Archive for February, 2010

dear lazyweb: personal finance software?

Dear Lazyweb:

Quicken?  Quicken Essentials?  Mint?  Moneydance?  GnuCash?  MS Money?  Some other thing I haven’t heard of?  Pimp your solutions at me, please: go!

In an ideal world, this would:

  • have an iPhone app interface, so I can quickly add in things like restaurant bills
  • do bill payment
  • interface with my various bank/retirement accounts
  • run on MacOS X if it’s not a pure-web solution

an apology for the ages

(Hoisted from comments over at gothamist; slightly edited and expanded here for clarity.)

So apparently Tiger Woods had a press conference to apologize to the world of sports journalism for behaving pretty much like every professional athlete in history.  I would have happily avoided any contact with this information, but there’s a TV mounted in front of the treadmill at the gym, and some days I’m dumb enough to look up at it.  It was the usual dreary scene: “I’m sorry I disappointed everyone, I’m in therapy now, I hope you can forgive me, and I take all the responsibility.”  And I found myself thinking: you know what would be awesome?  What would be awesome would be if he’d come out in front of the cameras and said something like:

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry all of you dumb bastards were deluded enough to think that any professional athlete, ever, was a suitable role model for yourself or your kids. I’m sorry that our nation’s priorities are so screwed up that any newspaper in country, never mind all of them, devoted more than an inch of print to this story when there are only twenty people it actually matters to: me, my wife, my children and the sixteen strippers I was banging on the side.

But since we’re all here and you don’t seem to be going away, here’s a bit of truth: professional athletes are assholes. To get to the top of any pro sport, even a half-assed one like golf, requires a level of mental obsession and physical commitment that no sane person would ever endure. You probably pat yourself on the back if you do half an hour of cardio work in the gym three days a week. For me, or Tom Brady, or god forbid a mutant like Michael Phelps, that’s called a warm-up, and we do it before we’ve had breakfast, every day of the week. Then the real work starts. It’s difficult, it hurts, and it breaks the body down: we require teams of trained physicians, masseurs, trainers and physical therapists just to make sure that we don’t snap every ligament in our bodies.  I’m not asking for sympathy here: actually I think it’s pretty much the best job in the world.  But let me repeat: no sane person does this.

So why do we? Why do I do it? First, because we are hyper-competitive obsessives. The idea of not being the best, of not enduring any amount of agony if it even slightly increased the chances of winning is almost physically unbearable. If my trainer told me that I could cut three points off my handicap by beating my own mother to death, I’d say ‘sorry, ma’ as I reached for the 9-iron and started wailing away.  Michael Jordan used to bite the heads off of live kittens because somebody told him it’d help his layup.  It’s true, I swear.

But second and much more relevant here, in the words of the great philosopher Tony Montana: ‘First you get the money. Then you get the power. Then you get the women.’ Champion athletes are made, not born, and they’re made when little Johnny sixth-grader realizes that the high school varsity quarterback gets to date the head cheerleader. Trust me: there is no greater motivating force on earth than a teenage boy’s desire for sex and adulation. We all do this (even the gay ones, I’m looking at you Johnny Weir) because we know in our bones that the benefits package for this job includes unlimited access to fantasy-grade sex partners. And all you poor slobs out there wishing you were Drew Brees know this too. It’s part of why you watch us, maybe even the biggest part.

By the way, I’m pretty sure this is how it works for female pros as well: they’re just usually a lot smarter about not getting caught out in public. But if you think that the WNBA or the LPGA don’t have enough drama to match the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Also, maybe you figured this out already, but we’re all a little fucked-up around gender and relationships in general.  A professional training and competition regimen means that we all spend 14 hours out of every day hanging around a very small group of people, and they’re all either exactly the same kind of obsessive competitors that I am, or they’re trainers and bodyguards who are paid to be there (and are not paid to offer their opinions on anything not directly related to their job), so not only is there damn little time or opportunity to learn how to treat other people respectfully, there’s basically nobody there who’s going to suggest that it’s even a good idea.  And just so we’re all clear: we like it this way.  I’m the king of my own carefully cultivated little world, and it’s awesome.

So yeah, I fucked around. I liked them blond, jiggly and none-too-smart, and for the last ten years it’s been hot and cold-running bimbos flowing freely any time I wanted to open the tap. The mistake I made wasn’t dogging around, but marrying someone who cared, and not being smart enough to stick to the ones who wouldn’t go running to the newspapers. But given half a chance, I’ll do it all again, because did I mention that I’m a hyper-competitive asshole, and did I mention that without that urge I’d pretty much suck at golf?

So go ahead and take your shots: you thought I was one thing and I turned out to be another, and I know that makes some of you really mad. You feel like having me shill for an insurance company meant that I was somehow committing to living a life of calm risk-aversion. Do I look like an actuary to you? This is what I am, this is part and parcel of why I’m a champion, and if any of you were honest with yourselves for even a minute, you’d admit that and tell your kids that maybe they should pick some better heroes. Of course, you’d best not ask too many questions about what firefighters do in their off hours either.

Thank you and good night. Oh, and that hot blonde number in the back? Call me!”

sparc transit

True story: the now-former CEO of Sun Microsystems, the day after his company ignominiously succumbed to a buyout by Oracle, announced his inevitable resignation by posting a cute haiku to Twitter:

Financial crisis / Stalled too many customers / CEO no more.”

For those of us who watched Schwartz preside over the decade-long destruction of what was once the most important technology company in the world, this is a fitting final insult: revisionist, myopic, and self-serving to the bone.  Allow me to offer a handful of alternative epitaphs for Schwartz’s tenure, still in senryu format:

once upon a time / this company was money / bye-bye you suckers

golden parachute / drifts over palo alto / kiss your job good-bye

dot-com era cash / could not hold off the penguins / now larry owns us

we made cool shit once / spent a decade jacking off / so long, solaris

if you invested / cash in sun microsystems / you were a sucker

company called sun / build the goddamn internet / now long forgotten

datacenters full / of ultra enterprises / now gathering dust

Feel free to add your own.