Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Joys and Trivialities of Holiday Travel

Ahh, what a wonderful holiday I had.

I drove down to So Cal to visit family and during the transit, the award for A-Hole drivers on the way down would go to BMW's.  More of those cars were prone to be in their own death race rally than the rest of us.  Gotta love it when you're doing 80 and a car flies past you like you're in reverse.  When the speed limit was 55, everyone went 70.  Now that it's 70, everyone is going 85 or 90, thinking they are talented enough to actually drive at that rate of speed.

We then visited family and proceeded to get the flu, an upper respiratory thing or strep throat.  Or whatever mutant germ these all formed to attack me with their special version of their green mucal invader.  It seemed everyone had something different. I'm waiting for all the different germs to cancel each other out!

A bunch of us had a boys night out while I was down there.  I think the girls spiked our drinks or food. Each of us fell ill with something.  The odd part is, we all fell ill with something different.  Insidious species, the female gender, can be!

On the drive home to the Bay Area, Lexus drivers took the A-Hole cake award on this leg.  In a traffic pattern that's a mile long with nowhere to go, I have to wonder exactly what is that is on fire as they change lanes 10x in a mile or two.  Just where are you going.  All for naught it seemed, since we seem to be on the same off-ramp 40 miles down the road looking at our next caffeine fix for the next leg of the trip.

The holidays were fine and hope you have good ones too!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Manifest Hope Art Contest

MANIFEST HOPE:DC (www.manifesthope.com) and its partners MoveOn PAC, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Obey Giant launches a contest today, calling for entries of visual artwork from artists across the country in an online contest. The online contest calls for works that use positive messaging to convey the urgency and importance of encouraging a national dialogue about three themes - Heath Care Reform, the Green Economy and Workers' Rights.

MANIFEST HOPE:DC and its partners are offering the public an opportunity to submit art in an online contest, with three chances to win.  The contest is composed of three parts.  Artists can make one submission per category, totaling a maximum of three submissions:

  •     Manifest Opportunity - Stimulating The Green Economy
  •     Manifest Change - Health Care Reform
  •     Manifest Unity - Protecting Workers' Rights

Submissions will be reviewed by a panel of judges including famed artist, Shepard Fairey; Director, Spike Lee; Washington DC based musician, Eric Hilton of the Thievery Corporation; Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Anne Ellegood; SEIU 775NW Healthcare President, David Rolf; Creative & Cultural Director of MoveOn.org, Laura Dawn; and Co-Founder and President of Green For All, Van Jones. Fifteen finalists will be selected to show in the MANIFEST HOPE:DC Gallery alongside well-known artists such as Shepard Fairey, David Choe, Ron English, Ray Noland, Maya Hayuk, Sol Sender and Mike Murphy.

MANIFEST HOPE:DC is produced by Evolutionary Media Group and brings together a diverse coalition of organizations working to achieve shared goals.  
3333 M Street NW
Washington DC 20007

Source: Press Release - Evolutionary Media Group

Ya Gotta Love Your InBox Offers

I just love the interesting things I get in my e-mail inbox. Do these people actually think this crap works? Well, sadly, it must if they keep doing it. It's like carpet bombing. Drop 1,00 bombs get one hit and it's worth the payload.

Let's see - - First I must drop some thanks:

Thanks for...
  • "Emailing me instead of calling me" emails. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that!
  • Thanks so much for the "Investment Letters of opportunity", but I'm going broke on my own just fine.
  • The offer to "Launder foreign money for you" has always been tempting, but I don't need any new (jail) friends.
  • Letting me know I won money, but I don't want to send you my banking information,
  • For offering to help me Lose Weight I don't have to lose,
  • The opportunity for Creating Real Estate Success - real estate is such a booming business these days.
  • For the Unsecured Credit Line offers,
  • The Viagra Offer,
  • To all the Online Chemists wanting to help me with all my Health Needs
  • For the 10k in the next 30 days?? Wow, people must be lined up out the door!
  • For the "$5k referral" that sounds just like the scenario that has this country in this foreclosure panic. a-hole.
Thanks everyone. Obviously there's tons of money floating around out there that completely unknown but really nice strangers want to help give me,... but I'll just keep plugging along on my own for now.


