Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Know It's Hard But Try To Get A Grip

Went to Starbucks today - not so much to get coffee as to avoid work. And, I was tempted to go back to work! There was only one person in front of me but, still, I waited in line for 15 minutes. I'm not that patient, usually. And, I recognized that I didn't even really want a cup of coffee all that much. (Is there a 12-step program for this? As in, Al-Have-Another-Cuppa-Joe-anon?) I almost gave up but I'm no quitter! (I'll let you figure out what I'm talking about here.)

She had four kids running about the place: two girls, who were older, and two boys. She was careful to order drinks without sugar but didn't seem to mind the amount of caffeine her kids were getting. (I was once in a Subway restaurant when a boy asked his daddy if he could have a Coke. Daddy said, no - have a Mountain Dew. . .)

I'm sitting in the sun and getting drowsy so stick with me. . . .

What I noticed while I was waiting is how these people interacted with each other - this woman and her children. (Daddy was in the truck in which these poeple had spent considerably more time than is generally recommended for a family of six, the woman informed me. Good for Daddy, I thought.) They were rude to each other.

I found several instances of this type of behavior when we were in Disneyland, recently. Parents behaved badly with their badly behaving children. (It's a small world after all . . .)

Mother to son: You will eat this peanut butter sandwich or you will not go on any more rides!

Sure. You're going to bring your entire family to Disneyland, pay a thousand bucks to get in the joint (at which entrance is a sign posting the dangers that the building materials used to construct said happy place could kill you at the eye level of a ten-year-old, not to mention the rides) and hinge the whole deal on a peanut butter sandwich.

Be nice to your kids!

Listen, I get it. I wasn't always nice to my kids. I can still hear all the terrible things I ever said to them and I will regret every word. I am a much better grandparent than I ever was as a parent. That probably has to do with the fact that grandparenting isn't a full time job (generally speaking).

But if it's terrible to listen to what you're saying when I'm standing in line at Starbucks just think about how horrible it is to listen to if you're your kid.

Shouldn't Be News But Probably Is

Talking Points Memo - Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy
Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters. 
Surprised? Jimmy Carter has some thoughts on the subject, too.

Stats

According to Blogger, I have readers in Russia.

A) Who are you?

B) Why?

C) Is that you, Edward?

D) None of the above.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Ants Go Marching

Or someone does.

I've been married close to 25 years now. Our first apartment was on the bottom floor of a three-story building. We would occasionally hear little footsteps running above us. And, sometimes, we would poke the ceiling with a broom handle to let them know it was time to settle the kids. But I don't remember it being all that loud, on the whole.

Then we bought a house so noise wasn't really an issue.

More recently, we rented an apartment in Vancouver. (The U.S. one. Oh? You didn't know the U.S. had a Vancouver? Well, look it up.) The building was built in 1945 and features squeaky hardwood floors throughout. Again, we were on the bottom floor and we could hear the guy upstairs when he got home. We just turned up the volume on the TV - not a big deal.

Our next apartment was next to the Columbia River. Unfortunately, it was also next to two airports, the railroad tracks, a freeway, and major trucking operations. That apartment was loud but, I have to say, we didn't hear the neighbors much (unless it was warm enough to open the windows and someone's cat got loose).

Our current location is a mother-in-law apartment in a nice home in a swanky neighborhood. In 25 years, this is the loudest place I've ever lived - neighbor-wise. I'd like to mention here that we just got back from vacationing in a place where the houses are packed so tight you could literally (and I mean that in the literal sense of the word) borrow a cup of sugar by reaching through the window. No room for grass here - just house, pathway, house. Okay, it might have been low season but the only time we heard the neighbors is when one of them decided it was time to pressure wash his deck. (On average, the birds were considerably louder than the neighbors.)

Our current upstairs neighbor-slash-landlord is freakishly loud. The first week we moved in, they refinished their hardwood floors. Okay, we thought, that's not likely to reoccur. But the following week they discovered there had been some sort of plumbing leak that required them to jackhammer the tile flooring out as well. Okay, we thought, what's one more week?

