Friday, February 26, 2010

Warren and Me

Five years ago, as a part-time contributor to a friend's blog, I posted my account of two run-ins with Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett. In recognition of the release of Buffett's 2010 Letter to Shareholders, I'm reposting that account. I've edited out a couple of references that no longer make sense outside the context of the original blog, but otherwise left it unchanged. Keep this in mind, especially in regard to the share price and holdings of Berkshire Hathaway (it is now more expensive, and Buffett has added an elaborate train set to his portfolio, among other things). Enjoy!


For the past two years, I've been in the MBA program at the University of Kansas. This has afforded me the opportunity to have some very long days (I take classes at night, after work), and to invite the wrath of my roommate, who isn't what you'd call a "fan" of the Jayhawks. But it has also allowed me to spend some time -- "hobnob," if you will -- with various fat-cats. And cats don't come much fatter than the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett. He's known as The Oracle of Omaha, The Wizard of Wall Street, That Guy Who Looks Like My Cousin Martin. He's considered to be the greatest investor in history, and, with a net worth of $43 billion, is the second richest person in the world. Through Berkshire, he owns GEICO, Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, Helzberg Diamonds, The Pampered Chef, Nebraska Furniture Mart, 8% of Coca-Cola, 12% of American Express, 10% of Gillette, 21% of the Washington Post, and, just for giggles, ACME Brick.

Otherwise, he's just like you and me.

Through my MBA program, I've had the opportunity to see him twice. The first time was in April, at Berkshire Hathaway's Annual Shareholders Meeting. I am not a shareholder, mind you -- at roughly $83,000 per share, it's a bit outside my pay grade (though they do offer "Class B" shares designed to be affordable for the average investor -- $2,700 per share). However, my Investments professor managed to procure a couple hundred passes, and made attendance 15% of our grade.

"Find a hotel room in Omaha for the night before, because I need you in line at the Qwest Center by 5 am." he said. "When the doors open at seven, run like hell for stage left on the arena floor, and start posting these 'Reserved' signs on as many chairs as you can. I want the entire class together and within ten rows of the stage. Kick the canes out from under the old people if you have to; just make it happen!"

Good professor. I learned a lot from him.

Anyway, I spent the day listening to Warren Buffett talk about this and that, and got to sit ten yards, one barrier fence, and a glowering bodyguard away from Bill Gates (who is on the Berkshire Hathaway Board of Directors). I roamed the exhibit floor, where various Berkshire-owned companies had set up displays, but was disappointed at the amount and quality of the swag to be had. It was amusing, though, to see some of the wealthiest people in the world (to stereotype the average Berkshire meeting attendee) crawling all over one another to grab armfuls of inexpensive underwear from the Fruit of the Loom kiosk.

That was my first run-in with Mr. Buffett. Fast forward to the end of the semester: My Investments prof again arranged for the class to go to Omaha, this time for a ninety-minute Q&A session with Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway World Headquarters. This, too, was 15% of my grade, so I took a vacation day, drove to Lawrence on a Friday morning to meet the charter bus, and managed to lock my keys in my car. I learned that day that it is absurdly, frighteningly easy to break into a locked late-model automobile -- all you need is a blood pressure cuff and a fishing pole. Take the blood pressure cuff, insert it into the seam between the door and ...

Wait. I'm getting off track, aren't I? Let's try this again.

So, once again, I found myself going to Omaha for an audience with Cousin Martin. Wait, no ... I mean, with Warren Buffett. Sorry. My Investments professor instructed us to bring questions, as well as a digital camera. I took this picture of Warren Buffett drinking a Coke:

Here's a picture I took of him eating a Dairy Queen sundae in front of us:

Buffett's kinda shameless about product placement.

My professor also advised us to bring a book for Warren Buffett to sign. Now, I don't own any books by or about Warren Buffett, as I lamented to my as-of-then still local girlfriend, Emily. She surprised me by making a beeline for her bookcase and pulling a Buffett book right off the shelf, and suggested that I take it with me to Omaha. I did so, but didn't have an opportunity to have Warren sign it, as we ran out of time. He did, however, have us leave them with his secretary, and promised to sign them and ship them back to Lawrence. He even told us to include a note with instructions on how we would like the autographs personalized.

The semester ended, and months passed. Word came that Em's book had returned from Omaha, but I was unable to find my way to Lawrence to retrieve it. The fall semester started, and, thankfully, one of my classmates who lives in Lawrence was nice enough to ferry it to Kansas City. Check it out!

In case you can't make it out, that says, "To Emily - Warren Buffett." I figured it was her book, after all, so I should have Warren personalize it for her. Of course, by the time I got the book back, she had moved, so I wasn't able to get it to her until Labor Day weekend (when I was in Columbus for a visit). She seemed pretty pleased with it.

