Figs, Blimps, and Borealis November 21, 2006March 5, 2017 FIGS John Ebert: ‘You ask: ‘Who knew?’ I certainly didn’t. And I still don’t! Was that the whole story?’ ☞ Ah but there was an exclamation mark after the question mark. ‘Figs. Who knew?!’ By which I meant to convey a simple but exuberant truth: figs are actually worth trying. The longer version is that I was actually looking for dates. Dates are a sugary desert dessert the Canaanintes ate in place of Snickers – and I sometimes now do, too. But the biblical-fruit sector of my brain seems to have conflated the two, dates and figs, and I found myself asking the supermarket stock boy, ‘Do you have any figs?’ . . . meaning dates. And then, when he showed me, I figured, what the heck. Bought, ’em. Refrigerated ’em. Grabbed one by its little stub and ate the rest. Not half bad. The rest quickly followed. Who knew?! BLIMPS Dan Nachbar: ‘Your readers really need to stop picking on blimps. First of all, the generalization that blimps can’t fly in bad weather is wrong. It is true that several early rigid airships were lost in storms during the 1930’s. But airplanes of that era were also routinely lost to bad weather. The almost daily frequency of airplane accidents in that era is often forgotten today whereas crashing and burning a rigid airship is still a staple of Hollywood movies. It’s also true that our prototype blimp is very much a fair weather aircraft. But then, aircraft prototypes generally are. We don’t expect the same to be true of our next version. Remember, we’re just getting started. ‘In general, blimps have proven themselves capable of handling the worst weather. By the time the Navy shut down its blimp program in 1957 (a sad story for another day) its blimps demonstrated that they could fly for 11 days straight through ice, snow, storms, and other severe weather that stopped all other transportation – both in the air and on the ground. (I suggest John McPhee’s book The Deltoid Pumpkinseed for a terrific rendering of this tale.) ‘As for your other reader comment that blimps are deafeningly loud, this is also no longer true. It is true that WWII-era blimps were a very noisy ride. (The Goodyear blimps are still essentially WWII technology.) However modern blimp designs, such as the Zeppelin-NT and our aircraft, no longer mount the engines on the side of the cabin as was done in old-fashioned blimps. Thus they no longer have the same noise problems. When flying my blimp, I can easily chat with folks on the ground below me using an ordinary speaking voice. If I’m up above tree-top level, we do need to raise our voices a bit. But engine noise in the cabin is certainly not a serious problem.’ BOREALIS Yesterday, I linked to a site that reminds us we are richer than we think. But you may not be feeling so rich if you bought Borealis at $16 and saw it close Friday at $4.80, down $2.20 (31%) in a day. There are these things to say about that: First, we bought this crazy speculation only with money we could truly afford to lose (and mostly at $3 and $4 a share), knowing that, like even the best of lottery tickets, it may not pay off. Second, the 31% plunge occurred on volume of 8,400 shares. Someone, nearing the end of the tax year, may have figured, ‘Oh, well, enough already. I’ll take my tax loss and move on.’ (Or maybe he plans to wait 30 days – to avoid the ‘wash sale rule’ under which the IRS disallows the loss if the position is reinstated – and then buy the shares back even cheaper, as others sell for their year-end tax loss.) My point: if GE drops 31% in a day, chances are investors are reacting to some very, very, very bad news. If Borealis drops 31% in a day, my friend Joey may have just decided, ‘the hell with it.’ (The way Pink Sheet transactions are reported, it may actually have been a sale of just 4,200 shares. I’ve never been completely clear on this, but sometimes both sides of the trade get included in the reported Pink Sheets volume: the sale of 4,200 shares plus the purchase of 4,200 shares.) Third, this stock really may gradually dribble down to zero over the months or years ahead. But so far as I know, nothing changed last week. There remains the prospect of potentially valuable technology and a giant iron ore deposit. I’ve never sold a share. If tax-selling drives it down further, I may even buy more. But only – truly, no joke – with money I can afford to lose. Because (as is perhaps becoming increasingly evident) I really may.