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25 February, 2009

Just like in the movies

I have never been to the Southwest before. It's one of the few parts of the country that I hadn't seen. And by "Southwest" I mean Texas, New Mexico, Arizona. I do not mean Southern California (where I have been before). There are many things there that are truly otherworldly. The most notable of these, of course, is the cactus.


The most amazing thing was the sheer size of these things. I always imagined cactus, from movies and cartoons, to be in the range of 6-12 feet in height. but many that we saw were seemingly between 20 and 30 feet tall. And here's another interesting factus about the cactus. Apparently if a cactus has side branches of any kind, it is likely to be upwards of 75 years of age. So one might imagine that the cactus in the photo above would be quite a bit older than that.

There were many types of cacti, and I did not manage to adequately catalog all of them. But here's one more that I thought was really cool:


Fortunately, I managed to not sit or lay on any of these prickly little creatures. The weather in Tucson was not as wonderful as it supposedly usually is at this time of year, but it was still a good 35-40 degrees warmer than sunny Seattle. There was definitely a beauty and calmness here that is absent from "the big city", and as a small city, Tucson had a fair amount of character. There was a decent music store called Chicago Music that I managed to pass at least 2x a day, every day of the trip. And there was some decent food to be had. Tucson felt, at least in the parts I visited, like it had a funky hip character, not entirely unlike Seattle. People seemed generally kind. And they seemed reasonably happy, too. I suppose people would seem happy if it is never cold and hardly ever rains.

A couple more photos for you:



It was quite a breathtaking experience. And I would venture to guess I will return soon.

A butterfly flaps its wings in Tucson...

And it stops raining in Seattle.

24 February, 2009

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Take 2

Would you really erase the memory of a person’s entire existence if you could? Would you ever think that you learned so little from an experience, that it would be better to just purge it from the archives, potentially dooming yourself to repeat the same mistakes? Do we ever have experiences that teach us nothing? Is that possible? I suppose that with zero will for introspection, it could be that an experience would yield a net of nothing gained. If nothing else, isn’t there at least the potential to learn that you need to learn from your experiences? Really, it would be nice to not make choices that result in situations where a full brainwashing becomes necessary to ever be “right” again, assuming there was ever a “right” in the first place.

I reflect on Eternal Sunshine, the movie, with a favorable memory of it being a film about love and destiny that defies all forces. But the other side of that coin is that Eternal Sunshine is promoting the notion of not coping, but instead just running away. And of course the end result we don’t get to see, but we can presume that we are doomed to repeat our same mistakes over and over if we don’t learn from them.

Take a movie like Groundhog Day, and it does almost the opposite spin on memory and second chances. There, instead of the protagonists being forced to relive the same mistake, even in the knowledge of their folly, there’s a commitment to break new ground. Bill Murray’s character is not bound to repeat his mistakes again and again. Instead, he’s actually given an opportunity to keep trying until he gets it right. A chance to have all those do-overs with the knowledge of his previous trials. It’s sort of an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind of everyone else. I guess, while ESotSM took an idealistic view of things, Groundhog Day had a very real message, which is that every day is a chance to do something better, with the knowledge you’ve gained thus far. And if you keep on burying the past, you can’t possibly expect a better outcome the next time.

I came up with a saying a number of years ago. I imagine that I was not the creator of the statement, but I’ll take credit because I’d never heard anyone say it: “You only have one chance to get it right the first time”. I still believe that statement is true. Because it is an absolute truth in its composition. But I don’t any longer believe that we’re forced to accept failure or to think that things can’t be just as good if you get it right the second time, or the third time, or the tenth time. Whatever “it” is.

I don’t want to reject my memories. But I do want to put many things behind me. There are lessons I have learned, and there are things that have been painful. I don’t cherish all of these memories. But they’re an integral part of me. Writing about them, here or elsewhere, offers me a place to remember what I felt, and when. And it’s a way to ensure that even if things are behind me, the feelings and lessons learned are never lost.

