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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 Friday, July 29, 2005: This morning, Whole Foods (WFMI) is quoted up about $14 to $136, after having gained $3.17 yesterday. I pray that everyone reading this column has oodles of the stock. I've certainly been pushing it. How can I not love the stock, when:
1. Every meal I've eaten this week has come from Whole Foods.
2. Every time I go into our local Whole Foods -- the one in the basement of the Time Warner Center -- I'm staggered at the traffic. The manager tells me close to 10,000 people a day now shop there.
3. I'm convinced that this company has barely begun its nationwide expansion. Heck it's got fewer than 160 stores. And it doesn't have one (yet) on New York's tony upper east side.

The success with Whole Foods brings up the whole issue of stock philosophy. Indulge me.

Should I have done a "Warren Buffett" and bet the farm? (I only own 2,500 shares.) There are two reasons, it seems to me, to bet the farm:
First, when you feel very positive about the stock. I could not feel more positive.
Second, when you realize that you don't feel as positive about other stocks. This is the whole "diversification/allocation" issue.

Everyone says diversification makes sense. Yet there are two issues here:

1. Diversification means you have to find many investments you're comfortable with. It doesn't make sense to diversify into drek for the pure joy of allocating broadly. Finding a bunch of "perfect investments" -- what I've been doing since I sold my business in September, 1997 -- is very difficult. In fact, finding good investments and good managers is far more difficult than running your own business. It involves very different skills. It's only now -- seven years later -- that I'm beginning to feel even half-way comfortable with the process. (Of course, I am on a high this morning because of my beloved Whole Foods.)

2. No one every got rich by diversifying. All the great fortunes -- even my little one -- were made with concentrated bets. That's how Warren Buffett did it. No one in the Forbes 400 got rich by being a diversified investor.

I intend to take more concentrated bets from now on.

ICE your cell phone : Grab your cell phone now. Program in ICE and the name and phone number of the person you want to be contact In Case Of an Emergency. Apparently, paramedics are now turning to a victim's cell phone for clues as to that person's identity. You can make their job much easier with a simple idea that they are trying to get everyone to adopt: ICE.

Which earphones to buy for your iPod? Apple's iPod is the greatest pleasure machine ever invented. The cheap earphones it comes with do an adequate job. But ... I've been on a hunt for the perfect earphone. Here it is. It's the Etymotic ER6i 6isolator. (Don't blame me for the stupid name.)

These things list for $139. But you can buy them new on eBay for $100 or so, including shipping. Last night I tested all the earphones I've bought. When I popped these things in, I actually screamed "Wow." They're that much better. For more, click here.

Cramer's latest rant. Don't tar me because I like watching Cramer. (My wife hates him.) But he's made me money. And he occasionally agrees with me -- he also has loved Whole Foods. Last night Cramer recommended that everyone sell their baby bells -- Verizon, SBC, BellSouth, Qwest, etc. His logic: Skype will destroy their landline long distance business. To date, there have been 142 million downloads of the Skype software which lets you make free phone calls anywhere in the world to another PC also equipped with Skype software. Points:

1. If you're not using Skype, you're missing out on the biggest money-saver around -- especially if you have a child or relative overseas. Click here.
2. it won't only be Skype that will hurt the baby bells. Some other "hurts" -- 9% of U.S. adults use wirelessly exclusively. They don't have a single landline. This growing trend is bad for the landline companies. And if Skype and declining landlines weren't bad enough, figure the awfulness of their management. To gauge that, ask yourself one question -- name one single new, useful feature you've seen on landlines in the past 25 years? The baby bells' dearth of imagination is staggering. Cramer's right. Sell the baby bells.

Many charities are an elaborate ripoff. They're designed to benefit the charity organizers not the people they're ostensibly benefiting. My two rules:
1. Check where they spend the money. If more than 5% is on administration (which includes exec salaries), skip it.
2. If you can, form your own charity, raise and spend the money under your own control.
What got me started on this today was an approach by the Fortune Society that I fund an "advocacy" center. I asked for a budget. Turns out that the $150,000 they want will be spent on salaries of $93,700 and "fringes" of $26,236 (medical, workers' comp, etc.) and office expenses. Not a nickel goes in services to a single worthy recipient. I had previously given money to the Society and attached strings -- namely that all monies spent would be pre-approved by me before the money could be spent. I found they were single sourcing computer equipment and paying much more than they should. Fortunately, I stopped that. But I was surprised at the cavalier attitude to money.

