OK, I'll admit it: I am flabbergasted by this market. It just does not want to go down and stay down. I mean, I can recall thinking Monday, "this time it's different." Ha! What an idiot I was. Shorts had their chance. It lasted about 36 hours. And then it was over. Bears back to hiding, bulls rejoice!

So, you know that tirade I wrote on

Wednesday about having a plan? Well, forget it: you don't need a plan. You just need ammo!

But heck, if you want to get along, go along, and surely there's no better go-along group of stocks than our prized Prom Queens. How are they doing? Oh, as usual, they continue to chug along. As of Wednesday at 1 p.m., PQ is up a very solid 19.5% -- including our

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

write-off. And our benchmark

Nasdaq 100 Trust

(QQQ) - Get Report

is up a meager 14.5%. So, our thesis holds. No one wants to leave these 10 dearly beloved stocks. Sentiment rules, brother, in the face of everything else!

The Prom Queens

But, speaking of that Wednesday column, I did receive a few questions asking for "plan" ideas. Good question, and I probably should have included a few links, so you'd have known I wasn't all soapbox, no soap. Best bet then, is to check out my "primer"

column and from there, the series of columns on building a methodology.

In addition, I've discussed low risk/high reward entries in stocks, oh, about 1,000 times, so be on the lookout for those. Also, see any of my columns on money management, sticking to your plan, buying on dips, taking profits, etc. In fact, come to think of it, just about every column I write implies that there's a plan behind all of my madness! So, I guess you just have to keep reading.

Cruising Through the Charts

Finally, my in-box is now plenty crammed with chart requests and questions, so let's end with four of my favorites from this past week.

First up is

Pieter Visser

writing from "rainy Bergen, Norway." Because I was on a cruise theme this past week, PV wanted me to look at

Tommy Hilfiger

(TOM)

. Just kidding, but geez, I hope you get it! No, he wanted to look at

Royal Caribbean Cruises

(RCL) - Get Report

, parent of that very fine

Monarch of the Seas

that I had the pleasure to sail on.

Biotech in Distress

Next up,

Rob Wren

, who wanted a peak at some distressed biotech stocks. Rob, how 'bout

Incyte Pharmaceuticals

(INCY) - Get Report

?

TST Recommends

Up the River Without a Paddle

And, who could resist this email from

Jerimy Horner

?

Could you please give me your take on Digital River (DRIV) - Get Report? It's not so much for me as for a co-worker who went long in January '99 at about 50, with no exit strategy (or any other plans for that matter). I know this sounds like the cliched "It's not for me, it's for this friend of mine," but really GB, this guy is really driving me crazy harping all day long about DRIV. Help!

Oh, sure, Jerimy! You think I just fell off a turnip truck?! Still, I couldn't resist. Here it is:

Dirty Little Secrets

Finally, two questions, two answers:

Gary: I enjoy reading your columns and find them interesting, but I'm perplexed by this charting science. Why does it look to me that you could pick any point you wanted to on a chart and draw whatever result you desired to see? To my untrained eye, it looks like you could pick more than one starting point and defend basically any position you wanted to. Dawn Richards

Dawn, you've hit on one of the dirty secrets of technical analysis. In fact, you are 100% correct: For every point on a chart, you

could

come to almost any conclusion and make a credible defense for your point of view. Oh, I suppose there are a few no-brainers such as high-volume breakouts in which you'd have a tough time arguing a short position. But for many other patterns, the choice is far from clear.

That said, the value of TA is not to look at a chart and come up with surefire answer. No, the value of TA is simply to put the odds in your favor. And that basically boils down to looking at price and volume action and coming to the conclusion that a stock will either go up or go down. Really, it's nothing more complicated than that.

Of course, not every chart will yield even those basic answers, and if that's the case, I just skip those charts. In fact, the only charts I will trade are those that

wouldn't

be subject to wide-ranging debate. I don't care if someone says "ascending triangle" and another person says "trendline breakout." If most would agree the chart is moving up (or down), then that's good enough for me.

And that brings me to the bigger point. If you get the direction right -- and that's a lot easier than most people think it is -- then profitable trading really boils down to solid money management. You know, that boring stuff like making sure you have a positive expectancy (see my many columns on this and related topics) for your trades and entering a trade where the reward to risk is the highest.

So, all this chart-reading I do is, in fact, subject to very different opinions. It's for that very reason that "great" chart reading should never be confused with great trading. No, great trading is an entirely different animal, and the reason I spend so much time in these columns never even looking at a chart.

Gary: How do you determine if a blow-off top is the start of a short, intermediate or long term correction, or just a hiccup along the way up? Ted Merletti

Ted, great question. I have no idea. In fact, I have so little idea, I don't even try. Instead, I only try to bail out when I see a parabolic top. If I want to enter again, I don't guess on the length of the correction, but rather let the chart reveal how long the correction will be. I then just try to enter at a low risk point, looking at either the downtrend to be broken with an upside breakout, or more likely, a long bowl to be formed. A good example:

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

.

And so ends another week where the best network show on TV remains

Sports Night

, the best team in the

NCAA

remains

Duke

, and the best technician-in-fundamentalist's clothing has to be our very own

Jim Cramer

!

Gary B. Smith is a freelance writer who trades for his own account from his Maryland home using technical analysis. At time of publication, he held no positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Smith writes five technical analysis columns for TheStreet.com each week, including Technician's Take, Charted Territory and TSC Technical Forum. While he cannot provide Investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback at

gbsmith@attglobal.net.