How Intuit TurboTax Blew It

Since 2000, I have used Intuit’s TurboTax Online tax filing system. It was a great, affordable online tax preparation utility that slashed tax preparation effort. My finances are straightforward enough to use TurboTax’s $20 product, which is now free!

They screwed it up. See the two buttons on the bottom of this page?
Turbo Tax Shenanigan

If you click on Maximize My Deductions, that $0 product magically becomes $50. Not only does this surcharge buy you a gimmicky extra, you can’t “undo” it. Worst yet, you get no warning that you’re about to be soaked $50. It takes multiple clicks to get from this page to anything advising you of this charge.

Deduction Maximizer is a “gimmick” because all it really does is phrase deduction questions somewhat differently. Unless you’re a financial moron or have really bizarre finances, this feature won’t affect your taxes.

I checked throughout TurboTax’s system to see if I could undo this, but no such option was available. Then I tried to chat with an online assistant, but that entailed a 20 minute wait.

Thankfully, TurboTax doesn’t make you pay until the very end. Presumably because of this, the online product’s “satisfaction guarantee” is simply that you don’t pay until you’re satisfied. (Of course, you can’t see your forms, get final data, or file electronically until you pay!)

Fortunately, enough information was available so that could go back through the system and pull out all the key information. Slapping that into paper IRS forms only took an hour. TurboTax’s tax refund estimate was within pennies of what I got doing it manually.

I am dissatisfied with TurboTax, so they didn’t get my money.

Fat Daddy’s Burger House = Worst… Burgers… Ever

After “enjoying” three vomitous meals, I declare that Fat Daddy’s Burger House in Casa Linda Plaza is the second worst burger place in Dallas.

The first two meals were overpriced and disgusting burger and fries. It’s overpriced because you’ll lose $8 per meal without a beverage. It’s disgusting because they over-season everything with a nasty salt/seasoning mixture, and it’s very greasy.

Some people bathe in perfume to mask bad hygiene. Fat Daddy’s seasoning-bath masks its sewer-class quality.

The last time I was there, I got the chili and salad. I asked the cashier if the chili was made in house, and she assured me it was.

Liar! It was meat-flavored rubbery chunks from a can! Yuck! And the salad was just iceberg lettuce with a little cheese and a few vegetables on top. Highland Park prices imply quality. Fat Daddy’s delivers crap quality.

There’s is one draw: free beer. Seriously. Rumor is they can’t “sell” it because they lost their alcohol license. (Not sure if that’s true.) Since I don’t do beer, I’m not impressed.

The worse burgers are from Miami Subs, which used to be in Dallas on the northeast corner of Central Expressway access road and Southwestern. That was the absolute worst, most tasteless rubber burger I have ever had.

Aren’s 9 Diet Rules

I just dug up a 10 year old medical checkup form. Despite significant muscle mass gains, I am 15 pounds lighter than 10 years ago! Here are the rules that helped me lose weight and maintain the weight loss:

