Monthly Archives: December 2001

Playing Referee

Some were much more pleasant to read and review than others.

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Optimization

I figured out how to simplify the procedure I’d cooked up yesterday to sanity-check my Quicken data. First, I was able to get Excel out of the path by pasting the Quicken report into Notepad instead of Kedit — I had Kedit configured to treat the tab character specially, and that was creating a problem for me.

Then I looked through the Object Rexx documentation and found out how to directly access the Windows Clipboard from Rexx, so now my program gets its data almost directly from Quicken (it would be nice if Quicken exposed some APIs to its data, though), and I don’t need to create intermediate files or run spreadsheets and text editors on the way. Much simpler. I wonder if I’ll remember how to do it next year at this time.

Oh, crap. I’m not handling split transactions correctly; I just pick up the first part of the split. This programming stuff gets complicated sometimes….

Ham Radio Outlet

I helped a new ham buy his first rig today, by accompanying him and his father to the local Ham Radio Outlet. He was torn between a Kenwood F6A and an Icom T7H and eventually decided to go with the Icom, which I thought was a good choice for him, since the T7H is simpler and less expensive. I was tempted to get an F6A for myself, but I fought off the temptation — I am not buying any new toys for myself until I get some use out of all of the ones I already have! Besides, it’s almost as much fun helping someone else spend money as it is to buy things for myself.

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Winter

Winter arrived yesterday with a pounding storm; Diane’s location lost power around 2:30pm, so she left work early and is now on the system trying to finish up what she was doing when everything around her went black.

Today marks the beginning of winter vacation for both of us (Jeffrey has school today, but then he’s off, too). Today, we plan to go visit the San Jose Museum of Art and write our Season’s Greetings cards (the Hanukkah cards were mailed long ago, mostly before Hanukkah). And after that…who knows?

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” – Margaret Thatcher [from Kevan Shafizadeh's Favorite Quotations via Synergy]

I plan to spend less time than usual on the computer over the next couple of weeks, and that probably means fewer updates here. So let me wish you a Happy New Year now, and of course, Shabbat Shalom!

Museum Report

The San Jose Museum of Art was interesting — they had four special exhibits, but almost nothing from their permanent collection was on display. Downstairs, they had Catherine Wagner: Cross Sections, which featured scientific images (such as MRIs and scanning electron microscopes) treated as art; some of the images were striking. Upstairs, there were two exhibits; the bigger one was How-To: The Art of Deborah Oropallo, which mostly left me cold (the images were very mechanical-feeling). They also had First Impressions: The Paulson Press, celebrating a Bay Area printmaking atelier; I learned a lot about printmaking from this exhibit, and I found that some of the images here did make me think that I’d like to live with them for a while. But my favorite was down in the basement — Snap! Photography from SJMA’s Teen Arts Program. The teenagers who took these photos clearly were enjoying themselves and wanted to communicate what they felt, and I appreciated that.

Naturally, we also visited the Museum Store and the Museum Cafe; the Cafe was almost worth the trip by itself (and I’d seriously consider eating there any time I’m in downtown San Jose).

Gigo

With the end of the year looming, we’re into the last-minute rush to get charitable contributions into the books for 2001. I use Quicken to keep track of the household finances, and one of the things I always do is compare last year’s giving to this year’s to make sure we didn’t inadvertently miss a cause we want to support. But it’s difficult to get a decent report out of Quicken — there’s more detail than is useful and it’s hard to see the big picture.

So I decided I could do better, and came up with a Rube Goldberg scheme to build a useful summary. It’s actually fairly simple — I start in Quicken and create its built-in “charitable contribution” report, covering the last couple of years. Then I copy it to the Windows clipboard and paste it into Excel, where I immediately save it as a tab-delimited file (there’s no way to do that directly from Quicken). Then I use a little Rexx program I wrote to sum up all of the entries by payee and by year, creating an HTML file, which I then load into my browser and print. What could be simpler or more straightforward?

When I did this, I discovered that I didn’t show any contributions to the Tech Museum for the past two years — this amazed me, since we’ve been members the whole time. So I looked more closely, and discovered that I’d been accidentally mis-categorizing my payments to the Tech — I’d bought something there and recorded it as a miscellaneous purchase, and then all of my subsequent payments to the Tech had automatically been categorized that way, too.

It’s hard to see something that isn’t there.

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Ironing Diskettes

I’ve spent the last couple of days cleaning out some of the debris in the home office (I figure I can get the whole job done if I can just take a six-week sabbatical). As part of that, I moved all of the old diskettes into one place and realized that I had at least 200 more diskettes than I ever will need again — and most of them had either Quicken or TurboTax data on them.

So I spent part of this morning using a bulk eraser on those diskettes, ensuring that they were unreadable, at least to anyone who just used normal consumer computers and operating systems. It was mindless work, but fun in a weird sort of way.