By now, you might be wondering which Buffett book I had Warren sign. Well, wonder no longer; it was this one:

I'm just disappointed that Warren didn't follow my suggestion and sign it:
"To Emily: Keep searching for that lost shaker of salt. -- Warren Buffett"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bedtime giggles with Daddy

Ben protested loudly at being told dinner was done tonight, then started crying as Dave carried him upstairs & I vacuumed all the couscous that hadn't quite made it into his mouth. (Maybe he was planning to save what was on the floor for a snack wouldn't be the first time he tried!)

But he calmed down after getting changed and put into his pj's. He and his daddy curled up to read a short story and there were so many smiles and giggles when Daddy did the sound effects!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ben's First Haircut

Today we took Ben to get his first haircut. His hair was getting long in the back & sides, hanging in his eyes and the top seemed to stick up in 10 different directions some mornings! Neither Dave nor I wanted anything to do with taking scissors near a squirmy 13-month old's head, so we took him to a salon that specializes in kids' haircuts. He got to sit in a bright yellow car and liked investigating the mirrors and steering wheel. He was a bit distracted by the other kids in the salon and got a little restless after a few minutes, but we sang some of his favorite songs to get him to sit still. The stylist did a great job of going with his movements and he ended up with a very nice trim.

Before, showing off his suddenly beloved stuffed animal collection:



We'd been worried about how Ben would react, but overall, he did a great job during the cut and was so bubbly and smiley when we went to lunch afterward. He was flirting with the other people in line and even reached his hand out from his high chair to hold hands with a lady passing by! Thankfully, we'd just cleaned all the crumbs off his hands!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Random Ben pics

We've got so many pictures from the last two months that we haven't posted, so here are a few. We have been busy with a visit from Em's parents, a Super Bowl party, and the unfortunate sharing of various bugs. We are hoping for a healthier latter half of February!

Our Red Wings haven't been having the best season -3rd in their division - but Ben loved his new outfit from Grammie & Grandpa.

Ben's funniest birthday gift was A Guide to the Human Eye board book that Merck inexplicably gave to Grandma Jerry's office, where she is an RN with a retina specialist. We're not really sure who the target audience is, as it's clearly written for adults but in a board book form for babies. But Ben has enjoyed looking at the many diagrams of healthy & diseased eyes, and chewing on them too. Here he is examining a drawing of a healthy eye.

Last weekend Ben suddenly decided that it was imperative for him to hold on to 2 stuffed animals at all times. They've been in his crib for months, and he has paid occasional attention to them, but they are now some of his favorite playmates. He decided to carry Puppy & Teddy up and down the stairs on Sunday while Dave & I were getting ready for the Super Bowl party. He sat on his truck looking outside and played with the two animals for a good 15 minutes. He has dragged them all over the house in the past few days. When they are not readily available, he's substituted some of his Little People figures and somehow manages to hold them and successfully navigate the stairs on his own.

He is a little puzzled when we put him in his crib at night, though, and he's got Puppy, Teddy, and his new Duckie from Aunt Heather, Uncle Jeremy, and Elli. 3 cute animals and only 2 arms to hold them! What a dilemma! The other morning I heard him wake up and happily chatter away to them for several minutes; it was only when he'd dropped all 3 out of his crib that he started crying for me to come get him!

Sleep has been a little bit of a struggle lately, probably due to teething and illness. But it seems like the past several days, Ben has been sleeping better. He didn't nap well on Friday or Saturday, but on Sunday he took a good morning nap and decided to put himself down for his afternoon nap a couple of hours earlier than the middle of the hallway!

But he got a good nap and enjoyed all the people at the Super Bowl party. He got to try a lot of food (he LOVES Mrs. K's famous hummus!), and when we told him he'd had enough food, he decided blocks were a good substitute! After so much excitement, he was asleep about a minute after we put him in his crib.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ben's second first birthday

My parents were supposed to fly out over New Year's and be here for Ben's birthday party, but unfortunately my mom got sick, so they had to postpone. They visited a few weekends ago and we had a mini birthday party, part 2, for Ben, which consisted of lunch at a Thai restaurant with all 4 grandparents, then cupcakes back at the house.

Ben again loved his cupcake, but got very upset with his mean, mean mommy when I tried to prevent him from cramming half of the cupcake into his mouth at once.

Trying to grab the cupcake before he chews it all:

And Ben crying out in fury when I left him with only this tiny, tiny (!) bite still in his mouth! (I think he still managed to get about 1/5 of the cupcake in that one bite!)

Thankfully, he cheered up and took smaller bites after that. And then showed off his new skill of brushing his teeth:

...or at least opening his mouth for a few seconds at a time so the toothbrush can make a little contact with his teeth. We're still working on it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Videos should be working again!

Blogger has been having issues with videos playing for a few weeks. I reposted the entries with videos and hopefully they are working again. If you have any problems with them or get the "This video is not currently available" message, please let us know in the comments & we will try to find another fix!

More photos coming soon...but not right now, because Ben is on my lap and keeps trying to "help
me type!