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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, Tuesday, March 27. Ethanol is not the magic alternative energy play many thought it would be. Its feedstock, corn, has skyrocketed in price, screwing up the economics of ethanol plants, making many unprofitable. And now we hear that locals are objecting to the building of plants in their neighborhood. (See the Wall Street Journal of the last several days.)

The investment lesson remains: Many "hot" new ideas fizzle quickly. Get in and out quickly. Don't stay -- except with some of your "play" money and perhaps in a portfolio of "little crazy specs."

Remember our Alternative Energy portfolio of many columns ago? It had a bunch of alternative energy companies. The portfolio is down by 27%. The big losers have been the coal companies. Interestingly, the lower-cost, more speculative stocks, like Earth Biofuels, Nuclear Solutions, Newgen Technologies, Hydrogenics Corporation, Plug Power, Evergreen Solar and Bio Solutions are up quite nicely. Little companies are for your play money. They often work.

I like some areas of alternative energy. I do believe we're looking at over $100 a barrel of oil within the next five years.

EWA is another way to invest in Australia: EWA is an iShare called the MSCI Australia Index Fund. You can buy it through your American broker. An overview" "The iShares MSCI Australia Index Fund seeks to provide investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of publicly traded securities in the Australian market, as represented by the MSCI Australia Index."

For an index fund, EWA's returns have been nothing short of phenomenal:

Things I learned about screw-in fluorescent bulbs:
1. You can save with them but only over time. Fluorescents are expensive -- from $7.50 to $11.50 a bulb at Home Depot Supply ( Running them costs 75% less per hour than incandescent bulbs. But it will take you many hours to get your money back. You can save $42 with a 60-watt equivalent fluorescent -- but only over its entire 8,000 hour life. That means you have to run it 8 hours a day for 2.7 years. Some fluoresecents are best for 24-day hallway lights in apartment buildings, etc.

2. Some fluorescents are more "green" than others. Generally, the new ones are getting "warmer," but some still look horrible. Wives still think that they look better for Halloween than for daily living.

3. Some fluorescents don't fit into traditional screw-in fixtures. That 's because some are larger than normal incandescent bulbs. You screw the fluorescents in, but they don't make the last few millimeters. Hence no contact.

This is silly, but fun. See if you can figure the answers:
"What Starts with F and ends with K

A first-grade teacher, Ms. Brooks, was having trouble with one of her students. The teacher asked, "Little Bobby, what's your problem?"

Little Bobby answered, "I'm too smart for the 1st grade. My sister is in the 3rd grade and I'm smarter than she is! I think I should be in the 3rd grade too!"

Ms. Brooks had had enough. She took Little Bobby to the principal's office.

While Little Bobby waited in the outer office, the teacher explained to the principal what the situation was. The principal told Ms. Brooks he would give the boy a test. If he failed to answer any of his questions he was to go back to the 1st grade and behave. She agreed.

Little Bobby was brought in and the conditions were explained to him and he agreed to take the test.

Principal: "What is 3 x 3?"

Little Bobby: "9."

Principal: "What is 6 x 6?"

Little Bobby: "36."

And so it went with every question the principal thought a 3rd grader should know.

The principal looks at Ms. Brooks and tells her, "I think Little Bobby can go to the 3rd grade"

Ms. Brooks says to the principal, "Let me ask him some questions."

The principal and Little Bobby both agreed.

Ms. Brooks asks, "What does a cow have four of that I have only two of?"

Little Bobby, after a moment: "Legs."

Ms. Brooks: "What is in your pants that you have but I do not have?"

The principal wondered why would she ask such a question!

Little Bobby replied: "Pockets."

Ms. Brooks: "What does a dog do that a man steps into?"

Little Bobby: "Pants."

Ms. Brooks: What starts with a C, ends with a T, is hairy, oval, delicious and contains thin, whitish liquid?"

Little Bobby: "Coconut."

The principal sat forward with his mouth hanging open.

Ms. Brooks: "What goes in hard and pink then comes out soft and sticky?"

The principal's eyes opened really wide and before he could stop the answer, Little Bobby replied, "Bubble gum."

Ms. Brooks: "What does a man do standing up, a woman does sitting down and a dog does on three legs?"

Little Bobby: "Shake hands."

The principal was trembling.

Ms. Brooks: "What word starts with an 'F' and ends in 'K' that means a lot of heat and excitement?"

Little Bobby: "Firetruck."

The principal breathed a sigh of relief and told the teacher, "Put Little Bobby in the fifth-grade, I got the last seven questions wrong.

I'm running to an 8:00 AM. Today's column is necessarily short. But yesterday's was long. So we balance out.

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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