17 February, 2009

Deep Dark Secrets

Does everyone have deep, dark secrets?

I often wonder this. There are plenty of things to wonder in this arena, too. First question would be whether or not people have them, in general. Second question would be how deep and/or dark they are. Third question would be whether or not people are even aware of their secrets, or if many people just have things buried that they'll never discuss, and which they never think about either. Because there's a difference between a secret that you bury like a skeleton in the back yard of the woman that you picked up at a truck-stop and then murdered, versus a secret that you harbor and hold cupped in your hands like Golem's "precious" ring. Without all of the ridiculous metaphor, all I'm saying is that there are basically secrets that you love and secrets that you hate.

To the best of my knowledge I only have two deep, dark secrets. One I love, and one I hate. And I wonder, am I fairly typical for this, or am I a freak? It is just one of those things that you don't get to find out in this world since, by their very nature, secrets are not things that people share openly. Do I want to share them? Well, I don't know. There's a certain liberation of letting go of something that you cling to tightly. But there's an immense fear associated with it. When you reveal your secrets to someone, you're laying yourself at an altar to either be slaughtered or spared.

"Accept me! Please!"

That's the gist of it. And I don't know if the urge to reveal the secrets is based more on the desire to share it with someone so that they'll understand us better, or if it is to be forgiven, or if it is to simply lessen the burden of it by releasing some pressure from a valve that is holding in the volatile gases of our being.

And secrets are all relative things anyway, aren't they? There are some things that may be a deep, dark secret to one person, but to another they are simply stated facts. Obvious example would be a person's sexuality. If a person is a homosexual, but has chosen to never reveal this, then it probably falls into that deep, dark secret category. And clearly, it is only by the individual's choice that this state of existence is either deep or dark. Which makes me wonder, what does it mean to be deep or dark, anyway? Well, I guess the "deep" part is rooted in the fact that it is an essential element of our identity that in some part either does, or has defined us. And the "dark" part? Well, that's all about perceptions. In many cases, it is purely the perception of the holder of the secret. But in some cases, it is the perception of the family or loved ones of the secret holder. And in few cases, probably, it is because of the perceptions of society as a whole. One would suppose that there are absolutes, based on cultural and societal norms. If your secret is a desire to have oral sex with farm animals, chances are that all will agree it is a bit, shall we say, "dark". But that is probably an extreme. 

The darkness all relates to one's perception that to express this element would marginalize the individual. It would deny them acceptance. So we don't share it. We keep it inside.

Back to the beginning again. I wonder who has these secrets. We all must have some. Regarding my deep dark secret that I "love"? That one I have told to some, but only under certain circumstances, sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes for bad reasons. The deep dark secret that I "hate"? I have told very few. 

Do we need to get past our darkness? Do we need to be able to share it all? Or are there some things that are just as well taken to the grave unshared, unspoken, unknown?

16 February, 2009

Better

You deserve better than this
A life with love
A life with joy
A life with no pain
A life with peace

For some reason the cards keep stacking against...
Proof there is no justice for the just
And all the hoping,
All the wishing,
All the helping in the world
Can't seem to right the wrongs

The sayings and proverbs that others will apply...
That we drive our own destiny?
That attitude is everything?
That actions speak louder than words?
That every dog has its day?
They all seem to fall on the universe's deaf ears

For that, I am sad.

14 February, 2009

On the eve of St. Valentine

Well, this is one of "those holidays". One of the ones where you need to find something special to do with someone. One of the ones where people will say to you, "What are you doing for Valentine's Day?" or "What did you do on Valentine's Day". Actually, it's the only holiday where people will say "What did you do for Valentine's Day". They don't usually say that just before Easter, I've noticed. But you know what I meant.

