Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Proposition 8: Shame on Us, California

The ongoing irony of Californians amazes me. We overwhelmingly pass a bill to guarantee minimum space standards for the livestock we eat (Proposition 2), and we narrowly pass a bill which prohibits how two consenting adults can define their relationship.

The most bizarre pro-Prop 8 poster I saw leading up to the election exclaimed, "Keep Government Out of Marriage!" Huh? The whole point of Proposition 8 was to establish a law (i.e. "Government") which placed restrictions on civil unions between adults.

But that was one of the main points of the Prop 8 supporters, that the California Supreme Court somehow "made law." Go back to Civics class, folks, and refresh your knowledge of Constitutional Law. Basically, it goes like this: The State should have no interest in the civil relationships between consenting adults, so long as personal and property rights of others is not infringed. Furthermore, since we have anti-discriminatory statutes on the books for sexual orientation, then, well, you can't discriminate! Being "offended" by or "fearful" of gay couples, or what many refer to as the "Ick Factor," does not affect your personal rights. So, the California Supreme Court ruled correctly that banning marriage between a particular class of people is wrong, wrong, wrong.

But never mind, I'll just keep rambling. Keith, as usual, puts everything in proper perspective. It's six minutes long, but worth every second:

U.S. Auto Maker Bailout: There Better Be Major Strings Attached

The US auto industry has been in decline since the first oil crisis in 1973. Even during the heyday of SUV's and big trucks in the 90's and 00's, anyone with a serious forward-looking focus could see that any major blip in oil prices, oil supply, or macroeconomic health would send the industry off the cliff.

Why? Because American consumers change their buying habits quickly, and the American auto makers have never built a diverse enough fleet to satisfy consumers' changing whimsy.

The major foreign makers, like Toyota, Nissan, and (yes) Hyundai have built and maintained a diverse fleet of vehicles of useful features and high quality that meet customer expectations. You can buy a bad-ass pickup or SUV from them, and you can also buy quality subcompacts and alternative fuel vehicles.

Meanwhile, Detroit has fought long and hard against improvements in the most basic standards for safety, fuel efficiency, and emissions. They claim that better standards will cripple the industry. At the same time, they spend years developing buggy, butt-ugly vehicles that fewer Americans are willing to buy. Just look at Honda and Toyota, and what they have successfully done on their own in the same areas, using the same market forces that Detroit seems unwilling to heed.

Here we are now, and Detroit has been caught off-guard again, with a huge inventory of big clunkers and no answers for consumers' current demands for highly efficient and high quality vehicles. Auto dealerships for American cars are closing at a fast pace, too, and that's no wonder. I have rarely received good service on either the front or back ends of a car sale through an American dealer.

So now, Detroit has joined the mantra: "Bail us out!" Now, I certainly don't want the auto industry to implode, at least not right now. Job losses will be mounting over the next few months, anyway, and a few million more added to the jobless rolls would be nasty.

That being said, we can't just give money to Detroit and expect them to do the right thing. Left to their own devices, they would just go back to designing 20th century vehicles for the 21st century. And, they would still complain about improving standards, the same as before. Hey, Detroit, quitcherbitchin!

So, Congress, here's what we should ask for return from Detroit before handing them the money:
  • Ownership stake in the companies (preferred stock)
  • Observer status on the Board of Directors
  • Commitment to design of vehicles which meet aggressive fuel economy and emission standards. (Additional tax breaks are welcome here.)
  • Commitment to manufacturing processes which are sustainable. (Again, additional tax breaks are okay.)
  • Retooling of the sales and inventory process, so that most vehicles are built to order. The traditional auto dealership should be moved to its proper place...a museum.
This is the short list. In any event, we should not allow Detroit to come to the trough without expecting some long term changes to their business model.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Historic Moment, and Daunting Challenges

I rarely experience chills from speeches. But tonight's acceptance speech was eloquent, humble, conciliatory, but most important, cautionary. President-Elect Obama knows full well that entering his term with a damaged economy and an obscene budget deficit leaves few options. So he asked for us to be willing to sacrifice and work harder. I hope you all heard it, too. Sign me up, let's get to work.

Part 2 of my "Screwed" series never saw the light of day. The premise was that we can't overcome the challenges we face, because we have pissed away the cash and credit needed to solve them. Over a trillion dollars squandered on the Iraq and Wall Street misadventures.