Computer: Excel 2003 Data Label Issues

The other day I was encountering a problem with a co-worker could create charts with a VB script we put together, and she could see the data labels she placed in the chart. She was using Excel 2000. But when I went to run the scripts in my Excel 2003, I could not see the data labels as is. I could expand the Y scale, and they would become visible, but that is not what we wanted to do after putting together a rather complicated VB script. YET, I could send her the files I created, and she could see the data labels. That led me to believe it was another infamous upgrade/improvement process from MS.

I found this Microsoft KB article addressing a very similar issue, that, when applied, fixed our scenario.

If anyone has a similar problem, check it out.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Secret Garden

Did you know there's a real secret garden out there?

It's the botanical garden on Mt Scopus on the Hebrew University of Jerusalem! Founded in the 1930's.

Right now, it's purpose is to preserve groups of plants and species on the brink of extinction. For much more detailed info on this wonderful endeavor, check out haaretz.com.

If you were looking for info on the movie, check out Cinema Static.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Vent about ACDSee 9

I've been a faithful user of ACDSee products since they've been shareware.  I love(d) it.  But I think it's getting too big for it's own britches.

I've got ACDSee 9.  It's installed on different computers between home and work.  And they (The Photo Manager) are all doing the same thing.

I have to start the image manager 3x to get it to work properly.  I sometimes can't do the same thing more than 4 times before it takes a crap and it's just getting annoying.  Well, if anything, it makes me leery of any newer version since they've abandoned this version to bigger and better versions.  (I keep checking their site for updates for this version, to no avail.) 

It would seem I will probably need to buy a newer version and HOPE it is more stable than this POC that is driving me crazy.  At this juncture, I'm not sure what to do.  I'm acclimated to their features but I should not have to acclimate.  And the pecuilar behavior that exists on completely different computers just makes me suspicious.

I don't want long boot times
I don't want to have to start it more than once to use it.
I want to use it and not have it crash, which it does more often than not.
It takes forever to load at times too...  well, actually, it loads slow everytime.

So now I have to start tooling around with different apps yet again until I find something useful.


That's my mini-vent because I was in a rush to look at images and couldn'd do it.  Thanks for your patience!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Computer: For the New User - Converting CD's into MP3

If you need to convert files to MP3, you can use either Windows Media Player or Applie iTunes.

For WMP:
Right-click along the top of the window.
Select Tools.
Then Options.
Click the Rip Music tab.
Choose MP3 as the format.

For iTunes (on a Mac)
Under the drop-down menu labeled iTunes, selct Preferences.
Then selct the icon for Importing.
In the drop-down menu for Import Using, select the MP3 Encoder, then click OK.

Both programs work equally well and allow you to select a bit rate of up to 320Kbps. If you want to take up less space on your hard drive, opt for a lower bit rate; use a higher bit rate if sound quality is more important to you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Feel-Good Story of Reward

With around $100 million in sales last year, Peer Bearing Co. was recently acquired by a Swedish company.

Danny Spungen, whose grandfather founded the company, said it was a unanimous family decision to thank employees with bonuses.

Nice bonuses.

They decided to share a whopping $6.6 million amongst it's mere 230 employees. The funds were pro-rated per time of service, but what a nice thing to do for their staff.

Imagine getting a bonus check in mid-September for $33,000? I'd be lucky to see $330!

Every now and then it's nice to see feel-good moments and deeds like this.

Happy Holidays to everyone.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Remember Those "Victims" of the Tiger Attack At The SF Zoo??

So they taunt a Tiger, (Allegedly of course), they get attacked and the Tiger gets killed for it. 
Nice...  Zoos need more video surveilance, etc., etc.

Then they sued for damages.  Another nice loophole in the Justice System.  I firmly believe when you are robbing a bank and trip on the doorway, the illegal activity should trump any possible legal claims about getting hurt tripping on the door, but that's just my humble opinion.  (Yes, that happened somewhere.)

So I felt like spreading the wealth on the Tiger attack victims today:

Tiger-attack survivor Amritpal "Paul" Dhaliwal was sentenced Thursday.  Highlights include:
  • He must stay away from all Target stores in Alameda County
  • He's been linked to other crimes in other Targets in different counties
  • He is currently serving a 16-month sentence in state prison for violating his parole due to a reckless-driving arrest in San Jose, which involved a high-speed chase
  • He pleaded no contest to the grand theft charge in exchange for the dismissal of one other count of grand theft and three counts of commercial burglary
  • Kulbir Dhaliwal, 24, was sentenced last week to 10 days in jail for public intoxication and resisting arrest
But don't forget as his defense attorney reminded us:  "He is psychologically and emotionally wounded by the tiger attack,".  How do defense attorneys sleep at night... upside down?

