A wise man once told me that the three stages of "deadline angst" go something like this:

1. Worry. "How am I ever going to get all this work done on time?"

2. Panic. "Horrors! There's no way I'm going to get it all done!"

3. Acceptance. "Oh well, I guess I'm not going to get it done on time. Whatever."

Guess which stage this Fool has entered
It's been just over two weeks since ceramics specialist Ceradyne (NASDAQ:CRDN) reported its third-quarter earnings numbers, and yes, I'm only getting around to writing about it today. C'est la vie. Because of the stock's 25% climb since earnings were released, rather than focusing on small details, let's take a step back and spend today's column looking at the big picture.

The big picture
So far this year, Ceradyne has now notched a 90% year-over-year improvement in sales. Earnings are up 195%, and earnings per share a less impressive but still impressive 169% (thanks to 10% stock dilution). And if even those numbers aren't big enough for you, head on over to the cash flow statement and check out what's been going on with free cash flow: Through the first nine months of 2005, the business had generated $6.1 million worth of the green stuff. So far this year, it's put $79 million in the kitty. Increase: 13 times. Yowza.

The bigger picture
But as impressive as the numbers are, what impresses me even more about this company is its apparently instinctive ability to be Johnny-on-the-spot wherever a new trend develops. When the Afghan war broke out, there was Ceradyne, ceramic body armor inserts in hand. When Iraq ushered the acronym "IED" into our national vocabulary, Ceradyne offered up ceramic vehicle armor. And now that China's explosive growth has put the world into an apparent long-term energy crisis, Ceradyne has buddied up with Alcan (NYSE:AL) to produce ceramics capable of storing nuclear waste. And for the non-glowing-"Green" crowd, the firm just broke ground on a new factory that will produce equipment for China's nascent solar power industry, where it can find ever more customers in the likes of Suntech Power (NYSE:STP) locally, and perhaps SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) and Hoku (NASDAQ:HOKU) on this side of the globe.

All of which suggests that, as swift as Ceradyne's rise has been in the past, betting that it must slow in the future may be a fool's bet. With a small "f."

Read more about Ceradyne's energy industry foresight in:

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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. The Fool has a disclosure policy.