Two years ago I wrote about my inept investments and got derisively laughed at by my longtime virtual friend Andrew. “He heh” – he went – “PALM, HAND. You should have tried FOOT and LEG”. Indeed , Foothill Independent Bank and Leggett Platt Inc performed better than Handspring and Palm Inc (they merged back together now).
After the Internet Bubble my investment strategy closely followed the baseline advice of “A Random Walk Down Wall Street“: I maxed out my 401K with a no load S&P500 equivalent index and the like. Later I scraped together the remnants from my old non-401K investment accounts, added some money and since I seem to always pick wrong body parts to invest in, asked smartass Andrew what to buy. His recommendations were AMLN and AMGN.
For the most of the next year Amylin Pharmaceuticals was not doing so hot most of the year, and I got to heckle Andrew, saying that even his stock mojo could not overcome my bad luck investment voodoo. Yesterday Amylin popped up 28% because “Phase II clinical trials for a sustained-release formulation of Byetta showed the drug, when taken at the highest dose, could help type 2 diabetics control their blood sugar levels while losing weight“.
Overall, I am up about 30-35% for the year. I never did buy that La Marzocco, settling for a very nice Reneka Techno. La Marzocco is old news anyway, these days the object of my desire is a Syneso Cyncra. If the things go this way further, maybe some day I’ll buy one.
Don’t even think about investing without reading “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”.
“Liar’s Poker” and “Ugly Americans” won’t teach you much about investment, but will teach you a lot about traders. Both are highly entertaining and very readable, real thrillers about BSDs. And there’s nothing “free” about them.
For a while now I’ve been trying to organize all of my notes. For years I had great hopes of finding a perfect electronic organizer. My first love and biggest disappointment were devices created by Jeff Hawkins and Celeste Baranski.
I owned my share of Palms and Handsprings, even the first Handspring phone module, but the damn things just kept crashing, running out of charge, loosing data and breaking exactly when I needed them the most. Also, the phone module was probably the worst cell phone I ever owned. Arrrr, just the memory itself of the scurvy thing be driving me nuts.
Funnily enough, three or four of my co-workers who did not even want to listen to my raves about Handspring in those days now own latest Treo cell phones which are a little less terrible, but still not as good as what I use these days. What high technology do I use? I use an ugly brick of a cell phone with Verizon service which is easy to use, keeps charge well, never crashes, is comfortable to hold and manages to get reception even in some shallow subway stations. For a phone book and notes I use little black books made by Moleskine.
Because of its slowness and bad text recognition my Tablet PC is sitting on a shelf waiting for a Linux installation, but I am trying to organize all of my notes and transfer them from random pieces of paper into neat new Moleskine notebooks. Tilde the cat keeps a watchful eye over them.
I want to become rich in one of the most honorable ways possible – by inventing something. The first step that I took in that direction some time ago is writing down ideas into a notebook.
The notebooks is kind of special. It’s an NYPD style memo binder that I bought from DeSantis. Interesting to note that the NYPD binder is 4×8, but regular one is just 4×6. It took me a while to find correct paper that would fit the notebook, but I found out that the reporter’s notebook available in all stationary stores fits. I just had to remove the wire spiral. You know, the most amazing thing about this notebook is that cops manage to stuff it into the back pocket of their pants. I thought about buying some uniform pants (they look like dark dress casual pants, but are probably very comfortable and durable) but it turns out that you can’t buy them without a cop’s id.
But I digress. Inventing. Right. Well, sometimes I stumble upon companies that are already doing what I was thinking about. Maybe some of my ideas are actually not without merit.
I had an idea bout billboards beaming advertising to PDAs. I made a note in my log about making a cheap beaming module that could be used in subway ads. A blinking light would attract one’s attention, and if the passenger would point a palm pilot towards the ad, a coupon would be beamed down. I did a bit of searching, and it didn’t seem that any company was doing that at the time. That was a few years back, when I got my Palm III. The first company to actually do this (I think, I am not sure though) was Streetbeam. Today there are many more companies that make beaming booths, beaming nodes, etc. Wide Ray is just one of them.
Later I was thinking a lot about wireless power transmission after reading a book about Tesla. Tesla had his lab illuminated by wirelessly powered fluorescent lights. Why not power devices that don’t need that much juice, like cell phones and PDAs wirelessly, I thought? I was also thinking about magnetic fields in trains. Could it be possible to recharge a Palm Pilot or a cell phone from an induced current somehow? My hate of wall warts (12 volt transformers) is also well known. I was thinking for a while about a system of modules that would allow using one power cable to charge multiple devices. The system would involve a modular “multicradle” that would allow to store all devices needing powering neatly on the desk. This Friday I’ve read about a British startup that is going to produce a very cool wireless charging solution. That is going to be so cool.
My investments remind me of this Seinfeld’s monologue :
“I’m not an investor. People always tell me, you should have your money working for you. I’ve decided I’ll do the work. I’m gonna let the money relax. You know what I mean? ‘Cause you send your money out there – working for you – a lot of times, it gets fired. You go back there, “What happened? I had my money. It was here, it was working for me.” “Yeah, I remember your money. Showing up late. Taking time off. We had to let him go.” “
The first stock that I ever bought was of a now defunct company called Molecular Biosystems that traded under the ticker symbol MB. Their only product was a special contrast agent for CAT scans or something like that. I bought the stock because of the name. It seemed cool. All scientific and such. And just two letters. I think the return on investment was something like -50%. I don’t remember.
Since then I’ve read a bunch of investment books, and was very impressed with Warren Buffet’s investment strategies. I decided I’d buy only a few stocks of companies that I liked, knew and understood.
The list came down to 4 companies. Palm [PALM] (actually 3COM when I bought it and later, after I’ve got PALM shares after the split I bought Handspring [HAND]), Gemstar[GMSTE] (I bought TV Guide shares, they were later converted to GMST shares), Krispy Kreme Donuts [KKD] and Berkshire Hathaway [BRKB].
Out of the four, I invested in 2. Palm and Gemstar. And here’s how I did:
Interestingly enough, at some point, when I was down about 15% (after being up 70%) I considered selling all the stocks and buying a La Marzocco instead. I didn’t.
I was looking for some handwriting recognition software for PC when I came across this:
Anyway, I am going to write about my love that turned to hate for products made by companies employing Jeff, Donna and Ed some other time.