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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.

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8:30 AM EST Friday, April 21, 2006: Rebalancing. Selling. Buying. Changing. I always dream that one day I'll buy a nice portfolio of investments and sit with them forever. It doesn't work that way any longer. Item: yesterday, they sold one of my syndicated buildings. They sold it at a handsome profit. I'd hoped to hold it for several years and live on the rent. It is not to be. Today I'm moving more money into hedge funds that are doing well. I hope that my extra monies won't be "the kiss of death," causing their performance to slump into the toilet. Don't laugh, it's happened before. Next week begins the saga of Harry The Jinx, Part 1. Just kidding. Feeling good about the weekend.

The joy of not working for yourself. It's different. They no longer listen nor obey. That now applies to your investment managers and others with whom you entrust your money. They now have the right not to make your stupid decisions, but to make their own.

Extreme airline Insanity: I'm giving a talk in Minneapolis on May 15 -- flying in the morning, flying out that afternoon. My round-trip ticket from New York cost $1,024. If I booked it today, it would cost $1249. That's in economy. I no longer why Northwest Airlines (NWACQ.PK) is losing money hand over fist and whose shares are selling at 62 cents. Locals call them "NorthWorst Airlines." I gather it earns its nickname every day, one lousy flight after another.

You can't get all of them right: Google is up. TiVo is up. I don't own either. I'm kicking myself. Nor did I recommend them recently. This wasn't for lack of research Sometimes you can get too close to a company and see all its fine warts. Want some warts on these two? Personally I think they're probably great shorts today. But this is NOT a game I'm playing.

Global warming? Whether you believe in global warming or not is irrelevant. Fact is that it's happening. It no longer makes sense to buy houses on the beach. Figure what a several foot rise in the ocean will do. It's not a pretty site. Think New Orleans after Katrina.

Giving investment advice -- NO! You're an expert. Your friends and family ask for advice. Don't give it. I repeat. Don't give it. Giving investment advice is a totally no-win situation. Your friends and family won't take your advice when you give it. They'll take part of it -- late. They'll mess the timing up. They'll buy at the wrong time. They'll wait too long to sell. They'll lose money. And then they'll get mad at you. They'll never understand that it was their stupid fault. And telling them they're an idiot will only make things worse.

Discuss investment ideas with people like yourself. People who know something. Listen to ideas you read -- including those on this column. But always research any idea to death before committing hard cash.

Alltel gives free phone calls: Alltel is the last remaining large, independent cell phone company. It operates in 36 states. Today it said it would let its higher-paying cellphone customers make free calls to any 10 numbers regardless of the cellphone or land-line carrier of the person being called. This program is not dissimilar to MCI's immensely-successful "Friends and Family" program. Alltel (AT) is a screaming takeover target that is both profitable and growing.

Lawyers are your servants, not your masters.
Rule number one: Assume their recommendation is wrong. Remember they are as wrong in what they recommend as any other mortal. Don't get me started on recent bad (i.e. expensive) lawyer recommendations.
Rule number two: These days lawyers make more and more decisions because they're scared, and fewer and fewer decisions to help you do what you want to do.
Rule number three: Always learn enough to be able to question their recommendations -- in short to be personally dangerous.

"Any ship can be a minesweeper........once."
A friend sent me this anonymous aphorism yesterday. I don't quite know its significance. But I'm guessing it's profound.

Sticking with the big guys -- NO! It's natural to believe (i.e. hope) that one day soon, the biggies in technology -- Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Cisco, etc. -- will come roaring back. Nice hope, but fantasy. Yesterday I talked about how Intel can't even make a faster Pentium chip. Today, I bring you Microsoft, courtesy, Paul Thurrott, who writes a respected web site called "SuperSite for Windows." Yesterday's long posting on Microsoft's new and every important revision of the Windows operating system contained:

