Thursday, January 31, 2008

Various Thoughts

The countdown begins. We leave tonight (or rather Friday morning) at 1:00 am on Copa Airlines. The flight takes us from LAX to Panama City to Santiago. That's a long, long, long flight. There's a lot going on with packing, re-packing and so on. It's very difficult to pack for Santiago which is 86 degrees and then on to Tierra del Fuego (~ 57 degrees) for 1/2 a day and then onto the ship and preparing for 20 - 32 degrees.

My feelings bounce around with every passing hour, from panic that I've packed all I needed, to excitement to apprehension, it's a wild and wonderful world inside my brain. It's 6:30 pm now and I've been trying to write this blog all day. My procrastination skills are fantastic. What am I procrastinating about? Packing. I hate to pack. I hate the decisions that have to be made on a trip of this length. Well, frankly, I hate the decisions for any length trip. You have to decide how many pairs of socks, what to wear each and every day, what to wear more than once, etc. You have to plan for weather that you are unfamiliar with and frankly, 2 continents I'm unfamiliar with. I hate packing. So, I've done everything in the world except pack today. I've even made peelable labels with people's addresses for mailing postcards, rapidly. Now that's sick. But the suitcase remains empty. Four and a half hours until we head for the airport. Perhaps I should get busy, eh?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Vice, Habit or Pleasure?

I drink caffeine. Yes, I do. I admit it. Isn't admission of a problem 90% of the cure? Is it really a problem I have though? I don't drink 4 cups of coffee a day. I hate coffee, can't even stand the smell of it. I get my caffeine through those new fangled energy drinks at $2.50 a can. I used to get my caffeine from an old fashioned can of coke but those as 12 oz and 280 calories. Then I started drinking diet coke and people said that aspartame (aka NutraSweet) will kill me and that all those chemicals in diet drinks bloat you and make you retain weight. Well, I just can't win can I.

So is drinking caffeine a vice? I think not as the definition of a vice is frailty: moral weakness
a specific form of evildoing; "vice offends the moral standards of the community". Well, my caffeine habit certainly doesn't qualify as evildoing. It's not like I'm President Bush or anything..... Is it a habit then? Well a habit is defined as an established custom; or "a pattern of behavior acquired through frequent repetition". Hmm, well it's definitely a habit then. I like my caffeine first thing in the morning. I like a Red Bull to jolt me awake and get the energy flowing through me. I want to wake up running and on fire baby! Well, I now drink Diet Red Bull and I'm sure that's going to kill me too. Everything is going to kill me eventually I guess. I only drink one little 8 oz. can in the morning, can that be bad? To me, it's pure pleasure. Well, let me clarify, it was pure pleasure drinking a can of full high test Red Bull, not the diet crap. I like the flavor of it, the jolt of it, the tingle of little bubbles on my tongue first thing in the morning. The diet doesn't have the same thrill but, it does the trick. So have I compromised my pleasure for a habit?

Well, regardless of what it is, I'm weaning myself off. You'd think that it'd be easy right? It's only one little 8 oz can a day. How much caffeine is that really? For the record, the amount of caffeine incorporated does not have harmful or toxic effects since one 150 ml cup of tea contains between 60 and 90 mg of caffeine and one 125 ml cup of coffee provides between 95 and 125 mg of caffeine; one 250 ml can of RED BULL provides 80 mg of caffeine (32 mg/100 ml). Since I figure that Red Bull on the National Geographic Endeavor will either be non-existent or really, really expensive, I've elected to quit. How's it going so far. I actually was able to skip a day, Monday. I lived through it. Was the day better or worse. It wasn't as pleasurable to be sure.

Friday, January 25, 2008

National Mentoring Month and Day

Yesterday was National Mentoring Day. As an event the Los Angeles Kings gave the Big Brother and Big Sister organization in the greater Los Angeles area 100's of tickets so that the "Big's" could take their "Littles" to a hockey game. And not just any hockey game, the freeway series of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks vs. the Los Angeles Kings. There are certain things to expect when you get something for free, and that's to expect that you get what you pay for. So I expected to be on the top tier of seats, I just didn't expect to be at the very, very top. You couldn't get any higher in the Staples Center unless you were hanging from the roof. The view of the game from up there was actually pretty good but it was difficult for my little as it was her first hockey game ever. Being so far away you don't really feel part of the action but I did explain some of the basic points of the game, like when a referee will stop a fight and when he'll let them go at it.