Why, with a trillion dollars, we could:
  • Provide health care to everyone in the USA
  • Educate all of our children and provide activities for them while their parents work
  • Transform our society and economy to be sustainable
  • Rebuild our infrastructure for the 21st century (it's gotta be sustainable, after all)
  • Fund a Manhattan Project to mitigate the climate problem
But, who am I to whine over squandered opportunities? What's done is done, and all those lives and money won't be coming back.

I think we have elected the right person at the right time, except Mr. Obama won't have the luxury of a budget surplus to squander like his predecessor. It will be most interesting to see how the new administration plans its strategy to address all the immediate problems that have been ignored for eight years.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making a Travesty of the Game

From the Major League Baseball(tm) rule book:

Rule 7.08 Any runner is out when:

(i) After he has acquired legal possession of a base, he runs the bases in reverse order for the purpose of confusing the defense or making a travesty of the game. The umpire shall immediately call “Time” and declare the runner out;
The real travesty is what occurred in Philadelphia last night, in what was billed as Game 5 of something called the "World Series." As far as I can tell, very little "baseball" was played in Philadelphia last night. Somebody needed to call "Time" and declare the travesty over much earlier than was done.

All my life, I've adored the World Series for its ideals: two teams from each league who had survived victorious after a 162-game regular season and various playoff games would square off in a best-of-7 series to crown the world's best in baseball. For teams to get this far requires skill, consistency, healthy players, and a winning momentum.

Baseball requires fair, dry weather to play. Why is this so hard to figure out? The season starts in April and ends at the end of October, with snow and cold weather possible at both ends. Cold and wet weather is bad for baseball because it requires throwing a leather ball at high speeds and playing on a field with lots of dirt. As we know, leather becomes very slippery when wet and dirt turns to mud in the rain.

So here we have the two best teams, in potentially the last game of the series, playing in conditions which would be considered obscene by anyone familiar with the game. (You can review the gory details on As someone who has umpired many games at the youth level, I know it doesn't take much rain before the safety of the players becomes a concern. As a responsible official, you are expected to suspend play until the conditions allow safe play.

So, last night in Philadelphia, why wouldn't the umpires call the game after it became obvious that play was impossible? Two big reasons: Bud Selig ("the Commish") and Fox Sports. I guess Bud can't read weather radar, because it was obvious after the second inning that the rain was going to get worse. "Never mind! Play on!" And I'm convinced that Fox did not want to see the game postponed until Tuesday, an official travel day, because it would have reamed their Tuesday night prime time schedule. Sucks to be them.

Once the game became "official" after the required 4-1/2 innings, it was clear that Bud would allow this joke to continue as long as necessary until the Rays tied the game (Thank God they did) or the Phillies won out. No, wait! Bud was going to instantly change the rules so that if they had to postpone the game with the Phillies ahead, Bud would declare that the game was not "official." Ooo, let's change the rules on the fly! I'm the Commish! Another travesty!

So, as luck would have it for all parties, (a) Bud saved face by not having to change the rules, (b) Fox is still happy because they won't finish the game until Wednesday, and (c) none of the players were seriously injured on Monday night.

It's time for Bud to step down and let someone run the game who actually cares about the integrity of the game. The sorry images I'm left with after last night will take a long time to erase. What a shame for the game.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why I Won't Vote For McCain/Palin

These videos pretty much sum up the "say anything to get you elected" spirit of John McCain over the years, followed up with a plea to Sarah Palin that she's too out of touch to be "America's Mom."

John McCain and the economic meltdown:

"Drill Baby Drill"

John McCain: "I Know Squat -- I Don't Know Squat"

Memo to Sarah: "You Ain't Our Momma!"

Please don't forget to vote.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why We're Royally Screwed, Part 1 (It's Only Greed)

What a surreal feeling: Vacationing in Europe while the next act in the financial meltdown of American financial markets played out.

Not that I was totally surprised. Many, even the FBI, warned that the subprime mortgage fiasco would create a domino effect that would last for months, if not years. And according to some, there is really no end in sight.

Why? Because of greed, plain and simple. Most analysts seem content to chalk it up to poor risk management. Nice euphemism. Risk and greed are totally interrelated. As far as I know, every human action we make that requires risk assessment includes a greed factor. Like playing poker. Or speeding while driving. Or crossing a busy street against the light. Greed is our human emotion (and human sin in almost every religion) to extract more than what we need from a given activity.

