They'll give a blog to anybody.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Greetings From Uncle Sam

Tax season is officially here.

Since 2004, I have worked at a local income tax office. I spend about 3 nights a week there, from January through April 15th, doing other people's taxes. It's a nice change from my regular job where nothing ever comes to an end. I get to finish something everytime I send a tax return to the IRS. I also meet a variety of people that are very different from those at my regular job.

In the cube farm where I spend most of my waking hours, everyone haspretty much the same background. At least educationally. In the tax office, almost everyone I meet has a different educational, economic, and social situation than me. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. It's a good reminder that not everyone is like me. It helps put things in perspective and keeps me grounded.

The two major benefits of the tax job are the other employees and the extra income. The people are great. It's a family run operation and some the owners and staff have become friends. The extra income is great. I get an hourly rate and a bonus at the end of the season based on the returns I complete. The job starts up right after the holiday season when money can sometimes be a little tight. My wife started working there a year before I did. She saved her paychecks from the tax season and went on a trip with her sister with the money she earned. I liked the idea of having some money for something extra, so I started working there the next year. My goal, every year, is to use my tax income to buy something I really need, like a 5th electric guitar, or a 3rd electric bass. I've got my eye on a Fender Telecaster and a Fender Jazz Bass. Last year, I bought an Ipod. It was just a little Shuffle, but it works for me.

Anyway... about tax season being here.

I went in to the tax office a few minutes early to have a cup of coffee and check email. The other preparers were with clients and the phone was ringing. I sat down at my desk to take the call. The next thing I knew, it was three hours later and I had done something like five returns. I got a chance to stand up and say to our processing person "Wow, it's busy today"! Then I had to go right back to take the next client. Because it had been raining all day, I had thought I would have a nice slow, three hour shift. I ended up having an almost five hour shift where I think I doubled the total number of returns I've done this season. Apparently, everyone has their W-2s and those getting refunds want the money. We'll see the people not getting refunds in April.

It's time to get out the music store catalog and my highlighter. I think I'm going to have a good bonus this year.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Been Sick

I started the week with a cold. Thursday it went to my chest. I am starting to feel a little better, but I'm still coughing more than usual. Notice I didn't say more than normal. I always cough more than normal. It's how people know I'm in the room.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I am considering trying to sign up for a Google AdSenseTM account. Not that I think I could make any money that way. Have you SEEN the counter over there on the right? As I write this, it's only at 493 since November 11, 2005. From what I can tell, there appears to have only been 138 different people that have passed through. I know I'm not getting rich off of that traffic.

But, I'm curious and thought I would try it out. My question, since it impacts people that visit this blog, is do you care? I don't believe there an impact to anyone unless they click a link. There should not be any pop-ups or spyware impacting your systems.

Does anyone object?


It's an interesting word. It has lots of letters, vowels AND consonants. Surprisingly, it has no "E", the most commonly used letter. If I were avoiding work by discussing the word 'procrastination', I would be procrastinating. But I wouldn't do that. :)

Monday, January 23, 2006

How Egg-citing

I went my church's annual men's retreat this past weekend. The women in the church are always jealous because we have more fun at ours than they have at theirs.

One of the activities we did was something I have always wanted to try. We were divided into three teams and told to build a container to keep an egg from breaking when dropped from a height of 15 feet. We were also required to present the design and a marketing plan. Winners would be identified and points awarded for best design, best marketing plan and egg survival. The egg vehicle had to be constructed with only the materials provided in a kit and any extra materials you could obtain by trading with another team.

Being the only engineer in the group, I was certain our design would survive. It probably would have survived from 100 feet. It was a little over engineered. My surprise was that the other teams eggs also survived. It was amusing that all three designs were completely different but used, essentially, the same materials. Overall we ended up in second place because of a rules violation by the winning team. We filed a protest, but it was rejected. A piece of advice, never trust someone who works for the Legislature. They will manipulate the situation for their own advantage, even if it violates the spirit of the rules. And they will be proud of their ingenuity. Phhhhbbbbbbttttt!

We had a lot of fun and I recommend this activity.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Making Progress

I'm slowly making progress on my bar. It's so big, that I don't want it to turn into one of my "never completed" projects. I need to get it done, including the platform that will be used to store the pieces when the bar is not set up.

I can hear my wife now: "Sure, the bar you want to finish! What about the whole house fan?" Sorry dear. I'm trying to help by getting all of the bar paraphernalia out of the house.

I'm going to use the home depot gift card I got for my birthday to either buy paint and stain or wood for the bar rail. Pre-shaped bar rail is REALLY expensive. After hunting around the internet, I think I can make my own for much less with a table saw and a router.

I'm starting to think about the space in the garage. How do I want to separate it from the rest of the garage? Do I want to paint the walls or build panels to put up when it's a bar instead of a shop? Which beers do I want to get neon lights for? Do I mount my guitar hangers in the garage, I'm not making much progress on my den? Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Birthday Greetings

Today is the holiday the Federal government has created in honor of my birthday. My actual birthday was yesterday, but the third Monday of January has been set aside as the recognized holiday. Thanks to Ronald Reagan for signing the bill to make today NGD, Jr. day. I get today off, officially, from work. Friday, I'm taking my "work at home day" my boss allows us to have for our birthdays. A nice three day work week will be nice.

The actual birthday was nice and calm. I woke up early (4:30) and couldn't go back to sleep, so I watched some TV. I spent from 9:30 until 2:00 at church for a variety of meetings and service. I had a nice long nap after I got home. I opened some presents.

I didn't have any cake, but I didn't miss it (I don't really need it). I had a nice dessert instead.

Thanks to everyone for the gifts and well wishes.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I'm Better

I may let the children live.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

I Hate My Children

Let's just leave it at that.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Whatever Shall I Do?

I have a part-time job doing income taxes from January to April. I usually work a couple of nights a week to make some extra money for musical equipment of other non-budget items. I have been working longer hours at my day job so I am able to work at the tax office during the day on every other Friday. Today was my Friday to do taxes. Since it is still only the beginning of January, most people don't have their W-2's yet. This means the tax office is kind of slow. Yesterday, my wife informed me that the tax office owner said he didn't need me to come in today. That means I now have a 4 day weekend instead of a 3 day weekend. Yee Ha!! The kids are in school and my wife has to work today. I am home alone.

I could do laundry. I could clean the kitchen. Naw, I don't think so. At least not as a primary activity. I think I'll get the rest of the Christmas lights taken off the house while we're in between rain storms. Then, I think I'll go to Home Depot and get the wood for the exterior of my bar.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Belly Up...

I have always lamented the fact that homes in California don't have basements. I have fond childhood memories of playing in the basements of the homes we had in Illinois. I remember my dad having a workbench in one back room and his CB radio on the bar in another. I remember someone else's basement for how big it seemed. It was fairly dark except for the cool Hamm's Beer light on the wall. It also had a big bar.

I had always thought the ultimate in home parties was to have everyone over to hang out around the bar in the basement. But, in California, it just doesn't happen. I have been getting bar paraphanalia as Christmas and birthday presents for the last couple of years and devised a plan to create my own "virtual" basement bar. I have a 3 car garage. It is 2 cars wide, but one half of it is 2 cars deep. The back part is where I have my tools and is also used for storage. I've been slowly putting my storage racks on wheeled platforms to maximize the versatility of the space. My goal is to be able to move everything out and use that space as my "basement".

I started work on my bar last weekend. I got the plans from an internet site ( It's worth checking out if you are into this sort of thing. I paid a one-time subscription and am very pleased. The plans lend themselves to individual modifications. I am building a variation on the "TailGator". It is built in sections that can be taken apart for storage of transportation. I figure I can pull it out when I want to have friends over to watch a game or play poker. When I'm done, I can put the bar away and use the space as a workshop.
The next steps are to build the interior shelving and to purchase the panels for the exterior. I haven't decided whether to stain it light or dark. I am currently leaning toward dark, but that decision is subject to change until I purchase the stain.

It's nice to be making progress. Come on over when it's done, and I'll serve you up a cold one.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I posted this as a comment on a friends blog. It was such a loong comment, I decided to use it as a post here.

The thing I noticed most in taking apart the Christmas tree last weekend was that the ornaments that get wrapped in tissue and stored in a big ornament storage bin got put away several times faster than the Hallmark ornaments that each had to go into their own individual plastic bag or bubble wrap and then into it’s original box. Undecorating (de-decorating?) would be much less painful if I could get rid of those little boxes. Unfortunately, I’m still hung up on the collectability of those ornaments and the decrease in value if they don’t have the original box. I have a couple of USS Enterprise ornaments that are still listed at around $300 each in the Green Book.

Maybe I should just store the boxes separately from the ornaments so I don’t have to deal with them every year. That’s what we have done with the fancy ornaments. Hmmm. I just need a place for 2 more storage bins.

Surprisingly Disappointed

I was more upset than I thought I would be at USC's loss in the Rose Bowl last night. I was happy that both teams were there and could have rooted for either one to win. It's probably because I picked a team to back instead of just wanting to watch a good game. From a fan of football perspective, it was a very good game.

Congratulations Texas. You hooked 'em.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Football Factories

Today is the day I've been waiting for since last September. The USC and Texas are playing in the Rose Bowl game starting at 5:00 tonight. These are my two favorite college football teams and have been for years.

When I was 18 and playing college football at Cal State Hayward (in the mid 1970's), the other receivers and I would pretend we were playing for USC. Everytime we'd score a touchdown in practice, we'd start singing the USC fight song. Lot's of people would refer to USC as a football factory and insinuate that they had bought their team by giving football scholarships to players that didn't qualify for admission academically. We would here that and think "lucky bastards". They were playing in front of 60,000 people every week and we had, maybe, 1,000. We always used the term football factory very affectionately.

Several years later, in my second attempt to get through college, I was going to the University of Texas (that's a story for another day). It's a great school, with a fantastic engineering department. I used to park my car in the lot next to the football stadium and ride my bike to class from there. What an amazing structure. The difference between that stadium and where I played college ball was like comparing a T-ball field with a major league baseball stadium. You can't help but get caught up in school spirit in that kind of environment.

So, tonight is the national championship game between the school I used to pretend I attended, and one of the schools I did attend. I hope the game is half as good as the hype. I've rooted for one or the other to win the national championship every year for 30 years. But, in this case, I have to give the nod to the school I dreamed of playing for.

Go Trojans!!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Feeling Better

I'm finally getting over the cold I cam e down with on my first day of vacation. What a coincidence that today is my first day back at work. Sucks to be me.