Now that the floors are done, it seems their obsession is rearranging furniture and/or Morris dancing. (Note to self: maybe we should quit renting on the bottom floor.) Seriously, I don't know what they're doing up there. There's just two of them but it sounds like a herd of elephants up there. (That would be figuratively, not literally, as I've never heard a herd before. Overhead or otherwise.) Last night, it sounded like they were building furniture or something.

But just to make things fun, we also have ants - as of yesterday. Actually, I don't know how long we've had them; we've been out of town a while. We just got done (hopefully) battling ants at our "real" house and we had them on this latest vacation too (which was made considerably worse when one of the kiddies spilled juice in his backpack which wasn't discovered until the following morning). What's going on here?

Yesterday, we got to our "other place" and found more freaking ants.

It could be worse. These are the teeny tiny ones - I'll smush them with my finger. I don't think I would even touch another bug (unless my grandson asked me to. . . okay, maybe not even then). In fact, I couldn't handle the freaking butterfly room at the museum. I just thought they were all hairy moths with wings. No, thank you.

Do you think I could just take a nap and it will all go away? Probably not. There's too much marching: Marching upstairs. Marching downstairs.

(TV series?)

I Wasn't Stalking, Really

Well, sorta I was. I was looking for gallery opening press. Instead, I found this:

Cincinnat!.com - Mann: Why I challenged the bike-lane plans

Click on the photo; read the caption.

Go ahead.

There are probably narrow limits for the utility of being grumpy . . .

Says who?

The approximate moment when grumpiness kicks in for men, according to a recently released report, is around age 70. 
NPR - The Grumpy Point: When A Man Turns 70
 That explains some things, doesn't it?

Getting Ready


For what? Can't you email me or text or something if you're going to be late for work? Cuz if I knew you were going to take the day off, I would have brought my Apple. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Delicious

Is it not ironic that people who buy organic fruits and vegetables put them in those little plastic bags at the grocery store?

And not just one, either.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Photograph by: Ward Perrin , Vancouver Sun

It's an illegal knob, that's what.

They've been outlawed in Vancouver. (The other one, in Canada.) That story was featured here earlier, But there was an unintended consequence.

Goldilocks may need a new golden lock if she wants to avoid her three unlikely friends. Door levers make it easier for the elderly and disabled to open doors, true. But it also makes it easier for bears.

"Told you so," say some.

"One newspaper columnist in the pro-knob camp has noted that the velociraptors in “Jurassic Park” were able to open doors by their handles." (Economist : Knobless oblige )

First bears. Then, velociraptors.

Talk about a slippery slope. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Does a Post-Satire World Indicate the Death of Fantasy?

Article in Huffington Post by Jasper Fforde:
So am I worried? Not really. In a landscape of extremes, the story of an accountant living in Sidcup and not doing very much may very well become fantasy, and when it does: Tremble ye mortals, for the unbridled drama of double-entry bookkeeping will be unleashed upon the world.

Goofing Off is Work

I've been so busy doing absolutely nothing that I haven't had time to goof off. I had intentions of working on the latest installment of Now & Then: Carried Away (the one about water) this week but instead I chased grandkids for four days, visited with in-laws the next, and a high school chum the day after that.

Yesterday, I did pretty much nothing. Walked on the beach and rode bikes. Read. Didn't write one single word. Today will be more of the same. (Although, I'm waiting for the arrival of a Vespa from Cincinnati. At this pace, I think I'll be late for the gallery gala. Save some champaign for me, will you?)

I'm telling you, goofing off takes a certain devotion akin to work. Don't worry, I'm sure I'll get the hang of it - probably after vacation and I'm sitting in my office which is where I do some of my best goofing off. (Give me a task, and I'll do my best to avoid it, I assure you.)

Meanwhile, this is what I've been reading:

Visitation Street by Ivy Pachoda - This book takes place in Brooklyn and is a story of young people (mostly) and their struggles in finding their place in the world. What I loved best about this book was the quality and style of the writing. The author writes in the third person and in the present tense, each chapter focusing on a different character, winding and weaving all their stories together. She does it well and I liked this book as much for the writing as for the story. Maybe even more.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (Introduction by Keith Gessen) - The original copyright date is 1953, the introduction copyrighted in 2012. I mention this because the Introduction was good; it enhanced my understanding of the author and Lucky Jim.

