Fribble 'Twas a Plight for Investors

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By UsuallyReasonabl (usuallyreasonable@hotmail.com)
December 29, 2000

'Twas the night before Christmas, the Street was in panic,
The prices of tech stocks had sunk like the Titanic,
The market had purloined the poor punters' cash,
And some from the window had leaped in a flash,
Their visions of sugarplums danced out the door,
As a poet might say, they'd be back 'Nevermore.'

More rapid than eagles, the bourses' descent,
And the traders called out to the stocks as they went,
Oh P-SIX, oh Am'zon, oh Red Hat and eBay!
No Yahoo! No L-NUX! No Sim-Gee and Ask-J!
Oh, please don't run down to a low single digit,
My dear broker's margin clerk's starting to fidget!

All those mo-mo investors whose japes and whose mocks,
Like: Why doesn't Buffett buy any tech stocks?
They'd vanished like snowflakes upon a hot griddle,
But what would they live on? Now THAT was a riddle,
It may be that they're all condemned to perdition,
Since eating one's words provides little nutrition.

And the Foolish investors who broke all the rules,
Who eschewed valuation and all of its tools,
Found their losses amounted to half of their pile,
(A condition unlikely to cause them to smile),
On their thesis of stock price this cast quite a pall,
For these Twinkies, it seems, cost too much after all.

Meanwhile...

The value investors whose cries went unheeded,
When rational pricing had long been exceeded,
Brought poles with long lines out, and elephant guns,
And pored over numbers to find the right ones,
They fished for and hunted the bargains they sought,
And the ones that were most out of favor, they bought,
They purchased the acme of stocks just in time,
To conclude they'd bought stuff worth a buck for a dime.

Meanwhile...

Poor Ryan Jacob was tired and bitter,
His eponymous fund had been flushed down the toilet,
Down almost 80 percent since the past January.
Investing with him had snared many unwary.
Although he had mastered the New Era chatter,
He couldn't evade the year's bear market splatter,
He whimpered while shaking his head to and fro,
Even I know you shouldn't buy high and sell low,
But what will I do to recover my cash?
Mr. Market has turned my career into hash!
I'll never get back onto CNBC,
Mark Haines would make mincemeat of poor little me!

While both of his wondering eyes filled with tears,
From outside a ruckus assaulted his ears,
A jet in the driveway was making the sound,
And from out of its hatch a man leaped with a bound!

He was dressed all in red from his knees to his chest,
And his fancy white hat bore the logo Nine West.
That's for women, thought Jacob as in from the cold,
Strode the man in two cowboy boots colored bright gold,
His green eyeshade shone, and adorning his chest,
Was a fistful of dollars arranged in a crest.
His eyes bore the look of a man who has read
Fifteen annual reports ere he last went to bed.

When he drew near to Jacob, his visage grew clear,
And Jacob could see past the costume's veneer.
He knew in the swathes of bright red polyester,
Stood the man known to all as St. Value Investor!

Mr. Saint, Jacob said with a chuckle, What gives?
Have you come here to see how the other half lives?
Our performance, it's true, was this year mediocre,
We'd have been better off if I'd simply played poker,
I hope you won't criticize one year's performance,
For our future profits will be quite enormous!

Mr. Jacob, the Saint said, Of course I'm not here,
To flog and berate you for this woeful year,
I'll pass up the chance at that unhappy task,
No, I've come here to see you with one thing to ask,
Some people have claimed you're as sly as a fox,
So why did you buy those ridiculous stocks?

Here Jacob smiled down at the jolly old elf,
Since his favorite topic, of course, was himself.

My stock-picking secret's known but to a few,
But you seem a good fellow -- I'll tell it to you.
Scientific selection's the name of the game,
I've created a picker that goes by the name,
Of Jacob's Fantabulous Automaclicker
Recycling Techanalyst Stock-a-ma-picker.
Thought the Saint, And the acronym's fitting, I'm sure.
Let's go in, Jacob said, I will give you a tour.

He drew back a curtain, and there in the gloom,
A vast apparatus filled up a whole room,
With blinking lights, flywheels, conveyors and gears,
All tended by highly trained mech engineers,
It clinked, clanked, and snorted, while smoke from beneath,
Issued forth and encircled their heads like a wreath.

This equipment, said Jacob, can be quite unnerving,
I'll tell you exactly what you are observing.
The input is taken from various sources,
Which help it prognosticate stock market forces.
Up there, you can see, are two smallish tin cans,
Which are fastened together by Bollinger band.,
The signals from oscillators of McClellan,
Are routed through them, then a honeyew melon,

Whose drippings are gathered in four plastic cups,
And ingested by several young dalmatian pups.
These pups turn the mainscrew that drives the electrodes,
They catch tiny signals from Greenspan's neck lymph nodes,
These signals, augmented, are fed through a filter,
Which causes a balance to tip out of kilter,
The balance connects to some red felt tip pens,
That transcribe its gyrations, its wiggles and bends,
Onto one scrolling roll of the cleanest white paper,
That's shredded and burned to produce a soft vapor.

