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9:00 AM EST Wednesday, April 16, 2008:
Nice bounce yesterday. Don't get too excited. Nice for our First Solar (FSLR) -- up $13.22 (or 4.82%) to $287.32. Silver (SLV) and gold (GLD) are also coming back.

What if you’d had $100,000 to spend in 1998? What would be the best investment for the next 10 years? This chart came from the April 13 issue of New York Magazine. The best investment? Keep reading...

If you'd bought .... In 1998 for ... It would now be worth ...  
One-bedroom apartment on the upper east side
These particular prices are for a 700-square-foot postwar at 340 East 93rd Street that sold in 1998 and again early this year. (Both prices come from the appraisal firm Miller Samuel.)
A Harlem townhouse shell
$800,000 to $1,500,000,
and that’s if it’s still a wreck
It’s a supply-and-demand issue, says Warburg Realty broker Chris Halliburton: People still want houses that they can gut-renovate, “and there aren’t many shells left.”
A One-Bedroom Co-op in the Le Havre Complex in Whitestone, Queens
Broker Anthony Carollo says he just sold one in an all-cash deal. “We’re just 25 minutes to Manhattan by the 7 train, and we have good schools,” he says. “We hold our values.”
3,298 Shares of Apple Stock
at $30.32 a share
The stock has split twice, so you’d now have 13,192 shares at (as of last week) $151.44.
1,500 Shares of Stock
This early social-networking site briefly hit $97 after its IPO at $4.50, and then, like so many other dot-coms, flamed out. Oddly, it’s still traded, if just barely.
323 ounces of gold
$99,991 at $309.45 per ounce
$301,488 at $933.40 per ounce
You would’ve made next to nothing for a while, but the past year has been very kind to precious-metals investors. Gold briefly topped $1,000 per ounce in March and has settled back into the mid-$900s.

The Domain Name
$250,000 (estimated by
An easy-to-remember name—no numbers, no weird spellings—draws a premium. “You’d be retired now if you had the right names,” says Kelly Conlin, CEO of NameMedia. “It’s like owning vacant land.” just sold for $9.9 million.
20 Hermès Kelly bags (one for you, the rest for your lucky friends)
$97,500, at $4,875 apiece
$86,000 at $4,300 apiece
A vintage Kelly bag holds most of its value, but only if it’s in perfect condition, says Hermès expert Cameron Silver.
$11,999 (with low mileage)
You’d have held more value if you’d bought a car that is perpetually coveted, like a Ferrari, but a yard-high Italian two-seater isn’t exactly built for our potholes.
Two Steinway Model B grand pianos (one for your apartment, the other for the Hamptons house)
According to David Skidmore at Steinway Hall, these instruments hold their value well, and the prices of new ones continue to climb, keeping the secondhand market strong.
64 cases of 1998 Dom Pérignon
$99,776, at $1,559 a case
$115,136, at $1,799 a case
If you can’t keep it all in your apartment, the cellaring charges may eat up most of your take. Or you can just start drinking it all up. (Prices are from Joy Land at Sherry-Lehman.)
Keith Haring’s Untitled (1983) painting
$107,000 (at Christie’s)
$3,000,000 (estimated by Jeffrey Deitch)
Deitch, the Haring estate’s dealer, calls it “a real masterpiece,” and even if you knock a few percentage points off for hype, it’s about the most bang you could’ve got for your $100,000.

Harry's latest useful tips:

Laser printers gunk up your lungs. They emit fine black particles which you breath and which stay in your lungs, potentially hurting them and ultimately your ability to breath. Move your laser printer to another room. If in doubt, switch to ink jet, which doesn't pose the same health hazard.

Aluminum pots and antiperspirant deodorants gunk up your body. If your aluminum pots have pits, chuck them. Don't use antiperspirant deodorants. They leach aluminum into the body. The aluminum stays there. It's not good for your health. Straight deodorants don't have aluminum. Check the labels.

Don't open email attachments. Don't visit "iffy" web sites. Viruses and other "malware" come typically in email attachments. Opening the attachment, causes the viruses to leap onto your hard disk and wreak havoc. But visiting "iffy" web sites can also attract bad stuff. There are oodles of obvious solutions: The best one is to have a "test" PC which you don't care about and you can easily reformat if it gets infected. Or use a Mac. Or buy a Watchguard firewall.

USB flash drives are now a huge security threat in corporations. Employees copy work from their work PC. They take the work home. They bring the flash drive back the next day and load viruses and malware on their work PC, and often onto the corporate network. It is possible to turn off employees' access to their USB slots. Do it. Or switch to Macs. has perfectly fine brand name, cheap laptops -- some as low as $540.

Waterproof is now cheap. Goretex's patent on waterproof materials has expired. Hence, every outdoor clothing maker is now selling waterproof garments for one-third what Goretex garments used to cost. LLBean has TEK2.5. It's good stuff.

Wine is good for dementia. ScienceDaily (Apr. 13, 2008) — There may be stuff in wine that protects against dementia. This is shown in research from the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg in Sweden. The findings are based on 1,458 women who were included in the so-called Population Study of Women from 1968. Thirty-four years after the first study, 162 women had been diagnosed with dementia. The results show that among those women who reported that they drank wine, a considerably lower proportion suffered from dementia, whereas this correlation was not found among those who had reported that they regularly drank beer or liquor.

This got screwed up yesterday: I've been looking at Lenovo's ultra-light X61 series. My son took a X61s to business school and loves it. It's been super-reliable. I'm more interested in the X61, which has one major plus over the X61s: It's hugely faster; You can get a 2.4 GHz processor in the X61, versus only a 1.2 GHz chip in the X61s. On the other hand, the X61 is slightly heavier -- about three ounces. In all other respects, they're identical. They both are available with Windows XP. And they're both incredibly light -- about three pounds. I believe they're the perfect travel laptop.