How many holidays are there like this, anyway? Not many. As far as I can tell, there's Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, 4th of July, Halloween, and Valentine's Day. That's it. The sextet of expectations. Interestingly, I do not add Thanksgiving to that list. For some reason, people always have something to do for Thanksgiving, and people are generous, not exclusive, around this holiday. There is no special "Thanksgiving Club" to which you must have membership in order to participate. Not so of the sextet. Nobody spends Thanksgiving alone. But lots of people spend those other days alone. I am not even sure if Halloween belongs on the list, because people don't usually sit home and mope on Halloween. At the very least, you can hand out candy, and scare small children. That's something.

But those other 5. They can really crush you if you're alone, excluded. And people won't necessarily let you in, either. It's members only. And it would be awkward to just start letting people in to the party.

So, what are you doing for Valentine's Day? Oh god. The pressure. Every one of those holidays has a certain expectation tied to it. But for some reason, VD (heh, that's appropriate, huh) is the highest of expectations. Love and romance. And passion. And promises. It's such a high bar to meet. Any other day of the year, happy couple is happy couple. The sex ain't bad. We like the same foods. Get the occasional backrub. Watch movies. See an occasional show. But not on Valentine's Day. You need to MAKE RESERVATIONS. And it needs to be SPECIAL. Every Valentine's Day is like an engagement ring. You need to plan it just right. And the more you do for it, the more approving the judgment is by your mate, and by your peers. If you take her to Kenny Rogers Roaster, that's like giving her the engagement ring from the Cracker Jack box. And up the scale it goes. Daniel's Broiler, I suppose, would be the 3 carat (or is it karat for diamonds, I really don't remember) princess cut of love. But much like diamonds, Daniel's Broiler is overrated, overpriced, and leaves you with a bit of a sickly feeling in your bowels for a period that follows.

Why do we need to have VD? (Jeez, that's almost worse than my "date" pun!)

Why can't every day just be a day in which great romance has the potential to occur? And everyone gets to have their own special day? I have never been a paint-by-numbers kind of person, and to me, it seems like there are plenty of more romantic days than February 14th. Why not January 12th? Or July 13th? Or September 11th (no... not that... blasphemy, they say)! But why not? The expression of love and passion, and generosity of heart is not something that maps to a calendar block. It is something that you feel when you feel it. And you should express it when you feel it. Making an arbitrary buy in to a 1700 year old tradition honoring priests and bishops of the Catholic Church seems like a bit of a silly practice, rooted first in religion, and (like everything else) eventually in consumerism.

12 February, 2009

More talk about dates

I have had a date practically every night for the last two weeks. A streak that I have not ever matched at any point in my entire life. It's really quite impressive. In fact, to rival a good friend of mine, I have actually had as many as two or three dates in a single night, on occasion! And all this without using Match.com, eHarmony, Stranger LoveLab, or any of the more seedy options out there. 

Okay, I can't pull this joke on you twice. It really doesn't work the second time, does it? Really, though, I have had a never-ending supply of dates that came from Costco. And they are delicious. I am not sure, but I think they're called something like "Medjool dates" or some such nonsense, which I assume implies that they come from a place that hates Jews. I am not sure why I think that, but it's probably a good bet. They might actually come from Dallas, and that would still be true. There are a few things I don't understand about dates. Let me enumerate them for you:

  1. What are dates? Possibilities: large raisins? giant ant carcasses? a cocoon of some type?
  2. Are dates plums? Evidence: there is something called a "date plum"
  3. Are dates figs? Evidence: Fig Newtons taste like dates
  4. Does "pitted" mean that they have pits, or that they don't have pits? 
  5. Are dates dates? Evidence: they are called "dates"
  6. Are dates processed or modified in any way? Evidence: they seem too good to be natural

These are just a few of the things that I wonder.

But more importantly, I wonder how I am going to get back to Costco fast enough to buy more once this stash is depleted. Because I am addicted. If I don't have at least one date every night, I have a hard time going to sleep. I often bring a couple of dates up to my bedroom with me, just in case I have a need during the night! It's really getting out of control.

11 February, 2009

Things that make me go "Hmmm..."

