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8:30 AM Wednesday, March 16, 2005: I agreed to put a little money into an apartment building syndication. IRR over the forecast seven-year life of the deal (i.e. then it's sold) is a tinge over 15%. That's with a conservative 3% per year rent growth assumption and an 8% capitalization when we come to sell it. I can do better than 15% in my own business. But I don't own my own business at present. And my life is changing. Instead of working my tushy off (as I used to do), yesterday I played tennis in the morning and in the afternoon went to the Pacific Life Tennis Open in Indian Wells. Me and all the other geriatrics. But, heck, the temperature was 75. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. There was no humidity. And all the greats were playing. Nice to see Federer and Sharapova up close.

Such a funny thing with oil: Half the world thinks we have plenty of it. The other half thinks we don't. They each have their own "bibles" which they swear by. If you happen to disagree with one person's oil religion, you are bad.

One bible is: "The Party is over: War and the fate of industrial societies," by Richard Heinberg. The other bible is "The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy" by Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills. Ironically, Amazon bundles the Huber/Mills book with "The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World" by Paul Roberts.

I think all of us should read more on oil. It's the single biggest item which determines the quality of the lives we lead. Imagine if oil were $5 (or even $10) a gallon. How would you and I run our lives differently? Answer: Very differently. Think of what $10 a gallon would do to the value of real estate in suburbia.

John Whittle, a smart investor in Australia emailed me "A few leads on oil you may find of interest.

James A Baker III, the former Secretary of State (and, whether or not you agree with his policies, a very smart man) has founded the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. It conducts the Baker Institute Energy Forum which looks at energy needs and particularly at policy and production issues concerning oil. The web address is There is a large number of very informative papers in the various files contained in the publications section e.g. Baker Institute Study #14 "Running on Empty? Prospects for Future World Oil Supplies". I found that the papers give a measured and informed perspective on energy questions.

Alan Greenspan gave an interesting speech on oil on 15 October 2004. It's at
I read somewhere that, prior to his appointment to the Fed, Greenspan was a director of Exxon.

A fascinating book I am reading at the moment on the whole question of energy is Huber and Mills: The Bottomless Well - The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy. I can not recommend it highly enough, even if you don't agree with all the authors say.

Lastly, as far as individual stocks are concerned, there is an excellent free site run by Kurt Wulff, a long time oil analyst, who puts out regular commentaries on about 40 companies. The site is at There is also a link to a recent interview he gave to Barron's which is at"

Couldn't have happened to a nicer (or dumber) guy: Bernard Ebbers, the former chief executive of WorldCom, was found guilty Tuesday of orchestrating an $11 billion accounting fraud that set off the largest bankruptcy in U.S. corporate history. Ebbers, 63, was convicted on all nine charges against him: securities fraud, conspiracy and seven counts of filing false reports with regulators. Sentencing was set for June 13, and Ebbers remained free on bail. He faces up to life in prison.
Whole Foods (WFMI) is clean. I tried to convince my friend at Whole Foods to carry Dole raisins, which are the best. The box says they're "plumper and moister" and they are. My friend wrote me back:

"Thanks for the raisins. I showed them to the head of our grocery team. The reason we don't carry them is sulphur is introduced during
the drying process. That violates our core values. Thank you for your interest. As you have probably learned at the store I am now at the
Union Square Whole Foods Market which will open March. 16. Be sure to visit us. Be well.

I went back and did some more pleading. (It's hard to buy Dole raisins in New York City.) My friend wrote back:

"Everyday there are items customers ask us to carry. We work very hard to try to accommodate them. It took us a while but we
found "clean" tonic water. "Clean" is the word used for products sold in Whole Foods Markets. Nothing artificial added, no chemicals used in
processing, no artificial coloring. That is just one of the requirements vendors have to live with to do business with Whole Foods. If the chemical involved is not naturally occurring in the product it cannot be introduced in any subsequent processing. Our creed at Whole Foods Markets is not to condemn brands in regular grocery stores. We just offer an alternative to those who wish to eat all natural foods. Our efforts are paying off with an admiring customer base which is growing daily. When the warm breezes blow across Manhattan I hope you'll visit our new store at 14th & Broadway. Be well.
" ---Bill Jones.

Now you know why I own shares in Whole Foods (WFMI). By the way, Bill Jones is not a senior employee of the company. Most days you'll find him at the store's front entrance greeting customers.

Should children witness child birth?
Due to a power outage, only one paramedic responded to the call.
The house was very, very dark, so the paramedic asked Kathleen, a 3-year-old girl, to hold a flashlight high over her Mommy so he could see while he helped deliver the baby. Very diligently, Kathleen did as she was asked. Heidi pushed and pushed, and after a little while Connor was born. The paramedic lifted him by his little feet and spanked him on his bottom. Connor began to cry. The paramedic then thanked Kathleen for her help and asked the wide-eyed 3-year old what she thought about what she had just witnessed. Kathleen quickly responded, "He shouldn't have crawled in there in the first place."

How long can you celebrate?
The married couple was sitting in a fine restaurant when the wife looks over at a nearby table and sees a man in a drunken stupor.

The husband asks "I notice you've been watching that man for some time now. Do you know him?"

"Yes" she replies, "He's my ex-husband, and has been drinking like that since I left him seven years ago."

"That's remarkable" the husband replies, "I wouldn't think anybody could celebrate that long."

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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