Rumor and other past articles have shed an ill light on the two brothers from day one of the Zoo attack and yet they somehow have a legitimate foot to stand on... I don't get it.  Funny world, how it's developing with all it's rules and laws.

The entire article is a bit more coherent in structure...  I just had to vent. 

[ source:  The Daily Review, Inside the Bay ]

Computer: Worse Virus Ever WARNING Debunked - No Postcard From Hallmark Yet.

by Bruce Simmons  (BrusSimm)
Tis the time of year where you start receiving well meant, but fraudulent warnings from your friends about viruses that don't exist... again.

I have received yet another well meaning e-mail warning me of the most destructive computer virus ever, coming at me in the form of a fake header saying you have a "Postcard From Hallmark", and other such similar headers.  Whoa be me, but don't open anything like that or more importantly, don't click on the links that show supposed warnings!  That's where the real virus lurks, at the end of the fake link.  Better yet, before you forward this well meaning e-mail to all your friends, do your own research.

Most destructive virus ever??  How much worse can it be than of the three variants already out there:
  • Erase your files
  • Make your Computer a Zombie Bot
  • Collect keystrokes and info like passwords and account numbers.
To calm my nerves, I jump out on Google and verify. 

For instance, when I searched for "Postcard From Hallmark", I found results from Urban Legends and SNOPES declaring it a hoax.  (BTW:  The email declares that Norton Anti-Virus and SNOPES verified the information.)

This brings something else to mind:  Have you ever gotten an email that says if you forward this good luck charm to 10 or more friends, something cool will happen at a link in the email?  How does that "link" know you've sent the email?  How does it know you've sent more than 10 emails?  Hmm.  There have been subtle and unproven rumors that mass forwarding of emails just helps spammers collect email addresses through the same function.

To be more realistic, when someone who doesn't protect their PC as well as they should gets some form of virus or malware infection, the emails that have hundreds of forwarded email addresses are captured and THEN your email address becomes fodder.

Play it smart and though you are thinking of your friends, think smart first and verify the warning, FOR REAL, at
What surprises me is that the same person repeatedly sends these warnings out and no matter how many times I "reply-all" and debunk the warning, they never change their ways.  They do mean well.  I just wish they'd read well!

Folks, verify from the originator before opening things.  That's all you need to do to stay safe.

Calorie Mindful Eating Out

I was looking for some info on something I wanted to eat, and came across this site:


It's not all encompassing, but it has a lot of stuff in it as a starter point.

In my case, I was looking up a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish and found the exact info I was looking for, but other places are fully staffed with info too. If there is no grade next to an item, you wont see a calorie chart. At least in the few items I checked on under Applebee's.

Then I came across http://www.nutritiondata.com/ & well, there's lots of stuff out there and it depends on what you are looking for..

My wife hit on this site, Dotti's Weight Loss Zone and it has a lot of info base on points from some Weight Watchers. It's a simple but thorough site.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Millions of New Pics Online from LIFE

LIFE and Google just released over 10 million new pictures on the internet that have never been seen before.

These images can be found when conducting a search on Google.com or on Google Image Search. Users can also search through the LIFE Collection directly by visiting http://images.google.com/hosted/life.

The collection will be one of the largest collections of professional images on the internet and as the scanning project moves along, the images will become available.

This is ~70 years of photos folks.

On top of that, the LIFE Photo Archive will include
  • The Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination;
  • The Mansell Collection from London;
  • Dahlstrom glass plates of New York and environs from the 1880's;
  • Hugo Jaeger Nazi-era Germany 1937-1944;
  • DMI red-carpet celebrity shots;
  • Pix Inc. personalities;
  • the entire works left to the Collection from LIFE photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gjon Mili, and Nina Leen.

Imagery will also be available to purchase through QOOP.com, a leader in online art sales.

