Archive for March, 2009
I’ve been using MSOffice 2007 for a few weeks now, and while I’m generally pleased with the enhancements it brings, there was one bug in MSExcel that was driving me crazy.
When I opened an Excel file (.xls, .xlsx, .xlsm), Excel would launch, but the file wouldn’t appear. Instead, I’d see just an empty MDI frame (the Excel title bar and menus, but without any spreadsheet on the screen). I quickly discovered, through trial and error, that I could get the spreadsheet to open by choosing “Open” from the Office icon menu, and then clicking “Cancel” when the Open dialog box came up. This was, however, equal parts weird and annoying, and could not be the best answer to the problem.
Today, I got around to Googling it. As I suspected, others have had the same problem, and have suggested several possible solutions. One was to disable one or more suspicious add-ins, but I had none of the supposed culprits on my machine. The idea did get me thinking, though – the add-ins I did have (both of which were self-made), were in Excel 2003 format (.xla). Excel 2007 creates add-in files with a .xlam extension. Also, I’ve had several minor problems with Excel 2007/Excel 2003 compatibility issues in the past. Maybe the .xla format is the problem?
That solution turned out to be the right one. It also explains why others may find that disabling a certain add-in made the problem go away. Therefore, I’m pretty sure I’ve identified the problem.
So, to make the problem go away, you need to convert your .xla add-ins to .xlam. Here are the detailed instructions:
- Open Excel 2007 by running the app (not by opening an Excel file)
- On the Developer ribbon, chose “Visual Basic.” If the Developer ribbon isn’t displayed, you can add it by clicking the Office icon in the upper left corner of the screen, choosing “Excel Options” and checking the “Show Developer tab in the Ribbon” check box. Or, if you want to avoid the whole mess, you can use the old Excel 2003 keyboard shortcut (Alt-F11) to open the Visual Basic editor immediately
- Expand the add-in in question, and double click on the associated Module to bring up the code
- Click inside the code, and then press Ctrl-A to select all of it. Then press Ctrl-C to copy it
- Right click on the new Excel that opened with Excel (usually called Book1) and choose Insert…Module
- When the empty Module comes up, click inside of it and press Ctrl-V to paste in the code
- Click the office icon and choose “Save”
- Save the file as an Excel Add-In (.xlam) with the same name (other than the extension) and in the same folder as your existing add-in
- Repeat allof the steps above (starting with a brand new Excel file each time) for each .xla add-in you have
- Close the Visual Basic Editor
- From Excel, click the Office icon and choose Excel Options
- Click on the Add-Ins menu item on the left side of the dialog box. At the bottom, select Manage Excel Add-ins and click “Go.”
- When the Add-Ins box appears, click “Browse.”
- Choose the new (.xlam) add-in and click OK. You will be prompted that another add-in with the same name exists. Click OK at this prompt
- Repeat the above step for each newly created add-in
There you go – problem solved (hopefully). If you have any questions, comments, updates, or corrections, feel free to post them in the comments below.
We’ve all heard or seen statements like this, typically around New Year’s Eve, when the almighty “they” decide we need a leap second:
One second used to be defined as 1/86,400 the length of a day. However, Earth’s rotation isn’t perfectly reliable. Tidal friction from the sun and moon slows our planet and increases the length of a day by 3 milliseconds per century.
Here’s the mind-bending part:
This means that in the time of the dinosaurs, the day was just 23 hours long.
I never thought about it that way…
Jeff Porten posted a very cool graph, in that it provides a nice perspective on how the market has performed in the last ten years, relative to the sixty years before that. This illuminating tidbit finally kicked my butt into gear and got me to draw (and post) the graph I’ve been visualizing in my head for months now:
The blue line represents the NASDAQ composite from 1993-2003 (Source)
The red line represents average home prices in the US from 1999-2008 (Source)
The green line represents crude oil prices 2006-2008 (Source)
I’ve used different scales for each line so that the peaks are roughly even, in order to illustrate my point, which is this: we’ve had three economic bubbles in the last ten years; they are getting closer together, and they’re completing faster each time. Before we rush ahead with new laws and government regulations, we need to answer several very difficult questions:
- Do we want to space the bubbles further apart?
- Do we want to make each bubble last longer?
- Do we want to reduce the size (from valley to peak to valley) of each bubble?
- Do we want to eliminate bubbles altogether?
These are not easy questions to answer. Most policies that accomplish one will not accomplish the others (in various combinations). Also, when we’re in the tail-end of a bubble, the bubbles seem like horrible things that we’d like to avoid in the future. When we’re in the beginning of one, though, we call it “unparalleled economic growth,” and it’s generally seen as a good thing (in particular, the kind of good thing that wins elections).
I don’t necessarily have answers to these questions, but at least Jeff and I are now tied at one cool stock market graph apiece. And that’s gotta count for something…
It’s been a while since I travelled for work, but the occasion has arisen once again, compelling me to use my employer’s online travel service. In doing so, I took note of the food choices available to me on my (Continental Airlines) flight:
|- standard||- vegetarian lacto-ovo|
|- vegetarian||- low protein|
|- asian vegetarian||- low sodium|
|- raw vegetarian||- gluten free|
|- fruit plate||- high fiber|
|- seafood||- diabetic|
|- kosher||- non-lactose|
|- muslim||- low purin|
|- oriental asian||- child|
|- hindu||- bland|
|- low fat cholesterol||- low calorie|
Maybe these choices are available on Expedia as well (that’s the service I typically use to book personal travel). If they are, I hadn’t noticed them until now.
In any case, questions abound: Am I the only one who remembers when airline meals were offered as regular, vegetarian or (maybe) kosher? And what if I’m a lactose intolerant Hindu who wants a vegetarian meal that’s low in sodium, cholesterol and protein? Can we do combinations here? Doesn’t that come to billions of potential meals? What in blazes is “purin?” And does anyone intentionally order a “bland” meal, or is that just a complaint lodged after the fact?
