Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.
8:30 AM Monday, April 4, 2005: Back
in New York. Horrible trip from California.
Gigantic piles of unread mail. All sorts of minor disasters, like busted phone
continued incompetence: Who can recommend the stock of a company
which insists on buying a valueless, money-losing company (MCI), yet
can't run its own miserable business. I spent half of last night on hold to
Verizon's "customer service" call center... Well after midnight, I
emailed the president, Ivan Seidenberg:
I returned from a month vacation to find my main line 212-712-2833
Calling it produced endless ringing.
Since its the first line in a hunt sequence, it effectively put me out
of business. My accountant couldnt find me. Its tax season. This
I called Verizon. Your automated call repair system is half good. It scheduled
a technician between 9 and 5 tomorrow. But it did not offer the option of busying
out the line.
I called back and, after waiting 25 minutes, got a live operator who told me
she would busy out the line. She lied. She never did.
An hour later, I called back, waited another 25 minutes, and got someone in
your Syracuse call center called Laura. She said she couldnt busy out
the number nor could she call forward the number to my second line 212-712-2834.
She told me Verizon computers were unreliable.
She said she would send a note to operations who would fix the problem by 8:30
I called Manhattan Cable to turn my cable TV back on. They did this painlessly
in 3 minutes. They also offered to sell me VoIP and bypass Verizon entirely.
Thats your future. Treat your customers poorly as you treated me
-- and have them drop you like a hot potato. Why do you continue to provide
Youve lost a lot of market cap in recent months. Perhaps theres
a relationship between your awful customer service and your share price?"
remains the classic cockroach stock: AIG is
no Enron, says New York Times' Gretchen Morgenson. But, on Sunday, she wrote,
"There are, however, some disturbing similarities between A.I.G. and
Enron: Asleep-at-the-switch auditors. Secretive off-balance-sheet entities that
should have been included on the company's financial statements but weren't.
A management team willing to try any number of accounting tricks to make the
company's results appear better than they actually were.
And one more
likeness: As A.I.G.'s shares have plummeted, the financial position of one of
the company's insurance subsidiaries has taken a big hit.
had ownership stakes in off-the-books entities in which its shares were pledged
as collateral. As long as the company's stock remained above a certain level,
those pledges were fine. But when the shares started to slide, Enron had to
cough up more collateral to shore up those interests. The unwinding was ugly,
and the need to shore up the entities hastened the company's demise."
You must read Ms. Morgenson's full article. Click
watches or counterfeit watches? The world is
awash in $20 copies of $2,000 to $20,000 Tiffanys, Rolex, Cartier, etc. I can't
endorse theft. But my recent experience fixing "real" and fake watches
You get the same technology irrespective of how much you pay. The quartz movement
in my wife's real $1,000 Tiffanys watch is the same as the quartz movement as
in a $20 fake Tiffanys watch. I know. I've had both apart, changing batteries.
In some cases the technology of the pricey watch is worse than the fake one.
My wife's real Tiffanys watch is constantly breaking down. My wife's new real
Cartier watch is losing time....
2. There are bad fakes and good fakes. Some of the good ones are excellent.
An untrained, casual eye couldn't tell the difference between a good
fake and a real watch. Before buying, carefully check the fake out.
3. Don't buy gold fakes. The "gold" wears off over time. "Silver"
4. Watch out for "real" prices for fake watches in places like eBay.
5. The new Chinese versions of Swiss mechanical "complications" --
like those from Franck Muller -- are superb.
You buy real fakes in the bazaars of Asia, and the Chinatowns of big American
cities, like New York and Los Angeles. A great birthday present is to spend
$100 and buy seven them -- Rolexes, Cartier, Tiffanys, Baume & Mercier,
Patek Phillippe, Brequet, etc. You'll get far more fun out a drawer-full of
fakes than out of one real one. That's my humble opinion, as a technologist.
But if you're someone who feels that something is worth what they paid for it,
go for it. Waste your money.
JetBlue was six hours late out of Ontario, CA: Which
made our return trip totally horrible. They delay wasn't JetBlue's fault. It
was weather in New York. Kennedy Airport was shut down for seven hours on Saturday.
JetBlue handled the delay gracefully and with intelligence and kept its passengers
informed. Our pilot even talked to us. And when the whole ordeal was over, they
gave each of us a free one-way ticket for a future flight. When was the
last time a "real" (i.e. overpriced) airline did that for you? I like
JetBlue. Its stock may have finished its decline.
The idiocy of the TSA. The Transport Security
Administration opens cardboard and plastic boxes you ship as baggage, but not
suitcases. I don't know. But it sure messes up the contents of your box. And
you get the nagging feeling they stole something. In short, don't ship boxes
as baggage on airlines.
Now you've won the lotto. The Free Lotto Company out of Holland has
informed me I've won $1 million. All I have to do is to send them a little money
and they'll send me a lot of money. Beware, it's all a gigantic fake. And not
even a real fake. But a fake fake. In fact, a real scam.
about fish farms, your own business and some interesting business opportunities
when I recover today and get my Verizon phone working. By the way, my "fake"
BroadVoice Internet broadband VoIP phone line works more reliably than
Verizon's "real" circuit switched phone line. And their service
How to have a vasectomy
After having their 11th child, a North Georgia Mountain couple decided 11 was
enough, as they could not afford a larger bed.
So the husband went to his veterinarian and told him that he and his cousin
didn't want to have any more children.
The doctor told him that there was a procedure called a vasectomy that could
fix the problem but that it was expensive.
A less costly alternative, said the doctor, was to go home, get a cherry bomb
(fireworks are legal in the North Georgia Mountains), light
it, put it in an empty beer can, then hold the can up to his ear and count to
The redneck said
to the doctor, "I may not be the smartest man in the world, but I don't
see how putting a cherry bomb in a beer can next to
my ear is going to help me."
"Trust me, " said the doctor.
So the man went home, lit a cherry bomb and put it in a beer can. He held the
can up to his ear and began to count:
At which point he paused, placed the beer can between his legs, and resumed
counting on his other hand.
This procedure also works in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South
Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas and parts of Alabama.
fair to all these wonderful states, but funny nevertheless.
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 .
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