's just a container of chopped ginger, a staple for everyone who enjoys the famous ox tail soup at Kapiolani. I passed on the ox tail soup in favor of a burger, but I usually pass these days anyway. When Josh was a kindergartener, a large bowl was $5.50. Then the price went up to $7.50 a couple of years later. Now, it goes for $10.50!

I think the price is too high, but as long as people are willing to pay a premium for great ox tail soup — it has five spice, parsley, peanuts — Kapiolani should charge as much as it can. It's the signature dish of the establishment, and they want to run a good business. I understand all of that, and I miss the cheap price of yesteryear. Waah.

Figures that the skinniest one of us, Kua, eats the most fatty stuff. Isn't that how it usually works? I remember being young and skinny and eating like an animal. The hamburger steak plate here is just decadent, smothered in brown gravy and onions. Totally worth devouring. Totally filling. This could probably hold your appetite through the day.

Finishing off the fries isn't difficult. I enjoy them with ketchup, and occasionally with Huy Fong's Sriracha Sweet Chili sauce. A restaurant that doesn't stock this sauce is missing the boat. It's a great condiment that I love.

With so many great old-time restaurants closing down, icons of my youth crumbling down, I guess I shouldn't complain. Kapiolani Coffee Shop isn't dead. It's just in a new place.

Time to start a new ritual.

Another pullback, another opportunity?

Traders are in fat city, while investors are in another sea of red. The best place to be is in cash, unless your skills are good enough to trade some while sitting on a long position.

What the FOMC talks about, whatever is read in its minutes, whatever fear there is about no fed rate cut ... until I hear that we're doomed to a recession, it's all fluctuation.

If this is another buying opportunity, then my A and A- grade stocks are worth a look. They all have solid fundamentals and excellent growth. The market has tended to sell off for days at a time, so I don't expect to find any bargains. Not yet.

AMZN down 3.1%, now 76.22
Here, the stock has returned in the vicinity of its 13- and 50-day simple and exponential moving averages, but not in an ideal range. Getting close, though. Pupule says: Wait.

AAPL down 4.1%, now $126
The stock is in a fairly good place now, right in the midst of its SMA and EMA. Could AAPL fall to $111 as it did two weeks ago? Of course. This is a stupid market, but one that must be respected. I'd go in cautiously, if anything. Pupule says: Buy.

CROX down 4.4%, now $57
Since dipping to $44 two Thursdays ago, the stock has zoomed up with the best of the growth babies. This is the seventh session in a row that CROX finished above its SMA and EMA. Even with today's pullback, best to be patient. I love my Crocs, but it is undeniably volatile. Be a smart shopper. Pupule says: Wait.

GRMN down 5.4%, now $96
Down four of the past five sessions. Stock now trades below its 13-day MAs. Worth watching closely. Buyable here, but a bargain could be around the corner. Pupule says: Buy.

RIMM down 4.8%, now $77
Trading just above its MAs. Patience. Pupule says: Wait.

BIDU down 5.7%, now $199
Nice pullback on slightly lower volume today. Stock is still above MAs, but moving in the right direction for a smart shopper. Pupule says: Wait.

CMG down 2.4%, now $97
Nice. The stock is now below its 13-day MAs. Avocado and dairy prices be damned, this Co is great. Pupule says: Buy.

CEO down 8.3%, now $113
That was quick. The stock was up to a mid-day high of $125 yesterday, and traders took their profits today. Can't blame them. The stock was $92 two weeks ago. Now CEO is below its 50-day SMA and moving closer to its other MAs. Inch in slowly. Pupule says: Buy.

FLS down 1.9%, now $69
Despite blowout earnings, the stock never moved above its MAs when the market bounced back last week. Trading right within its MAs now. Pupule says: Buy.

GOOG down 1.3%, now $506
Like FLS, Google wasn't hit hard today. Like FLS, the stock has a lid on it and hasn't moved above its MAs recently. Not exactly a bargain, but a fair price here. Pupule says: Buy.

NTDOY.PK down 2.7%, now $57
Coming back down to its MAs. Watch closely. Pupule says: Wait.

POT down 3.2%, now $82
More like $82.98. Starting to return to its MAs, stock is now touching its 13-day SMA and EMA. Pupule says: Buy.

