Investors saw their portfolios rapidly reduced to pixie dust, so they're naturally eager -- perhaps even overeager -- to regain ground as quickly as possible.

Because of that, each bump up is treated as a rally. Each market bounce becomes an open invitation to more heartache.

So don't do it. Don't dive in just yet. This is probably

not

the time.

That's the message Robert Marcin, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley, delivered this week in his debut column on

TheStreet.com

.

In

This Stock Market Is

Not

a 'Great Value', Marcin says he'll explode the next time he hears someone say that this market represents good value.

According to Marcin, very few companies are a wise investment right now because their shares are still expensive relative to their earnings and cash flow, two measurements used to judge value.

Marcin writes that small- and mid-cap firms offer the best opportunities right now, and he mentions

Health Net

(HNT)

,

Cendant

(CD)

and

Tommy Hilfiger

(TOM)

as being among his favorites.

Wonders Never Cease

Ben Stein is pretty savvy when it comes to the economy. Just like many of us, he's also sometimes bewildered by the market and makes poor investment choices. Heck, sometimes his money evaporates like rain in the desert. I thought that was only happening to

my

401(k).

In

Several Great Wonders of an Inscrutable Market, Stein asks for answers to a few questions that have left him perplexed.

For example, how do tech companies with almost no earnings and no prospects trade at such ghastly multiples? Stein points out that

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Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report

, for instance, is trading at 95 times its earnings.

And why is Dennis McKechnie smiling? He's a portfolio manager for the Pimco Innovation Fund, where the money that's been invested recently has acted like disappearing ink. In 18 months, Stein's $44,000 investment in this fund has dwindled to $8,000. But there's McKechnie, Stein complains, in a Pimco publication, smiling and talking about signs of a recovery.

Stein wonders why Pimco hasn't dismissed McKechnie, who has made some ridiculously lousy stock choices. He asks why there's no accountability. While singling him out, Stein also admits that McKechnie isn't alone.

Neither is Ben.

The Telecomedian

Cody Willard takes a poke at

Nortel's

(NT)

funny bone this week in

Choose a Careful Route for Telecom Investments.

OK, so the Canadian telecom giant has guided numbers lower for the millionth time this year. That's surely no reason to be negative.

While pointing out a few of those sins, Willard actually has some

good things

to say about Nortel and some other companies. In Nortel's case, he writes that he believes most of the downside has been priced into its stock.

He also identifies

Comverse

(CMVT)

and

Advanced Fibre Communications

(AFCI)

as potential winners among telecom-equipment vendors.

Cwazy Wabbit

In

Probing That Motorola Magic, Tero Kuittinen calls the company's quarterly report into question. In his frank style, Kuittinen says he isn't quite sure what to make of it -- which is precisely what he contends

Motorola

(MOT)

wants.

Kuittinen says investors are hurt when a company like Motorola offers a confusing hodgepodge of information about orders, obscures losses outside its reported numbers and refuses to divulge data about its regional sales.

Writes Kuittinen, "All companies play games these days, but the sheer number of mirrors, trap doors and easy legerdemain in Motorola's reporting clearly exceeds the average. In a way, it defines the era. Is Motorola a comeback kid or a basket case? Judging from its reporting, it's both. One day the rabbit will be pulled from the hat and we'll learn the final answer. I think the risks involved in this sideshow probably outweigh the benefits."