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1997 - 1999

A Writer's Life


The latest book of lists from Ed Strnad (no relation) is now available! Order I Wish I Didn't... from Barnes and Noble for only $5.59! Or to order from, click HERE.

Hey...some other guy named Strnad gets a credit for submitting a few of his own regrets! (No, they do not involve a fence.)

February 6, 2000
My Stock

It's been a full month now since I began investing in the stock market. Hundreds if not thousands of faithful readers have been wondering how my stocks are doing but have had the courtesy not to ask, judging by the many emails I've not received.

I'm a very private person, as you know. (Everyone knows how private I am since my weekly Journal is published on the Internet.) As a private person, I don't want to talk about the specific value of the Trader Jan Portfolio. However, I'll talk about it in more general terms:

What was I thinking???

One of my stocks is Qualcomm. Qualcomm owns several hundred patents essential to anyone who wants to create a wireless telephone network based on CDMA technology. ("CDMA" stands for something so arcane and indecipherable that I figure everyone will want it.) Qualcomm has a lock on this market and could receive royalty income measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming years. That's why Qualcomm stock shot up 2400% last year, before we bought it.

Naturally, a correction was in order. So we waited until QCOM dropped about $50 a share before buying any. Apparently the work wasn't done right because, whatever needed to be corrected about Qualcomm, it had to go back to the shop. It dropped another 35 points after we bought it.

"Points" are what we Traders call "dollars" because it's less painful that way. Let's say that you bought 1000 shares of QCOM and lost, in three days' time, $35 per share. Realizing that you've lost $35,000 in three days without coming anywhere near Las Vegas could be very upsetting. Instead we say, "It dropped 35 points." So at worst it's like losing the big game, or if you're an optimist, you're only 35 points behind at halftime.

We also own some Disney stock. Let's say...less than 10,000 shares. Much less. Way much less. Disney's been in a slump but reported good earnings from cleaning the change out of Michael Eisner's sofa, so our Disney stock went up last month, offsetting some of the QCOM loss.

We have another stock, too, but it's been doing well and I don't want to jinx it by bragging about it. My mother taught me that...don't ever express happiness about anything because you'll jinx it. That's why my family is always glum. Either we're genuinely unhappy, or we're really happy but afraid to show it for fear of jinxing it. Maybe your family is the same way. (I'd hate to think we're the only ones.) It might cost you thousands of dollars of therapy to find out what your problem is, but you can read it here for free.

Maybe someday I'll write down all the things I learned from my parents and put them in a book. It might not sell very many copies, but at least those few readers will understand why I'm the way I am. The acorn does not fall far from the family tree.

Anyway, back to those stocks. I have a friend who's bought several stocks over the past few years. He bought a movie production company, Carolco, at $1/share because their movie Cliffhanger was getting what we call in Hollywood "good buzz" and at $1 a share it could hardly go lower. The company was on the verge of a turnaround. Unfortunately, two things happened: 1) People stayed away from Cliffhanger in droves; and 2) even if Cliffhanger had made money, Carolco had given away the profits to investors to raise the money to make the film, so it didn't matter how well it did. Carolco went bankrupt.

His next purchase was a privately owned pharmaceutical company in Yugoslovia. A few days later it was seized by the Yugoslavian government.

Then there was the electronics factory in the Philippines. Two days after my friend bought stock in this profitable enterprise, the factory was leveled by a hurricane.

(Note to myself: Threaten to break this guy's legs if he invests in Qualcomm.)

When it works, though, I like the stock market. It's like making money without working, as opposed to working and not making any money, which is what I usually do.

Speaking of which:

Those rain gutters aren't going to clean themselves. I'm heading up to the roof now, going up 500% in a very short period of time.

With luck, I will not be subject to a sudden correction.