Anne Falconer (1926-2014)

I started working on my family history in 2010 at the request of my grandparents. I poked around for a while at my father’s side of the family. No one alive knew about our history before my great grandfather, Joseph Weiss. His father, Anton Weiss, died in 1910, and his mother, Clara Voigt, died in 1915. She had moved to California to reside with her children there.

That was family that none of us knew about any more.

I researched Anton and then began working on his descendants. Through that work and a little bit of serendipity, I got in contact with Anne Falconer. She is a great grandchild of Anton and Clara. Because Clara had gone to live with the California children, Anne had her photo album.

After emailing a few times, Anne very kindly made copies of the photos and mailed them to me. She even sent a 150 year old print of a photo of Joseph Weiss as a very young boy. The photos she sent were the first visual depiction of many of my family that I’d ever seen. The following was taken at Anton and Clara’s 50th wedding anniversary.

Anton and Clara Weiss 50th wedding anniversary group photo
Anton and Clara Weiss 50th wedding anniversary

I was browsing Find A Grave this morning and came across a memorial for Anne. She died a year ago. I never met her, but she was a help and inspiration for me early on in this pastime.

I was wrong: Droid 4 edition

Last year I my Droid 4 stopped working, and Verizon replaced it. The replacement Droid 4 was a refurbished phone, and the battery would not last me a full day. Righteously ticked off, I took the bus downtown to the Verizon store. In the 28 minutes it took me to get there, the phone’s battery dropped from 100% charge to 90%. I didn’t even turn the screen on. There was no reason it should use that much battery so quickly. At the Verizon store, rather than get my third Droid 4 in a year, I angrily paid full price for a Droid Maxx. Which I love, other than having paid an arm and a leg for it.

In December, I bought myself a Kobo Aura H2O e-book reader. I love the thing for lots of reasons. I got the bright idea to take the SD card out of my old Droid 4 phone and stick it in my Kobo so I could hold like a billion e-books. As I don’t use the reader daily, I didn’t notice something right away. The battery on the Kobo would last only several days. That baffled me for a time, until I Googled&reg battery issues with Kobos and SD card issues popped up as a possibility. After removing the SD card, the Kobo battery takes weeks to work through a full charge, even with frequent reading.

It wasn’t until several weeks afterward when I remembered where the SD card had been. So I charged up the Droid 4 still sitting unused on my shelf. It’s now been running 5½ days on that charge and is at 30%, albeit without any use except to periodically check the charge.

Droid 4
Droid 4

So now the Droid 4 is going to become a fancy alarm clock with a few useful internet capabilities like playing some podcasts I listen to in the evening.

Cleo as Colgate

My grandfather Cleo saved packets for many of his trips. He and my grandmother Vera were frequent cruisers. They are going to be awesome additions to the stories I can tell about them with genealogy. For instance, in June 1986, Cleo and Vera took a cruise through the Panama Canal on Sitmar Cruises T.S.S. Fairsea. The best part of this packet is the three photos of my grandfather from the cruise’ masquerade party. I never would have thought of costuming as Colgate toothpaste.

Colgate toothpaste costume front
Cleo ready for masquerade night
Colgate toothpaste costume back
Squeeze from the bottom
Colgate toothpaste costume in action
Wearing the costume at the masquerade

Update: Turns out my grandparents tried out the idea on an earlier cruise, in January 1983. That time my grandmother donned the toothpaste:

Vera wears a Crest toothpaste costume
Vera as Crest

Cleaning out

My desk is in a walk-in closet, which I use as an office. However, until January it still functioned as a cluttered closet in addition to being an office. A friend designed a shelving system for me and did the remodel work. That’s still not quite finished, as I need to replace the ceiling light. Photos once I do that.

As part of decluttering and reorganizing, I’ve been purging stuff so I can make better use of my space.

I reached a big milestone today. I have a four drawer filing cabinet (photo on left), three drawers of which were completely filled with old paperwork of mine. Over the last month, I’ve looked through every piece of paper in those three drawers. What I needed, I scanned. What I didn’t, got tossed straight away. Removing what I didn’t need to keep in physical form turned 75 linear inches of paperwork into 5 (photo on right). Half of that is for the purchase of my condo, which includes a voluminous resale certificate.

Old Filing Cabinet New Filing Cabinet

I still have purging to do, but this was huge. I cleared away over 25 years of accumulated junk paperwork that I no longer need to protect or make space for.

