Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Best flight stats site

When my inlaws flew in and out last week it would have been nice to know about this site: http://www.flightstats.com

It's the flight arrival/departure stats site for all time.  Not only does it show estimated time of arrival/departure (of course), it summarizes the weather info, and everything else known about that flight.  What's its historical on-time arrival performance? Are there any other delays at that airport right now?   

Anybody know a good tax consultant?

My taxes aren't super complicated -- it's not like I've got second homes and rental property all over the place -- but I'm not a 1040EZ case either.  Last year I filed using TurboTax Online, and it worked great except for, um, a slight boo-boo that could have been prevented if somebody who knows tax law was looking over my shoulder.  In past years, like when we moved from California and bought a new house, I've paid professionals, but I haven't been happy with the tax consultants we've found in the Bellevue or Mercer Island area.  I have all my records in order, so it should be an easy job for somebody who knows what they're doing. I just want quality, and somebody who can explain to me what they're doing.

Judysbook.com has a recommendation somebody posted for Harley H Hoppe & Associates, but it looks like a property tax specialist who would probably be overkill for me. 

Who do you use for your taxes?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Renton City Council Mtg

As many Mercer Island residents as possible are needed at the Renton City Council meeting Monday Feb 26th at 7:00pm.  Unlike  MI City Council meetings, you need to request prior to the meeting that you want to make a short (~3 minute) comment.  If you arrive at 6:30-6:45pm, you can make your request then.  The meeting takes place at:
Renton City Hall, 7th Floor Council Chambers
1055 South Grady Way
Renton, WA 98057
Phone: (425) 430-6501
For directions: http://rentonwa.gov/government/default.aspx?id=1172
 The City Council is going into a "retreat" later next week and discussing the airport is on the agenda of that retreat.  So this is a good opportunity to leave them with some thoughts.  It would also help to put comments in writing and coming with enough copies so that they can be handed to each City Council member right there at the meeting.  That way the council members have something to read and think about prior to the retreat.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Prius EPA mileage changes

Starting with 2008 model year vehicles, the EPA will change the way it calculates miles per gallon estimates.  The new math is supposed to be more realistic, and from my two months of driving a Prius I believe the new numbers more than the old ones.

  • 2007 Prius, currently rated at 60/51 (city/hwy) will drop to 51/46.
  • 2006 Honda Odyssey, currently 19/26 (city/hwy) will decrease to 17/24.
  • Infiniti G35x goes from 19/25 to 17/23
  • Altima goes from 26/35 to 23/32

Although it sounds like the Prius drops much more than other cars, in fact it amounts to the same absolute amount of gas, since the Prius uses less gas to start with. 

I've been getting in the low 40's overall so far, disappointingly low but explainable because:

  1. The MPG is generally low during the first 5000 miles of "break in"
  2. My commute is only 13 miles, which is not enough time for the engine to warm up.  My MPG is closer to 50 if you start calculating 5 minutes after startup.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Don't tell your kids they're smart

Po Bronson (a Stanford classmate, by the way) wrote this article for New York Magazine about how dangerous it is to tell your kids that they're smart.  When you praise your kids, praise them for effort, not intelligence. 

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mercer Island political donations

One nice consequence of campaign finance law is that you can see how much money your friends have donated to political candidates or registered lobbyists.  These databases are all on line and you can easily see how much was donated by any of your Mercer Island friends.

You can also snoop on other people.  Bill Gates is my favorite: he gives about equally to everyone. Why be stuck with one side?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

2009 Prius

Here's what Popular Mechanics says it will look like:

MPG goes up to 80 and it gets more power.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Walkie Talkies

We just bought a couple of Motorola SX700R Talkabout radios for the family to use while hiking and skiing in areas where cell phones don't work.  They use a public radio band called GMRS that's licensed specifically for this purpose and is more powerful than the FRS ("Family Radio Service") you get in those cheap kids walkie-talkies.  The FCC requires a license ($80 for 5 years) to use GMRS radios, but I just discovered that you don't need a license in Canada, which it turns out is where we'll be using them when we go there to ski.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Save your pennies!

A serious proposal by the Chicago Fed on how to solve the problem that pennies melted for their metal content are currently worth than one cent: Just declare that from now on pennies are worth 5 cents. This also devalues the nickel, another coin that is almost never used and worth more for its metal.

The Treasury Department can simply offer to exchange 20 pennies for a dollar bill, and you could watch all those pennies in circulation disappear very quickly.