But first: If you fly American Airlines and — because you have a gold card — qualify to buy upgrade stickers, be advised that they jump Monday from $200 to $250 for a pack of eight. So you can “earn” 25% on your money by buying a bunch now. And if the travel you do is not tax deductible, then it’s like earning 25% tax-free. Of course, tying up money has a cost, so you wouldn’t want to buy a 10-year supply (unless you thought they’d keep rising in price). In my own case, I just bought about a two-year supply.

Mary A. Black: “Hey, you are missing all the fun in the annual reports. In this week’s mail, AT&T had a 10-minute phone card, Compaq had a discount on laptops. McDonalds usually has fries or sandwich, Wal-Mart and K-Mart have had 10% discount coupons. (Like dividends in general, the little goodies and discounts are not what they used to be.) But, what I do like is seeing the incredible incestuous world of directors. There are lots of swaps — I am on your board and you are on my board. There are people with supposedly full-time jobs that are on six boards at $40,000-$50,000 per year each. Some of these people seem to make a nice living being on boards. Where do I apply? I would be happy to give them fresh outsider stockholder opinions. I recognize that voting my little shares against the professional directors is futile, but it makes me feel better and it is a toll-free call. So I am off to read a few this evening and vote!!!”

“PS,” Mary writes (appropriately placing the PS before her signature, Pre Signatorum, like every good reader of this column and, soon, e-mailers everywhere), “My personal favorite was from an international fund that did horribly. The opening line from the fund manager was: ‘The best thing about the last year is that it is over.’ Got to give him credit for honesty — but not my money.”

Several of you noted that I could stem the flow of annual reports and the Save the Earth a little by reading this year’s crop at least far enough to find the place, either in the report or the proxy statement, where they offer to take you off the physical mailing list and put you on the e-mail list for future reports.

Jon Raymond: “I agree with your assessment of company financial reports, although there is one company I own (Cognex) which has performed well despite the fact that its annual report invariably fits firmly in the category of ‘Kute to the point of Kloying.’ This year’s entry was in the form of a fitness program, I kid you not. I would also add that most of the proxies I receive lately offer the opportunity to vote online and register to receive future reports via E-mail. I’ve been reasonably diligent about doing so. Given the elaborate (and glossy) nature of so many of these annual reports, this seems like an easy way to give Mother Nature a breather. (For the record, in view of a recent discussion on this site about the importance of metal, I’d like to make it absolutely clear that I in no way wish to belittle the tremendous contribution paper has made to the progress of mankind, or to insult anyone involved in the usage or production of paper. I am merely suggesting that breaking the cycle in which these specific pieces of unwanted paper are shipped from the printer to my mailbox to my recycling bin and back again might be beneficial, and — who knows? — might even free up more time for us all to enjoy the wonders of mining.)”

Speaking of saving the earth, it’s really worth picking up TIME’s slim but very important Special Issue on that topic, on newsstands now, I believe. It’s also worth noting that Texas has the worst recent environmental record of any state in the country.

Tomorrow: A Couple of Other Freetrade Caveats


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