If oil prices are the absolute lowest that they have been, at $36 per barrel - even lower than they were a month or so ago - then why is it that gasoline is now 30% higher than it was? People might be inclined to think, "Oh, well it's half as expensive as it was back in the fall! We should be happy!" But that's psychology at work. The fact is, gas bottomed out around here at around $1.70 per gallon. And now, It is around $2.30 or more. That's a 30% increase.

Further reading has indicated to me that, as usual, it is partly a case of Seattle getting fucked worse than anyplace else.

10 February, 2009

Ways in which Seattle is *not* a fucked up city

Today, driving across the 520 bridge, I saw a bald eagle perched on top of a street lamp...

Pedestrians in Seattle

This is a topic that has been a long time coming.

There are many ways in which Seattle is a fucked up city. The street signs, the highway signs, the lane designations, the exit ramps, the taxation, the public transportation, the weather, the road maintenance, the drivers, people's complete inability to parallel park, the fact that gasoline in Madison Park is 40 cents more expensive than gas in the Central District, 1.5 miles down the road...

The list goes on, and on, and on.

But what bothers me as much, or more than any other thing, are the pedestrians, crosswalks, and the asinine system of traffic regulation at intersections in the Rat City.

Here is the situation, in a nutshell:

In Seattle, at every traffic light, there are pedestrian crossing lights. That is nothing unique to this city. And each time the light turns green for cars, the pedestrian crossing light turns "green" for people crossing the perpendicular street. This crossing privilege is granted on every light cycle, and its duration is the entire length of said light cycle. This creates a very maddening predicament at traffic lights, because it means that when the light for cars turns green at a busy intersection, you very often have a situation where nobody can go! This is because the left lane is at a complete stand-still, waiting for someone to take a left turn, while the right lane is at a complete stand-still waiting for people to cross the street before those cars can take a right turn!

Basically, if you want to go straight in Seattle, you're fucked. Or right. Or left.

The only way you are not fucked is if you are walking, because 50% of the time, you can mosey your lazy ass across the street at leisurely will.

That brings me to part two of this "bifecta".

The pedestrians.

I would like very much to mount a snow plow on the front of my Honda Civic, and shovel up and collect all of the pedestrians in this city and push them into one giant garbage pile of ignorant, self-centered, entitled assholes. People in this city behave as if crossing the street is a right. This is not the case. Crossing the street should be a rite. A rite of survival. You should recognize that stepping off the curb is entering the territory of "large metal objects with powerful motors capable of inflicting lethal force". And, being as such, you should scoot your ass across that intersection as quickly as is humanly possible. 

But no. Not in Seattle. 

In Seattle, people treat that taunting white hand of crossing as an invitation for them to bring their party out into the crosswalk, and saunter across the street, perhaps while eating a sandwich. And if a pretty bird flies overhead, by all means, do stop to have a look. I have even seen people crossing the street in Seattle who, when they see you arrive at the intersection in your car to make a right turn, they slow down, as if to say "This is my turn to be here! And you'll just have to wait!".

You know what I say to that?

Fuck 'em. We should be able to run them down. That crossing light needs to be a flashing white gun, instead of a flashing white hand. And it should only be on for 3 seconds, randomly, at some point during the period which the light in the other direction is green. And when you see that flashing gun, you dash across the street, thankful to be alive.

I would venture to say that 15% of the traffic problems in the city are caused by pedestrians. I have absolutely no source for that data, except that I spend 15% of my time wanting to run people over, so that seems about right.

What I really don't understand is why they don't just do it like we did it back in Boston. Back East, if you want to cross the street, there was a button that you had to push. Seattle has that button too. But Seattle didn't read the instructions for how this thing works. In Seattle, the pedestrian pushes that button, and giant magnets immediately bring all traffic in an eight block radius to a screeching halt. This is what I like to call "the wrong design". 

In Boston, the button works differently. 

