Technology Investor 

Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Technology Investor.

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9:00 AM EST, Wednesday, November 19, 2008: My friends in publishing tell me the bottom has recently fallen out of their advertising, as clients have slashed their marketing budgets to basically zero. Not good. If I were a betting man, I'd say this recession is accelerating. Which means I also remain steadfast in my recommendations:

1. Do not get back into the stockmarket.

2. Do not believe regular rumors that we have reached bottom.

3. Do not try catching falling knives.

4. Short a handful of stocks that you think are egregiously overpriced, given their declining sales and receding prospects.

Consumers have gone on a buying strike, except at Wal-Mart and stores that push ultra-cheap prices.

My 2007 tax returns total 1,000 pages. I'm not bragging. They're a reflection of my "brilliant" diversification strategy. Yes, you idiot, the more you diversify the more K1s you make, the more states chase you for their shekels. I've warned in the past about forming companies for small ventures. You can never kill them and they scream for money forever. But now I'm warning about real estate syndicates and investments in private companies.

Now comes another horrid part of this: When my wife and I die (yes, I've been playing with estate planning), every one of my investments will need the expensive services of a professional appraiser. And the best part? Some appraisals will cost more than the investment is worth. I'm going to write a column on this stuff. Oops, I already do.

Promotions work. My mail is bulging with expensive catalogs, which I junk. My email is bulging with deals on computer stuff, clothes, shoes, socks, big screen TVs, iPods, cameras, camcorders, etc., which I often don't junk. And sometimes I buy. I wonder why more firms which are hurting aren't emailing their customers regularly with offers? The "best" emailer is They hit me every day. I hate their no returns policy, but their emails are intriguing, and occasionally I succumb. Why aren't you emailing your customers regularly?

How fast is your broadband service? Go to Speakeasy and do the test. My cable modem last night came in at an incredible 21,982,000 bits per second download speed and a miserable 495,000 bits per second upload. You can do something about your results -- by begging your provider for compassion. Sometimes begging works.

My son's favorite clothing maker is Ibex.

They make stuff from New Zealand wool. My favorite item is the $95 Zepher Sport.

It's getting cold and dry. Which means your hands are cracking and your back is itching. There is one solution:

Buy it today. The Vermont Country Store has it.

Vampire energy loss: From PC World:

Like the blood-drinking creatures of the night, your devices are sucking down power while you sleep--albeit without the bite marks.

"Anything that's plugged in pretty much these days is drawing some current," says Mark Bernstein, managing director of the University of Southern California's Energy Institute.

Experts estimate that standby energy drain accounts for anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of an average home's annual power usage. Convert that percentage into dollars, and you've got around $4 billion in wasted spending across America every year, the Department of Energy estimates. For most families, that means a minimum of $130 a year--more than some people spend on a typical month's electric bill.

There's no way for consumers to even know which devices draw a lot of power while off," says Alan Meier, a senior scientist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Energy Analysis Department (LBNL developed and supports the useful Home Energy Saver Web site). "They look entirely the same."

That's where P3 International's Kill A Watt EZ can help. Available online or in home repair stores for $40 to $50, the device shows how much energy an item is using and how much it's costing you. We started with remote controls. I have ten, no less, and that was the first sign of trouble. "Any time you see a remote, that means there's some standby power consumption [by the device or devices it controls]," Meier says.

I lucked out in avoiding the worst offender: A plasma TV, the Department of Energy says, costs a whopping $165 a year for its standby power consumption alone. However, I did identify several other remote-controlled power wasters, including my cable box ($10.33 a year), my CRT TV ($5.16 a year), and my VCR ($3.10 a year).

And they were only the first culprits. Here's a list of other energy drainers we discovered in my home, and the annual cost of their standby energy consumption (based on applying the national average electricity cost of 11.8 cents per kilowatt-hour to the electricity consumption of each device, as measured by the Kill a Watt EZ):

Desktop computer: $6.20

Laptop (fully charged): $2.06

LCD computer monitor: $1.03

Wireless router: $4.13

DSL modem: $5.16

External USB hard drive: $2.06

Computer speaker system: $5.16

Inkjet printer: $4.28

DVD player: $3.60

Powered subwoofer: $15.50

Microwave oven: $2.48

Even things like cell-phone chargers tack on an extra couple bucks when left plugged in, with nothing attached. Factor in other always-on appliances such as DVRs ($27.90 a year) and stereo receivers ($41.34 a year), and the total rises quickly. (Again, these calculations are based on my specific devices and the national average rate of 11.8 cents per kilowatt-hour; your mileage may vary.)

The wasted cash is bad enough, but the toll on Mother Nature is worse. Vampire energy accounts for 1 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, Meier says. In the U.S. alone, that's equal to the combined annual production of dozens of power plants.

So how can you cut your costs and curb your carbon footprint? The obvious answer is unplugging items when they're not in use, but that's not always feasible: a DVR that isn't plugged in won't record your favorite show in your absence. And nobody wants the hassle of plugging and unplugging a dozen devices several times a day.

Fortunately, several devices address these issues. "Increasingly, we see power strips becoming smarter, more flexible, and capable of doing some of the tedious work for you," Meier says.

WattStopper/Legrand's Isole Plug Load Control. Models such as Bits Limited's Smart Strip power strips ($30 to $50, depending on features and size) can monitor electricity use and automatically cut power to devices in vampire mode. WattStopper/Legrand's Isolé Plug Load Control ($90) incorporates a motion detector and turns electronics off when a room is unoccupied for several minutes. The Belkin Conserve Surge Protector ($40 to $50) lets you cut off power to devices with a wireless controller.

Belkin Conserve Surge Protector with remote. All these models offer at least two "always on" outlets, giving you the ability to leave items such as DVRs or routers--which would lose functionality when unplugged--continously connected. You can also check planned electronics purchases for the Energy Star approval sticker, which indicates that they draw significantly less power than nonstickered competitors do when they're not in use--as much as 60 percent less, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.

Thoughts for today's world. I'm down in Washington today begging. Some of my investments are in need of being bailed out. If they aren't, thousands of my readers will suffer the depressing indignity of reading how stupid Harry has been. Hence I need bailout money. Heh, this excuse is as good as theirs?

+ Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress.... But, then I repeat myself. -- Mark Twain

+ I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. -- Winston

+ A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. -- George Bernard Shaw

The best news. This column has now moved from the thoroughly dreadful to a wonderful web hosting company called, my son's enlightened recommendation.

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.