Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yikes, my Toshiba touch screen stopped working!!!

I bought a hot new Toshiba notebook computer at the end of the year, a Toshiba Satellite P50-AST3GX2, with Windows 8.1. I even paid an extra $200 to get a touch screen. The machine works great, but a couple of times a week the touch screen stops responding. Everything else about the machine still works, but I have to use the track pad and keys to navigate and make selections. I still don't know what cause the touch screen to stop working, but I do have a quick workaround. Sure, of course you can shut down and reboot the machine, but that's too inconvenient.
What's the workaround for a touch screen that is non-responsive? Simple: Just toggle the Wi-Fi mode twice. That's the F12 (or FN+F12 keys, depending on whether you have function keys enabled). In my case I modified the function key configuration so that just pressing the ley labeled with both the F12 and Wi-Fi labels is the same as the old-style F12 key, so I need to press the FN+F12 keys to toggle airplane mode. Press FN+F12 once to toggle airplane mode, wait a couple of seconds until the popup message confirms the new airplane mode, and then hit FN+F12 again to toggle airplane mode back to what you really wanted it to be. The first press of FN+F12 is what resets the touch screen and restores full touch features. If you haven't changed the function keys settings, just use the F12 key alone.
In short, in takes a couple of seconds to re-enable the touch screen by toggled FN+F12 twice, but that's hardly the biggest annoyance in my life these days.
I really like the touch screen a lot.
The one thing I don't like about this machine is that since it is a "hot" i7-based machine, it has a bigger and bulkier power adapter which is a pain for travel.
-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Yikes!!! My Toshiba mouse trackpad stopped working!!!

I got my brand new Toshiba notebook computer (P50-AST3GX2) and it was working fine until suddenly the mouse cursor disappeared and would not come back.
Problem: This new PC features "One Touch Function Keys" which means that the normal PC F1 through F12 function keys behave as Toshiba system control keys by default rather than as PC function keys. You have to hold the "FN" key before hitting the function key to get the PC function keys. Evidently, I had probably hit F5 to refresh the browser or something like that, but Toshiba has assigned that key to toggle the enable of the mouse trackpad, so instead of refreshing the web page, the mouse trackpad became disabled.
Solution: Just hit the F5 key again and, presto, the mouse trackpad works again.
If you really need to perform the PC F5 function, hit the FN+F5 keys.
If you want to restore the PC function keys to their normal operation:
1. Go to the Windows Start screen.
2. Type "System Settings".
3. Select the system settings program.
4. Select the "Keyboard" menu item from the left panel.
5. Set the "Function Keys Mode" to "Standard F1-F12 mode" – as opposed to "Special function mode".
6. Click on "Okay".
7. Restart the PC for the change to take effect.
Sorry for the inconvenience! It's not my fault, really.
-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Twitter IPO

BTW, I'm blogging about the Twitter IPO on my finance blog:

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, October 18, 2013

Success with the NY state Obamacare exchange

Wow, I finally succeeded in getting a New York state Obamacare account and application set up so that I am finally able to see plans and prices. The full price range is $307 to $1,121. Bronze plans range from $307 to $407 with a $3,000 deductible. Platinum plans range from $443 to $1,121 with no deductible. Excluding United HealthCare plans, the highest platinum premium is $649 per month.
Until today I had an account that I could log into, but was unable to finish the application process. I had called customer service last week, described the problem, they put me on hold, and reasonably quickly came back and told me that they were aware of the problem, were working on it, but I would just have to try "later".
The problem was that I would log in and if I tried to view plans, the system would simply insist that my application was not complete, give me a button to continue where I left off, but clicking that button simply took me to the last page of the application process where all I could do is initial the application, check the fine print, and then click on the "Finish" button. I would do all of that, but the system would unceremoniously dump me out to the main "Individual" screen and not let me view or select any plans. Rinse and repeat, but no change.
The good news is that the long delays of the first week were resolved. IOW, I could quickly do nothing.
Also, even in the first week, I did not experience any long hold times with customer service.
I tried to complete my application every day, to no avail, but today I called customer service as before, described the problem, and once again they said they were still working on it. But... this time they suggested that I should create a brand new account and try again. Actually, I was going to suggest that myself since I was concerned that the many timeouts in the first few days may have left my account in some unworkable state.
So, I created a new account, which was reasonably fast and pain-free, and everything worked fine. And then I finished the application process and could see plans and prices.
Actually, there is still one glitch – it asks me if my 2014 income will be the same as in 2012 and will only prompt me for my expected 2014 income if I answer "Yes", when the answer is really "No." IOW, they have the yes and no options wired backwards, at least for my scenario.
And, meanwhile, my original "zombie" account is still out there, lifeless but not quite dead.
The real bottom line is that I will continue to be self-insured in 2014 and beyond since the penalty for not carrying insurance is still significantly less than $1,000 less than the penalty. That's the economic rule that I have decided to use.
Although, since I am 59, I'm not too many years away from Medicare.
Meanwhile, I continue to make semi-regular $25 monthly donations to the U.S. Treasury to pay down the federal debt.
BTW, I am thoroughly amused by the extent to which the White House itself has adopted the use of the term "Obamacare." For example, see:

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Should I start using twitter again?

Hmmm... now that Twitter is on the verge of a stock IPO that I am interested in as an investor, I'm pondering whether I should start using Twitter again. I "hit pause" on using Twitter back on April 13, 2010, three and a half years ago, having found that it wasn't delivering any real value to me, personally.
Maybe I'll think about it next week.
Me on Twitter ("back in the day"):
Meanwhile, I actually do use Twitter semi-regularly in a passive manner, for searches of recent news, such as for the Twitter IPO itself:

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, May 25, 2012

Contacts in Hong Kong and Shanghai?

I visited Hong Hong and China once back in the 1980's and have always been intrigued with them. Lately as I look around for new work I have been trying to do some out of the box thinking and have been contemplating living and working in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Maybe it was reading James Clavell's epic novel TAI-PAN about Hong Kong that helped to spur my thinking. I haven't yet pursued the matter seriously or even casually, but the idea keeping popping into my head with increasing frequency. Besides the simple fact that I haven't the foggiest clue what it would be like to live and work over there these days, the most immediate obstacle is that I have no professional contacts over there. Zero. Not even a single one.
So, I put out this simple query: Anybody have any technical/professional contacts over in Hong Kong and Shanghai that would be interested in having a conversation with a modestly adventurous American?
If I had the money, I would simply hop on a plane and check out local technology groups and businesses when I got there, but unfortunately such "larks" are not within my current budget.
One idea I have had is to pursue the concept of "virtually living" on the Internet, with all the photos, videos, web cameras, and discussion forums on the Web these days. This would allow me to experience a fraction of what life is like in some distant locale without the cost physical movement. For now it is simply a thought, but it is a thought that keeps popping into my head.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Does the NY Times know how to count?

