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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Technology Investor. Auction Rate Securities. Auction Rate Preferreds.

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8.:30 AM EST Wednesday, May 7, 2008: Escalating oil, skyrocketing commodities the weakening dollar ... and the booming Australian dollar, now close to a 24-year high. The story is the same. The investment recommendations remain the same. Take a little profit off the table. A wise man once said, "I got rich by selling too early."

How housing prices are falling in the west: Two years ago, the basically new, fully-airconditioned house was selling for $250 a square foot. A few weeks ago, it was selling for $80 a square foot. My friend just bought it for $50 a square foot. That's a whopping 80% reduction in two years.

The investment lesson is simple: For the buyer: Set your price. Wait for it. For the seller: Sell NOW.

With real estate, your profit is made the day you buy it. Not the day you sell it. Sounds silly. But the reality is that your buying price is the only thing you can really influence.

There are creative things you can do with ultra-cheap. There are few you can do with expensive.

How assumptions can go awry. Or why your job should be always to question the assumptions. Always ask "What's the worst that can go wrong?" And is that built into the assumptions? Remember all my columns on "black swans?" All the once-in-a-thousand year happenings that were never going to happen. They just did. The Credit Crunch, which started last August with the subprime mess, is still pushing its contagion through the economy, affecting areas one always thought were "unaffectable."

We're not out of the woods yet. Do not go near financials.

Sometimes I get great email. This one came in from reader Albertus Ekelmans. How can you disagree with the wisdom of this 75-year old?

Hallo Harry

Read your website most of the time and see you worry now about the high price of crude. I obviously worry as well, but more about the bunch of chicken shits in congress that are totally incompetent to even think about doing some thing beyond punishing the oil companies for making money -- something not too common in that field. They talk politics, cover their behinds and do nothing else. I used to work for the biggest oil producer in the world and we knew already in the 1980s that oil would be more expensive to produce in the future. But when governments started to get involved bigtime in the industry, everything went down the tube. You might say as usual.

The real power these days is with people determined to take over the government by pushing against any form of progress. No Nuclear, no clean coal, no to this, no to that. And congress follows their lead, forgetting that we live in a highly technological world with a large population that needs energy and food. They came up with the politically motivated, but misconceived idea of corn ethanol that costs more energy than it produces in your car. The subsidies alone for that program could have created several million barrel/day coal to liquids plants producing sufficient amounts of diesel and aviation fuel to make an impact on the market. Companies like Peabody and Renteck are working on these projects on a small scale like 10,000 barrel/day. But there is not enough capital in these companies to risk a full blown project costing around $5 billion each. Particularly taking into account the danger that a bunch of greens will convince congress and the Senate to sabotage the project. Peabody is working with states like Kentucky and Illinois and wants them to be a major financial participant. The states balked when Peabody basically stated we cannot take the risk that you will pull the rug and not be involved. The next day there was a full page advertisement of a woman with a dirty face saying coal is dirty.

I am 75 years of age and lo and behold they try to recruit me for work on various contracts. The terms are ridiculously good. They want me to train a bunch of unwilling junior engineers who are looking for a 9 to 5 job with ample coffee time. Unfortunately they are not interested to learn and only in the paycheck, so go figure. I told them no thanks.

Regards Albert

Ask for references: You do a great job. Your client is happy. Did you ask for references? In today's slowing economy, they could be key to your survival.

Vista still sucks. My friend Anand Narayan says I'm being harsh on Vista. He's using it and it works fine, for him. He says the key is a program called Advanced WindowsCare. Here's a little Q&A

Harry: Did you use Advanced WindowsCare on your machine? Did it work?

Anand: I did use AWC on my system. It helped helped clean up the registry, identify programs that I did not need at startup and made the system startup and work faster than it had before. It is really user friendly, absolutely free and requires very little intelligence (which helps tremendously in my case).

Harry: What benefits have you personally found in Vista which you didn’t get in XP?

Anand: None. Comes out of the box with better security features but you can do that with XP with a little effort. But then again, what benefits did anyone really get from XP from Win98 and Win95 (Win 3.11 worked good too!!). I think with each progression, the annoyances like lockups and blue screens diminish significantly.

Harry: Do you find Vista faster or slower than XP?

Anand: Vista out of the box was initially significantly slower. After removing the unnecessary baggage, the performance is about the same at that of XP.

My recommendation still stands: Do not buy a computer loaded with Vista. But... if you get handed one, Anand's recommended software may help.

Last piece on Lyme Disease (I promise). I know I am obsessed. I find obsession is useful. It gets things done NOW. I asked Connie Strasheim, author of The Lyme Disease Survival Guide for help:

Connie's Five Best Tips:

1. If you are walking in the country, (or sitting in your backyard) keep in mind ANY green or wooded area can be infested by ticks.

2. If you go for a walk, wear long pants, thick socks and hiking boots. Tuck your pants into your socks.

3. Check yourself for ticks after you have been outside. Have someone else inspect areas of your body that you can't see, such as the back of your neck. Remember, nymph ticks can be the size of a pinpoint, so any tiny black dot on your skin should be taken seriously.

4. Don't sit on logs and grass. In fact, don't sit down anywhere near a grassy area.

5. Lyme disease is an epidemic. Up to a quarter of the population is now thought to be infected by borrelia. It is a deceptively easy disease to catch, and an extraordinarily difficult, and devastating one to cure. You can't be too careful when going outside.

Not a good idea to cheat on your wife.

A certain impeccable logic.
Shmuel had a bad car accident involving a large truck. Weeks later, in court, the trucking company's fancy lawyer was questioning Shmuel.

Didn't you say, at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine,'?" asked the lawyer.

Shmuel responded, "Vell, I'll tell you vat happened. I just put my dog Moishele, into the..."

I didn't ask for any details", the lawyer interrupted. "Just answer the question. Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine!'?"

Shmuel said, "Vell, I just got Moishele into the car and vas driving down the road...."

The lawyer interrupted again and said, "Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the Highway Patrolman on the scene that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question."

By this time, the Judge was fairly interested in Shmuel's answer and said to the lawyer, "I'd like to hear what he has to say about his dog Moishele."

Shmuel thanked the Judge and proceeded. "Vell, like I vas saying, I just loaded Moishele, my lovely hundteleh (dog), into the car and vas driving him down the highway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side. I vas thrown into one ditch and Moishele vas thrown into the other. I vas hurting, real bad and didn't want to move. However, I heard Moishele moaning and groaning. I knew he vas in terrible shape just by his groans.

"Den a Highway Patrolman came along. He could hear Moishele moaning and groaning so he vent over to him. After he looked at him, and saw vat terrible condition Moishele was in, he took out his gun and shoots him between the eyes.

"Den the Patrolman comes across the road, gun still in hand, looks at me and says, "How you feeling?"

"Now, Judge, vat vould you say?"

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 on this site. Thus I cannot endorse, though some look 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 Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.

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