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AUTHOR'S NOTE: There will likely be many accounts detailing the question and answer session at the 2005 annual meeting. I thought I would offer a more personal angle to the entire weekend, complete with pictures so that those who were unable to attend this year can live vicariously through me if they are so inclined. I may discuss the actual meeting and Q&A session in more detail on another thread if there hasn't been enough coverage, but that is unlikely. If you are just looking for Buffett/Munger meeting comments, you may consider this to be a waste of time.

I hereby grant TMF readers permission to use or print these pictures through Yahoo! Photos or as you see fit. I make no commission on Yahoo's sales of my photos.

Day 1 -- Arrival in Omaha:

Day 2 -- The Annual Meeting

There and Back Again
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

--Day 2-- After the Meeting

After the Q & A session ended, most people skipped the meeting all together and rushed to the exhibit hall. (I did not, I went just before the Q&A and during lunch, so my pictures do not do justice to enormity of the crowds.)

During the lull between the Q&A and the meeting, I walked up a few rows to the directors' area and patiently waited for the chance to meet Bill Gates. Gates is a director of the company, good friend of Buffett, and now owns almost $300 million of BRK stock, so I thought it was likely he would attend. The directors' section was of course closed off and guarded by security, but you could walk up along the ropes and say hello if he chose to walk over. I waited for about 15 minutes, and I'm happy to report that my patience was rewarded. This was just before I met him. He was very nice and accommodating. He fidgeted with his shareholder pass a lot (as he is doing in both pictures) and shook a few hands. When he came over, security immediately rushed over and said “no more pictures.” This is why I don't have one of me standing next to him unfortunately. I was very disappointed with the timing, as people had been taking pictures for 7 hours before that. One man standing on a folding chair blatantly ignored the security guard who was looking right at him, and fell off the chair (as it folded up…it's a folding chair) immediately after taking a picture and landed on his back. The security guard seemed pleased. This was one of two overflow rooms designed to hold anyone who could not find a seat in the arena. If you ask me, this is the place to watch the meeting, as other Fools have observed. In the arena you would be watching video screens anyway, and in here there were two huge ones. You were also 10 feet away from a café (which had free breakfast, as all concession stands did). You could also arrange your chairs in which ever manner you pleased, and there were even two microphones for asking Buffett and Munger questions. Your odds of getting a microphone were much greater in this room because there were fewer people. If I weren't able to sit so close to the directors, I would have sat in here.

The exhibit hall was wonderful, and featured booths by many Berkshire companies.

Geico's exhibit let you take your picture with a twelve foot gecko, while a six foot one tried to sell you car insurance. (humans unknown).

Netjets had a nice exhibit with leather sofas where one could rest from carrying their many free and purchased products. They didn't give me the time of day of course, but they seemed nice enough to the older folks who looked rich enough to afford fractional jet ownership.

Garan had a fun exhibit where one could see and purchase Garanimals clothing. They were also selling beach balls for $1. I think they were trying to get us into trouble by playing with beach balls in the meeting.

I was taken back by the size and quality of the Clayton Homes display. When I had read “manufactured homes” I had always pictured double wide trailers. This particular model was nothing like a double wide trailer. It was quite large and actually looked to be of very high quality. There was a “sold” sign out front. I wasn't sure if that was just part of the display, but I suspect the sign was legitimate. Last year, the display model was actually purchased during the meeting, so I wouldn't be surprised if this one was as well. Here is the man himself as he descends from the model home into a sea of fans and reporters: Anyone who is big, wearing a suit, and has very short hair is a member of the security detail. Security was overwhelming, and made their presence felt as much as any secret service detail (with the exception of rooftop snipers). They were actually very nice guys I would talk with you in short spurts if nothing was going on.

There was an entire Monaco Carefree motor home which had been driven in.

Fruit of the Loom actually had an entire store setup inside the exhibit area: They were selling all sorts of underwear and shirts. BRK “Official Attendee” shirts were an agreeable $5. You could even get your picture taken with the official Fruit of the Loom fruits from the commercials (one of which was played during the company movie). (humans unidentified)

Here is a picture of Warren making his way around the exhibit hall. The news photographers were very pushy, but everyone else remained civil and enjoyed watching him take in the sites and sounds. I took advantage of my height to rise above the crowd.