  1. Don’t eat when not hungry. We eat a lot of food because of craving, not hunger. How do you tell the difference? Think of how you feel if you have eaten nothing in 8 hours. It’s a grinding feeling. Craving is just a dull, psychological feeling. If your digestive should signal true hunger when you need food. (Actually, it signals true hunger even when you don’t need food. More below.)
  2. …or eat fresh produce. If I cannot resist the craving, I eat unprocessed fresh fruit or vegetable. That doesn’t fully satisfy my craving, gradually retraining it. Additionally, fresh produce is much better for me than junk food snacks.
  3. It’s OK to feel hunger. In nature, animals eat all they can find because they don’t know where the next meal comes from. That’s why my dog is constantly starving. She forages all the time. If I fed her all she wanted, she would be a blimp. Humans share that same evolutionary programming. However, as humans, we can choose not to forage constantly. We can choose to feel hunger before meals.
  4. Many “healthy” foods are really junk foods. Anything packed with calories with relatively minimal nutritional value a junk food. This includes:
    • Fruit juice is junk food, even non-sweetened fruit juice. They are so packed with calories that you’re better off with sugary soft drinks. The same goes for smoothies. The average “original” size Jamba Juice smoothie is a 480 calorie bomb! That’s about three and a half soft drinks!
    • Stuff with trans fats are junk foods. Trans fats’ peculiar harm is more than just weight gain. Still, foods full of trans fats are often still bad for you even without the trans fats.
    • “Healthier” junk food is still junk food. It’s just marginally less deadly. Wendy’s removed the trans fats from its fries, but they are still bad for you. Remember when Snackwell cookies and other low fat products first came out? People started eating them as if they are healthy. In fact, these “healthier” products often had about as many calories as the originals, sometimes more!
  5. “Healthier” junk foods have a high opportunity cost. “Healthier” potato chips, popcorn, crackers, or other junk foods provide virtually no health benefit and offset better foods, ones with actual nutritional qualities. In high school, I knew kids who had a bag of potato chips with every lunch. That is a travesty; those potato chips offset something healthier like fresh fruits or vegetables.
  6. Exercise. Diet and exercise go hand and hand. While only one of the two is better than neither, you have to do both to get best results.
  7. Quit blaming the dog. This is euphemistic for society’s tendency to blame others for our own failings. You have to take personal responsibility. Just because the restaurant put two meals’ worth of foot in front of you doesn’t mean you have to eat it all.
  8. Don’t gorge at restaurants or special events. It’s OK to be be satiated without being stuffed, and you’ll save money to boot!
  9. Don’t buy into alternative medicine. Stuff like detoxification, coffee enemas, grapefruit diets, etc. are usually proven bunk, and even if they don’t harm you, they’re a distraction from good nutrition. You’re too valuable to be a living pseudo-science experiment.

Your skeptical side may suspect I am preaching but not practicing. You’re partly correct. I don’t follow these rules perfectly all the time.

I want to lose another 10-15 lbs to get rid of belly fat. (I may have ab muscles underneath them?) I’ll have to crank down these rules further. I think it’s an attainable goal, but we’ll see!

WordPress’s Mediocre Image Support

I’m unimpressed with WordPress’s image support.

With my old DasBlog blog, I authored my posts with FrontPage. Not only did this give me a rich editor, photo management was a snap. I could resize and adjust images that I dragged and dropped into the blog post without external tools. Transferring the blog post into DasBlog was simple.

I can’t find anything similar in WordPress. Despite many image plugins, image management is a stupid, cumbersome, multi-step process.

The best option appears to be integration with Gallery2 with the WPG2 and Gallery Image Chooser plugins. However, even this option has drawbacks:

  • No resize. Gallery2 is limited to a fixed-size thumbnail and the full-sized image. There is apparently nothing in between, and wait, there’s less! The thumbnail size is fixed for all images across the entire Gallery2 application. That is, there is only one thumbnail image size setting. Rumor has it that the next Gallery2 version, which was supposed to be out 4 months ago but isn’t even in release candidate yet, will have midsize image support. But even then, unless the midsize image is supported through URL parameters, I’ll probably have to wait for WPG2 and Gallery Image Chooser updates to use it.
  • No auto caption. Sure would be great if captions in Gallery2 could automatically and dynamically transfer to WordPress. This may need to be a WPG2 feature. Maybe I can hack this feature?
  • No image adjustment. FrontPage’s basic image adjustment tools were great. I could change the brightness and contrast on the fly and resample the image at will. No such luck with Gallery2.
  • No clipart. With FrontPage, I had access to a decent amount of royalty-free clipart. I have virtually no instant access to any clipart with this setup.

It looks like I am stuck fully finishing my photos on my PC with an image editor and then uploading them through the WordPress interface or dumping them into Gallery2.


I may whine like a petulant twit, but this image handling problem is a barrier to to quick, casual posts with images. An image is worth a thousand words. That’s why I believe that the better blogs are full of helpful images. WordPress’s image support is a major shortcoming.

I still feel that I did the right thing getting off DasBlog, however. It’s a dead product, and there are almost no run-it-yourself Web 2.0 applications for Microsoft platforms.

I have a follow up post about my dishwasher coming soon. These image hassles have gotten in the way.

Stupid products

Items sold in “real” hardware stores, like Home Depot or Lowe’s, should be reasonable quality, right? The truth is often “no.”

These stores now carry doors with encased plastic blinds. Yes, “encased.” You never have to clean them because they are encased in the door.

I knew they were a pending disaster the first time I saw them. Plastic blinds are disposable, and, consequently, they break easily.

What’s the logic in encasing cheap blinds inside a door?

Apparently, little. Here’s a demo product at my local Lowe’s:

See any problems?