The second that got me going was reading an old copy of the Wall Street Journal, which talked about Don Imus's Ranch for sick children. Turns out the ranch is a gigantic boondoggle for Imus' family to vacation in grand style. The ranch's expenses totaled $2.6 million in 2003 and $2.7 million in 2002, yet hosted only 100 kids in 2002. According to the Journal, that worked out to $27,000 per child, or just under $3,000 a night for their typical nine-day stays. Reported the Journal, "For the same amount, a child could stay in a top suite at New York's Waldorf Astoria or secure a cabin on the Queen Mary 2."

What is an HD Ready TV set?
With help from Walt Mossberg: To receive and display high-definition programming, a TV set needs two basic features. One is a display capable of rendering the high-definition picture. The other is a tuner, or receiver, capable of receiving the high-definition signal, either over the air, or from a cable or satellite service. When a TV set is described as "HD-ready," it usually means the set can display high-definition pictures, but lacks the special tuner needed to receive them. It may have no tuner at all built in, or it may have just a standard tuner. With this type of TV, you must buy a separate high-definition over-the-air tuner, or obtain a high-definition cable box or satellite receiver, to get high-definition programming. A high definition tuner, cable box or satellite receiver will cost you more money than a standard unit. But, if you can get some decent high-definition TV programming, it's worth it.

Judy makes three software apps: I use two of them every day. I use Judy's TenKey calculator and Judy's Conversions, which converts ounces to grams, Fahrenheit to centigrade, etc. etc. You can buy the lot for $25. Worth every penny. Here's some screen shots from TenKey.

For more, Click here.

For men only: Because of many complaints from passengers that they are being fondled, US and Canadian Airports will soon be using a new machine for checking people boarding aircraft. To see an example of how the device functions, click here. Women: Do not go here. It's totally tasteless. Some programmer with far too much time on his hands wrote it.

In case you missed yesterday, here's an update. How to use Excel: I asked my son, Michael, how do I figure the rate of return on an investment involving strange timing? Let's say that I put $250,000 into a hedge fund on September 1 and again on December 1 last year. At the end of June, 2005 that investment was now worth $550,988. Here are the steps:
1. Open Excel. Go to Tools/Add-Ins. Check off Analysis ToolPak and Solver Add-In. Install them. You may need to have your original Microsoft Office in your CD drive.
2. Enter the numbers as shown. Your contributions to the fund go in as negatives. Your ending result is positive. Enter the dates.
3. In line B8, enter the formula =XIRR(A3:A5,B3:B5,0.1)
4. If it gives an error, you haven't installed the two Add-Ins or your cell needs refreshing.
My son is a genius. I have to write this, or he won't teach more Excel.
I asked him why the formula ended in 0.1. His reply: "The 0.1 in the formula is your guess at what the IRR is. Excel needs it because it runs the equation as a minimization formula over 20 calculations. Y
ou basically just need to enter a positive or a negative number that is somewhat in the ballpark."
I asked him if I put in 0.2, would that matter? He replied, "Nope, not really. Maybe by a millionth of a decimal place but otherwise no. But if you put in a -0.2 it wouldn't work though - you need to be in the range."

Joke or for real?:I don't know. This came yesterday from London.

Just discovered: Secret code from ancient Judea:
Written across the wall of the cave were the following symbols:

It was considered a unique find and the writings were said to be at least three thousand years old! The stone was removed, brought to the museum, and archaeologists from around the world came to study the ancient symbols. They held a huge meeting.

The President of the society pointed to first drawing and said: "This is a woman. We can see these people held women in high esteem. You can also tell they were intelligent, as the next symbol is a donkey, so they were smart enough to have animals help them till the soil.
The next drawing is a shovel, which means they had tools to help them. Even further proof of their high intelligence is the fish which means that if a famine hit the earth and food didn't grow, they seek food from the sea. The last symbol appears to be the Star of David which means they were evidently Hebrews."

The audience applauded enthusiastically.

Then a little old Jewish man stood up in the back of the room and said, "Idiots, Hebrew is read from right to left...... It says: 'Holy Mackerel, Dig The Ass On That Woman."

Recent column highlights:
+ 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 your 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. That money will help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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