I think that in your May 14th comments on the American Express Rewards Program you should have mentioned that membership costs $25 per year (1st year waived) and $50 to enroll using a Corporate American Express Card. I’m sure Mr. Broad doesn’t worry about the fee, but others might.” [I had passed on the report of SunAmerica’s Eli Broad charging a $2.4 million Roy Lichtenstein painting to his Amex “to get the miles.”]

One interesting avenue explained to me by the nice lady at American Express is to enroll your personal card for the $25.00 fee and then link your Corporate card as a secondary card for free.” — Peter Iannone

Thanks, Peter. I don’t have a corporate card, but if I did, it sounds as if you’d have saved me $50.


David Davis, Public Relations director for Dallas’s Adolphus Hotel, read my comment about ostrich steak and suggested the following marinade. I’m not entirely sure what a marinade is — I think it’s what you let the ostrich steak sit in for a day or two before actually cooking it — but I know some of you will follow this as easily as others of us follow yield curves.


6 whole lemons, skinned
6 sprigs fresh thyme, cleaned and stemmed
3 shallots, chopped
5 pearls garlic
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns (or 2 ounces)
4 cups salad oil (or 28 ounces)
3 tablespoons honey (or 3 ounces)


Place the above ingredients–except for the salad oil–in a blender. Mix the ingredients well while slowly adding the salad oil a little at a time. When the mixture is thoroughly blended, pour it over the ostrich meat in a tight-fitting basting pan. DON’T STRAIN THE MARINADE. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4 to 6 hours. Sear each ostrich portion and finish in the oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes (max). Serve medium rare with fresh fruit, a sweet sauce (blackberry, for example) or a honey vinaigrette. Since it has virtually no fat, the ostrich meat has to be cooked sparingly. It dries out very quickly.

Let me know if you and your friends have problems with this recipe. I can find out how to fine-tune it for you. (I’m no help personally in this area. The kitchen in my condo is used as storage space for my financial records.)

Remember: Don’t strain the marinade!


And while Mr. Davis has the floor, here is yet another remarkable message (remarkable for the trouble he went to on our behalf). It is in response to my July 25 comment on Herbert Hoover. Hoover was writing to film studios in 1917, urging them to stop using real food in their movies. Either use something fake or take out the scene, he suggested, which I took to be a rather petty contribution to the War Effort. Was the fellow conserving steel by suggesting reuse of paper clips soon America’s Vice President?

But Mr. Davis adds perspective:

I went by the library after lunch today and flipped through some biographies on Herbert Hoover to see if I could find your letter referenced. No luck. But the books confirmed that he was appointed “Food Czar” by President Woodrow Wilson in May 1917. According to biographer Eugene Lyons, this is what happened: “In the months before his return [from Europe], he [Hoover] had made for Mr. Wilson quiet surveys of food, shipping, and other elements of war. . . . From the first, ‘food mobilization’ had been recognized as America’s number one obligation if and when it joined the war. The formation of a special agency to deal with every phase of food provisioning was the President’s suggestion, but the availability of Hoover doubtless hastened the decision. In conference with Wilson, on May 5, Hoover accepted the invitation to organize and head up this agency. He made the same stipulations he had made in assuming the Belgian burden; first, that he was to receive no pay, and second, that he was to have full authority.” Lyons goes on to say that “Some twenty million individuals–housewives, restaurant managers, food processors, wholesalers, retailers, shippers–signed pledges making them ‘members’ of the Food Administration, as attested by a certificate and lapel buttons. . . . The very landscape of America shrieked the reminder, ‘Food Will Win the War!’. . . .” More than you wanted to know, but there you are.

Sounds vaguely like Gerald Ford’s WIN pins — Whip Inflation Now.

I just found the Ceres web site. You are obviously associated with Ceres. What is that association? Are you a principal? By your association are you recommending Ceres? In your books you seem to espouse mutual funds over individual stocks as an investment. Have you changed your mind? — James Griffin

My association with Ceres: they pay me (generously) to write these comments. I have no stake in the company and no relationship beyond that. True, I wouldn’t have accepted the assignment if I doubted the company’s integrity. But so far as I know, they are sound and principled — and at $18 a trade, I had little fear anyone would be overcharged.

I still espouse low-expense, no-load mutual funds — for example, in the disclaimer at the top of each of these comments. But like a lot of people, I trade stocks anyway. Even (horrors!) the occasional option. When I do, I like to keep my transaction costs low. I do maintain “full-service” accounts at a well-known firm, but it is mainly out of loyalty to my long-time friend/broker there — a relationship begun several years before there were discount brokers or personal computers at all. I don’t have an account at Ceres, but have been very pleased with my account of several years’ standing at Accutrade, owned by the same parent. Accutrade costs more than Ceres, but I’m too lazy to switch. I also have an account at Fidelity, but use it mainly as a checking account.

Tomorrow: Ripley’s – Believe It Not

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