UA down 1.4%, now $62
Plunging deeper, now below its 13-day MAs, but well above its 50-day MAs. Careful here. Inch in. Pupule says: Buy.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Brew Review: Cooper's Best Extra Stout

Cooper's Best Extra Stout (Australia)
Appearance (0 to 4 stars): 4. Dark as shoyu. I like that.
Aroma: 3. Not a strong aroma, but definitely rich.
Flavor: 3.5. Sweet, then a tinge of bitterness.
Texture: 4. Goes down as smooth as Guiness.
Drinkability: 3.5. Nice, not as sweet as Guiness, but still sweeter than the average brew.

Overall score: 18.

Cost: $3, size 12.7 oz.
On the label:
Summary: The only other Aussie beer I'd seen was Foster's Lager (oil can). This brew has an old-fashioned look with the label and 19th-century font style. However, once I poured this baby into my mug, it looked very much like Guiness, except a little darker. This didn't disappoint a bit. Hail Australia!

See more at Cooper's site.

Wahiawa has Seoul

WAHIAWA — The oldest kal bi restaurant in Hawaii had been there forever, in my sights, but unvisited by this Pupule. Until now.

The trip to Waialua for the football photo shoot was informative, productive and ... unfulfilling. See, I was hungry, and the only place I know of in Waialua that has food worth stopping for is a little bento joint that closes at 1 p.m.

That was way too early. On the way back to town, I decided to make a pilgrimage to Seoul Inn, which is known as the oldest kal bi restaurant in Hawaii. Never been there, but what kal bi fan can resist such a claim?

The place is slightly off the beaten path, but convenient nonetheless. I'd seen it many a time while driving to games at Leilehua High School and always wondered. Is it that good? And why is the restaurant still in an old building surrounded by dingy stores? It didn't make sense, but it also meant that the potential for great food was high. It's often the case with old restaurants in small towns.

So I parked (not a lot of spaces, but very accessible) and made my way in. Thought I'd make it take out, but after ordering, the place just grew on me. I'm glad I stayed. As I downloaded my Waialua football photos, I started to wonder about Wahiawa in general, with all its fast-food joints outnumbering the local establishments. There's no way I'd go for Taco Bell or Wendy's (two of my fast-food favorites) over Sunnyside Drive In. But Seoul Inn?

The food only took 10 minutes to arrive. The kal bi was the star. The superstar. Tasty. Sweet, maybe too sweet for some kal bi-holics, but fine for me. It came with the bone, authentic Korean style. I can do just fine with or without that bone. The veggies were terrific. The soy bean sprouts surprised me. I didn't know what it was, but they tasted like they'd been fermenting in garlic for weeks. So good. So so good. The waitress was kind enough to bring me seconds.

I made sure to make the rounds on the veggies with each bite of kal bi. The regular kim chi was surprisingly unspicy. There are arguments to be made about what authentic kim chi should taste like. Local style is very low in red peppers and tastes more like Japanese tsukemono (pickled veggies) than anything. Of course, check history and Korea didn't have red peppers until the Portuguese voyagers brought them to shore. So, people who claim that true Korean kim chi is not super spicy — not like the fiery red jars I used to buy at Dae Han Store (now gone) — may have a strong argument.

In any event, the veggies rocked. The rice did not. The rice was almost cold, a bit too chewy and definitely on the verge of crunchiness. Not good qualities for good rice, but it was 5 p.m. and I may have caught the cook at an "in-between" time for their regular crowds.

I finished off my meal by sucking on the kal bi bone without a shred of manners. I also mashed my leftover rice on the kal bi plate to absorb the last of that carmelized, kal bi goodness. That's how good it was. And is.

For 7 bucks, you won't get a better, home-style Korean meal. The service was friendly and quick. I strongly recommend Seoul Inn if you love Korean food, are on a budget, and appreciate value. If you need fancy chandeliers and waiters in suits to enjoy a meal, go elsewhere.

Seoul Inn rating on the Pupule-o-meter: 3 stars (out of 4).

Seoul Inn
410 California Ave
Wahiawa, HI 96786-1947
Phone: 808-621-9090