Monthly Archives: August 2013

Why a Diamond Ain’t a Gem …

carbon symbol


an investment gem, that is.

1.  They have unbelievably high front end load fees.  Consider yourself lucky to find a diamond at 100% markup.  Compared to metals (nearer to 10%) or stocks they are in a different ballpark.

2.  They are not liquid.  In order to find a commercial buyer you will have to be lower priced than their WHOLESALE cost.  Meeting their wholesale cost won’t cut it, since their inventory is on consignment and it will take something extra to entice them to part with cash.  Good luck finding a sucker buyer in the private market.

3.  They are not fungible.  SInce each one is unique, exchanging them is closer to bartering or horse trading than a financial transaction.  You can exchange dollars for euros for stocks for bonds to your hearts content.  You want to exchange that diamond?  Better get a collection of opinions about the 4 C’s (carats, clarity, cut, and color), I’ll get my own expert’s opinion.  Then we can start to haggle about a trade.

4.  The supply is manipulated.  Diamonds aren’t rare.   But the supply has to go through the De Beers cartel that artificially places a bottleneck on availability.

For a great summary of diamonds (including the advertising brainwashing that introduced and popularized the idea of the diamond engagement ring) see:

For the purposes of the Independent Penguin, a diamond clearly is categorized in the visible portion of his iceberg.


A Review of the WaxVac



The WaxVac has a great TV commercial.  I always cringe when the actor punctures his eardrum with the Q-tip.  But I cant turn away either.

Probably every parent will understand the situation that led to me trying it.  Non-parents might not, but they will one day.

My 9 year old told me he had an earache one day.  When asked why, he replied that he had a piece of wood in his ear.  When asked why, he replied that he put it there.  When asked when, he replied that it was there for a month.  Yes, a month.

Now, I wasn’t convinced there was a piece of wood in his ear.  But I was convinced that it hurt.  I had many ear problems as a kid, so wanted to get it cleaned out.

So I ran to the local store and picked up some gentle ear cleaning supplies: hydrogen peroxide and an ear cleaning and irrigation kit.  And in the asle near the check-out was the WaxVac for $10.  With the background of having seen those TV commercials a hundred times, I thought that if it really was a tiny piece of wood that the WaxVac would be perfect.  So I got it.  As a desperate parent.

The package was easy to open.  It was easy to put together (the battery compartment wasn’t clearly marked, but I figured it out).  There was a little light in the back, and the vacuum turned on.

But the WaxVac sucked.  Not literally – that would have made it useful.   No, it had no suction at all.  Totally worthless, although my son kind of enjoyed playing with it.

Oh, it was just a bit of earwax by the way.  Problem solved.  Now onto the next crisis.

How to Quench Thirst Like a Trillionaire



Consider a thought experiment.  If you had a trillion dollars you would have about 14 times as much as the richest person who ever lived.  Money would be no object  in a decision.  You could have the absolute best that is available in this world.  Every moment of every day.

As a rational trillionaire, you would be most concerned with staying as healthy as possible and living at the peak of happiness for life.

That would be great!  Wouldn’t it be the most amazing experience to live like a trillionaire – even for a moment?

Suppose that the trillionaire had a moment of discomfort.  He got thirsty.  Of course he would quickly quench that thirst.  But with what?

I suppose it could be with Dom Perignon.  But alcohol and thirst aren’t a great pair.  Coke?  Sure, but the empty calories and acid might give him pause.

No, the trillionaire would choose the one thing his body craves to conquer thirst- a glass of cool and pure water.   A thousand generations of ancestors fighting for survival in this world has honed his desire for the answer to his thirst.

The Independent Penguin is aware of the irony of this.  And he mindfully enjoys living like a trillionaire while sipping his water.