No wonder the NY Times has been struggling financially: they simply don't even know how to count!
Yesterday the NY Times claimed  that I had reach my monthly limit of 10 stories, but I am very confident that I have not clicked on ANY stories (okay, maybe one or two... or three) other than in Google News and in Twitter, which are not supposed to count. I am still able to click on Times stories in Google News, so I suspect it may be the Twitter side of the house that is miscounting.
Meanwhile, my readership of the NY Times has clearly declined, which accrues to the benefit of the Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor (as well as Reuters and AP), both sources of high quality stories.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes

I used to love watching Mike Wallace on Biography when I was a kid. And he definitely raised the bar with his many early years with 60 Minutes. But, alas, later in its life 60 Minutes began to exemplify the steady decline in the quality of journalism in America. These days, I would not watch 60 minutes for any reason. It is now basically the epitome of "trash journalism." Wallace had a talent for picking his targets carefully and crafting his questions just as carefully. He was always laser-focused and dead-on. Both the questions and the answer had great value. These days, none of that is the case. Maybe 60 Minutes is actually the cause of its own diminished stature in that maybe most people in power know enough to stay away for fear that something, anything that might be even remotely embarrassing might pop up in an interview and that even the phrasing of questions or a moment of hesitation will be misread. Mike Wallace knew how to do it right, but those who have followed him simply don't have a clue. Yes, Mike's results were frequently sensational, but mostly because of the quality of his work, but these days the goal seems to be sensationalism at any cost and with as little attention as possibly to the quality of the work other than an obsession with slickness and edginess that hides and distorts the truth more than uncovers it.
In any case, here's to the good old days, the days of Mike Wallace in Biography and his early years in 60 Minutes.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Getting into Prezi

I am finally starting to get into Prezi. It is in fact a very cool way to prepare and make presentations.
I don't yet have any hard-core, really serious presentations yet, but here's my "workspace" on Prezi:
I am going to try to organize some of my thoughts on software agents in the form of Prezi presentations. I have already made a couple of initial stabs at that link above, but please consider it all "a work in progress."
I am just using the free offering, which means all of my work is public (which is perfect for an entrepreneur.)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

April Fool's Day is a perfect fit for the Occupy Movement

Usually I cringe at the silliness of April Fool's Day, but I see that it is a perfect and natural fit for the Occupy Movement, where they tweet about the way things "should" be but "sadly" aren't. Actually, that sounds a lot like what they do most of the time anyway.
  • Bankers arrested! (NOT)
  • Brookfield properties renames Zuccotti Park to Liberty Square and gives Occupy Wall Street control (NOT)
  • Ray Kelly resigns as NYPD commissioner (NOT)
  • Walmart open to unionization (NOT)
  • Monsanto phases out GMOs (NOT)
  • Rush Limbaugh supports Planned Parenthood (NOT)
  • Moratorium on old-growth forest logging (NOT)
  • GOP supportive of women's reproductive rights (NOT)
  • Shell pledges money for oil spill cleanup (NOT)
  • TransCanada scraps plane for Keystone pipeline (NOT)
Hmmm... most of these items have nothing to do with Wall Street per se. That illustrates perfectly how un-focused the whole Occupy Wall Street movement has been.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Use View page source to view SOPA blacked-out Wikipedia pages

Although the morons at Wikipedia have chosen to black out the English Wikipedia for the day in a mindless protest of the proposed Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), you can still get to the text by using your browser's "View page source" right click menu option (that's in Google Chrome, other browsers have a similar feature.) The original wiki page is still there, but with a non-so-cute graphic applied over it. You may see the original page flash up before the graphic gets drawn. Unfortunately, you have to paw through raw HTML text to read the page, but the essential content is there.
I suspect that the reason they are leaving the original page intact underneath the blackout image is to avoid screwing up their positioning in search engine results. The search engine web page crawlers will not "see" the blackout graphic, but will continue to see the underlying original wiki page, in much the same way that we can still see it with "View page source."
Although the blackout graphic claims that SOPA "could fatally damage the free and open Internet", there is close to zero chance that SOPA would actually "kill" the "free and open" Internet. The operant word in their spurious claim is "could", meaning "in theory, at the extreme", but it is interesting that even the anti-SOPA crowd is careful to avoid falsely claiming that SOPA "would" kill the "free and open" Internet.
The whole anti-SOPA/PIPA "movement" is simply a derivative of the anti-intellectual property movement.
Curiously, the SOPA page itself in the Wikipedia is not blacked out.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Back to work

Just when I was starting to get into my finance blogging on a more frequent basis, now I have a lead on some "real" work, so I'll need to suspend a lot of my blogging until further notice while I pursue this work lead. Sorry about that.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blogging schedule for my finance blog

I want to start blogging more on my finance blog and I am thinking that having a schedule might make sense in terms of reaching people who are paying attention to the financial markets during the day. Here's my tentative initial plan:
  1. Late evening post (8 PM to 12 AM.) Not so much for the night birds, but to have something for the early birds the next day. A more thoughtful contemplation of what transpired during the day and response to late news.
  2. Early morning post (6 AM to 8:30 AM.) Not quite early enough for the hard-core early birds, but something early in the day for normal people.
  3. Late morning post (10:30 AM to noon.) Response to news of the morning.
  4. Mid-afternoon post (2 PM to 3:30 PM.) Response to news of the day. Before the stock market closes
Whether I manage to do all of that remains to be seen, but at least I have a plan to work from.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

What does ICYMI mean??

Oh well, I guess I might as well go ahead and admit that I am one of the slowest guys on the Internet. I mean, five minutes ago I had not a clue what "ICYMI" meant. I got an email from a big-deal group in Washington and the subject line started out with "ICYMI –".
Lucky for me, enlightenment was just a Google click away. The acronyms section of "The Free Dictionary" web site has a page that tells me that it stand for "In Case You Missed It." Ah... okay... yes, I had missed it, but now I know.
Hmmm... I wonder how long I have been missing it?
There is a Wiktionary page for ICYMI that dates to October 2009. Technically, it is an "initialism."

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

How can I become a millionaire?

