Friday, January 02, 2009

Changes for 2009

Most will agree that 2008 was a pretty tough year, and our family is no different from most. We've lost substantial money in the stock market, our home value is half of what it recently was, and the family budget doesn't stretch quite as far as it used to.

Still, there are reasons to be thankful. 2008 saw my happy return to working for a company that I love, on programs that are exciting and fulfilling. 2008 saw my boys turning into very good musicians, both in their choral programs and in their piano and guitar lessons. 2008 saw Eddie's and Luke's academics better than ever before. And 2008 was the year of Barack Obama. For these, I am thankful.

However, 2008 didn't manage to get out without giving me one last kick in the balls. Late on New Years Eve, as we were washing up from dinner, Becky called me in to fix the plugged kitchen sink. Little bits of food and sludge were floating around in the double sink.

I tried plunging it, shop-vacuuming it, and snaking it, but that sink was clogged! Finally, Dad and I determined that the trap must be clogged, so I set to removing the trap.

Normally, this is an easy task, removing the three collar bolts that secure the trap to the sink and the garbage disposal. The two top collars loosened up just fine, but while trying to loosen the lower collar on the trap itself, I pulled too hard and heard a gut wrenching *CRACK*!

I had broken the PVC drain pipe off clean at the wall. Dammit!

Now the wall would have to be busted out to reattach a new pipe. And worse still, upon further inspection, the trap was clear. The clog must still be in the wall!

So we spent early 2009 without the use of our kitchen sink or dishwasher, instead hand washing after meals in the laundry room sink. Finally, today, M.E. Flow came to fix the sink. The plumber was very friendly, but chided me in a benevolent way about the perils of garbage disposals and PVC pipes. As he put it, "Garbage disposals are the worse invention ever. Pipes were made for soap and water--never for food bits." He went on to say that the worst combination of things for the pipes are rice and onions, which combine in a matrix to form a solid sludgy mass resembling concrete.

As luck would have it, our clog (which was indeed a very bad one of grease and decayed foodstuffs six feet deep in the wall) was pretty easily cleared with the super-powered snake that the plumber used. And as further luck would have it, a very minor portion of the back cabinet had to be cut away to allow the plumber to repair the pipe and trap assembly. The total bill was only $515. I was expecting quadruple that.

2009 has started off very nicely indeed.

Another reason for my 2009 joy is my final abandonment of Quicken. I am done, done, DONE! with that program. I had been a Quicken user for something like 15 years, and my data files were ridiculous. I had tried to delete old securities, but Quicken would never let me do that because of the precious cost basis data it maintained.

Instead, I would be forced to endure lockups and slowdowns while it processed inefficiently through my data file. Some of these would last fifteen minutes while I sat there twiddling my thumbs! Worse still, Intuit has begun strong arming its customers to enforce upgrades at least every other year, to the tune of $80 for the premier package (which handles investments properly)--no discounted upgrade pricing.

I was tired of upgrading to see no significant improvement in functionality, and a marked downgrade each time in reliability and speed. What's worse, I started seeing advertisements in my program! (I paid for my program! I don't expect to see ads when I pay for stuff!)

I finally resolved to be rid of Quicken entirely, but this was hard to do because of how dependent I'd become on its ability to consolidate my finances, provide a budget, and perform online banking.

Then Moneydance came along. This program, though not open source, is a very good program for Linux. It costs only $40, and upgrades are $19 from there on out.

Moneydance feels very much like Quicken did back in the 1990's--fast, efficient, and lean--just what I need and no more. It handles my loans and investments fine, and the online banking mostly works (good enough). It took some time to get everything converted over, but I'm glad to now be rid of Quicken.

So, I am now 100% Ubuntu in this house. My last remaining Windows program has bit the dust.

2009 is turning out very good indeed.

Happy Hogmanay, everybody!

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