Here’s to you, Mr. Investment Fund Annual Report Formatter

In the spirit of Budweiser's "Real Men of Genius" series, I'd like to salute the team who probably spent the past ten weeks compiling and formatting the data in the Annual Report my client just received. It's a Principal Funds document for the Institutional J & R Share Classes (and right there is where your eyes started to cross, I could see it, but stay with me here), dated October 31, 2009. It arrived in my work mailbox, wrapped in plastic emblazoned with words designed to entice me to open it:




So, I did! How could I not? I was going to trash it immediately, but I just wanted to make sure there wasn't anything really important beneath the wrapper.


At first, I was all, oh great, another impossible-to-read document from the 401(k) people. But then I thought about the weeks of tedious work that must have gone into its creation.


Now, it's not much to look at – it's in black and white with a flimsy cover and newsprint pages. But the size of the document is stunning – it's 850 pages long, one inch thick, and contains detailed information that frankly, no one is going to read. At least not without a magnifying glass. And that's why I am saluting the team who was tasked with pulling this information together into one giant document: Have you ever tried to format columns of numbers in Word? Or generate a table of contents? It's daunting even for the simplest of documents. But this puppy is page after page of balance sheets and schedules and dollars and percent returns and realized gain/loss and all of the minutiae that matters little to the Average Investor but matters much to Financial Types.


Gawd help the poor entry-level typist who misspells MannKind Corp on the 15th page of Common Stocks, under Therapeutics, which comprise a piddly 0.75% of the holdings in the SmallCap Growth Fund II (Not to be confused with the SmallCap Growth Fund I). Because the fund managers and the good folks over at MannKind Corp will not look kindly on such an egregious error, even if it's nestled halfway down page 600 of an 849-page book. These people are all about the details!


I have been on the issuing end of what I often call my "exercises in futility" in HR. Government Regulations require me to send out annual notices that nobody reads. I actually fear that employees might read some of the things I send out, because many of them, in their government legalese, raise more questions than they answer.


So, because I know what it's like to fret over formatting and send out things that nobody reads, today I salute you, Mr. Investment Fund Annual Report Formatter. Because you agonized over the details and begged to receive all the content you knew you needed to include so you could make the deadline for the printers to publish this 850-page document and wrap it in plastic and send it out to HR managers whose companies have 401(k) plans that offer these funds. You know we're not actually reading this stuff, but you make sure every column ticks and ties and foots and aligns. Just in case.


Now, that's what I call dedication!



Hazleton, PA

Yesterday, I told you about our weekend frolicking in the slush drizzle winter weather last weekend in the greater Hazleton area.  I saved two photos to share today.  One is of the pretty bandstand located in the Hazle Township Community Park:

Bandstand at Hazle Comm Park

I can just picture the crowd on a warm June evening. Gray-haired bespectacled couples parked in lawn chairs. Dads wearing wife-beaters and sporting mullets. Moms trying to shush their children as the Elvis impersonator community band performs.

The other photo is of the sign that so warmly greeted us as we parked our car in the lot:

Hazle Park of NO


What kind of welcome is that? A big list of NO's, with a bonus threat of a $300 fine OR JAIL? Do I get to choose which one?

We started calling this the Park of NO. Apparently, some of the Township's youth felt similarly scolded as they took aim at the sign with their paintball guns.

Dear Hazle Township: How about trying to sell your park's finer features first, like all those nice pavilions and the nifty band shell and that cool playground, too – and then including a gentle list of no-no's?

As I was composing this post, I looked up the Township's website so that I could link it to the bandstand photo. I will simply say this about the website: Go here and read the "Notices" printed in green, and tell me, do you think they were written by the same person?

It's all in the presentation, people.

Maybe January isn’t so bad after all.

We're just back from having spent a long weekend at Eagle Rock Resort located just outside of gray dirty scenic Hazleton, Pennsylvania. (Thanks, Aunt Anne & Uncle Bob!) The Resort's main selling point in winter is skiing and tubing, and that's exactly what we did on Saturday, and again on Monday. I'll let the photos do most of the talking (hover over each for a quick caption):

Peezer in the tubing line. This is right before he peed his pants, which happened when he said he had to go, then changed his mind.
Peezer in the lift line.

Peezer riding up the tube lift. Note the complete lack of snow on the ramp. 

Peezer riding up on the lift.

The tubing hill. Why no pictures of actual skiing, you ask? Because Soup doesn't ski, that's why. 

The tubing hill, where Peezer and I spent most of Saturday.

Daddy and Peezer
Daddy and Peezer.

On Sunday, the weather forecast promised cold rain, and delivered exactly as promised. Not ones to be deterred by such abysmal hideous adverse conditions, we all piled into the Suburban and set off to explore the greater Hazleton area, via a geocaching expedition. And it was all

GC burb parked

…and all

Weeds and moss

…and all

Wet curt

…and is this reminding you of any other Soup Family Vacations that involved outdoor activities during torrential rain? Oh, yes, that's right –

Curt when wet 

click here to read about crabbing in the rain in North Carolina last year.

…but the Best Trooper Award goes to Peezer, who marched through slush and mud and weeds and moss to locate all the geocaches –

Easy finds a geocache

…because he scored some sweet swag for his efforts.

Eagle Rock Weekend 2010 056

After the cold and wet excursion, we settled back into our comfy digs, built a fire, poured some wine, watched some football, and played Qwirkle, which the kids really liked:

Easy plays Qwirkle

Come back tomorrow for two bonus photos from our Coal Country Weekend.