The Wearing of Imbecile
Wednesday, March 11, 1998
by David Gardner (

ALEXANDRIA, VA (March 11, 1998) -- The Fool Portfolio and its two indexed competitors provided a photo-finish to fans at sold-out Fool Downs today. Close inspection of that photo reveals that in fact the Nasdaq won (up 0.48%), with the S&P placing second by a nosehair (0.40% gain) vs. the Fool's show at 0.39%.

It's a stastically anomalous day whenever you see all three finishing inside one-tenth of one percent. Even if a foolish (small f!) consistency is in fact the hobgoblin of small minds, as Emerson had it, I contend that a Foolishly consistent daily gain of one-third of one percent would be the creator of small fortunes. In other words, we'll take it every day!

We could spend much of today's recap doing our typical thing, talking about the ins and outs of the day's news and trading. But why would we want to do this, when in fact the Internet has just given birth to a revolutionary technology that MUST BE DISCUSSED here. Long-time readers know that Fool Port recaps will always happily divert to discussion not of stocks but of technology, or of culture, or of sports, or of whatever, if the need is deemed great enough. It's all part of our motley character.

And the need tonight is indeed great enough.

Fool HQ employee David Wolpe forwarded me an Internet address earlier today that I'll begin this report by providing up-front. Here it is (I suggest bookmarking it):

Babelfish (alluding to British humorist Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, specifically, a creature you'd drop into your ear to understand any language) is a language translation utility enabling you to view any Web page in one of six different languages. Go to that Web page, type in for example, and select Portuguese, and you're now looking at our main page (or ANY page -- this works for anything on the Internet) in Portuguese. Etc.

I find this absolutely amazing. I mean, are you kidding me?! Do we all recognize how revolutionary a technology like this is? The next time I get a Web link to a page written in German, I go to Babelfish, plug in the URL, and actually read the thing.

Better yet, you can type or paste in any word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, or article and translate it, as well. So the next junk mail you get from Italy, you can paste into Babelfish and read about how "THIS IS NOT MULTI-LEVEL MARKETING... but I never believed letters like this until I finally followed one and it made me rich. Here's how...."

Seriously, I'm in love with Babelfish and encourage you to drop this creature into your browser's ear as well. And that's important to mention up front -- more power to Digital Equipment Corp. for developing it. (The program's in beta right now, by the way.) I need to say that because the rest of this report basically makes light of it.

You see, the question must be asked... how are the translations? I decided to test the thing out by taking the first two paragraphs of Jeff Fischer's Fool recap last night, translating them into French using Babelfish, and then copying that text, pasting it back into Babelfish, and retranslating those words into English. This is not really fair, as it's a translation "twice-removed," but the results are extremely amusing.

Here follows a quick reprint of Jeff's first two paragraphs last night:

Like the Chicago Cubs during a good game, the Fool Port surrendered its early lead and then lost the entire day in the end. Amazon and AOL were hitting for us early, but then both came up lame. Iomega is on the injured list, and it seems that KLA-Tencor and 3Com have been retired for longer than the past year.

The Dow hit a record 8,650 while the S&P touched a never-before-experienced number as well, at 1,064. The Nasdaq jumped but is 35 points below its recent high, at 1,748. The Fool Port crossed the $180,000 mark, reminding Fools of the beauty of compounding. A mere 1,270 days ago, in August of 1994, the portfolio was only worth $50,000. That means that the port has earned, on average, $101 every single day, including weekends, since its launch. Not bad for very minimal effort.

And now, without further ado, the retranslated Babelfish version (English to French back to English):

Like Chicago Cubs during a good play, the wearing of imbecile returned his lead early and then destroyed the whole day at the end. Amazon and AOL struck for us early, but then both mounted blade. Iomega is on the wounded list, and it seems that that KLA-Tencor and 3Com were withdrawn for longer than the last year.