In Boston, you push the button, and one of two things happen: 
  1. Most likely, nothing happens. You push the button several times. Nothing happens. You wait 3 light cycles. And then you say "Fuck it" and you run across the street, dodging cars, the way humans were meant to cross streets. 

  2. The less likely thing is that eventually, after 4 light cycles, the crosswalk light comes on (usually right after you have played Frogger with your own life, at the intersection of Causeway Street and North Washington Street). Then all the cars are sitting still, in both directions, watching you go into the pizza place. There is usually lots of cursing and shouting out of windows of cars, berating you for having pressed the button at all.
The strange thing about the good people of Seattle is that, while they are completely obnoxious, oblivious, and disruptive while crossing the street legally, they will strangely never cross the street illegally. It can be 2:15 on a Sunday afternoon, with no cars in sight, and you'll see people standing at 85th and Greenwood, in the pouring rain, waiting for that crossing light to grant them permission to do the snail dance across the intersection. It's so utterly illogical, it's mind-boggling. 

If you ask me, people should cross the street when there are no cars coming. And if there are cars coming, they should not cross the street. And if there are too many cars to cross the street, you should go home, get in your fucking car, and drive.

07 February, 2009

Bob's Red Mill

No, I do not own a red mill. If I did own one, I would probably not be here blogging, because I would be busy sorting through grains in the silo out back. But what I do own is Bob's Red Mill flour. And what I have found is that there MAY be a reason why it is more expensive than other flours. As I think I told you, I have been using my new bread machine for a variety of purposes, most of which involve the preparation of dough and breads. One of my favorite things to do with it has been making pizza dough. The funny thing about pizza dough is that it is not trivial for the process to be consistent. And the reason for this is that making dough is not like baking a cake. And it's not like making a grilled cheese. Making dough is a process that involves the biology of the pesky eukaryote, Saccharomyces ceriviseae. I am about 50% sure I have spelled that incorrectly, but damn it, I am close!

And any time you involve biological creatures in your activities, whether they be dogs, cats, humans, or yeast, you are asking for a wild ride.

I have made pizza dough three times with my bread machine. Twice it has come out quite good. And the third time, I feel, it has come out quite below the standard that I would like to have. And given that I am now using a bread machine, and weighing and measuring ingredients quite accurately, I am inclined to blame the variations on the ingredients, if possible, rather than the process. And the third batch had one thing that was different from the first 2 batches.  The flour.

The first two times I made dough, I used Bob's Red Mill flour, which is an unbleached bread flour, that is advertised as "excellent for bread machines". The third time, on a whim, I decided to use King Arthur's All-Purpose flour. And the dough sucks. It has less flavor, it did not seem to want to cook well on the bottom, and it just doesn't have the chutzpah that I think pizza dough should have.

So, I say to thee, King Arthur, please get thee to hell, or at least out of mine kitchen.

Of course, the real test is to now go back to the Red Mill, and see if the 4th time is the charm, because that would really seal the deal for me. But I need someone to come over for pizza...

Any takers?

How many things can I resolve to do?

...before I cease to be me?

I don't know. I have changed the way I eat, sleep, work, exercise, think, communicate, dress, play music. I am rebuilt. A new character. I was a 47 year old married woman, mother of three, from Cleveland, working part time at a local bank; and now I am a 26 year old bachelor living in a condo in Venice Beach, in my 1st year of medical residency for dermatology, playing tennis every Thursday at 10am, and drinking only Skye vodka, and listening to modern jazz because then I can tell the attending that I know jazz. 

How much more can be changed?

All kidding aside...

I am trying to exert this new discipline in my life, and realizing quickly that there are infinite areas of my life in which discipline was lacking, and which discipline can be inserted. And is it good for me? Does all work and no play make Mick a boring blogger? But sadly, there's no fat to cut from this regimen. All these places needed discipline. I want to be fit? Must eat better, exercise more. Want to be healthy and alert and productive? Must eat better, and sleep well, and try to stay focused. Want to feel good about myself and who I am? Need to exercise, dress better, and stay out of the various kinds of trouble in which we all can become involved.

