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April 8, 1999

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Subject: Random Neural Firings
Author: astacvi

Foreword
In the time it will take me to compose this, your fast-moving board will have moved on, which is only fitting. The last post I saw was 7222, which, ironically enough, mentions two of my Favorite Fools, and two from which much may be learned.

Since sometime this afternoon, I have been completing a major project: An asymptotic approach to the end of this board. Earlier today, I read an interesting post (not the first) from a certain IFK to a certain BeeGee. Somehow, I threaded myself onto this board and discovered that a great and mysterious prank had been pulled. Quickly finding the original "Thanks for the fishes" post, I embarked upon a quest: To read through and learn from every post since. I believe (but am far too tired to verify) that said quest resulted in my reading some 600 posts.

Genuflection
I never flame anyone for lousy grammar or spelling, as I consider that to be very poor manners. I have seen no TMF area, other than their own editorial content, where this has been such a non-issue. I can recall only a handful of 600 posts which have displayed more than a minor lapse. I do, however, occasionally flame an inconsiderate moron for posting completely unreasonable requests for the people who inhabit a board to briefly synopsize their hard-won knowledge without themselves lifting a finger. The same goes for idiots who pose a question that was answered only three posts ago. In some 600 posts, I saw one, and only one, example of this. I consider this fact to be an amazing badge of honor for the generally high quality here (eulogies aside).

"I have encountered...at least a few names I recognize and avoid. To my amazement, they exhibit none of the qualities here that their otherwise obnoxious selves do in other locales. I consider this a great compliment to the board in general."

Reflection
Full disclosure: My first direct investment in the market was 2/17/99, with a cash amount that many would consider laughable. It's a lot to me, though, since I've frittered away much of my adult life without gainful employment, playing the grasshopper to everyone else's ant. Hey, I have no regrets. I've had more fun than many, if not most, ever have. But nearing my first potential midlife crisis milestone, I found it was vital to start thinking seriously about those 20-30 year away horizons that will find me older and slower and lazier than I already am.

I've at least been clever enough to take advantage of 401k savings (index fund with employer match) since I got a real job a few years ago. And I could write a book about Living Below Your Means (a board I have yet to visit, as they have nothing to teach me, and I don't feel like playing professor just yet). But the time inevitably came when I had a whole heckuva lot of cash lying around stagnating at 2.5%. Hence my interest in the market (stealing a line from Esteve: Ernest Goes to Wall Street).

Projection
Deciding to take the Big Plunge, I started doing my DD, without totally understanding what I was doing. My methods were a combination of ancient valuation ideas, I Ching hexagrams, and a lingering memory of losing $1500 as a youngster on a hot tip. I winnowed my ideas down to about 30-35 cut-makers, then sat down to cast the bones. CMGI made all but the final cut. I decided on a brokerage (Scottrade, in no small part because they have a local office so I could go bounce someone's head off the desk if they screwed me) and sent in my check. Hello, reality. Lost 2% my very first day, 5% in a week.

Considering myself LTBH, I just clenched my teeth and watched. After a month, I figured out that I really had a fine portfolio except for one small-cap that was killing me. Much teeth-gnashing and frumiousness. Now, after almost another month, I'm cool with it. That small-cap can go clear to zero and I'm fine.

But, back then, I established a "watch" port based on the ones that didn't make the final cut. Guess which has been the clear head-and-shoulders winner? Uh-huh. CMGI, and that port in general, have blown away the ones I actually bought. Lesson? Only one I've really taken to heart. Do all the homework you will, nothing focuses one's mind quite so clearly as watching your own money disappear.

Introspection
Would I, with all my historical perspective, do anything differently? No. I have earned a valuable education for what, in the long term, is just not that much money. What I have taken away from this brief experience more than outweighs what I've lost. In the meantime, I have benefited amazingly from my association with a community such as this. The fact that I can learn, for free, from such teachers as diverse as an IFK and a certain rodent (Greatest lesson to date: you can't own 'em all...)

But: CMGI has been, by far, my biggest missed opportunity as of this writing. I recognized it at the time, but just considered these "vapor-cap" issues as too unsound. With somewhat better hindsight than foresight, I now see the wake of a ship which may yet be trailing a tow-rope for a little water-bug like me. Time will tell.

"But I do want to specifically thank one IFK and the rest of the fine and thoughtful posters here for an evening that would have been wasted reading a bunch of "rah-rah" cheerleading posts elsewhere."

Projection Redux
I'm opening a Roth to just beat the 98 deadline, and should shortly be able to double up for 99. With the tax-free carrot hanging out there, this will be a position I can trade at will, and I'm seriously considering just wagering the whole thing. Maybe a long CMGI bet? Not sure yet, but I'm going to deliberately treat this one like a trip to the crap tables, put it all on the Pass line, and see what happens. Apparently much less reflective, projective, and introspective folks have done worse.

Interjection
I have encountered, in the last few hundred posts, at least a few names I recognize and avoid. To my amazement, they exhibit none of the qualities here that their otherwise obnoxious selves do in other locales. I consider this a great compliment to the board in general. Environment can apparently overwhelm genetics, in some cases at least.

Anagrams
If you've put up with this ridiculous post for so long, you should be more than ready for some off-topic BS. "IFindKarma" is a really great anagram. My ex-wife was a little less than thrilled when I found "HarshNewTuna" after about ten minutes of playing with Scrabble tiles. Personally, I have to use my middle name to come up with "AngryAtAllSnails". I'm not sure if that refers to my driving style or my intellectual stance.

Conclusion
There is none. I'm extremely tired and half a beer from going to bed. But I do want to specifically thank one IFK and the rest of the fine and thoughtful posters here for an evening that would have been wasted reading a bunch of "rah-rah" cheerleading posts elsewhere. I'll get back to the voodoo TA posts some other time. (When the hexagrams say the time is right).