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Why I hate investing. Some AI conclusions. Seriously useful tips. Why doesn’t eBay improve?

I hate the investing guessing. I hate guessing which company will soar.

My time frame is all wrong. I think my predictions should happen at the speed I write this blog. I should choose a stock , buy it. Three hours later it should go up 50%. Sadly, it  doesn’t.

What’s worse is that I get excited about some trend, then go looking for companies who are as excited as I am. I find them. There they are in plain sight. But everyone and his uncle has already “discovered” them. Now they’re way over-priced.

I’ve become the Runt Investor. The last of the breed. Destined to live on slim pickings.

What’s worse is that I used to run a company and if I had a good idea we did it. Most of the time it worked. Especially with the obvious ones. Like being extra-nice to customers. like listening to them, etc.

But as an investor, I’m “hands-off.”  I’ve tried dropping obvious ideas in. But I quickly found nobody is listening. In fact, nobody listens — unless your name is on the check and signed big and bold.

My latest ploy is to write my brilliant ideas. And hope someone in “management” reads this blog.

On the weekend I tried to buy a Waterman Le Man fountain pen on eBay. I lost the “auction” because somebody outbid me at the very last moment. I thought: that’s stupid. Whoever heard of an auction ending at a precise time? all the ones I know ended when the bidding was over, not at 10:02 AM. Doesn’t eBay get a comish? Wouldn’t they want the auction to continue forever? Heck, every moment it goes higher they earn more money.

eBay hasn’t changed in 20 years. Look at their miserable performance over the last two years:

Amazon’s letter to shareholders is semi-interesting

+ Most of Amazon’s various businesses are growing strongly.

+ There’s probably too many of them to concentrate on effectively.

+ There’s no one game-changing, new, exciting business — like AWS was. Advertising looks the best hope — It grew 25% YoY overall for 2022 on a $31B revenue base. The problem is there’s too many places these days for advertisers to advertise online — two recent biggies are Netflix and Amazon. As a result, the cost of buying ads online is dropping precipitously. You might hear more about this evening at 5 PM when Amazon holds its earnings call.

+ It looks like it needs Jeff Bezos’s creativity. There are rumors of his return.

The last couple of years have thrown Amazon through a loop. The Pandemic caused a huge growth in online sales. That caused Amazon to gear up for new huge sales. But now in-store retailing has roared back. Meantime, AWS has been hit with the slowing of tech spending and the uncertainty of where the economy is headed.

Amazon’s stock is one-third below what it was a year ago. It’s worth a small investment.

You can read the letter here. And this evening at 5 PM is the conference calls.

Who makes Javelin?

Answered Google:

Javelin is developed and produced by the Javelin Joint Venture, a partnership of Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Lockheed Martin. The versatile shoulder-fired and platform-employed guided missile system offers fire-and-forget capability over its full range – up to 4 kilometers.

Both stocks are pricey. But everyone and their uncle are spending more on “defense.” And these two are paying dividends.

The little I know about private air travel

There seem to be three price levels — one for members (and there are many levels of members), one for non-members and one if you deal directly with a charter broker.

Some private aircraft companies won’t touch you if you don’t join and agree to fly x zillion miles a year. That may be good for big corporations, but not for you, me and the family.

There’s another route I found — direct deals with aircraft owners.

The queen of this business is Michelle Gordon of She got me quick, last-minute flights to and from my hospital in Fresno, CA. And at a price that roughly equaled the member price — without me becoming a member.

Ms. Gordon deals directly with charter brokers who deal directly with aircraft owners. She knows her way around this complicated business. Lots of moving parts. How urgent is your flight? How many people? How far? Non-stop or OK with a refueling stop?

I’ve had four charter rides in the last several months. They were all on King-Air two-engine propeller planes, which are not as pricey as real jets, but pretty fast for a few hundred miles. Before my gallbladder operation, I was in serious pain. Getting to a brilliant surgeon in Fresno  — Dr. Kelvin Higa — was worth every penny. on a charter King Air.

Useful Stuff

+ Your high-speed gig Internet fiber line will slow down over time. Best to turn all your routers and switchers off. Then turn them on starting with the gadget your supplier gave you, waiting a couple of minutes, then turning on another, then waiting — until you get to your desk.

