The holidays draw nigh (whatever that means), precisely not the hours you want to pass thinking about taxes. Tax planning, like eggnog and Grandma's fruitcake, might indeed be best taken in moderation over the course of the year, but this is the real world (well, sort of).

Fret not. Important as it is, and an updated tax code notwithstanding, the prospect of getting your act together might not warrant all that dread. Wrap the presents, light the candles, put the munchkins to bed, then take a look at Roy Lewis' 11-Hour Tax Moves. Then come right back!

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Nike's Eyes on LeBron

Nike (NYSE: NKE) is one excited company. Tomorrow brings the new basketball shoe launch for No. 23. No, not that No. 23 -- the new 23, as in LeBron, or King James as he's been christened.

The television commercials, featuring comedian Bernie Mac, have been running, the online ads have been prolific, and Nike's ready to sell some Air Zoom Generations to hordes of hungry basketball fans. As a shareholder, I'm ready, too, for the continued LeBron onslaught.

Times are good at Nike. The athletic shoe and apparel company just reported an exceptionally strong second quarter. After multiple periods where it looked like Nike was losing its touch here at home, and was unable to convince customers to shell out for its highest-priced shoes, the domestic business is improving. Nike's relationship with Foot Locker(NYSE: FL), which has been troubled since the retailer decided it wanted to devote less shelf space to Nike's high-end kicks, is also warming and should keep getting better over the next year.

The company's worldwide futures orders, which gauge demand through April 2004, were up 9.7%. That's an encouraging outlook. U.S. futures order increased 1%, marking a turnaround from the negative orders levels during the last six quarters.

The lack of U.S. growth has been a concern over the past several quarters, even as Nike was finding success overseas. In its Q2, though, total U.S. revenues rose 5%. Shoe sales were up 5%, and apparel revenues increased 8%. Average shoe selling prices here provide another measure of stateside strength, increasing in the mid-single digits with the mix of above-$100 offerings growing.

Nike's management characterized the current U.S. athletic footwear and apparel industry as the "healthiest" it's been in five years. With its stable of stars (including just-signed Serena Williams) behind it, and the company's technologically driven product innovations to spur it on, Nike's in a position to continue capitalizing on the good times.

For shareholders, monitoring the next two quarters' U.S. results will be important to make sure that this isn't just a blip. But for now, it's all eyes on King James and his much-hyped shoe debut.

Quote of Note

"As the light changed from red to green to yellow and back to red again, I sat there thinking about life. Was it nothing more than a bunch of honking and yelling? Sometimes it seemed that way." -- Jack Handy, Deep Thoughts

Goldman's Midas Touch

When a major executive leaves a firm, it is usually to go to another firm. However, in the case of Goldman Sachs(NYSE: GS), the path is to some higher calling, as seen yesterday when John Thain decided to leave as president of Goldman Sachs to become the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange (see Bill Mann's story about the move, Thain Takes Reins at NYSE).

Such a departure could be a significant blow to a company, but this is not the case with Goldman Sachs. The firm has a deep bench and will replace Thain with the trading rock star, Vice Chairman Lloyd Blankfein.

Trading has been the godsend for Goldman Sachs, as Blankfein has led the firm's efforts in using its own capital to take smart bets. The environment has been ripe for this, with low interest rates and narrow credit spreads, as well as volatility in currency and commodities markets.

Coincidentally, Goldman also announced its quarterly results yesterday. Once again, the bulk of the company's growth came from the trading side.

The company posted net earnings of $971 million for the past quarter and $3.01 billion for the past 12 months. Its trading division -- known as Fixed Income, Currency, and Commodities (FICC) -- generated net revenues of $1.14 billion, which was a 36% increase from the same period a year ago.

Despite the significant cash flows, Goldman Sachs appears to be resistant to hiking its dividend. In fact, the company sees a "pickup in transactions across the board, both merger transactions as well as equity transactions," said CFO David Vinair on the conference call.

In other words, looking into the crystal ball, Goldman Sachs see higher-yielding places to put company cash. And, no doubt, a comeback in corporate finance transactions will be highly beneficial for Goldman, as well as the other big bankers, such as Morgan Stanley(NYSE: MWD), Bear Stearns(NYSE: BSC), and Lehman Brothers(NYSE: LEH), all of which posted strong numbers recently.

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Why Best Buy Rocks

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)

Going over David Marino-Nachison's breakdown of Wednesday's quarterly earnings reports from Best Buy(NYSE: BBY) and Circuit City(NYSE: CC), I found myself nodding along. That is, until he implied that Circuit City was a good makeover away from relevancy.

With Circuit City's remodeled stores showing initial sales improvement over the rest of the tired chain, the implication seems to be that if you take a plain girl and doll her up, she will emerge as a goddess. Spare me. It doesn't work that way. All you will get is a plain girl that just happens to be all dolled up. Besides, I dated Circuit City back in college and I have to tell you, she didn't have much of a personality either.

Between hawking used cars through CarMax(NYSE: KMX), pushing the doomed DivX format, and building an unappealing commissioned sales team, Circuit City's past is ugly. Yes, all that is behind it now, but it's not going to get anywhere trying to copy Best Buy with easier product access and more ambitious displays.

RadioShack's (NYSE: RSH) Incredible Universe concept had that. It was Best Buy on steroids and it still failed. This very notion of reinvention is spirited but flawed. A dated chain that flourished in the 1980s should know that a Def Leppard can't change its liver spots. Toys "R" Us(NYSE: TOY) has gone through more makeovers than Madonna, and it's still no better for the wear.

Sure, Circuit City's latest incarnation is off to a good start, but that's the way it usually starts. The novelty eventually wears thin. The makeup eventually wears off.

Consumer electronics isn't easy. When Linens 'n Things(NYSE: LIN) is selling DVD players and Gateway(NYSE: GTW) is one of the leading sellers of plasma televisions, you know it won't be easy to set yourself apart. That's why it's amazing to see Best Buy set to grow earnings by 24% this year as it continues to grow its comps at a healthy clip.

Circuit City may be cheaper than Best Buy by just about any metric, but beauty that is more than skin deep is worth paying up for.

Discussion Board of the Day: Best Buy

What have been your shopping experiences at Best Buy relative to Circuit City? Do you agree that Circuit City is doomed? What has set Best Buy apart in consumer electronics? All this and more -- in the Best Buy discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

More Fool News

For a list of all our stories from today, see Today's Headlines.

And Finally...

Today on Fool.com, Whitney Tilson presents his 2003 Report Card of good and bad investment calls... Rick Munarriz pens Dear Santa and lists all the reasons why he deserves some gifts this year.... And we look back at a David Gardner classic, Lord of the Rule Breakers, which he wrote before the first Lord of the Rings movie ever showed up.

Contributors:
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Paul Elliott, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Alyce Lomax, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Dave Marino-Nachison, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Reggie Santiago, Tom Taulli, Dayana Yochim