401(k) expense ratios

It’s been years since I got to participate in a 401(k) retirement plan. Last time was when I worked at Expedia. I put the amount in that would maximize the employer contribution and didn’t pay much more attention. The first thing I looked at this time was which investment options were index funds. There’s one index fund option for large-cap funds and one for small-cap funds. Out of 24 options, only two are index funds. That’s deplorable. To illustrate why, I dug around to find the expense ratios for the fund options. It wasn’t as easy to find as I would like, but when I did Fidelity showed it quite nicely.
Name Category Gross Expense Ratio Shareholder Fees
COMPANY STOCK Company Stock Commission on stock trades: $0.029 per share
MAINSTAY LGCP GR R1 (MLRRX) Large Cap 0.87% No additional fees apply.
MFS VALUE R4 (MEIJX) Large Cap 0.68% No additional fees apply.
SPTN 500 INDEX INST (FXSIX) Large Cap 0.05% No additional fees apply.
ARTISAN MID CAP INST (APHMX) Mid-Cap 1.03% No additional fees apply.
ARTISAN SM CAP VALUE (ARTVX) Small Cap 1.24% No additional fees apply.
VANG SM GR IDX INST (VSGIX) Small Cap 0.08% No additional fees apply.
FID DIVERSIFD INTL K (FDIKX) International 0.81% Short term trading fees of 1% for shares held less than 30 days.
DODGE & COX BALANCED (DODBX) Blended Fund 0.53% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2005 (FFKVX) Blended Fund 0.50% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2010 (FFKCX) Blended Fund 0.54% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2015 (FKVFX) Blended Fund 0.57% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2020 (FFKDX) Blended Fund 0.59% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2025 (FKTWX) Blended Fund 0.62% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2030 (FFKEX) Blended Fund 0.67% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2035 (FKTHX) Blended Fund 0.68% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2040 (FFKFX) Blended Fund 0.68% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2045 (FFKGX) Blended Fund 0.69% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2050 (FFKHX) Blended Fund 0.69% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K 2055 (FDENX) Blended Fund 0.69% No additional fees apply.
FID FREEDOM K INCOME (FFKAX) Blended Fund 0.45% No additional fees apply.
MIP II CL 1 Bond Investments 0.56% No additional fees apply.
PIM TOTAL RT INST (PTTRX) Bond Investments 0.46% No additional fees apply.

I’ve highlighted the index fund for large-cap and the option with the next lowest expense ratio, and the same for the small-cap index fund. Those percentages indicate the amount the fund managers skim off the top every year. As a retirement saver, you never even see it because they don’t list this percentage in how much you make. They could do this (examples use a 1% expense ratio for arithmetic convenience):

Investment  $10,000
Increase$500
Fee-$105
Total$10,395

Instead, they do this:

Investment  $10,000
Increase$395
Total$10,395

Notice in my example, the fee is a percentage of the total, not of the increase. An average fund manager might make the investor $500. An extraordinary fund manager might make $700. The average fund manager charges $105. The extra-ordinary one charges $107. Now, you might think you are getting a steal of $200 for only $2 more, but the real travesty is that the average manager gets $100 for very little work. To see that, look at an index fund.

The small-cap index fund I highlighted uses CRSP US Small Cap Growth Index to benchmark. Compared against their own benchmark, they lose over the last three months but just barely: return of 1.58% vs. the benchmark return of 1.6%. They compare very closely because all an index fund does is buy exactly what’s in the index.

For comparison, the actively managed fund uses Russell 2000 Value as it’s benchmark index. Compared against that, the managers lost 0.28% vs. the index’s gain of 1.78%. These managers are trying to beat the index by picking better investments than the index, charging for their “expertise”, and losing.

Now, that’s a short period of time and perhaps at other times the actively managed fund does better. But over time, index funds have better returns than actively managed funds. There are exceptions, but those options aren’t pertinent to the broad market investments that are available in a 401(k).

So basically, those investment options I have? I’m giving away $60 (for the large cap fund) to $115 (on the small cap fund) every year for nothing (on a baseline portfolio of $10,000). If I’m saving money every year for retirement, that amount grows every year, and cuts into the compounded interest every year.

All of this stuff is pretty well written about all over, but regular people don’t pay attention for a variety of reasons. I’m not naming my employer here, but they really should be doing better by their employees.

Genealogy and Family History: Class #2

A gave myself a couple of tasks to accomplish yesterday before the second session of my genealogy class. The first was to pick up the class packet from the copy center. The second was to pick up a Husky Card for access to the U.W. libraries. Both went swimmingly, so I got to my class early, hung out and read the text book.