There were actually a couple of short periods of time back in 2000 when I was technically a "millionaire", at least on paper (plus one time when a broker error made me a millionaire for a weekend!) But, as they say, "easy come, easy go." And back in 2005 I was doing so poorly financially that I actually filed for bankruptcy. Since November 30, 2005 (the day my bankruptcy was discharged) I have gradually been slowly climbing back up the lower rungs of the wealth ladder out of the pit of gloom, primarily through regular retirement contributions but also cutting spending and saving when possible, so that now I actually have a modest amount of "investments." I'm certainly not a millionaire or in the top 1% or even the top 10%, but I'm somewhere in the top 20% now. I won't disclose my exact "wealth", but it's very loosely north of $50,000 and south of $250,000, so lets pretend that it is $100,000 for the sake of argument and to have a nice round number. So, the question of the day is:
How can I become a millionaire?
Seriously. It's a legitimate question. How likely I am to become a millionaire again is an open and essentially unanswerable question, but what options or paths to that end are available is a reasonable question.
Here are the practical paths that I have identified in just a few minutes today:
  1. Buy a winning lottery ticket. Hey, sometimes it actually does payoff, but I won't bet on it.
  2. Marry a wealthy woman. Ditto.
  3. Start a successful business. Ditto, except that it actually still is a (semi-remote) possibility.
  4. Join a hot startup. Ditto, but a little more possible. (Seriously, send me leads on this!)
  5. A short string of wildly-successful option trades. Hey, I actually did this in 1998 and 1999, but... a long story... and not likely to be repeated.
  6. Invest in a hot stock that rises 40% a year for 7 years. Technically possible, but the odds remain long.
  7. Investments that rise 20% a year for 13 years. More doable, but still quite difficult.
  8. Investments that rise 15% a year for 17 years. On the fringe of being practical, but too long to wait.
  9. Investments that rise 10% a year for 24 years. Starting to sound within reach technically, but not within reach time-wise.
  10. Investments that rise 8% a year for 30 years. Great, something I might actually have a shot at achieving, but only if my goal is to leave a million in my will rather than enjoy it during retirement.
  11. Investments that rise 5% a year for 48 years. Ditto. I could reasonably expect to do this, but again not for my personal use.
  12. Investments that rise 4% a year for 59 years. That rate of return is reasonable and achievable for an average investor, but won't achieve the end goal within my expected lifetime.
And then there is inflation, taxes, bad years, etc. And presuming that you have a reasonable income stream while your wealth is growing.
And then there is a bigger pair of questions. Once you have accumulated $1 million:
  1. How do you keep it?
  2. How can you live off of it in a sustainable manner?
It may seem obvious that you save $1 million for retirement and then spend it all in retirement, but that is a risky expectation due to uncertainty about the future. Better to define an allocation of money that you will be spending and money that remains dedicated to further investment. That's a topic for future discussion. Here we're just concerned with getting to $1 million (ASAP) in the first place.
Where do I do from here? The only things I can say with certainty are that I will continue making my retirement contributions and hopefully see some compound returns over the years. I guess I can also safely say that unless I manage to achieve 20% annual returns I won't hit $1 million when I retire in 13 years. That is at least a good starting point for thinking about where I am, what I could achieve, and what my options are.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Wall Street Occupied (by the Dark Knight)

On a typical Saturday I walk all around lower Manhattan (starting my walk from my apartment on East 50th Street), sometimes walking up Wall Street. Since 9/11 Wall Street has had limited access, but usually the sidewalks are open to pedestrian traffic and even the street itself is usually open to pedestrian traffic. Since the Occupy Wall Street movement moved into the neighborhood there have been the usual steel barricades to assure that people stay on the sidewalks. But, this past Saturday (11/5) I walked up Wall Street from the East River and around Water Street or Pearl Street even the side walk was closed with barricades and there were two police cars blocking the street.
Except, the police cars were an odd color of blue and had some strange-looking emblem on the doors. I figured maybe they were for some private security company since some of the banks on Wall Street have intensive security forces. There were no cops near the cars, so I walked up to examine the emblems and they did say "Police Department", but for the "City of Gotham." Ah... that explains it. I had seen some movie production trucks a block earlier. So, this had to be filming of the new "Dark Knight" sequel That had been rumored.
I detoured towards the south of Wall Street and then parallel to Wall Street to get to Broad Street where the New York Stock Exchange is located. They also had Broad Street barricaded, but after a few minutes of looking around I noticed them open up the barricade on the east side of Broad Street and they were letting people through.
Walking north on Broad Street across from the stock exchange I noticed a lot of little piles of fluffy white stuff, which I presume was fake snow.
Crossing over Wall Street in front of the old Morgan bank building I saw a large stream of movie extras entering the building, many of whom were in full, heavy riot gear with body armor and assault rifles. Presumably they had just finished filming on the closed-off portion of Wall Street.
I noticed that all of the usual steel barricades at the intersection of Broad and Wall were gone. I guess they just didn't fit into the movie screenplay. Ironic, that a movie shot with heavy security and street violence would want less security measures visible than what are normally on the street on a typical, uneventful day. Interesting how reality can be stranger than fiction – the old adage that truth can be stranger than fiction since fiction has to make sense.
Just up Nassau Street a half-block (Nassau is the continuation of Broad Street but the name changes at Wall Street!) I saw a movie flyer taped to a pole which detailed access restrictions that day due to filming for "Magnus Rex", mentioning the use of simulated gunfire and assault rifles (and noting that this required careful coordination with NYPD). So, yes, this definitely was probably filming for the new Dark Knight sequel. And, once again, quite ironic how with all of the tenseness and quasi-violence of the nearby Occupy Wall Street encampment (two blocks north and one block west), they would have all of this fictional violence at the same time.
Is fiction mocking reality or is reality mocking fiction?
And, as expected, when I walked along the outside of Zucotti park it was nothing but a kind of calm buzziness not unlike any NYC park – except for the uncontrolled frenzy of the drummers and the spectators egging them on as they approached their 6 PM drumming curfew.
AFAICT, the size of the Zucotti Park "movement" was about the same as in recent weeks. It hasn't managed to spill into surrounding areas and other nearby parks yet and is too packed for much more internal growth. In fact, the Manahatta Park at the East River end of Wall Street is still completely empty except for a few kids on skateboards and those little trick bicycles and with no apparent security guards or policemen to give them any grief. Who knows, maybe Manahatta is simply too far from the limelight of Broadway and the World Trade Center site, even if it is actually on Wall Street. There is also a reasonably large brand new park area across the street on the East River and adjacent to the ferry pier, very underutilized and completely devoid of any occupiers, but unlikely to draw the attention of anybody other than a lot of tourists and odd people like me.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Ignoring Occupy Wall Street for the rest of the year