Dow struck a recording 8.650 while the S&P touched a number never-before-tested as well, to 1.064. Nasdaq jumped but is 35 points below its high recent, to 1.748. The wearing of imbecile crossed mark $180.000, pointing out imbeciles the beauty to compose. Only 1.270 days ago, in August of 1994, the booklet was only in value $50.000. That means that the port gained, on average, $101 each only day, including weekends, since its launching. Nonbad for the very minimal effort.

You now see the reason why we're not going out and buying DEC stock. I particularly like the translation of "the Fool Port" into "the wearing of imbecile" (giving rise to the title of tonight's report). Later in Jeff's recap he wrote a one-line paragraph: "Ok. Enough filler." Babelfish made that into this: "Approval. Sufficiently wadding."

What does all this have to do with investing? Not much, really, other than that -- quips aside -- you can see once again how the Internet will continue to revolutionize communications, culture, and commerce. Internet stocks were weak yesterday, they were weak today, and perhaps they'll be weak tomorrow, next week, this summer, or this year. Whatever. Who knows?! But for long-term investors, Babelfish reminds us of all the ways that Internet technology will touch our lives and -- I contend -- enrich our savings.

-- David Gardner, March 11, 1998

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Stock Change Bid ---------------- AMZN -3 3/16 79.69 AOL + 15/16 123.94 T +1 7/16 64.13 DD - 1/8 63.69 DJT - 1/4 9.75 XON + 1/2 63.94 INVX + 1/2 22.31 IP +1 7/16 51.88 IOM - 3/16 8.25 KLAC - 11/16 38.50 LU +3 1/4 111.56 COMS + 7/16 35.25 TDFX + 13/16 25.63 SPY + 17/32 107.09
Day Month Year History FOOL +0.39% 1.75% 7.80% 261.77% S&P: +0.40% 1.82% 10.10% 133.09% NASDAQ: +0.48% -0.77% 11.88% 143.95% Rec'd # Security In At Now Change 8/5/94 355 AmOnline 7.27 123.94 1604.11% 5/17/95 1960 Iomega Cor 1.28 8.25 544.33% 10/1/96 42 LucentTech 47.62 111.56 134.30% 9/9/97 290 38.22 79.69 108.49% 8/12/96 130 AT&T 39.58 64.13 62.02% 1/8/98 115 S&P Depos. 95.91 107.09 11.66% 2/20/98 270 Int'l Pape 47.69 51.88 8.77% 2/20/98 215 DuPont 59.83 63.69 6.44% 1/8/98 425 3Dfx 25.67 25.63 -0.17% 2/20/98 200 Exxon 64.09 63.94 -0.24% 8/24/95 130 KLA-Tencor 44.71 38.50 -13.89% 4/30/97 -1170*Trump* 8.47 9.75 -15.13% 6/26/97 325 Innovex 27.71 22.31 -19.48% 8/13/96 250 3Com Corp. 46.86 35.25 -24.78% Rec'd # Security In At Value Change 8/5/94 355 AmOnline 2581.87 43997.81 $41415.94 5/17/95 1960 Iomega Cor 2509.60 16170.00 $13660.40 9/9/97 290 11084.24 23109.38 $12025.14 8/12/96 130 AT&T 5145.11 8336.25 $3191.14 10/1/96 42 LucentTech 1999.88 4685.63 $2685.75 1/8/98 115 S&P Depos. 11029.25 12315.78 $1286.53 2/20/98 270 Int'l Pape 12876.75 14006.25 $1129.50 2/20/98 215 DuPont 12864.25 13692.81 $828.56 1/8/98 425 3Dfx 10908.63 10890.63 -$18.00 2/20/98 200 Exxon 12818.00 12787.50 -$30.50 8/24/95 130 KLA-Tencor 5812.49 5005.00 -$807.49 4/30/97 -1170*Trump* -9908.50 -11407.50 -$1499.00 6/26/97 325 Innovex 9005.62 7251.56 -$1754.06 8/13/96 250 3Com Corp. 11715.99 8812.50 -$2903.49 CASH $11233.54 TOTAL $180887.13