And we are constantly reminded that this is what makes America great. C'mon, the USA is predicated on the idea that every individual has a basic right to be as greedy as possible. All you have to do is stay within the letter of the law, or at least be able to afford a legal team to keep your ass out of trouble. There's nothing in the U.S. Constitution that discusses ethics, charity, or humility. No such words exist in the text. It's a framework to allow every white, landowning male (since amended, obviously, to include a few more citizens who have capital to burn) to suck every drop of worth out of whatever resources and labor he controls, to Hell with collateral suffering or future consequences.

Greed is a recurring theme of Western Civilization, which I witnessed over and over while visiting the castles, churches, and palaces of Europe. On whose backs were such monuments built, hundreds of years ago? (Hint: Review your European history if you think Napoleon himself built roads and laid bricks.) So if we want to blame someone for instilling our society with the notion that "greed is good," I suppose we can blame the Romans, or the Spanish, or the French, or the English, or the Germans.

Obviously, the complexities of the financial shenanigans perpetrated on us are beyond the understanding of most CPAs, but that was the whole idea, to confuse everyone, wasn't it? It really was pure genius:
  • Offer incredibly unrealistic loans to uninformed people, sold on the idea that any real estate bought with the loan funds will appreciate in value forever. Oh, and don't forget to collect your broker and funding fees.
  • Package up these crap loans in opaque financial instruments and sell them to other firms, pension funds, and local governments who are driven by their own greed to increase their ROI. (Don't forget to collect your broker fees when selling these instruments!)
  • Package up some more crazy ass derivative, options, and futures investments based on the crap you have created and sell that, too. (Pssst! Collect fees!)
  • But most important, when it all starts falling apart, don't forget to pull that Golden Ripcord and book that long vacation in Monaco you've been dreaming of.
We're now faced with the collapse of the most elaborate Ponzi scheme in the history of the world, elaborately constructed by financiers, accountants, lawyers, politicians, lobbyists, and bureaucrats. And, as with all other Ponzi schemes, those who got in at the beginning and got out before the shit hit the fan made out like royal bandits. The rest of us are left with the economic bankruptcy and social carnage, along with the final bill. Former senior executives, managers, and traders who concocted this mess will enjoy the rest of their days in Country Club comfort. There will be no consequences for them; after all, they played "by the rules" and "within the letter of law and regulation." (For the most part. There will be investigations, and a few minor lambs will be sacrificed, but that's all.) That these executives are ethical pigs and moral maggots seems to bother few people. Everyone else seems resigned to the reality that we have been collectively screwed. Or maybe they're just stunned, it's hard to tell.

Or, maybe we truly are morally bankrupt as a collective society. I recently had a conversation with an ordinary citizen who seemed totally perplexed when I opined that ethics should play a role in everyday life, including economics as well has how we expect others to treat us on a daily basis. If pressed, I'm not sure this citizen could even provide me a working definition of "ethics."

But the blame can't be placed on the usual reasons, like we don't go to church anymore, or our public schools suck, or our prisons are full, or we fill our heads with vacuous television and video game programming. It's because we are interpreting our Founding Fathers' intentions with a twisted slant. Yes, our Founding Fathers were mostly very religious men: humble, modest, virtuous. Those who weren't religious were of like mind, since this behavior was expected in those days. I am certain that they assumed that we who followed would be equally humble, modest, and virtuous. They saw no need to codify the teachings of Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad into the Constitution, since it had already been written before.

So, even though we can tear our collective hair out over the crisis we find ourselves in, and we can lay blame on the greed of a very small group of individuals, these crooks were only following the standards and traditions of how our country and economy operate. And if we want to ever change that, we collectively need to take a hard look in the mirror.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Adobe, Now You Suck, Too

I'm a regular user of Adobe Reader, and that's about it. I have Adobe 6 installed, which came with the laptop or bought by my firm, but I rarely use it.

So I'm not surprised to get occasional popups from the Adobe Update Manager telling me there's an update to Adobe Reader, and the upgrades are no big deal.

However, today I got another popup which looked a little different, but it offered me an upgrade to Adobe 9, and without careful reading of the fine print, I clicked OK.

Big mistake.

So, what happens next?
  • It placed an icon on my desktop so that I "could resume the installation later if necessary." (That's never encouraging.)
  • For Firefox, it required me to include on the allowed list of sites which could install add-ons, and it required the installation of an add-on to manage the installation of their software. (Thanks, like my Firefox client needs more add-ons.)
  • It dropped an "" link in my Start Programs list, without my permission.
  • After automatically launching the MSI script (again without pausing for permission after download), it whined that I had processes running that were blocking the install. (Stupid! I told you to download, not install!)
  • Finally, after shutting all my other apps down, and relaunching the installer, I get a fancy pants dialog that doesn't offer to upgrade anything. What they really want to install is Adobe AIR, their new online collaborative suite. And a fricking beta version at that. (Everybody is following MS and Google's lead now - all software will be beta forever.)
Needless to say, I shut the whole load of crap down, and will track down the remaining bits it left behind.

Thanks, Adobe. You suck.

Europe Travel Notes

Deb and I have been in Europe (Switzerland and France, specifically) for almost two weeks, and have had a marvelous time. My favorite photos have been uploaded to Picasa. (Photos are in time order - sorry if you can't deal with the destination jumps. See the map reference if you're not sure where the photo was snapped.)

It's too easy to compare Europe and the places we visited with the U.S., and California specifically. However, some differences are quite surprising.


Europeans are methodical, disciplined drivers. Roads are well-maintained with excellent signage. There are strict laws about slower traffic staying to the right and against any form of passing on the right. And these laws are obeyed! Paris traffic is amazing; out of apparent chaos, there is established order among cars, two-wheelers, and pedestrians which creates a fluid motion. Nobody runs red lights. Everybody stops when required. We saw zero accidents in three days. The only close call was when a roller blader almost plowed into us while attempting to stop.

By comparison, California roads are in crappy condition, and the drivers are mostly idiots. They drive in whatever damn lane they please. They run red lights and stop signs with abandon. They don't know how to pass properly and safely. Pedestrians cross where and whenever they please. And the accident rate reflects this.

Eating Out

I don't understand what all the fuss is about French cuisine. Sure, it has its highlights, but I wasn't going to spend 100 Euros (about $165 US these days) to find out just how great it was. The local eateries were fine. Beef was tough, bread and cheese were awesome. The local French greens are a nice surprise. They love their wine from Burgundy, but I actually prefer the much cheaper wines from Bordeaux that actually taste like wine.

California, what can I say? Food is fresher, the meats (especially the free-range kind) are awesome, and the wines are great, albeit overpriced compared with similar French quality. (I'm talking Bordeaux again.)

Public Toilets

Given Europeans' tolerance for bodily displays and interactions, I don't know what the deal is with the lack of public toilets, and the few that do exist are typically closed or poorly stocked. Debbi even had someone try to stop her from using the restroom in a restaurant, and we were eating there!

In California, they may be smelly, but every town has a public toilet somewhere, and it usually has toilet paper. 'Nuf said.

Livestock, the Canine Variety

In France, dogs pretty much roam as they please in the same vicinity as their owners, despite leash laws. But, they are all trained and well-behaved. Dog crap piles in Paris are a common, unattractive site. But, at least they have taste when selecting a breed: light-colored Golden Retrievers are everywhere!

In California, most people are terrified of dogs, and leash laws reflect this. I suppose there is a reason, because most people don't know how to properly handle their dogs even when on a leash. And I'm speaking here as a dedicated dog owner.

Airport Security, Passport Control, and Customs

In Europe, you are welcome to come and go with the glance of a passport, and nobody looks in your luggage or makes you take your laptop out of its case or make you go into a "puffy chamber." Well, the UK still makes you put your carry-on liquids in a plastic bag and their metal detectors will go off if you have some coins in your pocket. But they've been beholden to US standards since 9/11, haven't they?

In the USA, we have the TSA, and they still don't know what the f*** they are looking for or how to "protect" us. People, it really is a bad joke, because they aren't making us any safer. Don't believe me? Read this about how anyone can circumvent airport ID checks if he/she is not checking baggage. Where's the hue and fury about that? Besides that, we have the INS and Customs service, whose joint purpose is to suspect everyone of trying to enter illegally while carrying child porn or illegal content on a laptop or memory stick.

Livestock, the Eating Variety

In Europe, livestock are mostly open penned, raised traditionally.

In the US, two words: Industrial Agriculture. 'Nuf said.

Anyway, Deb and I would come back here in a heartbeat. That is, as long as we always keep a roll of toilet paper with us.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Au Revoir, France. I Hope I Make It Back Someday

I've spent this week in the Paris area on one of those last-minute, frenetic business trips to provide engineering support to one of my company's partners.

France and Paris had never been very high on my list of places to visit in my lifetime. I've changed my mind. The people are friendlier than I was led to believe, more of them speak English than I imagined (although my best French is "Je ne parlais pas Francais") and there is so much history here for a history nut like me to lose myself.

Old cities can look and feel worn down, but the old parts of Paris have an incredible beauty and freshness to draw in the observer. I only hope I can make it back someday to fully appreciate what I have ignored until now.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Aloha from Kauai, Conflicted as Usual

Back in Kauai again. One of the few places where I can regain peace in mind and heart. Get the batteries recharged.

I took the photo on the left in 2007 from Poipu beach. The weather for the last few days is much different: a high pressure system has settled over the islands, blocking the trade winds, causing a buildup of domestic air pollution and Vog.

Nevertheless, I love Kauai, but it is always conflicting to be here. We're just another couple of mainlanders who bought a piece of the action over here, spend some money when we come, leave our trash, go home, and leave the islands' problems behind.

Sure, we help the economy over here, such as it is, built now almost completely on servicing the tourists who come here. Sugar is dead, coffee (at least on Kauai) struggles, and niche businesses succeed by successfully marketing to the tourists, in hopes their customers can spread the word when they return home. Locals need two or three jobs to make it here, and rich mainlanders drive up the price of everything because they can buy anything they want.

Almost all transient mainlanders remain totally ignorant of Hawaii's history, especially the last two hundred years after Europeans started the work of reshaping Hawaii into their own image. The story is ultimately sad and unfinished to this day, but our ignorance of what Hawaii means to Hawaiians is the greatest shame of all. When we bring guests with us to the island, I share what little knowledge I have of recent history, and always try to impart the fact that the Hawaii our guests see is not the Hawaii that was, and will never be again.

I was reminded of this today at a small reception at our resort, with entertainment provided by local musicians. Singing local songs in Hawaiian, I know for a fact than none of my fellow guests have bothered to look up English translations of any Hawaiian music, and how traditional Hawaiian music captures the Hawaiian spirit better than a beach, a sunset, a Mai Tai, or just about anything. When calling for a request from the audience, the only vocal response was "Tiny Bubbles," (a song that was written for Lawrence Welk, but made popular by the Hawaiian singer Don Ho) a song that has nothing to do with Hawaii. (Nobody drinks sparkling wine here!)

A real song, perhaps? From my very limited inventory of Hawaiian music, Kuhio Bay by Keliana Bishaw is a lovely ode to one of the most beautiful places in the world:

This is the first time I saw for myself
The beauty of Waiakea
There is no other that can compare
With the beauty, the beauty
Of Kuhio Bay

I admire the beauty of Hilo
The rain drenches it
Mokuola stands out in the sea
Island that is
Known to all

Rainbow falls is well known
Falls visited by strangers
Marvelous waters in my sight
It streams down and wets
The plains
Besides Tiny Bubbles, the song most mainlanders think of is Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole ("Braddah Iz" to Hawaiians). But mainlanders hear a different song than what Iz intended, and I wonder if Iz initially realized the irony of his creation. What mainlanders hear is a song of hope for a brighter future; when Iz sings, he sings a lament for the Hawaii that once was and will never be again. We hear the song over and over here, piped in through lobbies, elevators, and restaurants, and I always feel a pang of sadness for what we have collectively done to dilute and subvert traditional Hawaiian culture.

It's truly sad, but ah, but I do so love it here, conflicted as usual....

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Here's an Opportunity for Ambulance Chasing Lawyers to Seize

So, the Brits have started to protect their texting populace from head-banging posts on the walkway. (What about those groin-high pollards? That's still gotta hurt!)

I smell an opportunity for PI lawyers in this country: sue the municipality for damages when your client walks into a lamppost while texting! Any guesses as to when the first suit will be filed?

External link via Gizmodo.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Taxes and Online Financial Services, Part Two

This is really an update on my last post: the unnecessary pain of accurately calculating gain and loss on reinvested dividends. In that post, I chided Schwab Investments for not calculating the gain and loss and including that information on the 1099.

Well, I can add E*TRADE to the same list. Same story, up to a point. E*TRADE allows the user to download the data on the various views I could pull up, including the cost basis data that E*TRADE could have used to fill in the cost basis fields on the 1099.

But, there was a catch. When I downloaded the gain and loss table, Excel dumped all the column data into column one. No wonder: E*TRADE placed double quotes at the start and end of each line. An extra text edit required, another roll of my eyes. (Didn't anyone test this?)

If online financial brokers expect us to use their services, they need to provide first-class historical information downloaded in a number of formats. (Heard of XML, guys?) And they need to provide better online tax data, minimally a complete Form 1099 for download, and not an electronic version of the old crappy hardcopy.

Monday, March 3, 2008

I Never Thought Downloading Financial Data Required So Much Manual Correction

Ah, the annual Income Tax ritual. Got my TurboTax here. Got my W-2's. Got my hard 1099's or the email notice I could download them. Good to go.

In prior years, I dreaded the manual entry of mutual fund data. You know, you get that monthly dividend that gets reinvested? And when you finally sell the sucker, you have to account for the gain or loss summed on each of those little month-by-month transactions? (This is another reason why the Income Tax system is stupid beyond belief, but I digress.)

Well, I was ready to embrace the future. Last year, I liquidated a Dreyfus fund (DSTIX) managed through my Schwab account. I originally bought the fund in 2001, so over a six year period, I had to reconcile 87 transactions, each with its own share price. This sounds bad, but here's how things should have worked:
  • TurboTax asks if it can import 1099 information from a financial institution. I select Schwab, provide my login information, and Schedule B and D data is magically filled in. Task is done.
And why not? Schwab can pull historical price data for all 87 transactions, perform some elementary arithmetic, and fill in all the gain and loss data, including the short term or long term disposition.

Well, duh, of course it didn't work out that way. Not even close. Here's how it really goes.
  • TurboTax happily imports the data. Then it shows that my recalculated tax bill has gone up. Way up.
  • Checking the data, I see that Schwab didn't calculate any cost basis at all. Zippo. So TurboTax thinks I received all this money for nothing, so all of it is taxable. Cripes!
  • I log into Schwab, drill down to my realized gain/loss on the fund, and am informed that the Cost Basis and Realized Gain/Loss is "missing." What does that mean? The data went on vacation?
  • Okay, they provide a "Details" link to follow, which produces a list of all 87 transactions, except the Cost Basis for each transaction is again "Missing."
  • Hey, there's another link to view the original lots I held, and that leads to another list of all 87 transactions, and the Cost Basis for all but two are there! (Okay, now I'm getting irritated, but at least the data wasn't on vacation, after all.)
  • Okay, I begrudge the fact that I'll have to do the math myself, importing two tables from Schwab into Excel and adding some formulas. That's not so bad.
  • Oops! I can't copy and paste from Firefox into Excel! What was I thinking? On to Internet Explorer.
  • Good, I've got two sheets of imported data, the dates all line up, now I need to fill in the two "Missing" Cost Basis values: my original purchase in 2001, and a dividend reinvestment in 2004. Back to Schwab.
  • BTW, Schwab uses Xcitek for historical fund data, which has a crappy, buggy Java interface connector from Schwab, but I get the missing data.
  • Wait a minute, now that I actually look at the data, all the transactions from January 2001 through January 2004 have the same share price. How can that be? Eyeballing the historical graph on Schwab shows a price range from $10.50 to $12.00 during this period. So all that data is crap!
  • Why won't Schwab let me export a spreadsheet of the price data from the historical graph?
  • Okay, screw Schwab and Xcitek for their suckiness, I'll just go to Dreyfus for the historical data.
  • Well, that wasn't easy. After about ten guesses at various links, Dreyfus gets me to the page where I can call up historical data.
  • Except I can't download it. The best I can do is enter the range (Jan 2001 through Jan 2004) and get a month's worth of daily prices.
  • I manually enter the monthly prices on the spreadsheet.
  • Finally, the formulas are entered, the real values spit out, and I can go back to TurboTax. What was originally a huge capital gain turns out to be a small capital loss.
I'm sure many people would have given up at some point, but people that know me know that I'm not happy with a good guess. I can sign my 1040 knowing that the data is accurate "to the best of my knowledge."

It's just a shame that after all the progress in online financial management, something that should have been simple turned out to be a truly sucky endeavor.

Maybe it will all work next time I need it?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

"You don't understand it. Jobs has you tagged. He's making sure your computers don't work. If you put out this appeal to Steve Jobs and ask him to help, his reply is going to be, 'Mr. Limbaugh. Do us a favor and endorse Windows.'"

- A Rush Limbaugh employee responds to Mr. Limbaugh asking if he should make a public appeal to Mr. Jobs for tech support.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Hell Does Freeze Over, I Guess

I've never been a fan of Director David Lynch, but I certainly agree with his pseudo-iPhone video in which he blasts the experience of watching a movie on a phone. (Warning, NSFW.)

In any event, I laugh whenever I see iPhone commercials showing browsing speeds exceeding that of my high-powered desktop connected to a big tube. As Mr. Lynch puts it, "Get Real."