I've followed the whole Occupy Wall Street movement with great interest over the past month, but it is time for me to hit the "ignore" button on them for the rest of the year (at least.) They've gotten repetitive and predictable and don't appear to be likely to do anything truly of long-term interest. Who knows, maybe they'll surprise me and somehow get their act together, but they simply don't appear to be on an upwards trend at this point, in terms of garnering significant additional deeply passionate support from the rest of the so-called 99% that is not already active in the movement. Yeah, sometimes the various unions (a small fraction of Americans all together) join in, but only halfheartedly, like with the so-called "General Strike" in Oakland right now. Sure, things could change at any moment, but I'll make that judgment on January 1, 2012 and determine then whether I can keep them on "ignore."
For now, I'll simply write off OWS as an offshoot of the anti-globalization movement. There's a little more to it than that, but that basically summarizes them quite well.
FWIW, here's how I have been following the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement:
The Adbusters web site. These are the guys/brains/puppet-masters behind the global "Occupy" movement. The "Culture Jammers HQ."
The Occupy Wall Street web site. The "official" web site for this "leaderless resistance movement."

On a typical Saturday on my normal schedule I walk all around lower Manhattan, including Union Square, Washington Square, Battery Park, Battery City Park, the World Trade Center Site, and sometimes Wall Street and even past Zucotti Park, so I am sure I will "notice" if the OWS movement actually does take off. And I regularly walk to, around, and through Central Park on various days of the week as well, so I'll certainly notice if OWS makes good on their "threat" to "occupy Central Park" as they have said they would.
So, if the OWS movement does actually take off, I'll notice it first hand without having to waste another moment of my time reading about it on the Web.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Should I resume using twitter?

After a reasonably long experimental use of Twitter, I went on a hiatus from Twitter about eighteen months ago since I felt it wasn't a very productive or profitable use of my time. So far, I haven't regretted that decision and had remained focused on real, billable work since then. But now I am once more back on the street looking for work, so now it seems reasonable to question whether anything has changed enough to warrant my return to Twitter. I'll give the question some thought over the next few weeks, although my current feeling is that Twitter would still be a relative waste of my limited time and resources.
Can anybody offer any personal experiences that show clearly that Twitter had a dramatically positive ROI for their efforts?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Debugging font issue - Experiment #19

Okay, I think after 18 experiments I am finally ready to declare Mission Accomplished.
One last block quote.
That's all for now.

Debugging font issue - Experiment #18

Experiment #17 seems successful, so two separate delete operations it is.
Try another list:
  1. Bold
  2. Italics
  3. Bold italics
  4. No formatting
After the list.
Hmmm... Even with no newline after my signature line, it looks like lots of extra whitespace in the blog posts.

Debugging font issue - Experiment #17

Okay, experiment #16 failed, back to tiny text, suggesting that deleting both the WLM "original message" header and the original message text in one operation causes tint text.
In this experiment I deleted the same text, but in two separate delete operations.
I started with the sent message for experiment #15.

Debugging font issue - Experiment #16

Experiment #15 looked fine.
For this experiment I deleted all but the signature line in one operation.
This is supposed to be a block quote.
Try some italics and bold formatting.

Debugging font issue - Experiment #15

Experiment #14 was fine.
For this experiment I started by forwarding my previous sent message. First deleted only the WLM "original message" header, then I deleted the original message text itself, then added this new text.
Add a short list for good measure.
  1. X
  2. Y
  3. Z
After the list. Note: I did not format the list as a numbered list until I had first typed the text of the first line after the list to assure that this line would have normal paragraph formatting.
The end. I hope.
One final experiment: I deleted the newline at the end of my signature line since it looks like some extra white space was showing up in the blog post.

Debugging font issue - Experiment #14

Experiment #13 was fine other than that I forgot to add back my email link.
Deleted some text from a forward of my original sent message for experiment # 13. When I forward just a sent message, I first delete the "orginal message" header that WLM places before the original message text. I wonder if that messes up formatting for the first paragraph.
Now I add the un-numbered list:
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C – add some bold and italics formatting.
Line after the list.

Debugging font issue - Experiment #13

Oops, experiment #11 was not completely successful – the first paragraph had tiny text for some unknown reason. And experiment #12 was a disaster because I deleted all text but the signature line and started over, but forgot to round-trip between Plain Text and Rich Text first.
So, for this experiment I deleted all text but the signature line, went to plain text and then back to rich text, and then added this text.
Now I add the un-numbered list:
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C – add some bold and italics formatting.
Line after the list.
-- Jack Krupansky

Debugging font issue - Experiment #12

Experiment #11 was completely successful. I think the issue with numbered lists is that if you start a list and enter as a list and then tell WLM to un-number the blank entry after the last item, that messes up the font.
So, in this test I will create a list without numbers and explicitly tell WLM to number the selected items. Hopefully that will leave the formatting for text after the list intact.
Three-item list:
  1. A
  2. B – and try some bold and italics formatting as well.
  3. C
After the list. Is font size okay?
I sure hope this works.

Debugging font issue - Experiment #11

Experiment #10 worked quite well and all looks fine.
For this experiment, I cut out the numbered list, created a new list of items (unnumbered), then selected them and told WLM to number them.
Now, here is a revised numbered list, numbered in WLM:
  1. This is the new first item.
  2. This is the new second item.
  3. This is the new third item.
  4. This the the new fourth and last item.
After the item list. Note: There were no extra blank lines before or after the list in WLM.
Just trying a centered paragraph here.
Back to normal here.
This sentence is a separate paragraph, but without an extra blank line before it.

Debugging font issue - Experiment #10

Oops, in experiment #9 I mangled the list with an incorrect selection.
For this experiment, I round-tripped between "Plain text" and "Rich text" to clear up all formatting issues and then selected the list items to turn them back into a list. Generally, I wouldn't want to do that because it also clears italics and bolding.
Now, here is a numbered list, numbered in WLM:
  1. Item 1.
  2. Item 2.
  3. Item 3.
  4. Item 4.
After the item list. Note: There were no extra blank lines before or after the list in WLM.
Just trying a centered paragraph here.
Back to normal here.
This sentence is a separate paragraph, but without an extra blank line before it.

Debugging font issue - Experiment #9

Experiment #8 was mostly okay, except that it showed a problem I have seen before: after a numbered list, the font reverts to the tiny size problem.
Next, I'll send the same list, but use the "Clear Formatting" feature in WLM to remove formatting for the paragraphs after the list. Unlikely to help, but who knows. Actually, it changed more than just those selected paragraphs – it also changed the numbered list to a bullet list, so I changed it back to a numbered list. Now, lets see what happens.
Now, here is a numbered list, numbered in WLM:
  1. Item 1.
  • Item 2.
  • Item 3.
  • Item 4.
      After the item list. Note: There were no extra blank lines before or after the list in WLM.
      Just trying a centered paragraph here.
      Back to normal here.
      This sentence is a separate paragraph, but without an extra blank line before it.
    1. Debugging font issue - Experiment #8

      Experiment #7, block quote, seemed fine.
      Now, here is a numbered list, numbered in WLM:
      1. Item 1.
      2. Item 2.
      3. Item 3.
      4. Item 4.
      After the item list. Note: There were no extra blank lines before or after the list in WLM.
      Just trying a centered paragraph here.
      Back to normal here.
      This sentence is a separate paragraph, but without an extra blank line before it.

      Debugging font issue - Experiment #7

      Experiment #6 seemed fine, but when I went into HTML edit mode in the Blogger composition editor I saw TWELVE nested <div> levels! Very weird.
      Now, back working with the experiment #3.
      Just trying a block quote here, which is simply an indented paragraph in WLM:
      This is a block quote?
      Second line.
      Last line of block quote.
      After the block quote.

      Debugging font issue - Experiment #6

      Experiment #5 was a mistake – I hit "Send Later" which apparently sent my message immediately.
      Next experiment: Copy and Paste two paragraphs directly from my blog post to see how formatting is handled:
      But, when I go into the Blogger composition editor I see that it has a "Ltr" div and uses the Calibri font.
      This experiment is simply to see if I can reproduce decent results twice in a row.

      Debugging font issue - Experiment #5

      Experiment #4 gave predictable decent results. Now, I am looking around to see if I can go into HTML edit mode in Windows Live Mail. I could in OE, which is how I fixed the line spacing for OE posts, but I haven't been able to find an HTML edit mode in WLM, so far.

      Debugging font issue - Experiment #4

      Actually, experiment #3 gave reasonably decent results. The font and font size looked okay (or at least close enough) and the paragraph spacing seemed fine.
      But, when I go into the Blogger composition editor I see that it has a "Ltr" div and uses the Calibri font.
      This experiment is simply to see if I can reproduce decent results twice in a row.

      Debugging font issue - Experiment #3

      Second test gave poor results. Font was okay, but line breaks and some of the blank lines were messed up.
      For this experiment I took the same message and switched it to "Rich Text". I didn't change the font. I have extra blank lines to make it look right in the composition editor. And I added back the link for my name/email.

      Debugging font issue - Experiment #2

      Okay, that first test failed, but in a predictable manner that illustrates
      the font problem.

      In this second test I switched to "plain text". Just to see what happens.
      Unfortunately, it loses all formatting, including hyperlinks.

      I am curious to see what happens with the extra blank lines I added to make
      the paragraph spacing look right in the composition editor.

      -- Jack Krupansky

      Debugging font issue

      This is just a test post...

      I am trying to debug a font problem with my blogs. I post to all of my blogs by sending email from my PC. I had figured out how to set the font so that it would take on the default font for the blog back when I was sending from Microsoft Outlook Express on Windows XP, but since I upgraded to Windows Live Mail (successor to OE) on Windows 7, the font gets messed up. The worst part of it is that the font size becomes very tiny, almost unreadable, even though it looks fine in the email composition editor. Sure, I can manually correct the font in the Blogger composition editor, but that's extra work. So, now I am about to try some experiments to see if I can figure out some Windows Live Mail "magic" to fix these font problems. I will leave each of these posts unchanged for future reference about what does or doesn't work.

      So, let the tests begin...

      This initial post is a forward of a post that worked back in April 2010 on my old machine. In other words, this is what used to work before I upgraded in late May 2010.

      Is this too tiny to read?

      BTW, in WLM the mail composition editor says that this is 12-point Calibri. Actually, in OE is said that it was Times New Roman, the default, which worked with OE, probably because it did not set the font in the message since it was the default.

      Also, I have a "div" for each paragraph, set in OE, which has the effect of making each paragraph a "web-style" paragraph with a blank line after it, because that is the style used in the blogs.

      -- Jack Krupansky

      Sunday, February 20, 2011

      Who exactly is rich these days?

      Who exactly is rich these days? In other words, what criteria should we use to judge that someone is rich? In recent tax cut debates there seems to be a presumption that $250,000 of income is kind of the dividing line, but I don't quite buy it.

      To me, the primary criterion for judging someone as being rich should be that they can live a relatively affluent lifestyle without working. In other words being rich is not about income per se, but a question of wealth. If you have sufficient wealth that you can live your affluent lifestyle solely on investment income from your wealth, then I would say that you are rich. And that is after taxes and after inflation. And that also requires a two-to-one safety margin so that you need not worry about what the stock market is doing or the state of the economy on either a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or even annual basis.

      Put another way, being rich means you never have to worry about money.

      That is what separates the rich from the middle class -- the latter have some money (unlike the poor or lower class who don't have enough money for the essentials of daily life), but are constantly worrying about it, frequently because they have chosen to live a level of affluence beyond their means (averaged over booms and busts.)

      So, given that base definition, how much money (wealth) do you need to be considered rich?

      Even back in early August 2007, just before the first big crumble of the financial crisis, in Who wants to be a millionaire? I suggested that $50 million in liquid investments was the magic number. At the beginning of April 2008, as the financial crisis was starting to rumble on the backburner with increasing fury, in Are you wealthy? I reconsidered but reaffirmed that $50 million number. And today, after further reconsideration and calculation I also reaffirm that $50 million number.

      I think it is reasonable to say an income of $250,000 (from your investments) is the rock-bottom low-end of being rich. Simply avoiding work is not enough, you need to afford some significant degree of affluence, so that you at least look rich (although you may make a tactical decision to "dress down" so that you do not appear to be rich even if you are.)

      For purposes of discussion I will assume a very conservative investment style consistent with no worrying about how your investments are doing. To me, that means long-term Treasury bonds. You can choose other investments based on your own risk tolerance, but for the purposes of defining worry-free rich, Treasury bonds fit the bill.

      If you bought 30-year Treasury bonds at the most recent auction you got a yield of 4.75%. If you bought that same bond on the open market on Friday, the yield was 4.68%. For purposes of discussion, I'll presume that you buy only at the quarterly auctions.

      Ignoring taxes and inflation for the moment, if you bought those 4.75% Treasuries, you would need $5.3 million of them to give you that $250,000 annual income. Unfortunately, taxes are not zero and inflation is not zero. Assuming the most recent annual headline inflation of 1.6%, that 4.75% becomes 3.15% and now you need $8 million for that same income level. I am presuming that you want that $250,000 income to "keep pace with inflation." There is no state or local income tax on Treasuries and I calculate the federal effective tax rate to be 27.05% using the 2010 federal tax tables. You may have deductions too, but let's start by being conservative. 4.75% minus 1.6% for inflation and 27.05% taxes gives us an effective yield of 2.30%, meaning that you would need Treasures in the amount of $10.9 million to give you that magical $250,000 annual income.

      But wait... didn't I say earlier that you needed $50 million and this calculation shows that $11 million will do it? The answer is a classic "Yes, but..."

      It's all about assumptions.

      First of all, if you really want to be conservative, you need what Warren Buffett's mentor Ben Graham called a "margin of safety." There are all sorts of crazy things that can happen in the real world, let alone the worlds of economics and finance. So, I am going to insist that a two-to-one margin of safety be used to judge someone as being rich. This is an important factor if you want to be able to sleep at night and not have to worry about money. So, that $10.9 million would really be $21.8 million. But even that is still far short of $50 million.

      Inflation may currently be 1.6%, but that is historically quite low and we have seen times when it was 3% or even 4% or on occasion higher. So, to be conservative, I would say it would be better to assume a 3% inflation rate.

      Treasury yields can also fluctuate significantly, so to be conservative I will knock that 4.75% yield down to 4.25%, which is what it was in the preceding auction.

      So, assuming you want $250,000 per year, Treasury bonds yield 4.25%, inflation at 3%, and taxes at 27.05%, my calculation comes up with an effective yield of 0.91%, which translates into needed wealth of $27.4 million. Add in that two-to-one safety margin and you get $54.8 million, modestly more than my $50 million suggestion, but, lets just call it $50 million since we have been quite conservative in its assumptions.

      Another assumption I made was that you need to live on income only, not liquidation of principal. Better to plan on leaving the $50 million as inheritance to family or charity rather that put the vagaries of fate in the financial markets into play and risk the potential for introducing worry into the lifestyle of the supposed "rich."

      So where does that leave you if you don't have $50 million in liquid wealth (which includes me, by the way)? If you still need to work to earn your $250,000 a year or are only a mere millionaire, you are definitely well-off and upper-middle class, but I wouldn't call you rich or wealthy.

      AFAICT, "the rich" is mostly a term of partisan political disparagement and a tool for class warfare than an attempt at economic accuracy. Somehow, some liberal politicians have decreed that an income level of $250,000 defines "rich." It would be interesting to know who precisely started the "meme" of $250,000 of income meaning someone is "rich."

      In any case, my number for "rich" is $50 million in liquid investments with an after-tax, after-inflation yield of 0.91%. Anything less than that and you are just pretending to be rich.

      -- Jack Krupansky

      Sunday, September 26, 2010

      Wall Street 2 movie was so-so

      I was really looking forward to see the new Wall Street 2 movie ("Money Never Sleeps") and although it had quite a few good moments, overall it just wasn't as satisfying as I had hoped. Despite the severity of the recent financial crisis, the movie just didn't have the visceral punch that I though Oliver Stone would bring to this encore.

      Michael Douglas was great, but he was great in the original, so no new ground was broken there. "Jake" as his nominal protégé was okay, but not great. His girlfriend, Gordon's daughter was... well... pathetic (or more charitably I could say that this was great acting to portray a pathetic character) but maybe that was intentional to forcefully illustrate how "toxic" the cretins of Wall Street really are.

      The ending was quite lame, but maybe given the current cultural context Mr. Stone felt obligated not to leave people in a state of complete despair. That would be bad for ticket sales.

      On the positive side, the acting of Frank Langella and Eli Wallach as aging investment bankers was absolutely fantastic.

      As I noted, there were plenty of great individual scenes and lines such as you saw in the two trailers.

      Maybe the bottom line is that Mr. Stone did in fact portray the culture of Wall Street and its denizens as being irredeemably "toxic", although his lame ending inscrutably seemed to let them off the hook and even excuse illegal activity.

      There were a few scenes that reminded me of Wall Street activity that I hope the so-called Volcker Rule will eliminate or at least dramatically reduce, but only time will tell.

      Maybe that is ultimately the fatal flaw with this movie: there is too much in it that is borderline documentary and cuts painfully too close to the bone. At the end of the credits it reminds us that it is a work of fiction and that similarities to real people and places is... "unintentional." Yeah, right. Sure, they changed the names of the investment banks, but we all know who they were talking about.

      -- Jack Krupansky

      The New York Times article... in Portuguese

      The New York Times article from Friday by Sewell Chan entitled "Small Gifts Sent to Ease U.S. Debt" that quotes me about making contributions to pay down the public debt and has my picture has been translated into Portuguese on this Brazilian web called Economia with the translation entitled "Para pagar dívida de R$ 23 trilhões, uma doação de R$ 554 - Crescem nos EUA as contribuições voluntárias para diminuir o rombo nas contas do governo, mas impacto sobre os débitos é mínimo". My original quote in The New York Times:

      "I get mixed reactions," said John W. Krupansky, 56, a software developer in Midtown Manhattan who started reading about economics during the dot-com crash a decade ago, and has blogged about his tax deductible gifts, nine so far, of $25 each. "Some people are annoyed; they think the right thing to do is complain about the debt, not actually do something about it. Other people are amused that anyone would waste their time to do such a thing."

      Translated into Portuguese:

      "Ouço reações diversas", diz John W. Krupansky, de 56 anos, desenvolvedor de software no centro de Manhattan que começou a ler sobre a economia durante a crise das empresas pontocom, há uma década, e tem escrito em seu blog sobre suas doações - nove até agora, cada uma de US$ 25. "Algumas pessoas ficam irritadas. Elas pensam que a coisa certa a fazer é reclamar da dívida, e não fazer algo concreto sobre isso. Outras pessoas se divertem com a ideia de alguém perder seu tempo para fazer uma coisa dessas."

      -- Jack Krupansky

      Friday, September 24, 2010

      Huh, I'm in the paper for trying to pay down the public debt... in the New York Times!

      Huh, my meager efforts to take responsibility for paying down the public debt have gotten me a little attention... in The New York Times of all places! Today they are running an article by Sewell Chan entitled "Small Gifts Sent to Ease U.S. Debt" that actually quotes me:

      "I get mixed reactions," said John W. Krupansky, 56, a software developer in Midtown Manhattan who started reading about economics during the dot-com crash a decade ago, and has blogged about his tax deductible gifts, nine so far, of $25 each. "Some people are annoyed; they think the right thing to do is complain about the debt, not actually do something about it. Other people are amused that anyone would waste their time to do such a thing."

      And they even ran my picture.

      -- Jack Krupansky

      Thursday, April 15, 2010

      48 hours into my hiatus from Twitter

      Two days ago I decided to take an indefinite hiatus from Twitter. 48 hours later, it still feels like the right thing to do. No regrets, so far.

      Sure, on occasion a thought pops into my head and I feel an urge to reach for Twitter, but it's only a momentary urge and quickly dissipates. Sure, Twittering can be fun, but it is also quite mindless, definitely unproductive, and usually a complete waste of my time and adds no value to my life.

      Rather than twittering because I can, I find myself being more deliberate in thinking about how I spend my time.

      I will post again in a week or so about how the de-twittering of my life has progressed.

      -- Jack Krupansky

      Tuesday, April 13, 2010

      I'm taking a hiatus from Twitter

      Twitter is certainly an interesting phenomenon, but it also has its annoyances. This morning I saw a brief mention of Twitter considering ads. No real surprise there, but it got me thinking. By writing tweets, I am providing Twitter with content for free. I am basically working for Twitter with zero compensation. So what do I really get out of the deal? Twitter does help to promote blog posts (but does not give any actual Google juice) and does provide an "outlet" for excess energy, but that is about it. Maybe once in a blue moon somebody actually connects with somebody in a valuable way, but that is the exception rather than the rule. In short, the answer to the question "What value do I get from Twitter?" is not much at all and certainly nothing comparable to the effort invested.

      Twitter is still a young phenomenon and evolving over time, so maybe a few months or a few years from now Twitter will actually, finally have some features that deliver significant value to me. But for new, Twitter is, well, I hate to say this, but, a complete waste of my time. I would not say that all of my time in Twitter has been wasted since it has been an interesting experiment with a new technology, but I have definitely reached well beyond the point of diminishing returns.

      So, to be clear, I do not consider my time spent with Twitter a complete waste of time, but simply that the marginal value has been too small, for me, personally.

      Twitter may have great value for some people, but I am not one of them.

      Besides, I now have some real, billable work to do, so Twitter really is an unnecessary and unproductive distraction, for me.

      And, there have been any number of times where I could have posted a more valuable blog post, but took the lazy route of a simple tweet instead. My loss.

      BTW, I have over 3,000 tweets, so it is not as if I haven't given Twitter a chance to prove itself.

      I am not sure how long my hiatus will last. Could be a few months, or maybe a year or more, or maybe just a few weeks. Three to six months would be my preliminary estimate. I may check in on occasion just to see if I have been missing anything. The bottom line is that I'll stay away from Twitter as long as it continues to show very little promise of adding any significant value to my life. So, my hiatus could in fact be extended to infinity.

      My hiatus will also give me some extra time to contemplate my experiences with Tweeter and maybe even distill them down to realize what value, if any, they have for me.

      If anybody really does see a true breakthrough in Twitter that really would add dramatic value to my life, please send me an email message about it.

      Now, it is time for my to go tweet my final tweet and then get back to real work.

      -- Jack Krupansky

      Wednesday, March 10, 2010

      Trying CheckingFinder.com for 3.51% APY high-interest checking

      I posted on Monday about CheckingFinder.com for finding community banks offering FDIC-insured high-interest checking (2-4%) and just this morning I took the plunge and opened a new bank checking account through their web site for a community bank in Texas. I still need in get the bank's welcome kit in the mail and send back the signature card and other documents, but within a few weeks I should be on my way to earning 3.51% APY on a bank checking account. What could be more exciting (in banking)?

      I did see a bank offering 4.09% on Monday, but they were no longer listed this morning. 3.51% APY was the highest listed rate for my zip code this morning. Still, this is a fantastic rate compared to just about anything else available.

      First I had to call the CheckingFinder.com customer service number to clarify exactly what qualified as an "automatic payment". I make several payments each month by ACH debit from the web sites of my electric company, telephone/Internet provider, and credit card, but they are all "manual", so I wasn't sure if they qualified. Customer service picked up quite promptly and indicated that each bank had its own quirky rules, so it would be best to speak directly to the individual bank. I had already selected my preferred bank from their list and customer service gave me that bank's direct number. The bank picked up promptly, redirected my call and quickly answered my question, stating clearly that to get the special rate I needed "one ACH debit or credit" each month. Many consumers see ACH debits as part of "automatic bill payment" and only overly-cautious people such as me want to manually check my bill before it gets paid.

      That so-called "automatic payment" was the worrisome "qualification" for me, but now I know that it is a no-brainer. There were three other specific qualifications for this particular bank (which many of the listed banks also had) in order to get the juicy 3.51% APY rate:

      • Minimum of 12 debit-card purchases each month (does not include ATM withdrawals). No minimum, so breakfast, lunch, snacks, fast food, etc. easily satisfy this requirement without impinging on my desire to use my 2% cashback credit card for larger purchases.
      • Must agree to receive e-statements rather than paper statements. No problem.
      • Must sign on to the online banking web site at least once a month. No problem since I believe in checking my credit card and other financial accounts at least one if not twice a week.
      • And that requirement for at least one ACH debit or credit each month.

      Note: Some of the CheckingFinder.com banks also have a bill-pay requirement, but this bank did not.

      The sign-up process requested my current bank checking routing and account number so that the initial funding can be done via an ACH debit. This funding will not actually occur until after the bank receives the signed signature card and other sign-up documents needed to satisfy government regulations. My chosen bank bad a $100 minimum initial deposit. I chose $250 for the sign-up deposit. I intend to put a moderate pile of cash in the account to earn that 3.51% APY ASAP, but I want to see that the account gets all set up and working as advertised before committing more cash.

      The sign-up process also asks a serious questions about your financial history similar to those you see when requesting your credit history to verify your identity. Usually not a problem, but having a copy of your credit history handy couldn't hurt. Some people claim to have had difficulty signing up due to questions about things they had forgotten or gotten confused about.

      The bank is HCSB in Plainview, Texas. They have been around since 1934, formerly operating as "Hill Country State Bank."

      Some other info on the account:

      • 3.51% APY applies to the first $25,000.
      • Rate is 1.51% APY on balance above $25,000. Still quite decent compared to... most other banks.
      • Rate is 0.05% APY if qualifications are not met in a given month. Still better than Fidelity. Some listed banks have base rates of 0.1% or even 0.2%, but I have no intentions of ever being in a position to get that rate.
      • No minumum balance.
      • No monthly fees.
      • Unlimited checks. [Note: I forgot to ask whether the check order is free or not.]
      • Refund of ATM feeds up to $20 per month.

      So, now, I am just impatiently waiting for the paperwork to arrive via pony express.

      In practice, the way I will use this account is in tandem with my local TD Bank account. I will deposit checks in TD Bank and then ACH transfer the bulk of the cash to HCSB. I'll write checks against HCSB. I'll keep a modest balance in TD Bank for "just in case" contingencies. I think I'll use HCSB for ATM withdrawals, but I could use TD as well.

      -- Jack Krupansky

      Sunday, March 07, 2010

      David Gelernter: Time to Start Taking the Internet Seriously

      I just finished reading an essay on Edge by noted computer scientist David Gelernter entitled "Time to Start Taking the Internet Seriously" which basically argues for his concept of lifestreams as a better model for publishing and accessing information than today's web model. Rather that organizing information in a spatial form, he recommends that we think about and organize information along the time dimension. As he puts it:

      The Internet's future is not Web 2.0 or 200.0 but the post-Web, where time instead of space is the organizing principle -- instead of many stained-glass windows, instead of information laid out in space, like vegetables at a market -- the Net will be many streams of information flowing through time. The Cybersphere as a whole equals every stream in the Internet blended together: the whole world telling its own story.

      He proceeds to describe the nature of the problem and how lifestreams will address it:

      13. The traditional web site is static, but the Internet specializes in flowing, changing information. The "velocity of information" is important -- not just the facts but their rate and direction of flow. Today's typical website is like a stained glass window, many small panels leaded together. There is no good way to change stained glass, and no one expects it to change. So it's not surprising that the Internet is now being overtaken by a different kind of cyberstructure.

      14. The structure called a cyberstream or lifestream is better suited to the Internet than a conventional website because it shows information-in-motion, a rushing flow of fresh information instead of a stagnant pool.

      15. Every month, more and more information surges through the Cybersphere in lifestreams — some called blogs, "feeds," "activity streams," "event streams," Twitter streams. All these streams are specialized examples of the cyberstructure we called a lifestream in the mid-1990s: a stream made of all sorts of digital documents, arranged by time of creation or arrival, changing in realtime; a stream you can focus and thus turn into a different stream; a stream with a past, present and future. The future flows through the present into the past at the speed of time.

      16. Your own information -- all your communications, documents, photos, videos -- including "cross network" information -- phone calls, voice messages, text messages -- will be stored in a lifestream in the Cloud.

      17. There is no clear way to blend two standard websites together, but it's obvious how to blend two streams. You simply shuffle them together like two decks of cards, maintaining time-order -- putting the earlier document first. Blending is important because we must be able to add and subtract in the Cybersphere. We add streams together by blending them. Because it's easy to blend any group of streams, it's easy to integrate stream-structured sites so we can treat the group as a unit, not as many separate points of activity; and integration is important to solving the information overload problem. We subtract streams by searching or focusing. Searching a stream for "snow" means that I subtract every stream-element that doesn't deal with snow. Subtracting the "not snow" stream from the mainstream yields a "snow" stream. Blending streams and searching them are the addition and subtraction of the new Cybersphere.

      18. Nearly all flowing, changing information on the Internet will move through streams. You will be able to gather and blend together all the streams that interest you. Streams of world news or news about your friends, streams that describe prices or auctions or new findings in any field, or traffic, weather, markets -- they will all be gathered and blended into one stream. Then your own personal lifestream will be added. The result is your mainstream: different from all others; a fast-moving river of all the digital information you care about.

      In short:

      To accomplish this, we merely need to turn the whole Cybersphere on its side, so that time instead of space is the main axis.

      There is much more to his model for information in the "Cybersphere", but time-based lifestreams are his core starting point.

      -- Jack Krupansky

      Monday, February 01, 2010

      Less than two months until the EntConnect 2010 Entrepreneurial Connections Conference in Colorado

      It is less than eight weeks until the annual Entrepreneurial Connections (EntConnect) conference, from Thursday, March 25, 2010 through Sunday, March 28, 2010. Traditionally the conference consists primarily of a reunion of former readers of Midnight Engineering magazine and a few newbies who have gotten suckered into trying it out, but each year we try to figure out new ways to attract fresh blood.

      Check out the conference Web page for an idea of what the conference was like last year. Hopefully the page will be updated very soon for the details for this year. I do know that the hotel rate has jumped from $79 to $89, despite the fact that we are still only in the early stages of a prolonged economic recover from a dep recession. It will be held at a different hotel, the Crowne Plaza Downtown Denver, which is actually in downtown Denver. We hope to have a notable keynote speaker, but as usual the primary focus will be sessions led by your fellow entrepeneurs.

      Here is my traditional 30-second elevator pitch blurb for the converence:

      Whether you are an entrepreneur or thinking about starting your own business or simply need a good excuse to go skiing in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Entrepreneurial Connections conference (EntConnect) may be just the conference you have been waiting for. Targeted primarily at engineers (hardware, software, and other) and others with a strong technical interest, it is more of a loosely-structured "unconference", with plenty of opportunities for a relatively small group of participants (15 to 40) to network or even give their own presentations on a very wide range of topics from technology, business strategy, intellectual property and legal issues, accounting issues, finance, marketing, sales, and even selling your business. With plenty of time to ski or otherwise enjoy the mountains and Denver area (great time to visit Boulder or Colorado Springs as well), the conference is a great opportunity to "learn and share" and otherwise have an "out of box" experience. Participants and speakers range over the full spectrum from wannabes and newcomers to successful young entrepreneurs and seasoned veterans. The conference is an excellent opportunity to meet up with former readers (and possibly even the publisher) of Midnight Engineering magazine as well. The conference runs from Thursday, March 25, 2010 through Sunday, March 28, 2010.

      Visit the official conference Web site, EntConnect.org.

      I have been attending the conference since it first started in 1992 as ME SKI '92 and then evolved into ENTCON and then Entrepreneurial Connections or EntConnect.

      I actually have not even started planning my trip. I need to decide whether to come in on Thursday or Friday and leave on Sunday evening or Monday. In the back of my head I have even contemplated taking the time to take the train, but that's not a high probability, yet.

      For a little nostalgia, check out the original ME SKI '92 conference announcement.

      Oh, and please feel free to join the Midnight Engineers Yahoo discussion forum.

      -- Jack Krupansky