Speaking of expectations......I create scenarios in my head. This is why I really started this blog so long ago, to write some of them down. Some are out there and some are just stories and thoughts; but I realized last night that some are expectations. I had some expectations last night. When Big Brother/Sisters called me about the tickets I thought it would be an organized affair with all the Bigs and Littles sitting together in a section where we could all come together and have fun. It turns out we were scattered all over the top sections and there wasn't really any camaraderie. I tried to turn it around to being just about my little and I. It turns out that she prefers that. It seems that she's embarrassed that she is in a position in her life where she has a big sister and not really a mom or dad that's part of her life. Makes sense.

The Kings won 4 - 1, there were a couple fist fights, one really big one. This seemed to thrill my little sister the most. Perhaps she was born a hockey fan?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


After pressure from relatives, I took the plunge. I joined facebook. Facebook is a social networking website started by some young, pimply faced Harvard school dropout who is filthy rich now. It originally started as a university/college site but has evolved in it's short 4 year existence to 60 million users worldwide. It was started Feb. 4, 2004. It's even reached such notoriety that Iran and Syria block it. Of course, they probably block everything......

The information users provide on Facebook has been used in investigations by colleges, universities, and local police. Facebook's Terms of Use specify that "the website is available for your personal, noncommercial use only", misleading some to believe that college administrators and police may not use the site for conducting investigations. Furthermore, some employers look at Facebook profiles of prospective employees or interns. Information posted on Facebook is potentially accessible to employers with faculty or alumni accounts.[66] Myspace has also been used for checking out future and current employees, etc. So be very careful what you post on the big world wide web.

I've been on it now for a couple weeks and while I found many of my cousins on there I was surprise to find an entire Mitel network of ~ 200 Mitel employees including the COO and several VPs. This just proves the paragraph above. I've found many of the add on applications buggy and some have said many of them are spam generators, keystroke loggers, etc. Any applications I add I'm very careful to ensure they are used by many, many people. I suppose if I load an application that is used by many I'm under the false belief that so many people couldn't be getting screwed. hehe It is nice to share photos and I am able to stream this blog to facebook so that facebook users who are my friends can link to me or easily reach this blog. We shall see if it's of future interest to me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Yummy Malkin's Jam

When I went home to NW Ontario for my gram's memorial service I wanted to make sure I picked up some of that yummy Malkin's Strawberry Jam that I love so much. I had been out for quite awhile. There is truly nothing like it. When I went into Ronning's in Baudette, MN(just over the border) to pick some up I was surprised that the label had changed and the lady at the counter said they'd been bought by a large conglomerate. It was just too much for me. Does EVERYTHING have to change? Even my damn jam? As a side note, don't bash me for buying the jam in the states, I was in a time crunch and have always in the past bought it on the Canadian side! I'm proud to be Canadian.

So yesterday I popped open my can of jam. Yes, that's the way things should be, jam should come in a can, not a bloody glass jar. They give you a nice plastic sealer for it after you open it. That jam has sat on my gram's kitchen table (where generations of Blight descendants have sat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, blueberries and pastis for over 50 years) since as long as I can remember. I wanted to ensure that the taste was the same. I enjoy my Malkin's jam with peanut butter on a Ritz. Yummmm. As I popped the first cracker in my mouth, my taste buds did a happy dance. Nothing had changed. Whew, the flavor was still there. But what happened to Malkins?

It appears they were bought by some large company in Southern Ontario called E.D. Smith. I guess that Malkin's was a family owned production line in B.C. who had employed generations of local Abbottsford families. E.D. Smith had elected not to reproduce the jam, not enough volume, then they were bought by Treehouse Farms, an even larger company. The story can be read on the links below, it's interesting and frankly is typical of today's economic world. You'll be happy to know that it is being produced by a small little family owned production line in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan, oh, that's right, all of Saskatchewan is the middle of nowhere.

The story
The new production facility
The first purchase and as you can see, what a company says during an acquisition is completely different than the end reality result:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

California Registered Domestic Partnerships Blaze New Tax Ground

I had a startling call from my CPA yesterday. He informed me that a new law passed by the California legislature says that as of January 1, 2008 Registered Domestic Partners (called RDP for brevity for the duration of blog) will be required to file Married Filing Jointly (or Married filing separately) for tax year 2007 and beyond. Now since the federal government passed the Defense of Marriage act (called DOMA for brevity, or as I like to call it, DUMBASS) RDPs cannot file Married returns to the feds. So what does this mean? Well, it basically means a big, confusing mess. So Dena and I will have to file one state return, Married Filing Jointly. Then we will have to file 2 (one each) Federal returns as single people. Oh by the way, my CPA said he was going to charge me $ 1,350 to due our returns. HELL NO!! I am looking for a new tax preparer, someone gay who has a vested interest in knowing the law.

