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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, February 9, 2007: This has been a bad week for commodities and computer problems (other peoples') , and a good week for lawyers.

First, the computers. We expect our computers and our Internet to turn on and work as reliably as a light. Sadly, No. Most of us haven't a clue how this computer magic works. When it fails -- as it will -- we're distraught. Our files are gone. Our Outlook email lifeline is dead, etc.

I hate to suggest this. But you can't leave your computer to your 15-year old pimply computer whiz. You must understand enough to back up, troubleshoot and restore your computer. You must also understand how your network is connected, to where and how.

My basic strategy is:
+ Daily backup of all my working files. I use FileSync.
+ Clone my PC's hard disk before I update, change or add software. I always assume that new software I load will barf and screw everything up. I use my backup to revert to the old reliable disk. Windows XP has a "go back" system. I don't trust it.
+ I always have two connections to the Internet -- a DSL or cable modem (depending on where I am) and Verizon's Broadband Access card.
+ I have two identical laptops. Should one crash, I can pop the original or the replacement hard disk in and keep working.

There are some things you can't backup or duplicate. That includes the idiot who puts up your web site and runs your email. (Hopefully, you're not stupid enough to do that yourself.) The best you can do is to find a reliable provider (if there is such a thing) and pray. I like

Second, some commodities have tumbled, hitting my commodities fund and my Australian mining stocks. In hindsight, I should have seen this coming and taken quick profits last year. I'm sanguine about commodities and metal prices bouncing back what with India and China, etc. But the point remains (following this week's theme): When you're up short-term, take your profits and move on. There is no "Buy and Hold" left. That strategy is well and truly DEAD! If you don't have time to "manage" your stocks weekly, get out and let someone else do it -- like a nice index fund.

Which brings me to my Vanguard funds:
+ International Value Fund
+ Total International Stock Index Fund
+ 500 Index Fund
+ Pacific Stock Index Fund
+ Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund
+ Mid-Cap Index Fund

Last night, I put some money into a new Vanguard fund -- the Global Equity Fund. I did this because I like its performance and because Forbes Magazine suggested that this fund was going to close soon.

As regards "The Lawyers' Full Employment Act," I'm happy to report that it's been the most successful piece of legislation ever passed by Congress. Item: Yesterday I received a one page letter from a BIG law firm that started:

"Dear XXX Stockholder,
As a follow up to the mailing that you received within the past few days with regard to XXX Corp., enclosed is a self-addressed envelope for use in returning the materials contained in that mailing, which may have been inadvertently omitted."

Yes, they left out the stamped self-addressed envelope. They want me to use and send them back several bits of paper I'm to sign. Imagine how many hours the poor client got billed because they forgot to send a miserable #10 envelope! By the way, the envelope had 87 cents of postage on it. The papers they wanted would easily go for 39 cents. They wasted 48 cents of their clients' money. I wonder how many zillions of stockholders got that expensive envelope.

How to save energy: 90% of the electricity to light an incandescent bulb is used to heat it. That's called wasting energy. The are now at least four different bulb technologies. And LED is coming soon. I made this chart out of a catalog. (Yes, there are two ts.).

The best value for money are fluorescents. They cost more, but last forever and over their life save oodles of energy. Their problem? Most don't look "warm" like incandescents. They are bright white and have lots of green in them. You can see that in their color temperature readings. My wife hates fluorescents.

You need to find a brand you (and your wife) likes. There aren't many. How many hours you'll get out of your bulbs depends on your local electricity supplier. If it's delivering consistently above 120 volts, you might try 130 incandescent volt bulbs. They'll last forever, but burn even less bright. The best deal today remains compact fluorescents -- if you can find a "warm" one.

Initial lumens
Rated average life-hours
Ceramic Metal Halide
Ceramic Metal Halide
Ceramic Metal Halide
Double ended halogen
Compact fluorescent
Compact fluorescent
Compact fluorescent
Standard 120 volt incandescent
MR-16 Halogen

Hedge fund nightmare: Getting into a hedge fund is easy. Send them your money. Getting out of a hedge fund is difficult. First you have to give them notice. That can cost you money if they're on a roll downwards. Second they may not give your money back; they may give you some of the junky shares or futures (or whatever) they bought with your money and they can't sell. For your edification (and my pain), here's an excerpt from a typical hedge fund's book of rules applying to its lucky (??) investors.

