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Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor. Previous Columns
8:30 AM Thursday, March 17, 2005: Doing well with oil. We got that one. The speculators are having a ball. But there is a real shortage and there is an exploding demand for it -- short-term and long-term.

I spent yesterday saying NO. It's really depressing when someone has a lousy proposition and presents it badly. You don't sell a $19 million project dressed in jeans. You don't sell a $19 million project without numbers, facts, and photographs. You don't sell a $19 million project without heavy enthusiasm.

I ran my own numbers on the back of an envelope. The expenses were way under-priced, and the projected income too optimistic. There weren't any bids to back up the guesses. The assumptions on getting money out by selling the pieces were far too optimistic. It wasn't even a question of being eaten alive by interest charges if the project dragged -- and that was a major concern -- it was the zillions of "small" concerns like the quirkiness of local regulatory authorities.

In checking deals out, you look up -- "What's the most I can make on this?' -- and you look down -- "What's the worst that can happen?" And then finally, you ask yourself, "Does this thing appeal intellectually and emotionally? Is this something I really want to put the effort into?" That's a key issue. There are no such animals as "passive" investments. ... Well there are, of course. There are ones you can't do anything about, except develop agita and stress -- neither of which are passive. For now, cash is the area most lacking in agita and stress.

I don't like the way the stockmarket is going. Three things are affecting it: oil, interest rates and a slowing in the growth of corporate earnings. The years 2003 and 2004 were good because companies had slashed expenses and sacked their workers following the Tech Wreck Mini-Recession of 2001-2002. For earnings to blossom strongly in 2005, we need strong earnings. The numbers, so far, aren't there. This could be a down year in the market. Cash remains king.

I visited Best Buy last night: A Mag LT 982S 19" LCD monitor that I paid $650 a year or so ago, now costs $379.99. Practically everything costs much less than it did six months ago. Several friends have recently bought new computers from Dell. Under $500 for nice, fast Windows machines with LCD monitors. Corporate sales can't look pretty if costs are plummeting so quickly.

Best Buy was selling nice refrigerators from Samsung and LG. I can't imagine how they can eat the shipping from Korea and still make a profit. But there they were. Full-featured refrigerators, replete with handsome layouts and neat gimmicks. One LG refrigerator sported an LCD TV on its front door. My friend, Bonnie Waite, commented to me "How many people stand in front of their fridge and watch TV?" But there it was. And only $3149. Bonnie had a point.

Why Irish eyes are smiling. Where's the best place to live in 2005? The Economist Intelligence Unit says Ireland comfortably tops the league. America, though the second-richest country (behind Luxembourg) in GDP per head, slips to 13th in quality of life. Britain languishes in 29th place. The Economist uses "life-satisfaction surveys." The Economist says as many as nine indicators have a significant influence. The main factor is income, but other things are also important: health, freedom, unemployment, family life, climate, political stability and security, gender equality, and family and community life. Ireland wins because it successfully combines the most desirable elements of the new (the fourth-highest GDP per head in the world in 2005, low unemployment, political liberties) with the preservation of certain cosy elements of the old, such as stable family and community life. Offsetting its poor climate and, by rich-country standards, gender inequality, are a higher political stability and security. It seems appropriate to publish this piece on Ireland on Saint Patricks Day. Hostess Snowballs will be green today. Buy some for the kids.

Bottom of the lot is Zimbabwe, where things have gone from bad to worse under Robert Mugabe.

Carly out of the running. Thank goodness: President George W. Bush said Wednesday that he plans to nominate Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense and one of the chief architects of the invasion of Iraq two years ago, to become the next president of the World Bank. He is not nominating Carly Fiorina. Our site worked.

Aren't children wonderful? Part 1
A visiting minister prayed: "Dear Lord", he began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face, "Without you we are but dust."

He would have continued but he stopped and burst out in laughter when at that very moment my daughter leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little girl voice, "Mom, what is butt dust?"

Aren't children wonderful? Part 2
This is a heartwarming story about the bond formed between a little girl and some construction workers. This makes you want to believe in the goodness of people and that there is hope for the human race.

A young family moved into a house next door to a vacant lot. One day a construction crew turned up to start to build a house on the empty lot. The young family's 5-year-old daughter naturally took an interest in all the activity going on next door and started talking with the workers.

She hung around and eventually the construction crew, all of them gems-in-the-rough,more or less adopted her as a kind of project mascot.

They chatted with her and let her sit with them while they had coffee and lunch breaks, and gave her little jobs to do here and there to make her feel important.

At the end of the first week they even presented her with a pay envelope containing a dollar. The little girl took this home to her mother who said the appropriate words of admiration and suggested that they take the dollar pay she had received to the bank the next day to start a savings account.

When they got to the bank the teller was equally impressed with the story and asked the little girl how she had come by her very own pay check at such a young age. The little girl proudly replied, "I worked all last week with a crew building a house."

My goodness gracious said the teller and will you be working on the house again this week, too?

The little girl replied, "I will if those useless cocksuckers at Home Depot ever bring us the f...... drywall."

Sorry about that.

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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