This vapor we modulate using the news,
Of Pawtucket's production of left-handed screws,
(We add to that number some things that it lacks,
Like the vomiting frequency of our pet yaks,
The follicles counted on Jim Cramer's head,
And the time that it takes a shy bachelor to wed),
Then the vapors pass tapes of CNBC rumor,
For better osmosis we cut out the humor.

Next we have a man who interprets the smoke,
(This fellow is truly a highly trained bloke).
He dances a dance which is like a Morse code,
Which penetrates into a monkey's abode.
Now the monkey has talents unknown in this land,
He picks up a crayon with one hairy hand,
And scribbles the symbol of some chosen stock,
Then passes the paper out through a small nock.
The paper is brought by a swift elevator,
And given to our most intemperate trader.
This trader buys stocks as no man has before,
To do so he simply emits a loud roar,
Which is heard by the specialists on the exchange,
(We paid something extra to get this arranged).
So that is the way that we purchase our shares,
And it's gonna make my clientele millionaires!

I can see, said the Saint, something's just out of whack,
Let me make an adjustment down here in the back.
He gave a small turn to a large silver knob,
And the humming machinery started to throb,
A message popped out of the message-hole nock,
To Jacob's intestines it gave quite a shock.
Yes, that message rocked Jacob right down to his toes,
SELL EVERYTHING SELL SELL SELL EVERYTHING GOES.
The Saint read the newly-writ notification,
See how it's produced a correct eructation?
His head Jacob shook, to display his frustration,
And mumbled, No way, with some deliberation,
It's clearly in need of some re-calibration.

The Saint drew a breath and he stood deep in thought,
By his own methods Jacob had clearly been caught,
The Saint mustered up what he could of his tact,
In an effort to give the man knowledge he lacked.

Your stock-picking methods I find quite amusing,
And also, in general, really confusing,
You don't look at earnings? Come on, you can't con me.
Oh, Saint, Jacob said, you are so Old Econ'my.

The Saint tutted softly and lifted a brow,
I can show you, he said, if you want to learn how,
There are no big secrets to how I pick stocks,
You've a good enough mind -- you don't need Mr. Spock's,
It is simply a matter of doing some learning,
'Bout equity, leverage, income and earnings.

These words brought a glazed look into Jacob's eyes,
And he gazed at the Saint with a sullen surmise.

I admit, Jacob said, that I can't do that stuff,
I tried to learn finance, but it was too tough!
So I've fastened, instead, on the method you saw,
I can't comprehend all that math foofaraw!
My mom gave my brother the skills on that score,
For although she taught me, she taught Benjamin more!

Oh, pshaw, said the Saint, you can't mean what you say,
You are not as incompetent as you portray,
There's no one who can't learn a new thing or two,
You're a brainy young man who sees what he must do,
Yes, the best thing, I think, is for you to take looks,
At the best of the best of the financial books.
As he said this he turned and reached into his bag,
And he pulled out some volumes of paper and rag.

Here's Fisher, here's Hagstrom, here's Whitman and Graham,
They'll teach you the rules -- all you do is obey 'em,
My Letters are free to each would-be phenom,
At www dot Berkshire Hath'way dot com,

Now the Saint's visage changed to a look that was stern,
And he said, Here's the moral I'd like you to learn,
If you're handling the money of everyday folk,
You cannot pretend that it's some kind of joke,
Your clients expect you to exercise care,
Not to gamble their funds on a wing and a prayer.

So...

I suggest that you sell all your stocks out for cash,
Then to a log cabin you make a mad dash,
Sit there with these books till you've filled up your brain,
Then return to the markets; no longer abstain,
You'll find when you've taken some time to prepare,
Your wallet will slowly but surely repair.

As he said this he turned and made ready to leave.
Your office needs fixing up too, I believe.
I'd suggest some new carpets, new wallboard and paint,
And perhaps some new brickwork, if you've no complaint.
Come to Berkshire for every remodeling need,
Our stuff is 100 percent guaranteed.
While you're at it, make sure that your wife looks her best,
Just take a quick shopping trip down to Nine West.

He tap-danced on out, with his cool calm assurance,
And muttered some words about GEICO insurance --
Or perhaps Ginsu knives, it was hard to make out,
For the plane's engines roared as the nose came about,
As he turned, on his back (well, 'twas clearly his south end),
A large bumper sticker cried Hillary 2000.

The Saint laid a finger aside of his nose,
And he boarded, the door slammed, and up the plane rose,
And he called out to Jacob from deep in the night,
Keep a margin of safety, and you'll do all right!