Archive for February 2009

Flotsam, Or About to Be

Took another little stroll on Sunday, up to Phinney Ridge just west of Casa de Perils.  I believe this is the best view from a Starbucks cafe I’ve had the pleasure of gazing at while sipping my macchiato (see sidebar):

We caught a PBS broadcast of last night’s Stevie Wonder concert in the East Room of the White House.  An illustrious parade of musicians performed Stevie’s songs, ending with “Superstition”, performed by Stevie himself, sounding terrific.  I kept trying to guess who would do the (horrifyingly treacly) “Ebony and Ivory”.  My bet was on Barack and John McCain, but, alas, they passed over the number.  Obama kills me sometimes.  At the end of the concert, he said he’d just seen the most illustrious Stevie Wonder cover band ever.

Who has weekend plans?  Some folks I know are kayaking off Marrowstone Island, near Port Townsend, on Saturday, and I’ll be with them if the stars align (and it doesn’t snow any more like it did this morning - sheesh!)

Be True To Your School

No lie - I saw a car with one of these plates this morning on the 520 bridge:

but the letters in black after the “W” were ANKER.

My Blog Goes On Amber Alert

Just ended a week of business travel, dancing through snowstorms in both Milwaukee and Minneapolis to arrive in Seattle only an hour late (albeit at 1am Saturday morning). This time, I really did sort of go around the dark side of the moon, blog-wise. I felt very out of touch, cerebrally, for most of the week.

Here’s the scene of my last contact before disappearing.  It’s the Northwest Airlines Worldclub in Detroit, where I alit between flights. It’s perched above the main corridor between the concourses, TSA and baggage claim, and it’s fun to watch the body language of both departures and arrivals through this river of humanity. Each has its qualities of jubilance and dread. There’s the business road warrior slumping either into or out of town with Monday on his mind; lovers ending a weekend that either succeeded wildly, or didn’t; arrivals from tropical climes, tans already cracking, boxed pineapple tucked under their arms as consolation prizes; student groups off on an adventure they’ve been saving for with car washes and bake sales, already forming their little alliances (Click photos to enlarge):

The work week was heavily involved in another variant of businesses trying to respond to the current financial crisis: excise muscle and amputate limbs in order to survive, and risk having no capacity to respond to an eventual upturn; or don’t act, and risk losing the entire business.  We’re in unprecedented territory; you can’t Google the answer.

I awoke Saturday to a sweet sorta-spring day, and I did a walk around the extended neighborhood to run errands and expel the plane from my lungs.  I stopped at a cafe for an espresso and bowl of delicious soup: a peanut-carrot-curry, with a stick of garlic bread.

There were some unusual things to photograph.  Lawns in my neighborhood are often found-art canvases.  Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes not:

Happy VD 2009

A little late with the podcast, but I got the important stuff taken care of last night. I nabbed some caramels and a gift card at one of Mrs. Perils’ favorite pleasure-palaces (Click to enlarge):

I think I made the safe choice. I was talking with one of my clients this morning, and he was just then buying his wife’s Valentine gift. He was walking into Best Buy. I don’t think this will end well.

Since it’s almost impossible to beat your way into a restaurant tonight, we’re noshing on home-made pasta and an Aussie Syrah. I heard in interesting piece on NPR yesterday about how anguished restaurants are that Valentine’s Day falls on Saturday, because it co-opts what is normally a busy night anyway. I imagine their lobbying group is pushing Congress to fix the day on a Wednesday.

Valentine’s Eve

So, here I am, a “weekend blogger”.  In golf, they call such a person a “duffer”.  Maybe you could call me a “bluffer”.

Anyway, I’m working on my 2009 Valentine’s podcast, which I vow will be online in time to nibble chocolate and listen to my treacly offering.  But just in case you’ve gotten your chocolate windfall early, here are my podcasts from the last two Valentine’s Days, which are just as sweet today.

First, the 2007 blockbuster:

featuring:

  • Amadio Mio - Pink Martini
  • Advice For The Young At Heart - Tears for Fears (”Love is a promise, love is a souvenir”)
  • Small Wonders - Dog’s Eye View
  • Lovesong - The Cure (”However far I stray, whatever words I say”)
  • Great Expectations - Elbow (”Know I’ll Always wait…”)
  • Crush - Garbage (from the Baz Luhrman “Romeo and Juliet”) (”I’d do time for you”)
  • Blue - Joni (”Songs are like tattoos, you know, I’ve been to sea before”)
  • Corcovado - Everything But the Girl

And the 2008 podast:

featuring:

  • Help Me - Joni
  • Destiny - Zero 7
  • Sagaba - Blue Scholars
  • I Can’t Get Started - Bunny Berrigan (”I’ve got a house, a showplace…still I can’t get noplace with you”)
  • Someone To Watch Over Me - Linda Ronstadt/Nelson Eddy Orchestra
  • Since I Fell For You - Lenny Welch

On The Other Side Of France

A couple of weeks ago, a person on my blogroll had a story published in the online literary magazine Brevity.  After clicking over there to read her piece, I poked around the magazine and found several delightful stories, and I’ll be making Brevity a regular stop.