My favorite quote from the Introduction is "middle manager for a mustard manufacturer" (Kindle location 69), describing the author's father. Have no doubt that there will be a middle manager for a mustard manufacturer in the next Now & Then adventure: The Condiment Conglomerate.

On page 126 of the book (location 2171 of 4264), Amis writes:
"Your attitude measures up to the two requirements of love. You want to go to bed with her and can't, and you don't know her very well. Ignorance of the other person topped up with deprivation."
Followed by: "You'll find that marriage is a good short cut to the truth" on the next page (location 2180).

I loved the snarky, sarcastic tone of this book throughout and highlighted many passages.

Now, I'm reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This is an amazing story written in the form of a series of letters by two characters. (I'm about two-thirds of the way through it so I don't know if there will be other voices.) Again, I'm reading this for the writing as much as for the story (although this is a really, really great story). This technique allow for multiple voices and viewpoints and allows the author to quickly relate the passage of time over many years. Reading is always a good study of writing.

There's a lovely passage that begins on page 190 (location 1732 of 2817) that describes what God is - and isn't - and runs pretty much to the end of that chapter. It's too long to transcribe here but it was worth highlighting in my Kindle.

I love that feature. Recently, I discovered that all my notes are saved in my Kindle under My Clippings. Browsing there, I came across another quote about a chain of restaurants in L.A. called Zankou Chicken from the book Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. by Rob Delaney. (Put that in your Charades hat and smoke it!) He recommends the chicken Tarna plate with their signature garlic paste:
Their proprietary blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and garlic is as satisfying as a mid-grade sexual experience. It is genuinely exciting to eat their food; it's like your mouth is learning something as it chews. (location 1569-70)
Now, I have a goal today.

Lunch.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Up


Look What I Came Across


Janet has been asking about this and I finally came across it. My camera can act up and I can't always access the memory card for some reason. But it got full yesterday so I needed to dump it and, in doing so, I came across all the photos from our visit together.

I copied everything to my fancy new laptop and as soon as I figure out how to put them someplace where we can access them (iCloud or Shutterfly or something), I'll do that. 

Anyway, at least I know where they are now.

If you like a photo sharing site more than the others, let me know.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

There Has To Be A Better Way

Donald Rumsfeld Says He Has 'Absolutely No Idea' If He Paid His Taxes Properly

He's not the only one.

I know a lot of people file their own taxes but you don't have to be too sophisticated before your finances are more sophisticated than you are. Things can get complicated in a hurry. Fortunately, there's help.

Or is there?
And at the heart of the issue is the need for tax simplification, says David Williams, chief tax officer at Intuit, maker of TurboTax software. "I could give you 20 different definitions of modified adjusted gross income," Williams says. "There are a lot of opportunities for tax simplification that stop short of eliminating the tax return." 
Audit: 17 of 19 paid tax preparers got it wrong (USA Today)
Why stop short? Let's get rid of it - the tax return. There's no need for it. Most people efile so we're halfway there. In fact, if you don't file a return the IRS is happy to prepare a tax return for you (for free!) and they'll send you a delightful little letter telling you how it all worked out.

They do that by using the information they already have: your W2, your interest and dividend income, your capital gains, and the amount of mortgage interest you paid. So why do we need to file a tax return at all?

Because the IRS doesn't get your charitable contributions, your real estate taxes paid, and other deductions, for example, but that could change, don't you think? Especially, since you might pay those things with a credit card and already do online banking. Every payment you make is electronic in some fashion.

Here's my latest gazillion dollar enterprise: eTax. It would be great if the government could figure this out. Even better, if I could and then sell it to the government. Or you. I don't care which. It's still worth a gazillion dollars.

Simply sign up. . . . (hahahaha)

Seriously, once the kinks are worked out, it'll be great.

