So I was paging through the September 29, 2003 issue of the New Yorker (I never seem to catch up) and came to a cartoon with a big wooden ship sinking below the water line in a drenching rain. Couple of giraffe necks sticking up above the deck. Caption: ‘I knew the woodpeckers were a mistake.’

Point one: You can have this New Yorker cartoon – or any other – made into a box of custom note cards to give to someone you know who breeds woodpeckers. Or click here for some free stuff and ideas on what to get those on your holiday gift list who don’t breed woodpeckers. Like this one for a cat lover. Or this one to send those nice people whose beach house you visit. Or this one for your law student nephew (‘My fees are quite high, and yet you say you have little money. I think I’m seeing a conflict of interest.’)

Point two: The woodpecker cartoon argued strongly for holding Borealis shares and Nitromed puts (if, in each case, they were bought with money you can truly afford to lose).

Because at the end of the day, sometimes in a complicated situation (it was pouring! there were hundreds of species of animals on that ark! imagine the noise! the smells! the chaos!), one fact stands out as critical. This certainly isn’t always the case. But sometimes it is.

In this case, it was the woodpeckers.

In the case of Borealis, it is that the plane moved.

This company, selling these days at an overall market valuation of around $70 million (5 million shares at $14 each), has a technology that allows an electric motor the size of a watermelon to drive a fully loaded 767 around the tarmac like a golf cart. Might a much smaller version one day drive much smaller things around like golf carts? (Like, say, golf carts?)

And in the case of Nitromed, it is that the company makes a pill (and only this one pill) that is the combination of two readily available generics available for around $400 a year instead of $2,500.

Now, I will grant you that the woodpeckers might have pecked only interior, non-load-bearing parts of the ark. (Indeed, as Noah survived, they probably did.)

Or that Borealis may fail to turn what appear to be extraordinary, patented technologies (and a supposed $1 billion iron ore deposit) into a real business.

Or that Nitromed may persuade insurers to pay the $2,500 instead of the $400, and doctors to prescribe BiDil more widely than my medical guru believes they will.

That’s why I keep stressing these are not sure things and you should only hold them if you can afford to lose your money.

But woodpeckers tend to peck. And the plane moved. And BiDil is composed of two readily available generics. (‘Cohn could not get what is known as a ‘combination of matter’ patent because the combined form of these two generic drugs did not act differently than using each separately,’ reads one of the key sentences in a lengthy article in the current Health Affairs.)

I see no change in the case I made for BOREF a couple of months ago.

And the 7-day rolling average for BiDil prescriptions was a modest 57.7 on October 16 . . . yet the maker, Nitromed, is valued at $550 million.


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