Speaking of discipline, it's almost 12:30, my hard stop. And I still need to do my obligatory 60+ pushups before I am permitted to go to sleep. Or else. Or else, the whole clockwork comes disassembled and all hell breaks loose, and next thing you know I will be snorting powdered sugar, sleeping with unwilling farm animals, and playing my old Huey Lewis records.

It could really get ugly.

03 February, 2009

Thanks for nothing, Google Maps

The traffic map:


The traffic:


-- Post From My iPhone

I had an AMAZING date this weekend!

Saturday night, I had an awesome date. I usually don't write about this stuff in here, because it tends to be a little personal, and I was trying to define boundaries for myself. I have this other private blog that I write about that kind of stuff.

But this date was SO good, that I need to bend my rules, because you should hear about it. I have not had many dates lately, partly because I was trying to avoid them to some extent, but also, because I just hadn't had the opportunity. None had come across my plate, so to speak. The fact is, I have had some bad dates. And I think I could have continued on, happily, like that for some time. But this date sort of fell out of the sky and into my lap, and I really feel like it's best to not pass up such situations.

And it resulted from the strangest of circumstances!

Of all places, I was walking up and down the aisles of the supermarket. And, as you can well imagine, this is not the first place that one would typically go when looking for a date - though there are famous movies that involve dates and supermarkets, e.g. "My Blue Heaven", where Steve Martin (as Vinnie Antonelli) walks up to woman in the frozen foods section and says something to the effect of "You shouldn't be here in the frozen foods section! You could melt all this stuff!"

But I digress. Suffice it to say, I was not looking for a date. Anyway, this was Friday night that I first made the encounter. I hate to use the expression "pickup" but I guess that is what it was. I picked up this date on Friday night, and made a tentative plan to actually have the date on Saturday night, because Saturday seemed like a good night for a date. 

I could try to describe my date, but actually I think it would just be easier if I let you have a look at a photograph, because no words could possibly tell this story as well as a picture.

02 February, 2009

Above the law

Why is it that the police are above the law?

I understand that, even in concept, the idea of imposing laws upon those who enforce the law is a difficult thing. But it seems it would be a necessary element in a civilization. Yet, how to do it? Do we have "Super Police" that drive the roads to police the police? 

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate that there are people out there who can remove criminals from the streets. I would not want to be left to my own devices to fight crime. And in many cases, I think the police act appropriately. But what I don't understand is the limits and regulations (or lack thereof) regarding the behavior of officers when they are not engaged on a call. When they're just driving around the neighborhood. So often, it seems, the police are speeding, running red lights, taking bizarre illegal U-turns, stopping in the middle of highway on-ramps, basically doing whatever they want. The police treat our roads like one big giant staging parking lot for them to scope out whatever they want to scope. 

I can only begin to imagine what would happen to any individual who tried to comment on an officer's behavior, either directly, or via some type of complaint filing. It probably results in one of those little marks that goes digitally onto your account, such that if you are ever looked up or pulled over for anything, maximum non-benefit of doubt will be applied.

The police are above the law. They can kill an innocent person, and suffer no more than the "penalty" of "administrative leave". Translation: paid time off. They look out for each other, and they probably know exactly how to handle situations so as to remove any culpability from themselves, regardless of whether or not they used proper judgment or appropriate force. To this day, it still baffles me why police shoot suspects multiple times, aiming to kill. Nobody seems to question this. Well, not nobody. People do question it. But there seems to be little deterrent to them continuing the behavior.

Anyway, that's my rant for the night about the police. Because I just saw 2 of them on Yesler, with their lights off, engaging in strange maneuvers and U-turning in the middle of the intersection, in such a fashion that one of them almost hit me. I guess they're just in the middle of some police business. And I should move along, and not ask questions. Because it doesn't concern me. But like I said, I cannot get too angry, because if something bad does happen, I am going to be glad when they show up, and chances are, they'll do the best they can do.

