Can you hear me now? Scientists in Norway have devised a special hat to protect cell phone users from what some believe to be cancer-causing radio emissions.

The "Mobile Cap," featuring a layer of woven silver, channels radio waves away from your head without impeding sound waves. You'll be able to hear just fine, but getting your kids to wear the $53 topper with earflaps may cause static.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Home Depot Hammered

Home Depot (NYSE: HD) may be the No. 1 home-improvement retailer in the world, but rival Lowe's(NYSE: LOW) has absolutely hammered it where it counts: stock performance. The past two days have done nothing to change that.

Home Depot's third-quarter earnings report showed a 21% jump in profits over the same period last year, but investors drove the stock down 13% nonetheless. Why? Because the increase was due largely to cost-cutting measures and had little to do with demand.

In fact, business at stores open at least a year, called same-store sales, dropped 2% for the quarter. That's especially disappointing considering the company was expecting a 2% to 4% increase. Another key measure, average weekly sales per store, fell 6%. To top off the bad news, management said fourth-quarter and full-year earnings would likely come in a penny a share lower than expected.

Lowe's, meanwhile, delivered an upbeat third-quarter report yesterday, with profit increasing 35% and same-store sales leaping 4%. Why is this company doing so well compared to Home Depot?

There are worries the latter has reached a sort of saturation point, where new store openings cannibalize sales of existing locations. Management denies this and plans to open 58 more locations before the end of December, bringing the year's total to 200.

Home Depot's plans, and its performance, have disillusioned investors for years. Lowe's has easily outperformed it over the past one-, three-, five-, and 10-year periods. As an example of how bad it's been, consider that $10,000 invested in Lowe's three years ago would be worth $15,000 today, while the same amount in Home Depot stock would be worth barely over $5,000.

Of course, the only thing that counts now is the future. But considering Lowe's is performing much better than its rival -- while only slightly more expensive using traditional valuation measures -- it's hard to make a case for Home Depot.

Quote of Note

"There's no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery. You can't do any business from there." -- Colonel Sanders

Big Brother, Alive and Well

We don't want to alarm you, but it seems that an Orwellian plot is unfolding before our very eyes.

You already know your credit record weighs heavily in the interest rates you pay for your home, car, and plastic. Now your credit rap sheet is playing a bigger role than ever in your humdrum life.

Home and auto insurers are now consulting credit scores to determine premiums. Your borrowing history may even be used by cell phone carriers and utility companies to decide if you are worthy of using their services without paying a premium. Scary? Heck, yeah. Forget your stellar driving record and whether or not you can afford basic electricity, let alone a hefty fee because you were late paying a few bills back in the 1990s.

The good news is that the machinations behind these decisions are becoming available to us regular folk. You can find out where you stand in the eyes of lenders using Fair, Isaac's FICO model. And now available for public consumption -- and introducing an entirely new revenue stream for credit bureaus -- is your insurance score. Last month, credit reporting agency Equifax teamed with ChoicePoint (which provides risk management calculations to the insurance industry) to give consumers access to their insurance scores. So now, before you apply for a loan or shop for car insurance, you can see exactly what the phone rep is using to set your rates.

About 25 states are considering limiting or abolishing the practice of using credit scores to determine insurance premiums. In the meantime, keep an eye on your scores and credit, especially if you are planning to, well, do just about anything in the next year. And if you spot an error on your report, remedy it before you go shopping for a loan, phone, or insurance.

Who knows what the future holds. We can just envision the following exchange with the doorman at some chi-chi downtown club. "573? Sorry, sir. This is a private party for those with scores of 700 and above. Step aside."

Retirement Fact of the Day

Of those in their golden years, 32% are still toiling in the working world. Why? They failed to prepare sufficiently -- less than one-quarter contributed to IRAs and 401(k)s in their early years.

Worried about your retirement wealth? Our Rule Your Retirement online seminar can help! We saved you a spot, but sign up today before it's too late.

Shameless Plug: Refinance and Save

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Happy Holidays for Game Makers

While retailers chew their nervous fingers down to the knuckles and economists slug it out over how disposable the consumer's disposable income will be in the weeks to come, one sector's got the holiday spirit in the bag: video games.

Last night, leading specialty retailer Gamestop(NYSE: GME) reported fiscal third-quarter comps came in 30.3% higher than last year's showing. Same-store sales at these gaming boutiques are up by nearly a third.

This morning, Japanese gamers were treated to a welcome nugget -- Sony(NYSE: SNE) plans to drop the price of the PlayStation2 console in Japan. As the market leader with more than 40 million systems in place worldwide, the move now raises the stakes for rivals Nintendo and Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) to follow suit. With hardware margins slim to negative, it's a razor-and-blades decision in which the console makers hope to make up the margin shortfall on cheaper systems through increased game maker royalties from the publishers.

It's no wonder software companies like Activision(Nasdaq: ATVI) and Electronic Arts(Nasdaq: ERTS) giddily raised fiscal 2003 outlooks last month. Folks are buying the consoles, feeding them the latest software titles, and dissing traditional playthings.

Last month, Hasbro(NYSE: HAS) reported an 8% slide in quarterly revenue, while Mattel(NYSE: MAT) fared better with a 6% uptick in worldwide sales. It may make you nostalgic for simpler times, when Mr. Potato Head and Barbie were the low-tech way to a child's heart, but those days are gone; the video game sector overpowers the toy dollar right now. Wanna play?

Discussion Board of the Day: Video & PC

Got Xbox? Going with the more popular choice, PlayStation2? Let's not forget about the Nintendo GameCube. With so many different consoles and high-profile titles coming out, what's a shopper to do? All this and more -- in the Video & PC discussion board. Only on

Quick Takes

The song remains the same for EMI Group(NYSE: EMI), and if you haven't been following the score in the music industry, that song has been a bit of a heartbreaker. As one of the five major record labels, EMI is warning that it expects recorded music sales to continue to decline, only at a reduced rate. Musicians call that a fade-out. Between the continued existence of peer-to-peer file-swapping piracy in a post-Napster world and the notion that the labels just aren't putting out compelling products, it doesn't look like the volume will get any louder anytime soon.

In this year's production of A Christmas Carol, will Bear Stearns analyst Jeffrey Fieler be cast as Ebeneezer Scrooge? He's downgrading shares of Amazon(Nasdaq: AMZN) just as the holidays are about to kick up in earnest. His concerns are based on valuation, which isn't entirely out of reason given that the e-tailing bellwether has seen its stock more than triple over the past year. It will be bah -- not buy -- humbug, according to Fieler.

Staples (Nasdaq: SPLS) beat out third-quarter targets and raised its full-year outlook this morning. Same-store sales were up by 3% for the period, as the company posted earnings of $0.27 a share on $3.1 billion in revenue.

A Deere(NYSE: DE) in headlights doesn't always have to end in roadkill. The agricultural equipment maker avenged last year's fourth-quarter loss by posting a healthier-than-expected profit this time around on a 10% uptick in sales. However, the company is expecting a soft fiscal first quarter, due in part to higher pension and post-retirement benefit expenses. Oh, Deere.

And Finally...

Today on Matt Richey reads between the lines of CEO letters and finds greatness in Amazon.... Tom Jacobs wants seamless, high-speed wireless Internet access to his laptop anywhere, anytime, for a reasonable flat rate.... The Fool talks to former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt about ethics, stock options, and the market.... The Fool Community offers great tips for saving and living well.... In Fool's School, know the difference between a market, limit, and fill-or-kill order.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim