Saturday, May 28, 2011

And now there's a Kindle in my briefcase

I am a new and curious Kindle owner, thanks to my lovely wife.

Interesting device: it can hold 1500 books at a time, adding a new one is instantaneous, you can search for text, highlight and annotate, hell you can even check Facebook, which by the way looks better using the texty version of

If I had bought the books on Kindle that I bought in paper, I would typically have saved a buck or 5 on them, plus delivery charges for the online purchases, if any. So there may be a cost savings over time.

But here's the thing: I can get thousands of books for free, books that I have always figured I should get around to reading...EM Forester, Joseph Conrad, Dickens...that are off copyright and there for the download. And since we have a house full of books with no shelf space for new ones, it's got some practical value in terms of clutter control, no small feature I must say.

I downloaded the complete works of Winston Churchill for free, only to find that it was not THAT Winston Churchill but a US author who writes of the days of Davey Crockett. So it turns out you can easily delete books from your device...just push the left side of the Kindle's square mouse device once inside the book in question. Easy peasy.

For the broader web experience, count me impressed in a Windows 2 for DOS sort of way. For the book experience, count me impressed period.

It's amazing, this device, for its stated purpose of enabling the acquisition of books from a huge list, for little or no money, from pretty much anywhere, and allowing the owner to read them on the run, in places where the brighter the light the better the experience, unlike my Panasonic Toughbook on which this is being typed.

The typing and web interfaces are not even Blackberry-simple, but the book buying and reading functionality and interfaces are completely streamlined and easy.

Buy one for what they are good for, and look past the clunkiness in what it wasn't really designed for. No regrets, and two thumbs up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to remove stuck spikes from your golf shoes

The shoes that have to carry me around the course need new soft spikes. Of course, when your shoes are new, removing the old spikes is easy. But two years later, the rubber things are worn down, the tiny holes for the wrench are full of something impenetrable and mere mortals can't get the old spikes out no matter what they try.

So my first attempt involved a claw-like spike wrench at the pro shop. This tool dispenses with the two little tips and substitutes a medieval device that grabs the outside edges of your spikes.
No luck.
My second attempt involved the pro shop's industrial strength spike remover. All I managed was to shred some rubber.

My third attempt involved some physics. I put my shoes into the freezer overnight in the hopes that the lower temperatures would both harden the rubber and loosen the grip of the threads.

As if.

So tonight I hauled out the electric drill and deepened the wrench holes, right into the plastic of the old spikes.
Finally the regular spike wrench had something to grip on, and after I wrapped its non-ergonomic handle in the finest of old golf towels and leaned on it, the shoes released their beloved spikes.

Kind of makes you wonder how the darn things fall out, given how hard it is to get them out when you want them out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

That damned Squeak!

It started about 4 weeks ago, a squeak from somewhere in my basement. At first I thought it was a smoke detector with a low battery. So I took the battery out of my lower level detector, but the squeak continued.

After reinstalling the battery I started going through the basement. The squeak was only every 5 minutes or so, so there was nothing that I could follow to the source. Every time I heard the squeak I tried to zero in on where it was, but it seemed to move around.

There's an old alarm system from a previous owner, which we have never fully decommissioned. I figured it must have been this thing, beginning to act up. So I removed the backup battery (the squeak still occurred), I disconnected the power supply (the squeak still occurred); I bypassed every zone in the alarm system (the squeak still occurred) and I put it all back together. The squeak still occurred.

Examine the various modems and routers. Nothing.

Up into the ceiling...listening. Sometimes it felt as if I was getting closer but it was never as if I was next to the source.

Turn off the power supply to every basement room. The squeak still occurred.

What did it turn out to be? Someone had given me a smoke detector that I did not feel the need to mount, so I put it in a bucket that also held a cleaning brush and other basement randomness, on the floor behind a door. Eventually the installed battery began to fail, causing a chirp (my first instinct was right!) The sound went straight up from the bucket, so you couldn't really pinpoint where it was coming from.

Now I miss the damn thing.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

TurboTax, Quick Tax and Stock Trade Tracker

I have been a user of QuickTax for years, and for 2010 taxes it is now called TurboTax.

If you buy the Platinum version it allows you to record all your stock buys and sells in a separate program called Stock Trade Tracker, or STT.

Every year I struggle to remember how to import the info from STT up into QuickTax, and I have just struggled to get it into TurboTax. But now I remember. I will write it here so I can find it next year...

It looks like it should be easy, but it is not.

First, if you are on the EasyStep screen that asks you for T5 information, don't try to use Stock Trade Tracker to provide it. STT does not produce T5 forms. Move along. The chance to enter Capital Gains and Losses comes later. Why does Turbotax even hint that STT is useful for T5s?

When you do eventually come to the Easy Step that looks for Capital Gains and losses, it will give you a screen that looks almost the same as the one asking for T5 info. But now, click on the link that opens STT. Then go to Reports and select Capital Gains. Then pick Last Year. Make sure it is what you want. For example, if you have TFSA trades in there, take them out. If you have RRSP trades in there, take them out.

Assuming it is the right info, go back to TurboTax and follow the instructions. It works fine.

What DOESN'T work fine is the glib assurance in the TurboTax help screens that the process is as easy as clicking one button. No, you have to work through several steps of opening STT and picking your report. Judging from the frustrated and unanswered comments in the margins, TurboTax has an opportunity, shall we say, for an improvement in customer service.

UPDATE Jan 30 2012
It appears that TurboTax has dropped STT entirely. For me this is a real pain, as the computer drive that held my old QuickTax applications has crashed. I have my backed up data files, but I was counting on another copy of STT on TurboTax 2011. Now I am going to hunt for the box with the old app disks in it, which is not the end of the world.

But I don't like their suggestion, as noted in the link above, to sum the amounts from your trades and import the total into TurboTax. I like to have the trades themselves, and in the event of an audit we can go through them all and see if anything was missed or double counted. Pffft.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cynicism vs Observation

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism, by those who haven't got it.

Bertrand Russel

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Gold:Silver ratio below 40!

Historically over the centuries, the Gold:Silver ratio was 15:1. Gold was worth 15 times what silver was worth. Fifteen ounces of silver would buy one ounce of gold. The ratio broke out of this pattern in the late 1800s and was recently over 65.

Silver is seen as the more speculative of the two metals, and a rising appetite for silver has been interpreted as a greater appetite for risk. When markets fail, silver usually falls faster than gold, driving the ratio higher.

Monday morning in Asia, the ratio dropped below 40, with Gold at $1436 and Silver climbing over $36.25.

Check this link for the latest chart.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Never seen anything like this before

Why you're not married

There is more truth in this article than you will find in the entire self-help section of your book megastore. You, young lady, are not married for one or more of the following reasons:
  • You're a bitch
  • You're shallow
  • You're a slut
  • You're a liar
  • You're selfish
  • You're not good enough (in your own mind)
Read the whole thing. Thanks, Captain Capitalism, for the original link.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lots of contributors to temperature

This posting at Watt's Up With That enumerates a dozen contributors to temperatures, and temperature trends.

After mentioning a handful of mechanisms that would not be noticeable on human time scales (eg the sun is slowly brightening) the author rolls up his sleeves and gets into solar cycles, ocean oscillations and atmospheric and weather phenomena, along with descriptions of whether their feedback is positive (eg surface ice) or negative (eg clouds).

The comments are also excellent, serving to clarify and expand on Dr. Glickstein's posting.

When someone wrings his hands over CO2, one might hope that perspective such as this would be of comfort.

But have you noticed that news that implies disaster is not imminent, is not received with joy by the AGW community? A cynic might wonder whether the agenda is more important than the underlying reality.

Nah. Couldn't be.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Let the game come to you...

*Title widely attributed to Larry Bird, also some capable stock market advisors.

Besides seeing the wisdom in it, I really like the pun.