The idea is you sign up (it would be elective, initially), the government sends you an email with the calculation of your tax return and you either accept it or reject it. There has to be a huge number of people who would just accept it. I'm sitting in a room with someone right now who does that already by not filing a tax return to get the refund he's owed. Sounds crazy but he just doesn't want to trouble himself with it.

The fact is, there are a lot of people who do that and for that reason alone eTax would work. There has to be a way to connect other transactions to the grid. Some would be easier than others - like major charitable organizations. If you donate to United Way with a credit card, that would register as a charitable contribution with the IRS, for example.

Assuming it could ever get done, it would put H&R Block out of business. My firm too, eventually. But it makes sense. The reporting requirements of financial institutions is getting ever more sophisticated which might be burdensome until the computer code is written, tested, and works. (This year's reporting of capital gains was much easier due to regulations concerning basis reporting in earlier years.) It can happen.

Just saying.

Long Day

If they would only do this at the same time…

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Still doing taxes in my sleep. They say that will go away. Eventually. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

There's Always That Guy

2pm - new client walks in the door.

Day's not over yet.

Palindromatic

Every Date This Week Is a Palindrome

See? The day has barely started and already I'm goofing off!

Getting back to normal . . .

Today's Stress Meter

On the way into the office today I was asked to pick up the following:

  1. Triple grande soy latte
  2. Grande vanilla latte
  3. A bag of potato chips
  4. Red bull and vodka
I'll let you decide what kind of day it's going to be.

Done

Well, almost done. Still have to get through today. But we will. I'm pretty confident of that now. Besides, we're out of chocolate chip cookies over here so we have to be done.

I've got some details to attend to today - not the least of which is my own return - but we got through most of the rough stuff yesterday.

Thanks for your support. We should be returning to your regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

Or sooner, if something funny happens.

Nobody ever wishes anyone a Happy Tax Day. Except me. I'm pretty happy about it.

WOO HOO!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

You're Killing Me!


Do not go boating in this beautiful weather, text me about boating in this beautiful weather, or plaster pictures of you boating in this beautiful weather all over Facebook. That's just seriously cruel. It's bad enough that it's beautiful outside. I have to close the blinds at work so I can't see it or else I'd be tempted to go out there.

I'm only allowed to go outside exactly two times per day. Once at sunrise on the way to work and once at sunset on my way home. Yesterday, however, I managed to escape for a short while. I went to Grinitch (I had to do an errand there and fetch some Grinitch spinach) and I was sorely tempted not to come back. Ever.

With my luck it will be raining on the 16th and I'll be on the boat wishing I was at the office. Oh, the unfairness of it all!

Dude, invite me when I'm not working, okay?
2

Saturday, April 12, 2014


The pants algorithm resulted in pale green pants today. You could make an argument today of whether or not there's anyone inside them. But it probably means it's time to do laundry.
3

Friday, April 11, 2014

Superheroes

I was feeling badass ninja today. I got dressed in my tight, black skinny jeans, a black top, and black patent leather peep toe platform pumps that showed off my fire-engine red shellacked toenails. I topped it with a sleek black jacket and black cap, jumped into my black Porche Carrera convertible and roared off to work, radio turned up loud and my stick-straight, long, light brown hair streaming behind me.

Then I did some ninja shit, got all the bad guys, went home and had a Grey Goose martini (shaken) with two olives in an ice cold glass while sitting on the deck of my yacht.

Well, almost.

I only have about four pair of pants that I really like but I go through a daily ritual of looking at all my pants, from left to right as they hang in the closet, before selecting the pair I really want. Today I picked my black skinny jeans - using my secret mathematical algorithm for selecting pants - and a top long enough to cover the fly that won't lie flat when I sit down. The armbands I wear to relieve the pain of tennis elbow poked out beneath the three-quarter length sleeves.

I haven't had a pedicure in six months so sandals were definitely out of the question - not to mention it was probably still a little early in the year for that. I figured if I wore the peep toe shoes I would only have to paint the toes that peeped.

I applied a single layer of red polish to my big toes and their nearest neighbors and then used my blow dryer alternately between my hair and feet. Having burned my forehead the day before, I decided not to curl my hair and running late for work I applied leftover makeup. This technique is based on an assumption that there is probably still makeup in my makeup brushes from the day before - which reminds me I should probably clean my makeup brushes.