Having dealt with Microsoft for many years, I can say this much with certainty: The company is literally filled to the brim with some of the brightest, smartest, most insightful, and friendliest people I've ever met. Some of my best friends work at the company either directly or indirectly (in some cases doing PR work), and I've established long term friendly relationships with numerous people I've come into contact with specifically because of my job writing about technology. Despite these enviable assets, Microsoft has made some mind-numbing mistakes. It (illegally, as it turns out) artificially bundled its immature Internet Explorer (I.E.) Web browser so deeply into Windows in order to harm Netscape that it's still paying the price for the decision -- a full decade later -- in the form of regular critical security flaws that have taken away time from developers that might have otherwise been spent innovating new features. The company itself has turned into that thing it most hated (read: IBM), an endlessly complex hierarchy of semi-autonomous middle managers and vice presidents of various levels and titles, many of whom can't seem to make even the smallest of decisions. The company is too big and too slow to ship updates to its biggest products. It's collapsing under its own weight. ...


OK, let's not get silly here. I don't hate Windows Vista, and I certainly don't hate Microsoft for disappointing me and countless other customers with a product that doesn't even come close to meeting its original promises. I'm sure the company learned something from this debacle, and hopefully it will be more open and honest about what it can and cannot do in the future. But you'd have to be special kind of stupid to look at Windows Vista and see it as the be-all, end-all of operating systems. It some ways, Windows Vista actually will exceed Mac OS X and Linux, but not to the depth we were promised. Instead, Windows Vista will do what so many other Windows releases have done, and simply offer consumers and business users a few major changes and many subtle or minor updates. That's not horrible. It's just not what was promised. Because it failed so obviously with Vista, my guess is that Microsoft is a bit gun shy about major OS releases and will be for some time. And that's too bad. Windows Vista was Microsoft's first chance since Windows 95 to reach for the golden ring. It may be another decade before they try again.

For Thurrott's entire article, click here.

My son, Michael, turned me onto this wonderful book: I couldn't put the book down. Before I finished it, I was writing a check to Paul Farmer's Partners In Health. I knew I wanted to be a lifelong supporter of Farmer's work.

Last night I met Farmer and hear him talk about 1.2 million patient visits a year he's treating in Haiti, of his work in Siberia, of his new clinic in Rwanda and of huge health problems (AIDs, TB, etc.) throughout much of Africa. I'm writing Partners in Health another check today. Don't believe. Read the book. Here's a good description:

At the center of Mountains Beyond Mountains stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer—brilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haiti—blasts through convention to get results.

Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that "the only real nation is humanity" - a philosophy that is embodied in the small public charity he founded, Partners In Health. He enlists the help of the Gates Foundation, George Soros, the U.N.’s World Health Organization, and others in his quest to cure the world. At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope, and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.

You can learn more about Farmer's Partners in Health at their web site. Click here.

Putting words in their mouths. How the press creates the news:
The British Embassy in Paris is called by a French newspaper:
"What does the Ambassador wish for Christmas?
Says the Embassy, "He can't possibly accept gifts from the Press."
Reporter: "No, really, what is his Christmas wish?"
Embassy, "We don't accept gifts."
Reporter. "No, we are asking all the ambassadors."
Embassy, "All right, put him down for a small box of chocolate mints."

This article appeared:

The German Ambassador's Christmas wish is for "Peace on Earth Good will towards all men".

The American Ambassador's Christmas wish is for "freedom and free trade on an equal footing between democratic nations."

The British Ambassador would like a small box of chocolate mints.

My sense of humor
Most people don't know that back in 1912, Hellmann's mayonnaise was manufactured in England. In fact, the Titanic was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after its stop in New York.

This would have been the largest single shipment of mayonnaise ever delivered to Mexico. But as we know, the great ship did not make it to New York. The ship hit an iceberg and sank, and the cargo was forever lost.

The people of Mexico, who were crazy about mayonnaise, and were eagerly awaiting its delivery, were disconsolate at the loss. Their anguish was so great, that they declared a National Day of Mourning, which they still observe to this day.

The National Day of Mourning occurs each year on May 5th and is known, of course, as Sinko de Mayo.

(Check that again. Note that Cinco is misspelled.)

Harry Newton

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. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty 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 Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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