All comments are welcome from Place of Thoughts readers.

source: Time Warner press release

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Vacuum; A Cat Ride

This is just too funny and I can't help myself in posting this. Enjoy! And here all this time I've been buying my cats mice shaped toys. What was I thinking?!?!?!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Troublesome Home Loan Practices

Of all the processes that go on within a real estate transaction, there are a few things that need to be paid attention to. Though not illegal, it can be annoying to be on the receiving end of subtle errors in the decision making processes.

Four of the more troublesome practices within the loan process, as recognized by the Federal Reserve are:

Prepayment penalties: When borrowers seek to pay off expensive loans early they may be hit with a fee of as much as six months of mortgage payments. (It's usually specified in your paperwork.)

Failure to require escrows for taxes and insurance: These expenses add to the monthly costs of home ownership but mortgage servicers do not always require borrowers to bank the payments in escrow accounts with them. As a result, the payments may be put off, resulting in tax delinquencies or insurance coverage lapses.

Stated income and low-documentation lending: "So-called "liar loans" that encourage borrowers to exaggerate income to qualify for larger mortgages than they can handle. (Can we say housing market crisis? Or market meltdown?)

Failure to give adequate consideration to a borrower's ability to repay a loan: Many loan originators have no monetary interest in loans after the deal is done. That encourages them to approve borrowers they know, or should know, cannot afford to make the payments.

These practices are not, in themselves, issues, because borrowers may rightly choose a loan with hefty prepayment penalty if that lowers the interest rates on their loans.

The problems arise when loan originators apply these provisions indiscriminately or with predatory intent. (If you read your contracts, you won't be surprised.)

See the whole article (dated Jun '07, but still relevant) over at money.cnn.com

Monday, December 15, 2008

Computer: Do You Have Any Home Wi-Fi Dead Spots?

Have you noticed that in different spots in your own home, your Wi-Fi reception can be questionable at times? It can be annoying but sometimes the remedy is pretty simple.

Rather than go on and on about repeaters and omni-directional antennas and other such high tech gadgets that are more confounding than useful, I've come upon a few easy fixes. Not to mention that in my own experiences, repeaters have not been that successful for me despite the premise of how they would seem to work.

First, you want to verify it's a location issue. Put your laptop right next to your wireless router and make sure it is picking up the signal.

If the signal is fine, great, it's not the router or the laptop.

There are a few remedies for strengthening the signal which could be just as easy as relocating your router to a more centralized location in your home, or raising it up in the room it's in to keep the signal clear of obstructions.

Obstructions? Yep. Materials like brick, concrete, metal and water seem to be developing reputations for signal interference.

Other things that can get in your signal path are things like your CD collection. The mylar on the CD's can refract more than light and if you have a collection right next to your router, or where you sit, if possible, relocate the CD's, the router or where you sit to see if that helps any.

Also, if your router is set to 'Auto Channel", try picking a channel and see if that helps.

There are many options and most of them cost money. My preference is try the old stand by of free first before blowing money on something you may not need. And though there's no guarantee these options will work for you, at least you now have a few ideas under your belt.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Your Cell Phone Battery Life

Cell phone batteries.

The most annoying little items after about a year in use. On my own older phone, after about a year the battery started to wind down.. after 2 years, my battery indicator would drop by one bar per call. (It only had 3 bars!!)

So I replaced the battery.. sort of.. I bought a new phone, and technically I got a new battery in the process, I hope.

I was tooling around on the Verizon website (I went with Verizon Wireless because under my Consumer Reports online subscription, Verizon Wireless had the best reviews across different markets) and I came across some of the following tips for helping your battery last longer:

Tips for extending battery life
Avoid exposing the battery to extreme heat and cold. (I'm good with that.. I hate exposing myself to extreme cold and heat, so the phone should be safe.)

For the first 3 charge cycles, fully charge the battery overnight and allow it to fully discharge before recharging (battery conditioning). (So you need to be brave and let your phone die on you the first 3 times of use.)

Charge and re-condition a battery after an extended idle period.
A lithium-ion battery may be damaged by extensive overcharging (continuously on a charger for more than 24 hours). (Oops... I might be guilty of that with my old phone.)

Keep your phone, batteries, and the contact terminals clean. The contacts can easily be cleaned with a pencil eraser. (My old phone had bad contact design, or at least a tech at one of the stores told me that.)

