Tuesday, July 29, 2008

lower your property tax - part 2

The county has approved my request for lower property valuation. I saved a lot for money for a bit of research and a quick call to my Realtor. It's terrible that my home is worth less than my purchase price, but I'm not going to focus on that paper loss. We love our home and plan to be here for a long time.

Even though the stock and housing markets seem really bad, I try to stay calm and find some method to make it work for me in a small way. Saving on property tax recovers than 1% of my property value loss per year. But, it's something.

The same goes for the stock market. At the beginning of this year, I redirected all my new retirement contribution to money market fund instead of mutual funds. I went against my financial advisor's advice, and probably went against every retirement investment book recommendation. Only time will tell if this was the money right decision. Right now, I feel so much better knowing that a small part of retirement is safe in this turbulent times.

I believe that simple act of staying involved and thinking calmly will help me to make better personal financial decisions.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Alaska Vacation Part 2

I would like to share with everyone some of nice scenic pictures that we took on the vacation. I really need to upgrade camera memory to a couple of 8 gig compact flash. So I wouldn't have to lug around a laptop next time. :)

Here are some highlights. You can find the rest of the pictures here

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Friday, July 18, 2008

how to scrap dynamic web pages

If you need to collect dynamic html data from websites without programming, your options are pretty limited. Excel has a web query tool. There are a few 3rd party tools. You alway had to write up a bunch of regular expression searches and match rules. It's a major pain and not very flexible.

I found this amazing new startup web service. It's truly awesome. The web services allows a non-programmer to enter some sample URLs. The site extracts the html pages. Analyze the common data and layout. Then user gets an easy to use web tool to select which data elements to be extracted. It's as simple as clicking on the fields that you want. No programming, no regular expression, just point and click.

Effectively, you can convert any dynamic website into a XML data source. Next, you can take that XML data source transform it into RSS feeds, google map, and lots of other formats. Meshup made SUPER simple.

On the otherhand, it's all black magic. I have no idea how it works. It take a few tries to find good samples pages and selection blocks. I want to extract 10 fields. For a while, it works on one page, but not another. After about few hours, I randomly found a set that seems to work well and I consistently got all the data fields. I don't really know why. The explanation is quite sparse, terrible documentation.

A startup with real powerful technical promise.

alaska cruise

My family and I just spend a wonderful week on a cruise to Alaska. It was my first cruise vacation. Amazing trip. Seeing the glaciers and whales up close. Being in southern California for so long, it's hard to imagine the remote green wilderness that still exists and I can enjoy that view from all the comforts of a cruise ship. There were times where I can see from the endless line for trees that just goes as far as the eyes can see. Simply amazing.