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9:00 AM EST, Friday, August 14, 2009. Yesterday was glorious. I met with two companies with great businesses. My pleasure was twofold. First, it's nice to have your faith renewed in the vibrancy of our economy. There are superb new businesses being started today, despite the recession. Second, there are wonderful people out there with great talent and great knowledge who are a genuine joy to be with.

Life can get pretty boggy when the idiocies of daily life pile up. Like why did Citigroup decide -- all by itself -- to change my credit card number. That's the card I've spent eons listing with every vendor and his mother. Like why did my BlackBerry not synch properly with my Outlook? Why did it omit 11 of my most precious contacts?

One of my joyous companies was a software company. The founder is 32. Eight years ago, his friend who runs an HVAC service company came to him and said, "All the software packages for our industry are shit. You're a genius. Design me a better one. And eight years later he did. He now has several hundred genuinely happy customers. He now needs a few shekels to ramp up his marketing/sales program.

Lessons from this:

1. He started a company with his own programming skills in his own basement.

2. It didn't cost much -- what with cheap computers, the Internet, etc. etc.

3. He is saving his customers a fortune by making them more efficient. He's doing the economy a mitzvah.

One element I loved most -- his marketing program. He buys words on Google. When you searched for "HVAC software" (amongst others), you landed at his site. Google charged him approx. $5 a lead. He had a handful of salespeople standing by to call the leads instantly and try and sell them the product. And, though it was hard work (maybe a 45-day close cycle), it worked.

To me. The whole thing was ultra-revealing. I'm an old magazine publisher. In the old days, we'd sell people like him an $8,000 advertisement. He'd have to wait until the magazine was printed, delivered and consumer before he got a single lead. If he couldn't afford the $8,000, tough.

These days, the brilliance of Google is simple. He can choose to spend $300 or $3,000 -- tailoring his leads to his capacity to handle them (he could never do that with magazines or newspapers) and his budget.

No wonder magazines and newspapers are dead. And Google thrives.

Word for word from yesterday:
Latest picks:
STEC, EWA and EWZ are doing nicely. Thank you. I suspect that GOOG, AAPL and GS will continue their inexorable climb. Having a little in GLD is a good hedge. Don't gamble with this market. I can name you a whole bunch of hedge fund managers who sold this market short and are presently looking pretty bloody stupid.

Heh, look at my favorite STEC in the last few days:

You can't make this stuff up.

The New York Times. August 14, 2009:: Hadassah, the Jewish volunteer organization, knew it had invested $40 million with Bernard L. Madoff by the late 1990s. It also knew it had taken more than $130 million from its Madoff accounts and still had millions on the books when the vast Ponzi scheme was revealed in December.

What the charity says it did not know, however, was that Sheryl Weinstein, its chief financial officer when it made those investments, was having an affair with Mr. Madoff,

Ms. Weinstein, who has been married for 37 years, discloses that relationship in “Madoff’s Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie, and Me,” a memoir scheduled for publication by St. Martin’s Press at the end of August, a spokesman for the publisher confirmed.

Hadassah’s national president, Nancy Falchuk, told Hadassah’s national board in a letter on Thursday that the group was “shocked to hear the news reports of Mrs. Weinstein’s personal admission regarding this relationship. Indeed, we knew nothing of her relationship with Mr. Madoff until today.”

Ruth Madoff, who has been married to Mr. Madoff for almost 50 years, knew nothing about the “alleged affair,” Peter Chavkin, her lawyer said.

From today's abc news:

Click on the photo for the full interview .

Should I buy shares in an investment banker? As a shareholder, you are at the mercy of what the executives pay themselves. Today Bloomberg notes:

Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman’s $702 million compensation made him the highest-paid executive in the U.S. last year, the Corporate Library reported.

The package for Schwarzman included $2.3 million of compensation and almost $699.8 million from the vesting of one- quarter of the equity granted as he took the firm public at $31 a share in 2007, said the Portland, Maine-based Corporate Library. Schwarzman, Blackstone’s founder, was granted $4.7 billion in equity at the time of the offering, said the Corporate Library, which specializes in governance issues.

How has Blackstone's stock done? In word -- shit. Down from $31 on the IPO to $14.41 yesteday -- a loss of 54%.

Why do people go on CNBC? Or Bloomberg. In order::

1. Because they have a large ego. That's the main reason.

2. To get free publicity -- for their stock, their fund, their book, etc.

3. Because they get asked.

Is it an enjoyable experience? NO.

Do you get paid? NO.

Are you ever able to discuss anything in depth? NO.

Do you have to be expert to go on TV? NO.

Does CNBC or Bloomberg check your investment performance? NO.

Do the best money managers appear on TV? NO.

Should you believe anything you see on BubbleVision ? That's for you to decide. Personally, I prefer Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.

What is TV's primary aim? To sell more ads. It does this by being upbeat and sensationalist,

How bad is it? In the old days, they had a makeup department that made you look beautiful before you went on TV. To save money, they've dispensed with that frivolity.

Sleep pants are absolutely great. New York City kids wear them to school. I wore them to the Harvard Club for breakfast yesterday, horrifying my wife, but amusing the Harvard Club's waiters. The kids pay $5. I prefer these from Hanes.

They cost $14. They are soft woven 100% cotton, Most importantly, they have pockets which means you can wear to the Opera and your wife will divorce you. Buy them here.

All About the Taliban, such genuinely nice folk

How do you know if you're a Taliban.

1. You refine heroin for a living, but you have a moral objection to beer.

2. You own a $3,000 machine gun and $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can't afford shoes.

3. You have more wives than teeth.

4. You wipe your butt with your bare hand, but consider bacon "unclean."

5. You think vests come in two styles: bulletproof and suicide.

6. You can't think of anyone you haven't declared Jihad against.

7. You consider television dangerous, but routinely carry explosives in your clothing.

8. You were amazed to discover that cell phones have uses other than setting off roadside bombs.

9. You have nothing against women and think every man should own at least two.

10. You've always had a crush on your neighbor's goat.

Women in Afghanistan know their place
Several years before we invaded Afghanistan a reporter did a story on gender roles in Kabul , Afghanistan. She noted that women customarily walked five paces behind their husbands.

She recently returned to Kabul and observed that women still walk behind their husbands, despite the liberation we brought.

The reporter approached one of the Afghani women and asked, 'Why do you now seem happy with an old custom you once tried so desperately to change?'

The woman looked the reporter straight in the eyes, and said, 'Land Mines.'

Dude, who did your landscaping? What did you do to deserve this? Give them a hard time? Quibble with their bill?

This weekend:
It may actually be sunny in the northeast this weekend. My daughter is visiting. She's coming for a rug and replacement battery for her laptop. In return, she'll be nice to me and cut the hairs in my ears, if I I beg. The challenge of parenthood is configuring increasingly massive reasons (a.k.a. bribes) for your children to visit. I know my role.

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, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.