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How do I love thee? . . .

. . . Let me count the dollars.

Your expression of true love this Valentine's Day could cost you a lot more than a year or two ago, depending upon what form it takes.

At the low end, a Hallmark card is just $4 -- the same as a year ago and up $1 from 1999. A pound of Godiva chocolates is $37, up $1 from last year and up $2 from 1999. And a dozen roses from an FTD florist is $80, down $2 from last year but up $2 from 1999.

But at the high end, a surprise three-day escape weekend to Caesar's in the Poconos is $890, up $170 in a year and up $390 from two years ago.

Among other common love gifts, a silk nightie from Victoria's Secret costs $98 this year, up $29 from last year and up $53 from a 1999. But with the price of gold down, a heart locket from Friedman's Jewelers is only $100, down $75 from its price the last two years.

All these numbers come from Ric Edelman, a financial planner in Fairfax, Va., who keeps track of such things with his Edelman Valentine's Day Index. Overall, the index is up 9 percent from last year and a whopping 31 percent from 1999.

Thanks for nagging, dear

Did you hear the one about the rabbi, his nagging wife, and the billionaire?

Well, this story's no joke.

Rabbi Myer Kripke of Omaha, Neb., has never owned property, lives in a rented flat, drives a modest car -- and plays bridge.

Across the card table from the rabbi frequently sat Warren Buffett, the now-legendary investor whose holdings include The Buffalo News.

The rabbi and his late wife Dorothy often wondered if the so-called Sage of Omaha had any advice on what they could do with their savings. The Rabbi, though, was too embarrassed to ask.

"He handles investments only for the very rich," Rabbi Kripke told his wife. "He doesn't want the kind of money we have."

But after much pestering from his wife, Rabbi Kripke plucked up the courage to ask, and in 1966 Buffett agreed to invest their savings -- about $64,000 -- in Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett's investment company.

Thirty-five years later, that investment is now worth $29 million.

Rabbi Kripke, 86, has donated more than $7 million to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and is rumored to be donating nearly $9 million to his synagogue.

Buffett said he accepted the Rabbi's money because he liked him. "He's a sincere guy. He can be quite funny. He's quite likable."

Rabbi Kripke, who retired in 1975, said he liked Buffett because they lived in similar ways. "We both felt that the business of life is to be decent to one another and to live with compassion and not indifference."

Knight Ridder/Tribune

Phrases to snicker at

"Who let the dogs out?," "Is that your final answer?" and "I would like a recount," were among last year's most overused phrases, according to a random survey of adults conducted by a subsidiary of Mars Inc.

"Y2K bug," "Dot-com" and "Who won the election?" also rubbed Americans the wrong way.

Mars incorporated several of the phrases in a television commercial promoting the latest incarnation of the Snickers bar. The ad features a street vendor selling talking dolls that utter the sayings. Passers-by "crunch" or stomp on the objects to shut them up.

Associated Press

A revealing survey

A telephone poll by the American Association for Nude Recreation found that 19 percent of Americans have skinny-dipped in mixed company, and 18 percent would consider visiting a clothing-optional resort or nude beach.

Carolyn Hawkins, spokesman for the Kissimmee, Fla.-based organization, says nude canoeing, tennis, volleyball and hiking are becoming more popular.

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