If you have time, read this. This piece called "Iceland's Deep Freeze" is written by my favorite financial writer, by James Surowiecki. It's in the April 21 issue of New Yorker Magazine.

By now, we’re all familiar with the major victims of the subprime meltdown: greedy mortgage brokers, overleveraged hedge funds, feckless banks and brokerages, incautious homeowners, and so on. But the crisis is also wreaking havoc in places that, on the surface, might seem to have nothing to do with the price of foreclosed homes in Miami. Places, that is, like Iceland.

Insofar as Americans think about Iceland at all, it’s as a land whose remoteness belies a vibrant cultural scene featuring hipster titans, like Björk and Sigur Rós, and exceptional social conditions—it’s the top-rated country in the U.N.’s most recent human-development index. But in the financial world Iceland is now a hot topic of discussion for a different reason: many people suggest that it could become the “first national casualty” of the ongoing credit crunch. Until last year, Iceland’s economic track record in this decade had been phenomenal—its annual growth rate averaged close to four per cent over the past decade, and its per-capita gross national income is now higher than that of the U.S. This year, though, the country’s currency, the króna, has fallen twenty-two per cent against the euro; the economy has stagnated; and a global rating agency has put the nation’s three major banks on a credit watch. Now analysts are wondering whether the new Nordic Tiger will end up, instead, as “the Bear Stearns of the North Atlantic.”

So how did Iceland get in so much trouble? That’s the odd part of the story: it isn’t because its banks gambled on the worthless subprime securities that helped undo Bear Stearns and so many others. Iceland’s banks prudently avoided the subprime market, even as they embarked on a lending boom at home and expanded abroad. What got Iceland in trouble was something more subtle: its banks got their money primarily from international investors, making the Icelandic miracle heavily dependent on foreign capital.

In normal times, this might not have mattered, given the country’s solid economic fundamentals. But these aren’t normal times. The subprime crisis, in which investors realized that they had greatly underestimated the risks of lending to people with bad credit, has spawned a wider credit crunch: investors now suspect disaster behind every door, and even seemingly solid borrowers find credit much harder to come by. The subprime crisis was an earthquake that caused a tsunami: the quake has done plenty of damage on its own, but the tsunami looks set to do even more.

Iceland has been swamped by that tsunami because it trusted in the availability of global credit in time for that credit to evaporate. And the fact that Iceland has been so dependent on foreign investors makes those investors even more skittish about investing there: in markets, weakness often begets weakness. Further, the country’s troubles have made it a potential target for speculators seeking to drive down the value of its currency and perhaps cause a run on the banks. In 1998, hedge funds purportedly worked together to attack Hong Kong’s currency and its stock market, an attack that was foiled only when the government bought up a sizable chunk of the stock market. It’s not clear that a similar cabal is gunning for Iceland—the governor of its central bank insists that one is—but the notion is certainly plausible: with a population the size of Pittsburgh and a central bank whose total reserves are less than five billion dollars, the country makes an easy target for hedge funds flush with cash.

Iceland’s current woes teach a useful lesson about the interconnectedness of global markets: trouble can come from anywhere. Homeowners default on mortgages in San Diego, and suddenly people in Reykjavík are paying more for gasoline and wondering if their bank deposits are safe. That doesn’t mean that Iceland is an innocent victim. The country went overboard with spending and borrowing—between 2000 and 2007, domestic credit in the Icelandic banking system more than quadrupled as a share of G.D.P. And relying on foreign money to fuel that kind of frenzy is foolish, since it puts you at the mercy of fickle foreign investors. But Icelanders can be forgiven for wondering if they’ve really been any more reckless than many other countries—most obviously the U.S., which relies heavily on foreign capital to fund home buying and profligate consumption, and whose banking system is rife with reckless lending.

And that’s the second lesson of Iceland’s plight: even in a flat world, there are different rules for different players. In order to prop up the króna, and keep foreign capital from fleeing, Iceland’s central bank has had to raise interest rates to an astounding fifteen per cent, a move that will slow the economy to a crawl. By contrast, the dollar, while weak, has evaded the króna’s precipitous fall; the Federal Reserve, far from raising interest rates, has slashed them; and Congress is borrowing a hundred and fifty-two billion dollars to hand out tax rebates. Iceland’s government has been forced to inflict pain; the U.S. is doing everything possible to avoid it. If Iceland were to attempt to emulate America’s approach, its currency would be demolished, and foreign investors would almost certainly head for the exits. The U.S., by contrast, remains the beneficiary of the world’s generosity—no matter how bad our financial situation looks, countries like China and Japan keep pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into U.S. securities. They’re doing this not out of kindness, of course, but because the U.S. is a colossal market and they need us to keep buying stuff. The world can’t afford to have the U.S. fail, and so we are able to get away with behavior that would wreck smaller countries. Great for us, but when we look at Iceland’s predicament we should say that there but for the grace of China go we.

Red neck swing. Don't laugh. You're probably related to these people.

Different ways of looking at things:

+ Two guys were discussing popular family trends on sex, marriage, and values. Stu said, "I didn't sleep with my wife before we got married, Did you?"

"Leroy replied, "I'm not sure, what was her maiden name?"

+ A little boy went up to his father and asked: "Dad, where did all of my intelligence come from?"

The father replied. "Well son, you must have got it from your Mother, 'cause I still have mine."

+"Mr. Clark, I have reviewed this case very carefully," the divorce Court Judge said, "And I've decided to give your wife $775 a week."

"That's very generous, your honor," the husband said. " And every now and then I'll try to send her a few bucks myself."

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.

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