+ Amazon sells much unbranded clothing — from sneakers to sweaters to jeans to sweatpants. Their stuff is far cheaper and better than store-bought stuff. I love their $30 sneakers.

+ Allbirds hit $28.64 on the company’s first day of trading. It’s now $1.17, despite widely popular sneakers and a pipeline of neat new shoes. It’s worth a speculation in your portfolio. Maybe someone will take it out of its misery.

+ This is the best orange ever. It’s called a sumo.

It the easiest to peel, the tastiest, the sweetest and juiciest. There is innovation in agriculture. This orange is proof. Try it.

+ “No” is my favorite word. My syndicators tell me they look at 100 deals to find ten that they investigate further, then ultimately bid on maybe three. That can be frustrating work. Another reason to hate investing. There are bargains coming in real estate.

+ Don’t put stupid stuff in emails. They’ll come back to haunt you, as they did to Tucker Carlson. Write your venom on paper, then tear it up. Or, better yet, email Tucker. He’s always looking for new resentments. (Great word?)

+ Netflix is really super for grandkids, and grandfathers who fall asleep quickly.

+ Dictating messages to an iPhone works amazingly well. It’s fast and accurate. Useful words: period, full stop, comma and question mark.

+ It’s always faster and easier the second time you do something.

This is a fun book

It contains interviews with investment “stars” including Ron Baron, Sam Zell, Seth Klarman, Ray Dalio, Stan Druckenmiller, and Marc Andreessen.

Investing is basically a mind game. This book delves into some of the best minds in the business. You won’t find the perfect stock to buy. But you will be happy to learn the biggies have screwed up as much and as often as you and I have.

Click here.

Hoisted on his own petard

For more on this delicious story, click here.

I once bought  a pillow from him. The pillow was seriously awful. the worst pillow I have ever slept on. I returned it. They deducted the cost of shipping to and from me from my refund. I was not pleased. Now I am.

This came from Quora

Quora is my favorite site for info on Russia and Ukraine. These two pictures blew me away. If your kids don’t get the impact of war, show them this:

Fun cartoons

This week’s travails

18 years ago our contractor installed an “innovative” air conditioning system. 18 years later it’s busted, can’t be repaired and the manufacturer has abandoned it, i.e. doesn’t make parts for it. Our house is riddled with ducts and refrigerant lines from the old, dead system. Now we have to be “creative.”  Which takes excessive time and gives boredom a whole new meaning. My son, Michael, has some great ideas. He’s cool to AC. (Bad pun.)

The good news is that the overpriced oldies — Apple, Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and Nvidia — have bounced back a little in recent days.

But, as the fed continues to hike interest rates and the economy contracts, the trend in the stockmarket is clearly down.

One big warning: Do not be attracted to real estate REITs and stocks now showing hugely high yields, like SLG’s 14%. Such high yielding stocks are high-yielding because they’ve fallen and will probably fall more.

My biggest holdings are presently in short-term treasuries — mostly a year and less. They can’t fall. I get all my money back and interest on maturity day.

In between AC woes, I’ve read an enormous amount on AI.  I’ll write at length tomorrow. But for now:

+ AI is going to change everything. It will become integral to all aspects of industry.

+ But so far, it hasn’t improved Google’s Chrome or Microsoft’s Bing. Google still works better.

+ ChatGPT is often a better search engine than either Chrome or Bing. Try it.

+ Nvidia will benefit now. SMCI will benefit soon. But Microsoft and Google won’t benefit for years. What AI may help them, the precipitous fall in online advertising will hurt them.

+ America is a land of desperate enthusiasms: Within a week of Chat GPT being released last November, one million people had used it. Within two months 100 million had used it. (Source The Economist,)

+ Last year $2.7 billion were raised in 110 AI startups. (Source: The Economist). That doesn’t include the $13 billion or Microsoft invested.

In the old days, there was less money and more ideas. Now there’s lots of money and too few ideas.

Funny thing: every time God forces me to say NO to an idea, He comes along with another idea. Often on the same day.

We live in a wonderful world: The daffodils are out in our garden in Columbia County:

and someone has created the best book cover I’ve ever seen:

It’s so bad, it’s good.

Our obsession with daffodils? They’re the only flower the deer don’t eat.

Don’t tell me you never learned anything from Harry.