With my toes still wet I put on pink rubber flip flops, a Jack Daniels "Field Tester" ball cap to cover my grey roots and my company-logoed jacket , got into my 11 year old convertible and dropped the top before I noticed a big gob of bird shit on the window. Damn! I flip-flopped back into the garage and got a Windex wipe, cleaned up the gob and started again.

I tied up my hair into a loose ponytail, accidentally including the string that holds my bifocals, tuned in NPR, and drove to work in heavy traffic, focusing the floor vents onto my feet to complete the drying process.

When I got to work, I shoved my feet into my pumps and looked at my pale and veiny feet and wondered what the hell I was thinking. Who cares if only four toe nails are painted? - I thought and put my flip flops back on.

I did tax returns for about ten hours, drove home in the rain, and had a glass of wine before I reheated leftovers and went to bed. Some ninja.

I wonder what Batman does on Friday nights.

4

Is it Friday yet?

Not yet.

Is it Friday?

Not yet.

What day is today? Friday?

Not yet.

When will it be Friday?

Four more days.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

One Week To Go

7 days left in the tax season. It’s 7:15 am and I don’t have time for this but I have several thoughts in my head that I want to jot down before I forget them.

  • Waking up from NyQuil-infused sleep is rude - it’s not the waking but the return of the symptoms you took the NyQuil to alleviate.


  • running to/from April 15 - even as most people would like to avoid April 15th, I run towards it like a marathon runner to the finish line. (The last time I made this comparison was last year - I think - when a bomber tried to blow up the Boston Marathon so it’s not all that good a comparison.) People are still coming in the door with their taxes saying: So sorry it’s late. I hope you can still do my taxes. I don’t think it will be very hard this year. I’ve only gotten divorced, inherited a lot of money, invested in multiple publicly traded partnerships that do business in all fifty states, sold my house in a short sale before renting it out for a short while, and spent some time working in a foreign country, and I can only find about half my documents. But maybe they’re in here (heaving a large box onto the counter). Do you think it will be done by the 15th? Oh, I also sold a small number of shares of a European company that my grandfather gave me when I was six. That won’t be a problem, will it?


  • baby wipes with an expiration date - because what could be worse than wiping your ass on an old wipe?


  • After making pouty faces in the mirror in an attempt to make it (my face) look contoured and more animated i decided to selfishly spend a few more minutes in front of the mirror before trudging off to work to apply some makeup. I managed to stay within the lines this time carefully avoiding the salved patch of skin I had earlier torched with my curling iron.


  • life is funny - my posts that have only a number in them - and nothing else - are receiving higher ratings on my blog than posts with any thoughts in them at all. which means no one is probably reading this. what makes life funny is life itself, its adversities and our clumsy attempts to overcome them. if i were to pursue being funny full time and give up my “real job” I’m afraid there would be nothing funny to write about.


  • McDonalds - I’ve been craving McDonalds which only happens when I’m hungover or during tax time which - oddly - are very similar.


  • I was asked by an organization to be their Historian, seeing as I’m a "writer" and all. Hugely flattered, I am, but considering that History was my worst subject in school and my own records are more hysterical than historical, I’m wondering if they’ve made a wise choice. A different organization asked me to be their Secretary, once, but I had to quit after I found out how much writing was involved.


Took NyQuil last night. Can you tell?

I am an April Fool.

So, Tim B., still funny?
7 - The thoughts in my head are very funny this morning. I jotted some of them down for later, before I went to work where all funny thoughts will summarily die. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to get back to them and, hopefully, they'll still be funny.

Friday, April 4, 2014

All At Once

Good gravy! I actually have a moment to myself. A time to relax and just not think - about anything. Paradoxically, I worry that I can't think of anything to think about and so I think again. (What a friend of mine calls my Thinking Problem.)

Here's what I'm thinking about:
Invisibility Cloaks
Taxes
Taxation of Invisibility Cloaks
Starbucks
Crack

Man, you can't believe how good it feels to dump that out of my brain! I keep a notebook handy just so I can dump stuff there - little notes so I don't have to keep that kind of stuff in my head but I never have my notebook with me when I want to recall them so who knows? It's probably like blogging - words floating through the atmosphere with no place to call home.

I digress, but that happens pretty frequently this time of year.

You know what else happens frequently this time of year? I lose total and utter control of the English language. Oh, sure, I'm old so that happens but when I get a bunch of numbers in my head, the words are crowded right out of my skull (haha - autocorrect wrote "soul" which is just as close to the truth) and . . . where was I?

Right after drones become a household item, invisibility cloaks will become a must have. With more ways to spy on each other, products such as the Spy Finder Personal Detection Device are finding their way into the market. What happens when you have a north-going Zax and a south-going Zax who meet face to face and stop in their tracks? Everybody finds away around them, that's what. (We find ways around things, is what I'm saying.)

I'm not sure the description for this particular product should inspire confidence:
It detect wireless and wired cameras by looking through the viewing port and scanning any room.
Grammar aside, I could do that looking through an empty toilet paper roll.

My point is, at some point non detection will be like star-bellied Sneetches. Once we all have stars on our bellies, we'll want them off again and Sylvester McMonkey McBean will be there to clean up.

But I won't need to stand in line for an invisibility cloak because I'm already invisible. Seems like it, anyway, when I'm trying to get help from a retail clerk. Joke's on you, though, because after you all get your invisibility cloaks I'll be the only one that anyone can see.

As for taxes (see list, above), there's always something new and voyeuristicly interesting every tax season. Last year, it was cancelled debt and foreclosures. This year, employer-provided health insurance benefits are reported on W2s and I'm amazed at how much people (or their employers) pay for health insurance. If I added up my auto and home insurance plus my life insurance premiums, it wouldn't come close to what I pay for health insurance.

The other tax-related item that only I would find interesting is how many charitable organizations don't know that if they don't include the proper language on their receipts their donors' contributions are non-deductible. Imagine donating a large sum of money and finding, on audit, that the deduction is not allowable because the receipt doesn't contain the words "no goods or services were provided in exchange" for this donation? If you don't get a receipt with that language on it (for donations in excess of $250 and for which no actual goods or services were provided) prior to filing your return then the donation is nondeductible and I don't care if you gave a million dollars and you're a really nice guy. It's no good.

This is not exactly front page news but a lot of people don't know this. People who really should.

I don't really have anything to say about the taxability of invisibility cloaks but maybe I will later, during the tax season when Invisible Tax becomes the next Obamacare. (Lawmakers will write the law in invisible ink and we'll all have a hell of a time trying to non detect it.)

Starbucks and crack go together. I have further evidence that the soy milk is the source of their crack additive: They sell everything else at retail except the milk. Dairy milk, I get. They only have limited space and they're not in the business to sell milk. You can go next door to the grocery store to get that. They're not in the business of selling sandwiches either but they can fit all their food into one refrigerated case. They're not going to expand their stores for dairy. (Although, they are opening new stores that sell only tea and tea-related products. Why not branch out into boutique milk bars?)

You can buy mugs, coffee makers, and coffee. All the items one might presumably think would allow a person to make coffee at home and avoid ever coming back to Starbucks again. But, no. The only ingredient they don't sell (which doesn't need refrigeration, btw) is the soy milk. Because they want you to come back. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over . .. . .

That's my mind-dump for the day. It's this crowded in my head all the time but I can usually string it out over a couple of days which also gives me time to filter out the irrelevant and the unfunny. No such luck today. I don't know when I'll have another minute so this is what you get.

All at once.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Yesterday's News

After tax season, I think I'll start working on a script for a new TV show. A cop show, I'll call it:

Retina & Macula
Private Eye

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Deloitte Hires Accountant After Noticing Popular Tweets Of Audit Calculations

“When we came across William’s @TheRealRiskAssessor Twitter account and read his incredibly smart and engaging tweets of gross margin sample reports, performance materiality numbers, and risk assessments, our jaws dropped and we asked, ‘Who is this guy?’”