Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
9:00 AM EST,
Wednesday, November 19, 2008: My friends in publishing tell me the
bottom has recently fallen out of their advertising, as clients have slashed
their marketing budgets to basically zero. Not good. If I were a betting man,
I'd say this recession is accelerating. Which means I also remain steadfast
in my recommendations:
Do not get back into the stockmarket.
Do not believe regular rumors that we have reached bottom.
Do not try catching falling knives.
Short a handful of stocks that you think are egregiously overpriced, given their
declining sales and receding prospects.
have gone on a buying strike, except at Wal-Mart and stores that push ultra-cheap
2007 tax returns total 1,000 pages. I'm not bragging. They're a reflection
of my "brilliant" diversification strategy. Yes, you idiot, the more
you diversify the more K1s you make, the more states chase you for their shekels.
I've warned in the past about forming companies for small ventures. You can
never kill them and they scream for money forever. But now I'm warning about
real estate syndicates and investments in private companies.
comes another horrid part of this: When my wife and I die (yes, I've been playing
with estate planning), every one of my investments will need the expensive services
of a professional appraiser. And the best part? Some appraisals will cost more
than the investment is worth. I'm going to write a column on this stuff.
Oops, I already do.
work. My mail is bulging with expensive catalogs, which I junk. My
email is bulging with deals on computer stuff, clothes, shoes, socks, big screen
TVs, iPods, cameras, camcorders, etc., which I often don't junk. And sometimes
I buy. I wonder why more firms which are hurting aren't emailing their customers
regularly with offers? The "best" emailer is eCost.com. They hit me
every day. I hate their no returns policy, but their emails are intriguing,
and occasionally I succumb. Why aren't you emailing your customers regularly?
fast is your broadband service? Go to Speakeasy
and do the test. My cable modem last night came in at an incredible 21,982,000
bits per second download speed and a miserable 495,000 bits per second upload.
You can do something about your results -- by begging your provider for compassion.
Sometimes begging works.
son's favorite clothing maker is Ibex.
make stuff from New Zealand
wool. My favorite item is the $95 Zepher Sport.
getting cold and dry.
Which means your hands are cracking and your back is itching. There is one solution:
Buy it today. The
Vermont Country Store has it.
loss: From PC
Like the blood-drinking
creatures of the night, your devices are sucking down power while you sleep--albeit
without the bite marks.
that's plugged in pretty much these days is drawing some current," says
Mark Bernstein, managing director of the University of Southern California's
that standby energy drain accounts for anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of an
average home's annual power usage. Convert that percentage into dollars, and
you've got around $4 billion in wasted spending across America every year,
the Department of Energy estimates. For most families, that means a minimum
of $130 a year--more than some people spend on a typical month's electric
There's no way
for consumers to even know which devices draw a lot of power while off,"
says Alan Meier, a senior scientist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's
Energy Analysis Department (LBNL developed and supports the useful Home Energy
Saver Web site). "They look entirely the same."
P3 International's Kill A Watt EZ can help. Available online or in
home repair stores for $40 to $50, the device shows how much energy an item
is using and how much it's costing you. We started with remote controls. I
have ten, no less, and that was the first sign of trouble. "Any time
you see a remote, that means there's some standby power consumption [by the
device or devices it controls]," Meier says.
I lucked out
in avoiding the worst offender: A plasma TV, the Department of Energy says,
costs a whopping $165 a year for its standby power consumption alone. However,
I did identify several other remote-controlled power wasters, including my
cable box ($10.33 a year), my CRT TV ($5.16 a year), and my VCR ($3.10 a year).
And they were
only the first culprits. Here's a list of other energy drainers we discovered
in my home, and the annual cost of their standby energy consumption (based
on applying the national average electricity cost of 11.8 cents per kilowatt-hour
to the electricity consumption of each device, as measured by the Kill a Watt
hard drive: $2.06
speaker system: $5.16
like cell-phone chargers tack on an extra couple bucks when left plugged in,
with nothing attached. Factor in other always-on appliances such as DVRs ($27.90
a year) and stereo receivers ($41.34 a year), and the total rises quickly.
(Again, these calculations are based on my specific devices and the national
average rate of 11.8 cents per kilowatt-hour; your mileage may vary.)
The wasted cash
is bad enough, but the toll on Mother Nature is worse. Vampire energy accounts
for 1 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, Meier says. In the
U.S. alone, that's equal to the combined annual production of dozens of power
So how can you
cut your costs and curb your carbon footprint? The obvious answer is unplugging
items when they're not in use, but that's not always feasible: a DVR that
isn't plugged in won't record your favorite show in your absence. And nobody
wants the hassle of plugging and unplugging a dozen devices several times
several devices address these issues. "Increasingly, we see power strips
becoming smarter, more flexible, and capable of doing some of the tedious
work for you," Meier says.
Isole Plug Load Control. Models such as Bits Limited's Smart Strip power strips
($30 to $50, depending on features and size) can monitor electricity use and
automatically cut power to devices in vampire mode. WattStopper/Legrand's
Isolé Plug Load Control ($90) incorporates a motion detector and turns
electronics off when a room is unoccupied for several minutes. The Belkin
Conserve Surge Protector ($40 to $50) lets you cut off power to devices with
a wireless controller.
Surge Protector with remote. All these models offer at least two "always
on" outlets, giving you the ability to leave items such as DVRs or routers--which
would lose functionality when unplugged--continously connected. You can also
check planned electronics purchases for the Energy Star approval sticker,
which indicates that they draw significantly less power than nonstickered
competitors do when they're not in use--as much as 60 percent less, according
to the Alliance to Save Energy.
for today's world. I'm down in Washington today begging. Some of
my investments are in need of being bailed out. If they aren't, thousands of
my readers will suffer the depressing indignity of reading how stupid Harry
has been. Hence I need bailout money. Heh, this excuse is as good as theirs?
+ Suppose you
were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress.... But, then I repeat
myself. -- Mark Twain
+ I contend that
for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in
a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. -- Winston
+ A government
which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. -- George
best news. This column has now moved from the thoroughly dreadful
web.com to a wonderful web hosting company called ICDSoft.com,
my son's enlightened recommendation.
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
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