The class was taught by James Rigali today. He’s the instructor for the history portions of the class. Topic was Organizing Historical Research Projects. After an overly long and fairly unimportant discussion of what is history? he delved into a basic method he wanted us to follow:

  • Pick a subject. At this point, I’m thinking of doing my project on either or both of my third great grandparents, Patrick Parker and Mary Murphy. (I’ve written about them on the blog before.)
  • Create an annotated chronology
  • Develop research questions, both historical and genealogical
  • Develop a bibliography. His overview included the following types of sources:
    • General books, including textbooks.
    • Scholarly articles (JSTOR)
    • Encyclopedias (he didn’t cover this one too much)
    • Historical books and magazines published at the time
    • Local histories
    • Historical maps
    • Historical photographs.
    • Newspapers of the time
    • History web sites
  • Sample Research Journal
    Sample Research Journal
    Keep a research journal. He didn’t really cover what to record on this, other than keeping what he called a two-sided journal. In other words, record what you are searching and reading on one side, and notes and thoughts on the other. He didn’t really seem like he’s embraced computer technology like I do.

Genealogy and Family History: Class #1

Tonight was the first session of my Genealogy and Family History class through the Continuing Education office at U.W. I don’t have a whole lot to report about the experience, as we did not cover any academic material today. The first half of the class the instructors reviewed the syllabus and their expectations. None of the work appears to be particularly difficult. Assignments include things like retrieving and printing a page from the census and requesting a vital record.

Wright County Iowa
Wright County Iowa

The second half of the class was dedicated to student introductions. Not so much tell us a little bit about yourself as tell us a little bit about your family. Throughout the introductions, whenever someone mentioned Iowa the genealogy instructor (the other instructor focuses on history) asked what part of Iowa. She mentioned she had a lot of interest in one county. About the 4th time she asked about Iowa, I realized that her name has been ringing a bell in the back of my head, and I realized why. She runs the GenWeb site for Wright County, Iowa. As I’ve documented here, my third great grandparents Patrick Parker and Mary Murphy Parker appeared to have ended up in Iowa. Four or five of their children were in Wright County Iowa, two others in Franklin County, the next county over.

I’m being taught by a person who has expertise in the genealogy and history of a specific county I’m interested in.

Costco detergents

Kirkland Liquid GelI have bad luck with Costco detergent and cars. Two years ago I had a sweet smell coming from the back of my car that turned out to be one of those big Costco laundry detergent containers having popped open and poured liquid detergent all over the back of my station wagon. Had to pay to have car detailed. Extra even, cause the battery is back there.

Unloaded my car last night and saw a smear of white stuff in the back. I thought it was potato salad. Then I got inside and saw the container of liquid dishwasher detergent which I had unloaded from the car earlier in the day and left on my counter. A large portion of the detergent was in a giant puddle on the counter and a smaller portion dripped over the side onto the floor, all having leaked from a nail sized hole in the side of the container. I’m afraid to go back out to check my car because I don’t want to have to get it detailed again.

Quick reaction – Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders

Tonight’s game against Portland was very disappointing. We were up one to nil for most of the game, and Portland tied it in the 90th minute to eek out a draw. I looked down and missed that last play. Our own goal was a nice play where Steve Zakuani anticipated a Portland pass, intercepted it, ran the length of the field, then placed a cross perfectly at the feet of Eddie Johnson for the score. I think Zak should have received the Man of the Match award, not Eddie.

Oba Martins entered the game around the 70th minute and played well despite almost no practice with the team. Zakuani is starting to look like the Zakuani of old. Andy Rose had a poor game, giving the ball away a lot and holding onto the ball for too many touches. And for god’s sake Sigi, please please please drill Eddie Johnson on getting his head back into the game quickly after a blown play. Blown plays happen. Eddie laying on the field in frustration or slowing walking back onside when the Sounders are mounting another attack is just not cool.

I had great company for the game too.

Oh hell yeah! Sounders advance over Tigres in Champions League!

Sounders - Tigres warm-up

Tonight the Sounders played Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. My team started the game down 1 to 0 after losing the away match in Mexico. Then we went down 2 to 0 when Tigres got an early goal. While the Sounders didn’t play particularly poorly, play was overall pretty sloppy.

And then just before the half one of the Tigres players kicked the ball away to waste time on a Sounders free kick. He got a yellow, his second. Off he went. The Sounders moved to a 3-5-2 after that, and started tearing Tigres apart.

First goal, O’Dea High School graduate, DeAndre Yedlin knocks it in from 20 yards out.

Then new Sounder and former Liverpool defender Djimi Traore nails another long distance goal! Defenders don’t get goals from the run of play all that often, so this was especially awesome.

And then finally, with a shot that didn’t look as impressive, but was an extremely skilled shot from a tight angle to the near post of the keeper, Eddie Johnson scored what was the winner. As Darren put it, we need more skilled goals like that in MLS.

The best part was the Tigres fans sitting behind us. They were talking all sorts of smack when Tigres was up 2 to 0. It was so delicious yelling I can’t hear you now! at them. Well, and a few other things.