Technology Investor 

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 Friday, January 6, 2006: Wait till you see the variation in performance for my money managers for 2005. It's all over the place. The worst one, so far, is Private Capital Management who somehow believed there was hidden value in newspaper stocks and dumped too much of my money into ailing newspapers. They may still be right -- but my gut says NO. Results coming shortly.

Insite Vision is holding over $1, on its way to $1.50.

I spent most of yesterday on my other job -- editing Newton's Telecom Dictionary, now going into its 22nd edition. Hard work.

Give me brilliance. Give me luck. I'll take luck any day. Who knew a dictionary I planned to write one rainy weekend could sell over $20 million! Who knew, I, who hated English at school, would ever grow up to write a best-selling dictionary.

The more you try, the more chances you have of something turning out BIG. But you got to keep trying. And try everywhere. Diversification remains the only free lunch.

How to save money on Internet buys: There are a bunch of web sites that will do comparison shopping for you -- from Google's Froogle to PriceGrabber. PC World Magazine comparison shopped the comparison shoppers and gave its highest rating to PriceRunner. Price differences can be significant. I checked my beloved Canon SD450. It ranged in price from $283 to $379. Froogle found the camera for $245 to $779. PriceGrabber found prices between $283 and $379. These are huge spreads. Before you buy, check the merchants' ratings and additional charges -- largely tax and shipping.

Hefty finance charges are appearing on my credit cards: Beware. One set of charges (around 3%) stems from purchases my wife and daughter made for clothes in Australia, when Qantas lost their suitcases for a week. Another set of charges mysteriously appeared on my American Express Blue Cash credit card -- the one that allegedly gives you a 5% or so cash rebate. These charges appeared despite my not being late. I've stopped using this card, since the bills I get no longer conform to their advertising:

I've yet to see a nickel back from my any purchases on my American Express Blue Cash card. Surprise. Surprise.

Hefty bullying by car rental companies: We rented a piece of junk for our Colorado skiing trip in December. Alamo's aggressive agent pummeled us for ten minutes to buy extra insurance. That extra insurance would have doubled the price of the car. We resisted. We made sure Alamo knew of the dents and dings on the car. In the end everything worked out just fine. We paid the original price, not a penny more. I suspect that rental car companies and credit card companies now make more money in the finance business. We were also told that our piece of junk wouldn't make it into the mountains and we needed an SUV more than twice the price. We resisted that pitch also. Our car made it just fine -- though it was a piece of junk, the cheapest Alamo had.

IBM is freezing its workers US pension plans: It will save billions. Other companies (like Verizon) are doing the same. IBM is beefing up its 401(k) savings plans. There are three lessons:
1. If you work for a monster, don't ever expect it will take care of you when you're old.
2. Your 401(k) savings will be an important lifeline. It's very important to spend the time to check where and how it's invested. You don't want it heavily invested in your company's stock. You don't want it invested in garbage Dreyfus funds that lose money -- I speak from experience.
3. Your kids need to think self-reliance early. They need to start investing early. They need to be well diversified. You need to explain this to your kids. Keep nagging until they get it. You are master of your own destiny. No one else will take care of you.

XM Satellite radio really works: Alamo's car had XM Satellite radio. Crystal clear reception. Most of the 200 or so channels seemed to feature "music" whose lyrics you couldn't understand. If you travel far by car each day, satellite radio may make sense. But get a trial first. Personally I prefer the songs on my iPod.

This is truly awful
A vet made a house call to a woman who was having a problem with her birdie. When he got there he found that the birdie was lying on his back, with his feet sticking up stiffly, and his eyes shut.
'He's dead,' said the vet.
'No, he can't be,' said the woman. 'He was singing, and talking to me, and eating his seed just a little while ago. I want a second opinion.'
'Okay,' said the vet, and called over the cat, who was grooming herself on the sofa. The cat put his paw in the cage and batted the birdie.
'He's dead,' said the cat.
'Nonsense!' said the woman.
'Okay,' said the vet, 'let's ask the dog.'
The Labrador was lying asleep in the sun. He dutifully padded over to the cage, poked his nose in and sniffed the birdie.
'He's dead,' said the dog.
The woman sadly accepted that it was so, and the vet handed her a bill and prepared to leave.
'$450!' cried the woman. 'That's outrageous!'
'Well,' said the vet, 'that includes my diagnosis, the cat scan and the lab report.'

The end of life
A man and his wife were sitting in the living room and he said to her,

"Just so you know, I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."

His wife got up, unplugged the TV, and threw out all of his beer.

Recent column highlights:
+ Munich, the movie. A must-see. Click here.
+ Identity Theft precautions. Click here.
+ Dumb reasons we hold losing stocks. Click here.
+ How my private equity fund is doing. Click here.
+ Blackstone private equity funds. Click here.
+ Manhattan Pharmaceuticals: Click here.
+ NovaDel Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ Hana Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ All turned on by biotech. Click here.
+ Steve Jobs Commencement Address. The text is available: Click here. The full audio is available. Click here.
+ The March of the Penguins, an exquisite movie. Click here.
+ When to sell stocks. Click here.

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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