01 February, 2009

Hello, H & R Block

I had my first job when I was the youngest you could possibly be and have an official job. I think I was 15 and a half years old. I worked at a pizza place called Papa Gino's on the East Coast. There are probably about a hundred of them. Actually, I might as well go look at Wikipedia and tell you how many of them there are. I've got time. It appears to have originated in East Boston, in 1961, by Helen and Michael Valerio. However, Wikipedia does not tell us how many stores there are. Instead I go to their official website. From their website, we get the goods: 170 stores. From what I can tell from my most recent experience with Papa Gino's, it appears their pizza quality has deteriorated significantly since when I worked there. I'm sure it's about making higher profit by using cheaper ingredients. The crust and sauce suck now. Why does everything get worse over time?

But alas, that is not the topic of this blog. Easy for me to go on the pizza rant, though.

So, since that first job, in Spring of 1984, perhaps, I have done my own taxes every single year. There have been years where it was trivial, and years where it took a little bit of effort. And then there were years where I had to do some guesswork related to capital gains. But this year will be the first year that I am not sure I want to do it myself. But maybe I do. I am just not sure. The factors contributing to this are primarily all related to having purchased a home. The home purchase itself is not a big problem. But the big problem is that I sold a whole bunch of extremely long-term (non-retirement) investments, in order to have money for the downpayment. If you've ever sold stock, then you know that when it comes tax time, you need to calculate capital gains based on what you sold it for minus what you paid for it. That is the capital gain (or loss, as the case may be). In my case, I have a series of problems here. In a nutshell, what all these problems come down to is one simple thing: I have absolutely no idea what I paid for these holdings that I sold, and I am not sure it would be possible without forensic science to figure out the answer.

Why is this the case?

Well, most of these investments were purchased over 10 years ago. And they were purchased in monthly installments, so the purchase prices were different every month. Half of the investments were moved to Schwab about 8 years from T. Rowe Price, so the price and transaction history is not continuous. The other half of the investments were automatically transitioned from one fund corporation (Invesco) to another (AIM) at some point in time, presumably because of a merger, so that history may be difficult to track. Combine this with the fact that all six investments have had their dividends reinvested every time they are paid, and I have basically got hundreds and hundreds of purchases, at an equally variable number of prices over the course of the last, say, 12 years.

From what I can see, in cases like this, there are no clear rules about what to do. And I am at least moderately confident that I might have almost zero capital gain due to the two big dips that occurred in the last year, and back in 2001. So I don't want to do a "good-faith estimate" of cost-basis and end up screwing myself.

Chances are, that's exactly what I should do. Because it's likely that H & R Block will want to charge me a lot of money to try to obtain a portion of this history. It will involve massive hassle on my part. The best bet, I think, will be for me to look at what the price was 10 years ago, and what the price is now, and use that difference in price to determine my actions. Screw the dividend factoring. Screw the dollar-cost averaging factoring. Just look at what it was, versus what it is. The downside of that is that it might unfairly penalize me. I'll have to do the math. If it looks like I am paying more than hundreds of dollars in capital gains, then maybe I'll enlist the tax man to do the math for me.

The other reason it might be a good idea to go through a tax preparer is that they might know additional things I could write-off with respect to my home purchase. Maybe I can write-off a new refrigerator and washer and dryer, if the house did not come equipped with them? Things like that are worth investigating. 

It just feels a little sad to have made it 25 years of doing-it-myself, only now to have to cave in to the experts.

Favorite socks

For the past few weeks, I have not been able to locate my favorite socks. Actually, to be more accurate, I should say that I was not able to find the second sock in my favorite pair. It was missing. It was not next to the dryer. It was not in my closet. It was not in a backpack, or mixed in with other laundry. And when I thought about it more, I realized that, in addition to this one missing sock, there was another entirely different pair of nearly favorite socks that had disappeared entirely (the gray, speckly-hued, soft, wooly ones). 

