It's too nice a day to think about stocks. It's summer, there's sun and birds and similar things going on outside, so I'm going to take advantage of one of the fundamental benefits of Rule Maker investing. I'm going to totally ignore the portfolio for a while.

Instead, I'm going to listen to Earl Semones, a reader who e-mailed me to praise one of the older columns from the archives and ask how many other worthwhile reads are buried back there. It's true: We need some way to rank the archives and make the "five star" columns stand out. I've long thought we could do an entire book of nothing but the best of the daily columns from the past few years.

In the absence of a ranking system where people can vote on archive material (an idea mentioned repeatedly at last weekend's Foolish anniversary party), here are a few links to articles I wrote in the first year of this column. Most of these cover their topics thoroughly enough that I've been reluctant to write about them since. But, our readership has grown a bit since then, and many current readers have probably never seen these columns. Rather than repeat myself, here's an index of some of the highlights from the older stuff.

I've written a couple of series to help nontechnical people understand what Intel does for a living, which (judging by my e-mail) were generally well received. The first batch is about how microchips are actually manufactured:

I did a second batch this year (2/22/00 through 2/25/00) about how microprocessors work, and how their design has evolved over the past couple of decades -- mostly so I could talk about how Intel's upcoming "Merced" (now "iTanium") chips stack up against Transmeta's "Crusoe" and AMD's "Sledgehammer" designs without getting a lot of blank looks. But, that was well after 1998 ended. Instead, here are a few other articles about Intel from 1998 that make interesting reading, from a historical perspective at least: Here's a column about how Sun Tzu's book The Art of War contains lessons for investors, especially that the trick to winning is being prepared.

One investment can guarantee a fixed, tax-free rate of return: paying off your debts. Here are a couple of columns about that. I've written a few columns about how the markets themselves work. Would you believe day traders can be good for the market by performing arbitrage to reduce the splits market markers profit from at the expense of investors? Do you have a clue what that means? I didn't until I did the research for the following article: Here's a series I wrote on corporate structure. What IS stock? What's a corporation, and how's that different from a partnership or a sole proprietorship? What's preferred stock? What's a board of directors? Why would a company WANT to be publicly traded? We pick up a lot of this as we go along, but it helps to see it all laid out systematically so we can fill in the gaps. Here's an article about how dividend reinvestment plans and Rule Maker investing are a good match. (Back then it was called "Cash King" investing. They change the name every time a new book comes out. When they do an updated version of the original Motley Fool Investment Guide, maybe it'll change back to "Simpleton Investing," which is the name it had when I first discovered it. I liked that name. It sounded like something I could do.) Here I explain one of my myriad strange viewpoints -- why, instead of fearing a bear market, I am eagerly awaiting one so I can buy stuff while it's cheap. The first time I mentioned Linux in this column, my editors buried it under a buy report. C'est la vie. Even I have trouble finding this one when I want to refer to it. Here's an early article on the concept of commoditization. This is still a very important topic and my views have changed a bit (or at least clarified) since this article was written. I suppose I should go back and cover this ground again. The first appearance of the Merchant King concept showed up here. They didn't get named for a while yet after this, though. (See Al Levit's 10/15/98 and 10/16/98 columns for that.) Another of my odd viewpoints is that everything people pay money for is ultimately a service. My favorite investing metaphor, farming, also rears its head here. Why buy a mutual fund when you can just buy General Electric or Berkshire Hathaway? I talk about that here: A few other articles are interesting for entertainment value. The four articles from 10/20/98 to 10/23/98 show that we don't always agree here in this portfolio (more specifically, I seem to disagree strongly with everybody else about Microsoft). Those columns inspired me to spend my next turn (11/17/98 through 11/20/98) bashing Microsoft. I'm still doing that, and there's no shortage of fresh material.

If this index has been useful to anybody, bug me and maybe I'll do one for 1999 or (at the end of the year), 2000. If you want some of the other authors to index their content (Phil's been around as long as I have, and Tom used to write for us regularly), e-mail them or ask on the discussion boards.

-- Oak