Payment shall be made to a partner withdrawing over 90% of the balance of his Capital Account (as of the date of the withdrawal) in the following manner: (i) 90% of the amount of his Capital Account withdrawn (less any applicable withdrawal fee), within thirty (30) days of the effective date of the withdrawal; and (ii) the balance of the amount of his Capital Account withdrawn, within thirty (30) days following the delivery of the audited financial statement of the partnership for the Fiscal Year in which such withdrawal date occurs, together with interest on such latter amount (at prevailing rate applicable to Partnership credit balances) accruing from the withdrawal date, unless the General Partner consents to delivery of such remaining balance at an earlier date. The General Partner, in its sole discretion, may consent to withdrawal payments as of other dates. At the option of the General partner, the amount of the withdrawal may be made in whole in cash, or in whole in kind, or in part in cash and in part in kind. In kind payments may but need not be pro rata as to the assets of the Partnership.

(b) In the case of a withdrawing Limited Partner whose Capital Account reflects in interest in securities whose immediate public resale is prohibited by legal or contractual restrictions; or that is illiquid or, in the judgment of the General Partner, subject to significant market conditions impairing such immediate public resale (all of the foregoing being referred to herein as "Restricted Securities"), the General Partner shall have the right, at its option, to (i) make an in-kind distribution, upon one or more of the Regular Withdrawal Dates provided in paragraph (a) of this section 6.4, of such withdrawing Partner's share of restricted Securities allocated to such Capital Account; or (ii) suspend the effective date of payment of such share of the withdrawal to such date as of which all gains and losses on such allocated Restricted Securities have been fully realized, in order to determine the value of such share of the withdrawal to such date as of which all gains and losses on such allocated Restricted Securities have been fully realized, in order to liquidate the value of such share on a realized basis, and make such withdrawal payment in the form of cash, together with interest thereon at the rate provided in clause (ii) of said paragraph (a); or (iii) whether pursuant to clause (ii) hereof or otherwise, establish and maintain, at the cost of the Partnership, a liquidating trust for purposes of facilitating the public resale of such securities.

Reminder: Next Wednesday is Valentine's Day: Hallmark reports that 85% of all Valentine's Day cards are bought by women, most in desperation. Don' let it be.. Men, step up to it.

Michael's parasite: My son Michael's office sent him a "Get Well" present -- a book on parasites called Parasite Rex. I looked it up on the web and found an on-line bookstore telling me that I might also like another book -- "Fast Food Nation -- the dark side of the all-American meal." I thought that was funny. My son, whose stomach still hurts, didn't.

The Prawn and the Shark -- the world's most contrived bad pun:
Far away in the tropical waters of the Caribbean, two prawns were swimming around -- one called Justin and the other called Christian. The prawns were constantly harassed and threatened by sharks.

One day Justin said to Christian, "I'm fed up with being a prawn; I wish I were a shark. Then I wouldn'worry about being eaten."

A large mysterious cod appeared and said, "Your wish is granted", and lo and behold, Justin turned into a shark. Horrified, Christian immediately swam away, afraid of being eaten by his old mate.

Time passed and Justin found life as a shark boring and lonely. All his old mates swam away whenever he came close to them. They were scared of him.

One day he saw the mysterious cod again. He asked the cod to change him back. Lo and behold, he found himself turned back into a prawn.

With tears of joy in his tiny little eyes Justin swam back to his friends. Looking around the gathering at the reef he realized he couldn't see his old pal. "Where's Christian?" he asked.

"He's at home, still distraught that his best friend changed sides and became a shark."

Eager to put things right again, he set off to Christian's abode. As he opened the coral gate, memories came flooding back. He banged on the door, "It's me, Justin, your old friend. Come out and see me again."

Christian replied, "No way man, you'll eat me. You're now a shark, the enemy. I'll not be tricked into being your dinner."

Justin cried back. "No, I'm not. That was the old me. I've changed..... I've found Cod. I'm a prawn again Christian".

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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