Sunday, May 23, 2010

BP Oil Leak in the Gulf of Mexico

What is this planet coming to?

It's been over a month since BP began spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, we're no closer now at stopping the leak than we were the day it happened. Oil has now made its way to shore and has polluted all of the beaches along the Gulf coasts. Yet it's still pumping into the ocean, even as I type this. :(

Here it is Sunday night and the next attempt at stopping the leak isn't going to happen until Tuesday!? How many more hundreds of gallons does this calculate to? Why not try applying that fix RIGHT NOW!?.. Before you go to bed in your multi-million dollar homes another night? Ooh, better yet, why not have a solution planned out before you go drilling the holes in the first place? Greedy assholes! (sorry Mom)

This is incompetence and finger pointing at it's finest. It's simply unacceptable and makes me very angry. My children now have to live with the effects of this insane pollution problem. Thousands of species are being effected by this and will continue to be effected by this for years to come. Hopefully I'm wrong, but it seems like BP is giving about 65% of their effort to clean it up.

In one of the harshest government condemnations of the petroleum giant to date, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said BP had blown "deadline after deadline" and had not "fulfilled the mission it was supposed to fulfill."

"I am angry and I am frustrated that BP has been unable to stop this oil from leaking and to stop the pollution from spreading," Salazar said at a Houston news conference. "We are 33 days into this effort, and deadline after deadline has been missed."

The federal government could resort to taking over tasks now controlled by BP, Salazar suggested. "If we find they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing, we'll push them out of the way appropriately," he said. -
I say push them out of the way tonight and take over. Somebody, FIX IT!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quicken Essentials for Mac

I broke down and bought Quicken Essentials for Mac the other night and I must say that it's a breath of fresh air in regards to how easy it is to use and understand. The price tag was very inviting, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much "bang for the buck" it offers...

Microsoft Money was my app of choice for +10 years and I loved it and lived by it. I started using MS Money '98 back in the day and then upgraded to the 2002 edition. There were some cool new enhancements with the 2004 edition (don't remember now what it was), so I ultimately upgraded to the 2004 edition. I used the 2004 edition for 5+ years. It did everything I needed it to do with reports, budgeting, downloading transactions from my bank, and all that good stuff. Plus, as a developer, I saw greatness in the intuitive UI approach that it showcased. Whenever I wanted to do something, I was able to accomplish it with very little effort using one or two clicks. All of the complexity was hidden from me and I only needed to worry about the numbers being entered... Everything else just worked. This was software at its finest.

Unfortunately, as I was getting ready to upgrade to the 2010 edition, and I saw where MS Money was no longer being developed. It was time that I had to choose another financial software application. I dug around and saw a few good options, but Quicken looked to be the best option for me. My Dad had always used it in the past and really liked it. I remember using it for a year or two when Jennifer and I first moved out on our own, but hadn't looked at it in +10 years.

After a day or two of solid research, I broke down and purchased the Quicken 2010 Home and Business Edition. I instantly fell in love with it. It helped me import my years of transactions from MS Money, and then walked me through the steps to setup a budget and begin tracking progress on my credit and loans. The user interface was a lot different than MS Money, but I got used to it after a few weeks. It was around this same time that Jennifer and I started doing a "cash budget". Quicken (and Intuit) have a lot of online resources for managing finances, and I was able to read a lot about how to get out of debt and manage my money more intelligently. MS Money never really offered that type of online community... or if they did, it wasn't "all up in my face" like it is with Quicken. After using the resources offered to me from within Quicken, I started to care about where my money went again. It really changed the way we manage our paychecks now. Quicken Home and Business was a smash hit for me... and then I got a Mac.

When we bought our Macs, I debated on whether or not to return my edition of Quicken and get a refund since I was still within the 90 day window. As it turned out, the Mac version wasn't going to be available for another month or so. Therefore, I decided to keep the Windows version and then evaluate the Mac version when it would become available. This meant that whenever I needed to work with my finances, I would have to load up Windows 7 in Parallels just to get to my Quicken. This worked, but it was a lot of ceremony to start up my VM and wait for it, then open Quicken, enter some stuff and shut my VM back down. It sounds petty, but it was a lot of "prep work" just to reconcile my account or even enter transactions when I didn't have my VM turned on.

Two days ago, I broke down and bought the Quicken Essentials for Mac and must say that I'm pleasantly surprised with it. Sure, it's missing a lot of functionality in regards to setting up budgets, configuring reports, and managing multiple accounts, but it works quite well for my needs. Basically I just need to enter transactions, track upcoming payments, and see how broke I am at any given time. It does this. However, I'm hoping that the next version focuses more on the reporting and budgeting aspects of home financing.

Here are some of the things that I like about the new Mac version:
  • I can create a budget to go against different Categories and Tags
  • The filtering mechanism is MUCH more intuitive than the windows version.
  • It feels like a Mac app (think iTunes or Mac Finder) and this is a big win.
  • The "Search All" box is extremely useful for finding a specific transaction.
  • Scheduled transactions are more like actual transactions.
  • Provides a "Favorites" concept for Categories, Payees, and Tags for easy picking.
  • Best of all, there is a big fat "Q" icon in my Dock now. :)
Here are some of the things that I do not like about the Mac version:
  • It doesn't offer a two-line transaction view.
  • Offers very little reporting options.
  • Budgeting options are elementary at best.
  • I cannot hide unused accounts.
All in all, I'm very pleased with the Mac version. I did use the reporting and budgeting features of the Windows version, but I understand that this is the first (big) release for the Mac since the redesign of the Mac 2007 edition. I hope they release an update soon with some enhancements in those areas.

Kudos Quicken!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Rain

Call me crazy, but I love it! It's going to be even better once we get our roof repaired (along with the gutters). For now, I just enjoy looking out the window and seeing the puddles fill up in our yard.

Yes, I took a run in the rain this morning. Another one of my favorite things...

Friday, May 07, 2010

Pearl Jam - Columbus, Ohio

Oh. Em. Jee. One of the best live concert I've ever been to...

Jennifer and I went to the Pearl Jam concert last night and it was absolutely amazing! The night started by us meeting up TJ Mummy at his work around 4:45pm. We then headed to Nationwide Arena when his entourage showed up. We got some crazy parking spots that were right outside the venue; they were a little pricey, but worth it.

The Pearl Jam fan club members order their tickets, but have no idea where their seats will be. Since I'm not in the fan club, we relied on TJ's membership. He got us in row V (ie. 22nd row) on the floor! These were the best seats we'd ever had to any show, ever. :) Bonus that it was PEARL JAM!!

Once we got our tickets, we met up with Tyler and Liz and headed over to Boston's Pizzaria for some beers and pizza before the show. We had a blast and met some pretty funny people at the bar. It was PACKED! I actually saw some old faces from high school while we were there as well (Kris & Elizabeth Armstrong with Elizabeth's sister Debbie and her husband, John). It was a nice to see them after all these years.

From the bar, we headed over to Nationwide Arena to find our seats. As we were heading toward the floor, we saw this guy up on stage singing songs acoustically, as we looked closer, we saw that it was Mr. Mike McCready himself. Simply awesome!

Band of Horses
Band of Horses went on and opened up with "Ghost in my House". It's one of those songs that sticks in your head and it was a great opener for the night. They played "Northwest Apartment", "Loredo", "Compliments", and some other really great songs. I was really wanting to hear "Bartles & James", but they didn't play it. :( No worries, I'm still a fan and could see me going to another one of their shows in the future. If you've not heard of them, or know who they are, check them out!

Once Band of Horses cleared the stage, the lights came on it was time for intermission. We headed over to visit TJ & Crystal with their crew, and then headed over to see Tyler and Liz in their seats. It was kind of nice having floor seats, as we were able to move around very easily from place to place. We found out that Dan and his buddy were directly above us in the nose-bleeds. There was a strait line from Dan's seats, our seats and Tyler & Liz's seats. Literally, the same row from left to right. Very weird.

About 30 minutes went by and then the lights started to dim...

They came out on stage and the crowd went nuts; including me and Jennifer! I've been listening to their music since 1991 when the "Ten" album was released, and I've bought each of their albums, including the "Greatest Hits" and "Live" albums. I took a 3-4 year break but then came right back to them and made up for lost time. I literally know every single song that they sing. They opened with "Oceans" (which was on the "Ten" album), and I must admit that I teared up a little. It's insane that this is the first time that I've been to one of their shows after all these years...

Pearl Jam literally rocked the house! The crowd was amazing. Nobody was sitting down anywhere in the venue. Eddie Vedder is an amazing front man, and he interacted with the crowd quite a bit. All the band members were packed full of pure energy and were jumping all over the place. I can honestly say that they have gotten better with age. Back in the day they were just kids, but now they are all adults and have really become a better band. After years and years of practice, they proved that they know how to put on a show. At one point, Mike McCready had a guitar solo and he literally turned his back to the crowd and played the entire guitar solo with his guitar behind his head! I think it's safe to say that he's played that solo once or twice before.

The energy at Nationwide Arena last night was simply amazing. It was great being able to scream along with every song that they sang. They played songs from each of their albums, and then some. I later found out that "Alone" was a very rare song to hear at a show. The last time that they played it was November last year, but before that was a 3 year window. This is what keeps the Pearl Jam fans coming back, I guess. They keep stats of how many times they hear a song, and where at. I (on the other hand) was just happy to hear them play live. I got to hear one of my favorites: "State of Love and Trust", so that was a huge one for me. Another song that I loved hearing was "Marker in the Sand". I've always liked that song, and I had just rocked that song out the day before in my car with my girls in the back seat. They played "Once", "Spin the Black Circle", "Given to Fly", "Black", etc... The entire set list can be found here:

Now, I have to go to more shows so I can see them play "In My Tree", "Nothingman", etc... Uh oh, I got the bug!