I am pretty good at tracking down items such as this, so I was a bit surprised. But I guess, with the craziness of my life lately, I could believe that maybe these 3 socks had run off to greener pastures, or happier feet, as the case may be.

Today, I was planning on going to the gym, which is over on the other side of "The Lake". Since I was headed in that direction, I thought it might be a good idea to drop off more items that belong to Denise (I can't put a pseudonym in here - it just seems absurd), since it was a convenient time. I saw that she was on instant messenger, so I pinged, and asked if there were more art supplies that she was in particular need of having. I would be happy to leave them at her place for her (it is literally on the way to the gym). The implicit agreement in both directions is to have "zero contact". Nonetheless, one way or another, the belongings eventually need to be exchanged. So, it was briefly discussed, and agreed upon, that I would bring a couple of plastic containers full of art supplies that she'd had in the garage here. Fabrics. Papers. Some art utensils. The first load of items (paint and brushes) had been delivered to her workplace a couple of weeks ago. But honestly, that felt a little bit awkward bringing a big box of her things to her work, since it could create drama where there needn't be any. That time, I dropped them with a guy at the front desk, to avoid drama, contact, scene, emotions, etc.

This time, I dropped them on the front step of her apartment, creeping quietly up the stairs so I wouldn't trigger a stressful situation for either of us. I honestly did not expect that she would hear me and come outside, because I believe her objective is to avoid such a situation, and that is a wise thing to do.

On the steps, when I arrived, were 4 things. 

  • 2 mugs, made by her kids (for me, apparently before Christmas). One mug had a single blue sock in it. The other mug had a pair of gray socks.

  • 1 small plastic lizard-like beastie.

  • 1 note, indicating that these items could be taken or left behind, as I saw fit.

So, the sock saga has come to a conclusion. My favorites have been restored to their rightful home. It had never occurred to me that, at some point in time, I'd left those items over there. I cannot even imagine when it could have been. Why one blue sock? I hadn't stayed at her place for at least a month, even before our breakup. Maybe it had become mixed in with some things of hers that she'd taken from here. Who knows?

Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band

Well, for the past however many years, it seems, the artists who have performed at the Super Bowl have not failed to impress. I can't remember when the transition occurred. I think that maybe the year that the whole Janet Jackson debacle happened, it was decided that no more bullshit would be thrown up on the stage of the the "World's Greatest Event". From then on, it's been great acts.

Wikipedia tells me that Janet Jackson was in 2004 (along with additional horrible artists, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Simpson).

Since then, we've had: Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and this year, The Boss.

With the exception of the fact that the format obligates abbreviated versions of some songs (e.g. 2nd verse was cut out of Born To Run and Glory Days), these performances have all been fantastic.

I am not a fan of stadium rock, actually. And I am also not a fan of the hype that goes around the commercialism of (corporate) professional sports. But I guess I do feel like if it's going to be such an extravaganza, it should deliver. If you go back through history, some of the Super Bowl acts have not been what I would call super. 

Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera and Toni Braxton in 2000...

New Kids on the Block in 1991...

And if you go back earlier than 1990, it seems like the halftime show was more of a "variety show" than a kick-ass performance. 

The highlight of this year's show was definitely seeing Bruce and "Little Steven" (a.k.a. Silvio from The Sopranos) singing harmonies in the same microphone on Glory Days. Though that's not a Boss "classic", the song certainly brings back MTV memories from high school, and they did a very good job playing it. Bruce's voice is not a heck of a lot worse than it's been over the past 20 years or so. And he was relatively spry for a guy who will be -- get this -- 60 years old!! -- this September.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about these Super Bowl halftime shows is that they have the crew and coordination to assemble and disassemble these ridiculously huge stages in such an amazingly short amount of time. 

To think that "American Ingenuity" can produce arena stages that can be cycled in 20 minutes, but we can't make a car that gets 50 miles per gallon.

(I had to end on a cynical note)

They don't look quite as good as in the Glory Days