Then I took the diskettes to RAFT, where they’ll be made available to teachers. Apparently 3-1/2″ diskettes are a hot item for arts and crafts projects!

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Monday Update

Our neighbor should be moving from the hospital to a rehab center today; we visited her on Saturday, and she seems to be in pretty good spirits. She can only say one word (“well”) which has to be awfully frustrating, but it’s clear that she understands what everyone around her is saying.

I enjoyed A Flea in Her Ear; the Murky Nooz reviewer thought it was too light and frothy, but it seemed like just the ticket on Saturday. Parking, btw, was no problem — we found ourselves far away from light rail when it came time to head downtown, so we drove.

Some linkage

Yuppie felafel (as if I need more fried food after Hanukkah!).

The Euro conquers England

Need leftovers? (linkrot in a few days; registration probably required; rumor has it that a userid and password of “fubar” work fine)

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Friday Update

Tonight is the big family Chanukkah service at Shir Hadash; it’ll be crowded. Fortunately, we’re not on Oneg duty tonight (though we’ll gladly help if we get there early enough).

Tomorrow is a San Jose Rep day, where we’ll see A Flea in Her Ear; we’ll probably take light rail, since parking downtown may be scarce due to Christmas in the Park.

Things are getting quiet at work, with fewer people showing up every day as folks burn off their vacation; I will be joining the ranks of the absent in the middle of next week.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Happy Chanukkah

Chanukkah started on Sunday night; we spent the evening with friends, eating latkes (including an interesting variant — cheese latkes) and talking. Then I inducted them into the unsung society of Iron Chef watchers, with Battle Milk as their first show.

My cellphone saga continues; today, after the promised new phone continued to not arrive, I called SprintPCS to cancel my service and they immediately offered me $130 credit to stay with them. That brought the effective cost of the new phone I wanted down below what it would have been if they’d done the exchange in the first place, so I decided to give them one more chance (since changing numbers is a hassle) and went to the nearby SprintPCS store to pick up a new phone in person. I brought it home and I still don’t have service worth a damn (though at least it doesn’t drop calls like the old phone did); in contrast, AT&T Wireless service is rock solid here and works OK in my office. The AT&T service will cost me more than Sprint did, but at least it works where I spend most of my time.

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A Good Day to Work from Home

I had to work at home today so that the termite inspector could get to the crawl space and attic. It was a good thing I did.

He arrived at 9:30, as planned, and got right to work. A few minutes later, my doorbell rang again; it was a lady wondering if I had my next-door neighbor’s phone number, because she was here to pick her up for bridge but she wasn’t answering the door. I called and got a busy signal; she decided to wait.

About ten minutes later, she came back and wondered if I could try again, because there was still no answer. The line was still busy. I started to worry a bit, but I don’t have a key to her house — so the termite guy volunteered to go into the back yard to see if he could see anything, and I went to a neighbor who would have a key.

While I was waiting for that neighbor to answer his door, the lady came out of my neighbor’s house (luckily, her back door had been open) yelling “call 9-1-1″. So I ran home, grabbed a phone, and called 9-1-1. My neighbor was on the floor, not moving but breathing. The dispatcher asked me to help her onto her back, which I did — and then the paramedics and police arrived and took charge of the situation. She’s at the hospital now.

I’m glad I was at home and could help.

[Update: My neighbor had a stroke and is in the ICU; she is doing well, all things considered. What is proving difficult is reaching her children -- we had to dig through her phone index to find their numbers at all, and then no cell phones were listed, and nobody was home during the day. Folks, if you live alone, it's a good idea to have a list of contact numbers and instructions in some prominent place (like the refrigerator door) in case of emergency.]

Shabbat Shalom!

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Bumper Sticker of the Day

It’s God’s Responsibility to
Forgive Bin Laden
It’s Our Responsibility to Arrange the
Meeting

[Courtesy of my Mom]

It’s That Time of Year

Wondering what to get a dear friend or favorite weblogger? Take a close look at Dave Barry’s Gift Guide.

Wondering what to get me? Take a close look at Dave Barry’s Gift Guide and choose something else!

And thanks to Hal, I think I know what to get Jeffrey.

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Still at it

The weekend passed quickly, and pleasantly (if you ignore the power outage on Saturday morning); the computers stayed off all weekend, which accounts for a large part of the silence here.

Friday night, we went to the Reform Community Shabbat service at Congregation Beth Am. They have a very large campus and quite an interesting sanctuary. The service was good; the lecture (by Dr. David Ellenson of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles was interesting but would have been much more interesting at half the length.

A detailed description of our weekend would probably be more interesting at one-tenth the length I might write, so I’ll stop!

Canadian Donut Conflict Looms

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