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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 Wednesday, October 5, 2005: My friend Dan Good advised me manage the managers, don't pick individual stocks. Concentrate on what you do best -- your professional life. Good advice. Except the hardest part is finding great managers. There are very few good ones. I have four with one "manager of managers." These are his four best -- chosen after acres of research. Three have my portfolio under water for 2005! Even my Vanguard funds are doing well -- Vanguard International Value Fund (VTRIX) and the Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Fund (VIMAX). My one hedge fund is doing much better -- despite the higher fees. This manager has heavy positions in energy. His four biggest holdings at end August were Harvest Energy Trust, Penn West Energy Trust, Fording Canadian Coal Trust and Paramount Energy Trust. My best investments this year are in real estate -- buying it and lending on it. Lending on first and second trust deeds to real estate developers in California and Arizona is reliably producing 13% and 17% annual returns. Fortunately my developers have factored in a likely drop in home prices. My best investment, bar none, remains Whole Foods -- a stock I picked myself.

Still working on energy and commodities. Keep the suggestions coming.

The most valuable asset your business owns: It's not the factories, the patents nor even the people. It's your customers. I'm obsessed about customers, especially happy ones. Maybe I'm weird. But I actually like receiving emails and catalogs from companies whose products I use and like. I like buying their new stuff. Why don't more of my favorite companies email me?

Absurd web sites: This is for readers who influence their company's web site. My simple points:

1. Most buyers now "shop" the web, not the stores.
2. Most web sites woefully lack useful information -- like simple technical information on how big the thing is, etc.
3. Most web sites lack decent size photos.
4. Most "customer service" people are clueless and often dispense totally wrong information.
5. The worst offenders are makers of expensive products, who believe tiny type, tiny photos and oodles of white space is classy.
6. Most companies give their web designers far too much leeway. Web designers are artists, not businesspeople. They don't understand people with money (you and I) can't see the tiny type they use on their web site.

And the worst thing: Most products don't have brand or company names printed on them. So, buying another one is impossible. All this started because we're trying to buy faucets for a new house that are the same as the ones in our apartment. We can't even find out who made the great faucets in our apartment.

Living in New York? is a super way to order your food on the Internet. We use FreshDirect all the time. Much easier than shopping. Makes a nice complement to Whole Foods. Sadly, FreshDirect is not public. Click here.

Laptop running awry: My main laptop needed several reboots to get it going. Reader Gerald D'Avolio had the same problem. He said it was caused by his hard drive starting to spin askew. Gerald said a friend who repaired his PC told him that, over time, a computer's hard drive, like an old LP record, got ever so slightly warped.

I cloned my troublesome hard drive onto a new hard drive. Bingo, no more problems booting. Thank you Gerald.

Good news: new 2 1/2 inch 60 gig 5,400 RPM hard drives cost around $115 -- a small price to pay for the peace of mind. Don't buy the ones made by Hitachi and don't buy the 7,200 RPM drives. They're too unreliable.
Click here.

How the other side "thinks." The Australian Financial Review recently interviewed Jemaah Islamiyah leader Abu Bakar Bashir in his Jakarta prison cell in which he justified suicide bombings, saying that "the best way to die is as a shaheed [martyr]".

Bashir, who is completing a 30 month sentence for conspiracy over the 2002 Bali bombings, said: "In battle . . . in places like London and in America . . . it is best to cause as many casualties as possible". He said: "Everywhere, infidels conspire to ruin Islam. There is no infidel who wouldn't destroy Islam if they were given even a small chance."

Infidel countries "must be visited and spied upon. If we don't come to them, they will persecute Islam". It was impossible for them to stop fighting Islam because that was their destiny. There was no example "of Islam and infidels, the right and the wrong, living together in peace".

Bashir said: "Islam must win and Westerners will be destroyed. But we don't have to make them enemies if they allow Islam to continue to grow so that in the end they will probably agree to be under Islam. If they refuse to be under Islam, it will be chaos. Full stop."

The question facing suicide bombers was: "If I do this, will Islam benefit or lose?" To die in jihad, Bashir said, was noble. And a "martyrdom action" was even more important than the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Bashir said: "A martyr must have ikhlas [sincerity]. The parent who understands this concept must be thankful to Allah. This is the spirit of jihad that most scares the infidels. This is a moral force." He cited Charles de Gaulle's emphasis of the weight of moral force in combat.

He said he admired Osama bin Laden and wanted to meet the man he described as "Allah's soldier". But he said he did not agree with bin Laden's concept of total war against infidels. "If this occurs in an Islamic country, the fitnah [discord] will be felt by Muslims. But to attack them in their country is fine. Muslims who don't hate America, sin."

Upgrading the old Church
The elderly priest, speaking to the younger priest, said, "It was a Good idea to replace the first four rows of pews with plush bucket theater seats. It worked like a charm. The front of the church always fills first now."

The young priest nodded, and the old priest continued, "And you told me a little more beat to the music would bring young people back to the church, so I supported you when you brought in that rock 'n roll gospel choir. We are packed to the balcony!!"

"Thank you, Father," answered the young priest. "I am pleased that you are open to the new ideas of youth."

"However," said the elderly priest, "I'm afraid you've gone too far with the drive-thru confessional."

"But, Father," protested the young priest, "my confessions and the donations have nearly doubled since I began that!"

"I know, son, but that flashing neon sign, 'Toot 'n Tell or Go To Hell', just can't stay on the church roof!"

Recent column highlights:
+ How my private equity fund is doing. Click here.
+ Blackstone private equity funds. Click here.
+ Manhattan Pharmaceuticals: Click here.
+ NovaDel Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ Hana Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ All turned on by biotech. Click here.
+ Steve Jobs Commencement Address. The text is available: Click here. The full audio is available. Click here.
+ The March of the Penguins, an exquisite movie. Click here.
+ When to sell stocks. Click here.

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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