But, for those of you that are a little tax savvy, how in the world can you determine how to file a state return when it's all based on the federal return? Good question. Our tax preparer would have to prepare a fake federal return as Married Filing Jointly, not file it, but use it to prepare the State return. Confusing, maybe, expensive, YES. So basically, Dena and I would need 4 returns prepared of which we'll use 3. Heterosexual married couples only need 2, one state and one federal. Tax preparers charge by the return normally, so we get charged double. How nice.

Also, it seems to me that since this is the first year this will occur there will be a high margin for error for returns and perhaps a high audit rate. This does not sit well with me. I have a severe fear of the taxman. Perhaps, and most of you will shudder to read me having any optimism at all, but just perhaps there may be some financial benefit. Nah.........the taxman taketh away but never giveth!

For reference:

California RDP
Defense of Marriage Act
California Franchise Tax Board RDP info

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Changing of the Guard

As the memorial service for my grandmother ended and people filed out of the church we were greeted with a beautiful, almost irreverent sunset. The sun was causing a pillar of red light to shoot into the orange sky and the purple clouds. Gramma loved her sunsets. She used to teach me, "red sky at night, sailor's delight, red sky in morning, sailor's take warning." It was as if she was acknowledging all that loved her with something she loved best. The service was important for all her grandchildren and great grandchildren to celebrate her life, remember her and give themselves some closure. Her children had their closure with a personal service by a minister at the hospital. Grandma's legacy lives on......

As the day after my Grandma's service dawns in a snowy, chilly, beautiful day; thoughts of change and the future fill my mind. Almost all of my friends have now lost all of their grandparents. My generation has stopped being the grandchildren and moved on to the distinction of becoming the children. I'm not sure that's a distinction I like. I liked being a grandchild. There was less responsibility somehow. We were the young ones. Now the torch is passing, the great grand children becoming the grand children and the grand children becoming the children. With this torch comes responsibility and unfortunately, age. We have an obligation to keep the family together, look after our parents and protect the memories of the past. Today, it's a heavy weight. Perhaps I'll become stronger as I become used to it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ode to Gram

As I walk to the top of the hill
flooded with so many memories
kites, blueberries, and adventure
I feel her here
walking with me

Down at the beach
on the big double swing
We sit side by side talking
and watching the boats go by
The seat is empty now

The leaves rustle
it must be the wind
I know she is there
walking up to the house
it must be time for tea

A song wafts across the bay
It sounds familiar
Is it the Waltz or Shawnee?
It doesn't matter
she's playing her accordian

No one to send postcards to
or get slippers from
but in the sky tonight
over her lake and her legacy
shines a star so bright

Sunday, January 06, 2008

An Amazing Woman

Early this morning my gramma passed away. My last surviving grandparent. She was an amazing woman to be sure. She was 90 years old.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Various Notes

I was looking at the top 25 downloaded songs on yesterday as I thought it'd be nice to have some recent music on my Ipod. You know, so I don't look too old....I saw this Ellen show the other day and she had some people dancing around to Soldier Boy. Well, I looked and looked on itunes and couldn't find it. It seems that it's really called SoulJa Boy. I feel old now!

I got a very stupid ticket by an LAPD officer back in September or so. I am able to go to traffic school and it's due on the 9th of January. Being proactive, I'm just doing it now. I went to an approved online traffic school by the County of Los Angeles and it was very easy. It did not take 8 hours like it would if I went and sat in a classroom. I've done online traffic school 3 times now over the past years and I love it. I would consider myself an expert at it frankly. I've never taken over 3 hours to complete an online course. You can even, if you're really a procrastinator, have it overnighted to the court (for a fee of course). One key to taking these courses is to copy and paste all the documentation into a word document. You can then use this for searching when they do the chapter review and final exams. Better than memorizing....

Some of you may have noticed that I've slightly updated my blog template. I've added a new option called polling. Please participate by clicking your "right" answer. For example, the current poll is regarding toilet paper usage. This is easily determined, just as you normally would, pull the TP roll but before you wipe, count your squares. Simple. Take a few runs at it to get an average and let us know! And remember, this is not for # 2!