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Friday, November 27, 2009: It is cold, wet and dreary in Portland, Oregon. I"m told that's standard Portland winter weather. But it's not winter, yet...

Staying over Thanksgiving with my son, Michael, has its charms. On my first night I went looking for something to eat. I opened all the kitchen cupboards. Most were bare -- except for one shelf:

Michael quipped, "We eat a lot of beans." He explained that he had read The China Study, decided meat was the root of all evil. Hence, the beans.

More beans than I've ever seen. I took this photo with my Canon G10. Sadly, its lens isn't wide enough to capture the full horror of a kitchen stocked with only one thing -- beans.

Outside beans, Portland has Patagonia, Filsons, North Face, REI , Columbia, Eddie Bauer -- more stores to buy a waterproof jacket than you ever dreamed of. In actual fact, far too many.

Portland suffers from "too many" of many things -- like trendy residential housing and trendy commercial office space.

Capitalism explodes during booms and then implodes during the subsequent bust. A smart Portland businessman told me there are two reasons companies fail : First, they try to grow too fast. Second, their overheads (which includes their borrowings) are too high.

Right now we're in the bust part of the cycle. The bust is when the bargains appear. They appeared in the stockmarket in March -- when blood ran heavily on Wall Street. Now blood is beginning to flow in commercial real estate. Keep your eyes open.

Portland has cheap housing and a nice outdoor life style -- with skiing, surfing, biking, hiking, wind surfing, kiteboarding and every variation in between.

The scariest time. There are many intelligent people who are genuinely worried about the dollar's fate. Those people read the writing on the wall -- If you were China (or any other country), would you want to hold your country's key assets in depreciating dollars?

There really is a good case for holding some of our assets in one of two things (preferably both)

1. Gold, silver, oil, etc.

2. Assets that can't be reproduced -- like land to grow things on and beautiful land.

The Internet is full of shrieking gloom and doom propaganda. Here's a typical piece. It's actually worth watching. It's called The Dollar Bubble.

Never believe the paper they send you. From Crains Chicago:

Suburban fund manager arrested for fraud
The manager of a Northfield-based hedge fund was arrested Tuesday on federal charges of allegedly cheating investors out of millions of dollars.
Jay Nolan, 56, of Wilmette, was charged by the federal government for alleged mail fraud. He was released Wednesday on a $100,000 secured bond.
Mr. Nolan established Lodge Capital Group LLC in Northfield in 2002 and is the only member of the company, according to a court document. Two years later he created the commodity futures hedge fund Lodge Diversified Fund LP.

According to the federal government, Mr. Nolan knowingly concealed to investors that his hedge fund had sustained massive losses in 2006 over the course of three months.
One individual, who had invested nearly $3 million with Lodge Diversified Fund between 2005 and 2007, claimed that after confronting Mr. Nolan last week, the fund manager admitted he had been falsifying monthly statements to cover up the losses. Mr. Nolan allegedly showed the investor how he fabricated letterhead to make the monthly account statement appear as if they came from a legitimate futures clearing house, according to the federal complaint.

The investor, who cooperated with the federal government, suspected wrongdoing after he attempted to confirm that his account with Mr. Nolan held $5.6 million and the Lodge Diversified Fund had a balance of $6.3 million, according to the court document. When the unnamed investor called to check up on the accounts, he learned that the hedge fund had a balance of $170,000.

Mr. Nolan continued to take a 2% monthly management fee from his clients in spite of the losses they sustained, the complaint said.

If convicted, Mr. Nolan faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years for mail fraud and a maximum fine of $250,000 for mail fraud. He would be required to pay restitution.

Things to be grateful for and lessons learned in 2009.
I'm still working on them. If you have particular lessons you'd like to share, email me .

Wonderful New Yorker cartoon:

See you Monday. We're going to Oregon's coast:

This is Cannon Beach, Oregon. They're not scheduling blue skies for tomorrow.

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.