Inquiring minds want to know!
Jake DeSantis, an executive vice-president in AIG’s Financial Products Unit, has resigned from the company. Rather than giving back his retention bonus (as requested by CEO Ed Liddy and many members of Congress), he has decided to donate all of the after-tax proceeds to charities that will help those disadvantaged by the Current Financial Crisis(TM). He also sent his resignation letter to the New York Times, who printed it in their Op-Ed section.
Here’s a pull quote:
I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.
After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.
I think the letter is excellent. It highlights, in a way no outsider could, how cavalier the court of public opinion has been in painting all bank and financial services employees with the same brush, and how these retention packages were seen by those within the company. Reading it, I hope some will begin to see this money as a prudent investment in the future of a company, and an unfortunate public relations disaster, which has little or nothing to do with the vast problems we seek to solve.
This post isn’t about what you think it’s about.
Ladies & Gentlemen, Barack Obama’s hand-written NCAA March Maddess bracket:
Last night, Jay Leno wondered aloud if he picked schools that were located in swing states (more on that later, if I get a chance…)
(Hat tip to Jeff Kohl for the pic)
It’s being reported today that seventy-three of the roughly four hundred AIG employees that received retention bonuses received bonuses of more than $1 million. It’s also being reported that eleven of them (including one who received $4.6 million) have already left AIG, and received the bonus anyway.
In my previous post, I attempted to explain that retention bonuses are not new, nor are they sinister plots to distribute taxpayer money to rich executives. Especially when a company is going through tough times, retention bonuses can be absolutely critical to retaining the most critical people so that the company can flourish again when the crisis is over. I roundly criticized our leaders (including the President) for misleading the American people into believing that this wasn’t the case.
I stand by that criticism. However, if AIG’s retention contracts were written such that bonuses (especially substantial ones) are still paid even after an employee leaves, then we’re talking about extremely poorly written contracts. Also, if you believe that almost 20% of your division’s staff requires $1 million to remain with the firm, then you haven’t done nearly enough to incent them in other ways.
UPDATE: Yes, I know – an update to an update, but these things evolve rather quickly. Anyway, it was pointed out to me by those who know better that the eleven people who left probably stayed until the day they were required to stay to get their retention bonuses, and then left for the job they had lined up as “retention day” neared. Payout of the bonus itself could we weeks or months later, which would create the situation described above – a person who’s already left the company receiving a retention bonus. If that’s the case, then the retention bonus did exactly what it was supposed to do – keep the employee in the firm until a predetermined date. The bit about 20% of the staff receiving $1 million or more for retention is still a valid criticism, though…
Previous statements made on this matter by our leaders and by the media leave me with little confidence that we’re getting all the facts straight, but if the above is true, I say that AIG fire those responsible for creating these contracts. Not because AIG has received government bailout funds, or because it feels good to punish rich people when times are bad, but because they did a lousy job structuring their retention contracts. Even in a good market, the above terms do the company no good and don’t achieve the retention incentive that they set out to achieve in the first place.
By the way, while I have your attention (if I still have it…), I’d also like to emphasize two things from my previous post that I fear weren’t clear enough:
- We’re talking about $450 million in bonus payments for a firm that has received $170 billion dollars in taxpayer money. This is 0.26% of the problem. The CEO of AIG is in front of Congress today, and I’m guessing that the Congressmen are spending more than 0.26% of their time focused on this. All the excise taxes in the world, all of the “make the list of names public” rhetoric, and all of the righteous indignation they can muster isn’t going to solve the problem, which is getting AIG back to a place where they can repay the $170 billion we gave them.
- Senator Grassley’s remarks were disgusting. When I quoted him, I intended to show him as a buffoon, but I’m noticing that other news articles (including the one I linked to above) are also quoting him without comment, as if to sanction what he said, and I didn’t want to be lumped into that bunch. The senator apparently believes that if your husband or father runs his company into the ground, then you deserve to be a widow or an orphan for the rest of your life. Suicide isn’t funny. It’s not rational behavior. Not even in Japan.
Today’s discussion is inspired by AIG’s payment of retention bonuses last Sunday, March 12, 2009, and the stinging reaction it engendered from Barack Obama, Barney Frank, Ben Bernanke and others. As before, those who are bored by such things should move along quickly and quietly.
An interesting juxtaposition of news articles over at The Speculist:
At this point, just about everyone knows that President Obama lifted the Stem Cell research ban imposed by George W. Bush at the beginning of his presidency. Less reported, though equally exciting is this story about a breakthrough in the use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iSPC’s), which are stem cells derived from somatic cells in adults.
Stem cells derived from adults are attractive for several reasons: they’re far easier to collect, they avoid the moral objections held by some about embryonic stem cells, and perhaps most importantly, they represent stem cells that exactly match the genes of the person in need of treatment.
So, good news all around. But here’s the part that really bends the mind:
What role did [George W. Bush's] restrictions play in inducing some researchers to begin working on iPSCs? Seeing as the work described [in the linked article] comes from Canada and the UK, it would be difficult to draw a direct line. But it would be, to say the very least, ironic if the much-hated stem cell research funding ban actually played a positive role in moving us towards a better solution.
This is another case of unintended consequences from government incentive programs. Those who oppose embryonic stem-cell research were generally seeking a ban on the this type of research altogether. The lack of funding in that area, though, has led (some) scientists to focus on ways to achieve the same results a different way. Would we have seen the benefits of stem-cell research sooner without the ban? Perhaps. But would anyone have ever focused on adult stem-cells if the ban hadn’t existed?
(hat tip: Bill Napier)