Use the battery. If possible, avoid letting your battery sit idle for long periods of time.
Use only the phone options and accessories that you really need. (I tend to minimize my items in use on my phone, so I got that one covered.)

Hope this helps

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gift Cards and the Consumer

Did you know that almost 50 million people purchased gift cards in 2006?

Of those 50 million folks, 61% of them spend more than the original gift card amount and that 33% of the total value is never used or redeemed by the user.

That's a wacky set of statistics from vantage card, but then gift cards can be quite the convenience. It erases the trauma of figuring out what to get someone, keeps the outlet focused and everyone is happy. IE: If you ever get me a Starbucks or Peets' gift card, you could never go wrong in my book!

Over at couponing.about.com, they note that that in 2007, over $26 billion will be spent on gift cards and that around $8 billion of that won't be used!! WOW!!! Send me your gift cards!! I can make great use of $8 billion worth of coffee.. though I don't think I'd ever sleep again!

Despite the ease of the gift cards, some have hidden fees. Credit card gift cards for one.. (Are you surprised?) Some malls also depreciate the face-value of a gift card when it's not redeemed within a specific time.

So be sure to find out all the details of a card before snagging it. (Yea, I know I'm a bit late for the Christmas season, but I just got this thought today!)


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finding Out Of State DMV's

Moving just plain sucks. And then once you've moved, if it's out of state or town, it's even worse because you find yourself wandering about lost, dazed, confused... grumbling... hungry... need brains... Oh, wrong blog.

OK, so if for some reason you can't find your own state's dmv website, or you're moving and don't know what that state's DMV website might be called, check out this general link to all the (Well, most) states DMV websites from the USPS.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Perspective On Lender Fees

When you are in the middle of a real estate transaction, there is a lot of different paperwork that comes swirling at you. It can be confusing and one tends to follow the advice or guidance of their agents. The trick is, they can only offer guidance and the bottom line of understanding your paperwork falls completely on you. The present housing crisis is a great example of people not getting the best information.

One of the tidbits I'd like to look at right now is Lender Good Faith Estimates. They may look different between the different lender offerings and could be confusing, but they effectively, are all the same.


Read the rest of my article over on my Associated Content account for insight to contracts, closing papers and just how much power you do have over all the agents in the process.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Freaky Computer Avatars That Think

If you've ever been in Second Life and encountered an avatar named Edd who was terse in his responses and a little focused on his own goal, don't worry - you werent getting the cold shoulder. Heck, you weren't even dealing with a human.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute put the AI together and set him loose in Second Life.

Don't worry, he's got limited ability to converse and reason, but sure enough, he's been put on the loose! Well, in a controlled sense.

Second Life is a great controllable environment where AI's can be tried out and an inexpensive methodology for testing.

I think it's a neat premise and hopefully it's not going to be called Sky-Net!!!! dOh!

Read the rest of this interesting concept at USA Today.
If that link is dead, this google search should find the info.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Computer: Wanna Secure Your Wireless Router?

When you install or have a wireless network at home, do you secure your network? You should. Folks can pull up within range of your home and use your service without you really knowing about it. I've seen too many cars parked in odd spots in front of homes, with the driver on their laptop. Gee, what could they be doing?

If someone can access your connection, they can also access your computer if it's on. If someone is insidious enough, they can do things you probably don't like. There are too many things to ponder that they can do to your files or computer. Let your imagination run wild.

But there are things you can do to prevent, or at least hamper the hacker who might want to add your computer to their zombie network.

Here are some basics to know:

Change the SSID (the name) of your network and disabling the SSID broadcast. This will protect you from the opportunist who’s in a hurry.

Disable DHCP/Access Control. This will not stop a hacker with even minimal knowledge, as there are many tools which will sniff out available IP addresses on your network, but again, the casual hacker can be stopped.

MAC address filtering again will only hamper the opportunist as a hacker with a little know-how will be able to clone your MAC address--and see everything on your network.

BUT if you really want to put a snare in the process, there's always
WPA: A randomized pre-shared key of at least 10 characters would take half-a-million years to crack. (Note: A random key means that it shouldn’t be a word that exists in any dictionary (hackers have extensive dictionaries that include all common passwords, English words, nicknames, and misspellings of words. This is called a “dictionary attack.”) A random key is a meaningless mix of lower- and uppercase letters and numbers, and sometimes special characters like punctuation, depending on whether your router supports it). If you’re not sure how to get a random key, or have writers block, you can find software that will generate a key for you (type “software generate wpa key” into your favorite search engine).

