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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment, Technology Investor. Harry Newton Previous Columns
Friday, November 20, 2009: Day one. Your hedge fund manager fires you because he wants a vacation.

Day two. Everyone and their uncle is selling you their favorite investment. One biotech hedge fund is up 82% this year. An energy fund is up 21% since June, when it started. A bond fund returns much higher interest rates than the miserable numbers I'm eking out on bank CDs.

I could be stinking rich if I were intelligent.

I'm grateful for the New Yorker for this full-page drawing.

Say NO. Mull.

Mull a bit more. Soon my hedgie will return a big wad of cash that he was doing nicely with. What will I do with it?

Read this book. It's a fun, creative novel.

Amazon, Barnes and Noble
and Walmart are having a price war on books. This morning, Walmart is cheapest at $10.

Great weekend financial reading:

Great things were always expected of Marc Dreier, and he expected them for himself. He needed the hotshot litigating career and a life stuffed with rich men’s toys. He needed a Hamptons beachfront house. Thus began a four-year Ponzi scheme—involving audacious impersonations and $380 million stolen from 13 hedge funds—which all unraveled just days before the Madoff scandal broke, bringing the 59-year-old attorney a 20-year prison sentence. In conjunction with CBS’s 60 Minutes, the author gets Dreier’s blow-by-blow account of what it’s like to turn bad.

Read the full Vanity Fair piece.

On Tuesday, March 11th, 2008, somebody — nobody knows who — made one of the craziest bets Wall Street has ever seen. The mystery figure spent $1.7 million on a series of options, gambling that shares in the venerable investment bank Bear Stearns would lose more than half their value in nine days or less. It was madness — "like buying 1.7 million lottery tickets," according to one financial analyst.

But what's even crazier is that the bet paid.

At the close of business that afternoon, Bear Stearns was trading at $62.97. At that point, whoever made the gamble owned the right to sell huge bundles of Bear stock, at $30 and $25, on or before March 20th. In order for the bet to pay, Bear would have to fall harder and faster than any Wall Street brokerage in history.

The very next day, March 12th, Bear went into free fall. By the end of the week, the firm had lost virtually all of its cash and was clinging to promises of state aid; by the weekend, it was being knocked to its knees by the Fed and the Treasury, and forced at the barrel of a shotgun to sell itself to JPMorgan Chase (which had been given $29 billion in public money to marry its hunchbacked new bride) at the humiliating price of … $2 a share. Whoever bought those options on March 11th woke up on the morning of March 17th having made 159 times his money, or roughly $270 million. This trader was either the luckiest guy in the world, the smartest son of a bitch ever or…

Read the full Matt Taibbi Rolling Stone piece.

John Kenneth Galbraith wrote that all financial crises are the result of “debt that, in one fashion or another, has become dangerously out of scale.” The recent financial crisis was no exception, with everyone—homeowners, private-equity investors, our biggest banks—taking on enormous amounts of debt. If it’s frustrating that the government is footing the bill to clean up the mess, it’s even worse that the government helped pay for the debt binge that created the mess in the first place, thanks to a tax system that actually subsidizes borrowing. Debt didn’t get dangerously out of scale because the system was broken. It got out of scale, in part, because the system worked

The government doesn’t make people go into debt, of course. It just nudges them in that direction. Individuals are able to write off all their mortgage interest, up to a million dollars, and companies can write off all the interest on their debt, but not things like dividend payments. This gives the system what economists call a “debt bias.” It encourages people to make smaller down payments and to borrow more money than they otherwise would, and to tie up more of their wealth in housing than in other investments.

Read the full James Surowiecki New Yorker "The Debt Economy" piece.

Don't use Skype on your corporate PC. Yesterday I recommended Skype as the best way to stay in touch with the family. Skype video is superb, and free. One reader asked his IT manager for his opinion and predictably got the "Stay Away" memo:

Skype is a desktop collaboration tool that allows voice calls, instant messaging, file transfers and video conferencing over the Internet. Calls to other users of the service are free, while calls to other devices can be made for a fee. Running Skype leads to an unacceptable security risk since it has the ability to deliver malicious code without detection. Given this and other compliance challenges, Skype should never be used on C******'s desktops or network to conduct C****** business.

My recommendation still stands. Skype video and voice is the best way to stay in touch.

Download Office 2010. I tried Office 2007. I hated it. I don't use it. One day, Microsoft will debut Office 2010. For now, if you're curious and have time to kill, you can download a beta of "Office Professional Plus 2010." Click here.

Bargain hotel room in Poland.

The beds were concave. The pillows were one inch thick. The room gave spartan a whole new meaning. But the Wi-Fi was free, fast and superb. Go figure.

The key to traveling is to always ask questions. Sample "What's the dumbest question you've been asked?"

I asked that of the passport-stamper Immigration official on leaving London. He said his dumbest was "Where do I go now?"

He answered, "You have an airline ticket. Maybe that's where you're going?"

Middle Europe got shafted: Places like Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Ukraine were joyous at the end of Second World War. The Germans left. But then the Russians came and, in many respects, they were worse off than under the Germans.

Twenty years ago, Russia fell apart, the Russian troops went home and the Berlin Wall fell.

It's hard to grasp that capitalism came to these places only 20 years ago. The progress in this short time has been nothing short of awesome.

Favorite recent New Yorker cartoons

Easy does it. Remember the old adage. A fool and his money are easily parted.

Been there. Done that.

Smell the roses. Play tennis. Hug the family.

We live in interesting times.

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.