There were also dining/resting areas set up with interesting themes. This one appeared to be some sort of inner city theme, complete with real grass, a chain link fence, and graffiti signs. was a theme celebrating the new Borsheim's “Diamond Edition” Monopoly. NOTE: Take a look at the line in the background. This was the line for people waiting to buy Charlie Munger's new book “Poor Charlie's Almanac.” You could also purchase other books and DVDs, but just about everyone in line was holding at least one copy of Charlie's book. I went during lunch and waited about 20 minutes to buy my books. This line (from after the meeting) stretched from one end of the exhibit hall to the other, so the wait was probably around 1-2 hours (for books you can buy on Amazon, although you wouldn't get the special shareholder's pricing). My decision to go up and buy my books and DVDs at lunch was a correct one. This is a picture of the Berky Bookstore just before lunch. I met Andy Kilpatrick, who is the author of “Of Permanent Value.” I was surprised that he was there with his 2005 edition. I asked him about it and he said he's now coming out with them every year rather than every 2 years as in the past. His 2006 version comes out in August. His e-mail address is if you'd like the most detailed account of Berkshire Hathaway that will ever be written. My 2004 version is over 1,500 pages, and over 240 chapters long.

See's Candy also had a large display, with this: the driver of which was a very hot young blonde woman. They were passing out free candy bars, while an assortment of chocolate could also be purchased.

There were also Segway Scooters running around. I was hoping we did not own Segway without my knowing, as I have generally labeled these things a “retarded piece of crap” rather than “the new era of personal transportation” which will “change the world,” so I was relieved to find out that they were only there because Nebraska Furniture Mart sells a few of them. This man in the photo was telling me that you can play golf “30% faster” with one, which I didn't really see as a selling feature. I didn't know golf was a race; in fact as a married man I thought it was designed to be just the opposite. I wanted to ask him if the 30% included the time it took you to load that thing in the car, and unload it at the course, but I decided not to be a wise ass. NFM had a demo which you could ride around the store. It actually looked pretty fun, but I wanted to get to the BBQ so I decided to pass.

Outside, the Netjets pilots were picketing. It was the only protest I saw this weekend. I have heard there are usually abortion protestors who disagree with Buffett's Planned Parenthood donations, but I think they protest at Gorat's and I was unable to attend that function. Berkshire stopped the allowable donations of shareholders last year due mainly to anti-abortionists boycotting The Pampered Chef and other BRK businesses, but I do not believe he has stopped his own donations through his foundation. I also didn't see the Dairy Queen protestors this year. (Last year, DQ owners protested because corporate was forcing them to buy some special kind of grill which the owners thought to be too expensive to be mandated). Being from Austin, I see protestors on a regular basis, so this sort of thing does not faze me. In fact, only one protest over a whole weekend was a welcome break for me. All of the teamsters guys perfectly fit the stereotype but sure didn't look like pilots. Personally, I thought they were misusing the phrase “livable wage,” as I'm quite certain that what Netjets pilots earn is indeed livable. I asked a teamster if he understood the concept of supply and demand as it pertains to labor and wages*, and he responded “I breaka your legs” and shook his fist in the air. I left it at that.

After the meeting, I hopped on a shuttle to the NFM barbeque. NFM, I determined, is the biggest store ever. After entering, I was impressed with the size of the furniture store, especially after finding out there was a downstairs as well. I thought it was big, but not as big as everyone was making it out to be. It wasn't until I went outside looking for the barbeque that I found out I was in just one of seven buildings which make up the 77 acre site! The barbecue was a good deal for $4, and featured live music. I showed up 30 minutes early (by this point I was carrying 45 pounds of books with me that I had bought at the Berky Bookstore, so I wasn't afraid of lines) and was pleased to end up being the 10th person in line. By the time the barbecue began, the line looked about like this: Those people in the front of the photo are not all bunched together, the line is actually one person wide and snakes back and forth.

After the barbecue, I was ready to head back to my room. I was carrying three bags full of BRK products and was operating on little sleep. I grabbed a free shuttle back to my hotel, read back over my notes trying to sort the information dispensed by Munger and Buffett, reviewed my photos, replayed my meeting with the richest man in the world, and turned in early to catch up on sleep.

*Not really
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