Keep it smart, play it safe!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cool Things (More) In Google Earth

Wanna see some airplanes?

Try typing this in your Google Earth window:  (It's been said this works in google maps, but Earth is funner...  er, or, more fun.)
44°53'35.66"N,   93°12'12.35"W.  Set your eye altitude for 1200 feet.  (Eye altitude is on the far, bottom right.)
40°45'51.84"N,   74°00'00.61"W.  Set your eye altitude for 900 feet.
This is called Blackbird Park.  These are two retired birds, engines pulled, but for public visiting... free.
34°36'9.48"N,  118° 5'8.86"W.  Set your eye altitude to 3268 feet.  (Yes, that's a U2 behind them)

Check out this big bird at Edwards Air Force Base:
34°56'49.90"N,  117° 53'09.43"W.  Set your eye altitude to 3263 feet.

Check out this display collection at Edwards:
 34°56'7.16"N, 117°52'54.19"W.  Eye Altitude:  3000 ft.

Of course, if you don't want to do all the typing, and have Google Earth go this Google Earth Blog link and get the add-on for the SR-71's, and planes in flight kmz files.

Have fun gang.

Need a Screenshot But Can't Afford Software?

Hey all! If you're new to the web, or just don't use computers all that much we don't always know how to tackle some silly or simple needs when they arise.

For example, say you need to send an image of your desktop or an open app window to a friend who's helping you do something.

That's not too hard to do actually.

First, I recommend opening up WordPad. To get that open, you need to go to:
  • Start,
  • Programs,
  • Accessories
It's located there.

See my screen shot showing the open menus on my system while I was writing this.

I say open WordPad because you'll need a place to paste the image you are about to take. If you have Word or some other editor, that's fine too. I'm just picking the simplest application for everyone off the top of my head because WordPad comes with your MS operating system.

Now here's the trick, and it involves a key on your keyboard that has Print Scrn on it.

To snag the whole screen on your monitor, press
  • Shift and Print Scrn.
If you just want to snag an application window itself and not the whole beast, try
  • Alt and Print Scrn.

Once you've snagged your screen shot, you just need to go to your open document, and hit paste and bingo: you've got an image from your screen in your document and now you can email that beast right off to your buddy who's helping you out!

There are software applications that do this also, but they're things you have to pay for. SnagIt is one. I use ACDSee and I like their screen shot utility and there are countless others, both free and purchasable. SnagIt has been around a long time.

I have to tell you, writing about screen shots and testing them, and then trying to hop back and forth between the screen, my test document and the writing interface was really confusing at moments. I wasn't sure where I was at spots!! My head spins... I must go.

I hope this helps someone and remember, comments or questions are always welcome here on Bruce's Place of Thoughts. If you have a question, just leave it in the comments section. If you don't want it approved to being posted, just say so upfront in the comment and I can answer your question either through this blog or in email.

Thanks for coming by - Bruce

Friday, December 5, 2008

Easy Food For a Sick Dog

If you've ever had a pooch who's gotten sick and developed a sensitive stomach and gotten finicky with what they eat, you might want to consider Gerbers Baby Food.

It's easy to eat & digest. It worked for my dog fairly well. -Bruce

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fun With Excel Visual Basic: Reading A Cell

The other day I desperately wanted to figure out how to read an Excel spreadsheet cell with Visual Basic for Excel. Seemed simple enough but no matter where I looked, all the answers to this rather simple problem were about 10 lines long, minimum.

Grr... programmers.

FINALLY, after a few days of searching, emailing and calling, I came across someone who answered my question. That is, once I got the right question.

If you want to read a cell from an Excel spreadsheet, using Visual Basic into a variable for later use in a macro / Visual Basic script, all you need to do is the following:
  • var = WorkSheets("Sheet 1").Cells(row,col)
Sheet 1 would be the name of the sheet at the bottom of the page,
Cells(row,col) is the number of rows down, columns to the right, starting your count from 1.
For instance, cell F3 would be Cells(3,6).

I'm not treating it like a database, I'm not doing fancy - I am just reading the cell for latter use in the routine.

