Jul 6, 2006

Is That Ken Lay Hiding In That Ocotillo?

Enron founder dies; some feel re-swindled . This is the actual headline from my local paper reporting the death of Ken Lay, convicted Enron CEO and world-class swindler. Talk about being ticked off. The guy dies and his victims are still not satisfied. Damn guy even screws up dying. Anger is a part of grieving, but a lot of people get stuck there. Ken is dead, get over it. People lost money at Enron because the were busy chasing the easy money. They put all their eggs in one basket and got burned. This is an important point. If you have a 401K, or similar tax-deferred savings plan at work, do not invest all your dough in your company's stock. The bigger your concentration of money, the biggger your risk. Generally speaking, the only thing that you must have in company stock is the company's matching contributions, and many companies don't even require that. The good folks who were wiped out by the Enron collapse were either greedy or dumb and need to take their share of the blame for it. The fact that Lay and Skilling were crooks does not excuse sloppy investing. I know of what I speak. The stock of my company plunged from $50 to $1.25 during the dot-com bust and a period where the management of my company were helping themselves to the fruits of my hard work. I lost much of the value of the match that they contributed, because I couldn't access that part of my 401K. I was restricted by the rules of the plan. I did make sure that I didn't invest any other money in the company stock, so my loss was a pittance compared to some. Some of my coworkers lost 90% of their 401K balance because they had all their investment in the company stock. They paid their money and took their chances, bad idea. Now on to saner things. This plant is called an ocotillo (Oh-ca-te-yo). Even though it is a native desert plant and resembles a cactus, it is not one. It is related to the boojum tree and the Adams tree of northern Mexico. For most of the year it appears to be dead, its many stalks grey and barren. It begins leafing only when there is abundant moisture. The ocotillo flowers red tubular blooms, attractive to hummingbirds and bees. Native desert peoples have traditionally separated the stalks of the ocotillo at its base and created a living fence by replanting the individual stalks in a row, where they take root. Contemporary ranchers and landscapers have adopted this technique. (Click on images for a larger view) This is an ocotillo as it appears most of the year. The plant has dropped its leaves to minimize the loss of water. It remains leafless until it rains for a few days. Even though the bark is grey photosynthesis takes place without leaves. We are in our rainy period now and this plant has sprouted leaves within the past day or two. As soon as the soil dries out the leaves will begin to drop off. This is a close up of the leaves. Notice the formidable thorns that discourage foragers. Tag: