Life is good

Yesterday, I packed off the last yard debris from The Great Yard Excavation of 2008, so on [quick, start counting on fingers!] so on Thursday morning, February 12th, the last three cans of yard debris will be hauled of by the lovely folks at Heiberg, who would be delighted if they but knew that this signals the end of most of five months of up to six cans every two weeks. The yard's a full lot, and it was horribly neglected for most of four+ years, and now it looks like my grandparents' pear orchard, slightly uneven ground, patchy grass and onions and stuff, you know, a working farm type appearance as opposed to looking like poor white trash with uky stuff taking over.

So life is good.

And in the last week I've gone from being two years behind on my Mom's taxes to waiting for the last few documents to start the 2008 return, having completed and mailed [or having ready to mail] the 2006 and 2007 returns, both refund returns [yay!] and being caught up on the bookkeeping so that all I need is to get the 2008 tax software and check a few things and 2008 will be done, first time it will be done early since Dad died in 2001, shows that while I have a ways to go getting the place tidied up, still and all, improvements are occurring.

Life is good.

And like clockwork, at slightly over two year intervals for the last 4+ years, I've gotten called for Jury Duty; this'll be the third time since life went weird, unlike the previous two this isn't a set term of two days but instead a pool for a trial which is expected to go 8+ weeks, Federal Grand Jury stuff sounds like, and while I doubt they really want me given why I'm on disability... I don't fall into their exempt categories, being neither 70+ years of age or breastfeeding, so I'll be showing up in mid February and they can decide if I'm who they're looking for in re serving on a Jury.

Life, is weird. All the years I was in fine shape, never got called for Jury duty, now they do it as closely together as is legal. I may ask them about it this time to see if they really want to keep calling me up given my erratic functioning.

But still, the yard is clear and now to wonder what to do with it, and time to try and motivate in like manner to deal with stuff inside the building.

As I swivel around in my chair, I look around and see that while I'm not having folks over, it is much better than it has been in years and there might actually be a tunnel that I can see a light at the end of, instead of a cave with a mirror reflecting the light of the train behind me, as it has so often felt like these past five years.

This'll do for now. All hail the Conquering Gardener! He Who Hast Slain Clematis! Banisher of Blackberries! Pruner of Fruit Trees! He Who Uses Opposable Thumbs! Tool User!

Yea, verily, let this be mine epitaph, "He was a user of tools", for all shall know that this was a man of worth.

Save that thought, for some time many years from now!

Life, is good.


The absolute best time to go shopping!

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us, and that means that the best time to go shopping is upon us as well.

Costco is almost vacant during the Super Bowl, the place absolutely echoes, and the malls look like they aren't open. The streets are empty.

And the folks you come across while shopping are great! That is, the other customers are great, they're preselected to not be obnoxious sports fans, their IQ is considerably higher, and they tend to be pleasant non-aggressive types. And they tend to be tired of all the hoopla about the Super Bowl, it's just a d*mn football game after all, not like its really of any import to Life, The Universe, And Everything.

And I'm sure that there are gals who could really dig a straight guy who'd rather be shopping than watching the game. After all, which is more important?


Now is the Winter of our Discontent; still more snow!

So far this winter we've had more snow than in the last 15 years, possibly longer, combined. Since the last I posted about snow we've had two more snowfalls, including the lovely snowfall going on right now.

The current snowfall looks more like a downpour, except that its snow not rain; coming straight down, rapid not drifting, medium sized flakes so it really has that downpour look to it. Supposed to have a possibility of freezing rain later on, as it warms up.

Makes me wonder what next winter will be like, so we can see if this is a trend or just a fluke, its probably time for another cold cycle, haven't had a really good one in thirty years and that was just a sequence of three years with ice storms, nothing much snow-wise.

The part of me that doesn't deal with shoveling the walks thinks this is grand, its part of what I miss about Chicago [other than the food and bookstores and friends], the part that deals with shoveling the walks thinks if this is more than an aberration I'll need to get a better, read proper, snow shovel, the thing I'm using is more of a manure scoop shovel for unloading trailers than something you'd use with snow, the handle is just too short so you have to hunch over and like to kill your back in nothing flat. Of course, just as I've done with other implements of destruction, I can always replace the handle, just need to drill out two rivets, drive them out using a pin punch, then insert one of the spare shovel handles I just happen to have in the shop, drill proper holes and bolt the thing together and voile! Probably wouldn't hurt if I sharpened the blade as well, dull shovel blades are much harder to work with than sharp shovel blades.

Which nicely segues into sharpening tools, such as hand saws and shovels and trowels, et al., and tools I recently bought for the purpose of doing so, except I don't feel like going into major details just now, but I've purchased the equipment needed to properly sharpen handsaws, which all of the western style saws we have desperately need to have done. Saws are supposed to have nice and sharp teeth, not nice and round teeth, and some of ours are rounder than a hunchbacked mouse, to coin a phrase.

Well, back to killing time while watching the snow come down.


SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, acronym SAD [yes, they clearly designed the name to produce the acronym], is a bloody pain. At least in my case.

Light quality and intensity affects mood; the gloomier the environment, the gloomier the person. The converse is generally true, the cheerier the environment, the cheerier the person. The best long-term solution to SAD is to move to, say, Tucson, where even during monsoon season the skies are this gorgeous bright blue. Don't even consider moving to Alaska, not if you expect to last a year; seriously, those struggling with SAD have heightened likelihood of suicide during the winter months, the world just is a complete downer. Conversely, those not affected by SAD but depressed during the winter have a heightened suicide potential when the weather changes and they stay depressed, as they realize it's not just the weather.

There are semi-successful treatments for getting through the dreary months, and they involve tweaking your environment. Bright, high intensity lights, balanced output to simulate mid-day summer light levels, combined with paint matched to the appropriate shade/hue of blue found during mid-day, high summer, has the best effect. Combine this with closing drapes/blinds when it is gloomy out, insuring that the drapes/blinds are highly reflective and/or of a cheery color, helps to remove awareness of the outer gloom.

The light stuff is pretty common knowledge these days, I don't know if the medical crowd has a clue about the impact of color; I'm aware of it as it explains my lifelong infatuation with certain shades of blue, especially in shirts; having certain shades of blue constantly in my peripheral vision has an extraordinary impact upon my functioning.

Nifty idea for tracking down the appropriate shades. Take a digital camera, on a day where the sky just causes your heart to sing with joy, and take photos of the sky. Then run the pictures through color analysis software, which will output the mix of primary colors required to achieve that shade/hue. You can take this down to your paint store and they can mix paint to match; take the photo as well as any analysis you've done, they may have their own color-matching software tied into their mixing machines.

For a really neat effect, take photos of the color at the horizon, mid-sky, and straight up; you'll produce a range of shades due to the different amount of atmosphere the light had to travel through. Paint your walls shading from horizon at the baseboard to straight up at the ceiling, your mind will be tricked into thinking you're outdoors on a gorgeous day!

Blending light and color in different ways in different rooms can result in the mind being able to focus better in different rooms for different activities; you need to be able to work on x type activity, go to y room to be properly stimulated by your surroundings. The final touch in environmental pre-conditioning would be audio, blending sounds/music to sight; OK, the real final touch is tying airflow into the whole thing, to produce a sensory virtual environment appropriate to the task at hand.

Now, for a truly scary situation, combine bi-polar with SAD. Bi-polar being a PC way of saying manic/depressive, combining it with mood swings tied to environmental stimulus is just asking for trouble. I know I'm SAD, and there's reason to suspect bi-polar and some autism-related behaviors.

It's bright and sunny outside. I'm slightly manic right now. I need to go do something!


Income Tax, withholding, and refunds

Back in the day, when I was working for the Chicago Public Library, I always had a refund return on my Federal and a slight tax due on my State taxes. Then Bush, Sr., had his Economic Incentive Brainfart, and withholding was reduced, and I suddenly started owing taxes every year.

The rational was that if people had more money throughout the year due to decreased withholding they would turn around and invest the money in some manner that would enable them to earn more money, and that from this they would pay the taxes with no burden at tax time.

Stupid. That's all I can say about that idea, STUPID. The average worker has no investment plan, does not invest, and presumes that withholding will cover their tax burden with a refund left over, as it should and had done for a long enough period of time that generations of blue collar workers were raised budgeting for a refund to make purchases; the refund was their investment plan!

And withholding has not been adjusted back since then, because they all think readjusting withholding will be perceived as raising taxes. Idiots. The vast majority of folks don't really notice the difference in paycheck size that seven dollars would make, but everyone notices the difference come tax time, when they owe money, serious money, instead of having a refund.

See, the whole concept behind withholding is to spread the burden over the course of the year, in such a manner that no tax is owed at the end of the year. From a strict fiscal perspective this should be done such that refund or tax due is under $10.00, and the understanding being that amounts less than x, where x is the cost of processing payments, would neither be issued nor collected; that you don't lose money due to the cost of processing the paperwork.

For the longest time the majority of workers, the one's able to file short form returns, always had refunds, refunds large enough that they could make semi-big plans around them. Tax time was not looked at with dread, it was looked forward to with anticipation because they had a refund coming, and they had budgeted for that refund; the refund itself was a viable economic stimulus package, and one which had no negative emotions attached to it.

When people get refunds they don't complain about taxes, when they owe tax they complain; the tax burden may be identical, but perception is based on how the pocketbook is hit, and big chunks all at once are a pain and are perceived to be a pain, whereas refunds cause the sense that things aren't so bad, kinda nice actually.

Folks living paycheck to paycheck can't pay tax due returns. They really appreciate a refund. They generally have enough frivolous 'expenses' each paycheck that a slightly larger withholding won't be noticed, but the end result of a tax refund instead of tax due will be noticed. People who receive refunds are happy with their government, those who owe taxes are not.

Truly smart congresspersons would adjust things so refund returns were once again the norm for those who have no non-W2 income and no Schedule A deductions, the folks who fit the norm. It should be that if you do everything you are supposed to do by the governments rules that you will not owe taxes; anything else is the government deliberately yanking your chain, and deserving of public outrage.


More snow!

So, when I went to bed last night rain was coming down in a decidedly Chicago drown your cat fashion, the kind of rainfall where you expect to be able to sail boats down the street and heaven help you if the drains get clogged, not the weather to go take out the garbage for pickup in the morning. So I didn't, take the garbage out, that is, decided I'd get it done in the morning prior to their showing up to pick it up.

Lo, and the morning came, and it wasn't raining, and I did open the door to deal with garbage & recycling & yard debris, it being that week, and there was snow on the ground!

Not that much snow, a soggy inch of it, so I did go forth and drag stuff to the curb, that the Mighty Men of Heiberg might come forth and Haul It All Away, and I did return to my domicile, and in scant minutes, less than five, I did Hear Them Arrive And Haul It All Away. And it was good.

And the snow it slushith, and turns full soggy and lacy looking, and anon it shall be gone, for it is not a full storm of snow that occurred, just a slight taste of one, on ground full wet and sloppy, and it thus is more akin to normal snow in this region than that which occurred some weeks agone.