Disclaimer: This works for the Excel file that contains both the sheet with the cells and the VB script in the same file. It does not account for reading a completely different worksheet from a different file, but I suspect this tidbit will get you going on the right path.

Enjoy. I finally did!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

If You Are Tired of SPAM

I am tired of spam. When I was a real estate agent, I signed up for my RealtorAssociation not realizing that the real estate industry looks to make money from every angle possible, including having their email lists snagged by every possible real estate related industry business so you get spam forever and a day.

I won't even touch on the advertisers that are allowed to spam you in-network like on the tools you pay for to do your job.

So every Tom, Harry and DICK who's looking to send you their real estate related sales pitch hits this database up and collects the email addresses, in one fashion or another.

I love the "businesses" with the aol or hotmail or yahoo addresses. That's just too funny and so unprofessional looking that it almost doesn't even merit a nod. Just go away people.

At some point, I want to be able to stop some of these nuisances. For instance, the Genesis Training Group based in Idaho doesn't get it. Their link to unsubscribe seems to be fake, or more to the point, does not work. So I've sent them 5 Opt-Out requests to no avail.

I know I've opted out 5 times. I keep an excel spread sheet, sorted by originating email address, the date and the action I took on that date. In my mind, when you keep records and have to refer to them when contacting the authorities it holds more water than just gesturing in air with your arms in words.

So after my fifth request, what the heck to do I do? When I'm just sick enough from a source, I report SPAM. That's what I do.

If you want to report a specific ISP sender, you can use these email adresses:

Hotmail report_spam@hotmail.com
MSN report_spam@msn.com
GMail gmail-abuse@google.com
Report GMail spam*
Menu Option to "Report Spam"
Yahoo! Stores store-spam@yahoo-inc.com
Yahoo! Hosted Domans domains-abuse@yahoo-inc.com

* These options are for internal, ISP users. IE: An AOL account can forward their spam email to tosspam in the AOL system. (source: spamlinks.net)

If you receive emails that appear to exploit children, by all means, report it immediately to the CyberTipLine website.

If you are inclined to get securities related spam, you can forward the offending emails to:

Per the SEC Center for Complaints and Enforcement Tips web page.

Anyway, back to my battle. I've got a site that's sent me emails a few more times despite my "Opt Out" messages to them. It's time to test the process!!

Comments are always welcome from Place of Thoughts readers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Real Estate Insights: Builders Can't Force You to Use Their Lender

New-home buyers: Don't forget that your builder can't require you to use their preferred lender. They can only suggest. Some may suggest in such a way that does not seem like a suggestion, but it is.

When a builder tries to get you to use some affiliated lender by either offering incentives or even possibly withholding incentives, the right response from you is to slow down and look things over more carefully.

Federal real estate settlement rules require that incentives be legitimate and not built into the price of the house or the cost of your loan.

In other words, they should not impact your loan!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Computer: EXCEL - Comparing Columns of Date

So once again I'm chasing some numbers in Excel and I needed to compare a column of 275 #'s against a column of 1000 #'s. Here's how I did it:

So if your 1000 row column of data in column A. Place your 2nd column of 275 #'s Data in Column C. (You can actually put it whereever you want, it will still work.)

The formula you want to put in column B between A1 and C1 is:

So what we are doing is comparing cell A1 to the entire column C to see if it matches.
Now grab that anchor and drag it down the sheet. The $C$1:$C$250 is not going to change because we locked it in with the $ signs, but A1 will change to A2, A3 as you drag the anchor.

Poof, you instantly have a comparison of the 2 mismatched rows of data.

I'm not done yet. I've been doing a lot of programming lately, so here's an option if you have so many rows of data in one column that it would be easier to write a Visual Basic macro than drag that anchor 60,000 lines. Check out this trick:

Press ALT+F11 to start the Visual Basic editor.
On the Insert menu, click Module.
Enter the following code in a module sheet:

Sub Find_Matches()
Dim CompareRange As Variant, x As Variant, y As Variant
Set CompareRange = Range("C1:C250")
For Each x In Selection
For Each y In CompareRange
If x = y Then x.Offset(0, 1) = x
Next y
Next x
End Sub

Press ALT+F11 to return to Excel.

In Excel 2003 and earlier versions,
choose Macro on the Tools menu,
then click Macros.

In Excel 2007, click the Developer tab, and then click Macro in the Code group.