One story in particular impressed and amused me.  It’s called Future Ex Buys Pajamas, by John Bresland.  In it, he’s touring Paris for the first time with his girlfriend/wife/whatever, and he’s a little non-plussed by both Paris and the French:

The more we walk, the more difficult it becomes to avoid mention of the city’s high concentration of lingerie boutiques. During one fifteen minute stretch we pass more lingerie shops than pharmacies. For every chicken roasting on a spit, there’s sexy lingerie smoldering in the boutique window next door. I try to be a man about it. Try not to stare. But every time a woman emerges from a lingerie shop, I can’t resist studying her face for signs of lifelong erotic contentment.

Inevitably, they enter one of the boutiques:

Every item has the delicate vascularity of a burning leaf. Her eyes settle on a pair of black stockings.

And for a moment, his girlfriend becomes the object of his fantasy.  But then:

Suspended behind the stockings, hanging from a pink padded hanger like a wet blanket, one pair of women’s pajamas. The anti-lingerie. And I worry about this.

I guess the title of the story tells us where they are headed.

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For a while in the 80s, the Victoria’s Secret catalog would grace our mailbox from time to time.  Unlike the author of the story, I wasn’t inconvenienced by having to imagine very much about the women in the catalogs.

Mrs. Perils did actually purchase something from VS once, but don’t leap to any conclusion - it was something like a sweatshirt.  Unlike the couple in the story, we’re still together (hey, Mrs. Perils is hot in a sweatshirt! - Ed.)  But the catalogs long ago stopped arriving.

Coincidentally, we passed this store today walking around Fremont (click photos to engorge):

We didn’t go in, though. We had a date with a troll:

Taxing Experience

I spent a lot of the week preparing for, and then participating in, an audit of one of my clients by the Washington State Department of Revenue.  We don’t have either personal or corporate income taxes in Washington, so this audit covered 4 years of sales tax and something called the Business and Occupation Tax.

The preparation was complicated by the fact that, over the audit period, four different people have prepared the quarterly returns using source data from two different accounting packages, so almost no two quarterly tax returns were prepared in quite the same way.  This unnerved the auditor a bit, and I had to basically give her a guided tour of every return.  There was nothing really amiss with any of them, but since I hadn’t prepared the ones from the earlier years, a lot of questions arose.

The auditor would ask me how a certain number was derived, and I’d be all “Hmm…how’d they come up with that?”  As we progressed from year to year, “they” increasingly meant “me”.  But I still kept saying “they”.

There was an ironic twist to this experience.  Back in the 70s (1975 - 1979), I worked in the same capacity as a state revenue auditor.  Late in 1979, though, Reagan was elected on the federal level and a Reagan-esque Democrat named Dixie Lee Ray was elected governor in Washington, and I figured it was going to be a bad time to be a government employee.  So I quit and went to work for a CPA firm.

As it turned out, though, the state needed money pretty badly, and the audit function of the Department of Revenue was expanded quite a bit, including the creation of another supervisory level.  I’d have had an almost instant promotion, with a lot of headroom for advancement.

It’s all good, though, I’ve had a really kaleidoscopic career with exposure to stuff that I never would have seen if I’d stayed at the DOR.  However.  As I was chatting with the auditor and recounting how I’d worked for the Department back in the day, she mentioned a woman that I’d started with, who was her supervisor.  But…she had just retired.

Retired.  The word was like a spear between my ribs.  Her supervisor (and I if I had stayed) would have been grandfathered under PERS1, the gold-standard retirement plan that soon became unavailable to new hires as the state looked for ways to cut personnel expenses.  It shimmers like a desert mirage as I fretfully refresh my Quicken every day or so, and recalibrate how much longer I’ll be working.

Groundhog Day All Over Again

My blog saw its shadow and would have whisked down its hole for another 6 weeks, but I grabbed it by its short serifs and sat it down for questioning.

I’ve been working a lot, a little bit overscheduled, plus today was something of a quadruple-witching day: clients had annual stuff like 940s, 1099s and W-2s due, as well as quarterly unemployment, workmen’s comp and sales tax returns due.  For some, I actually prepare the returns; for those who prepare them themselves, I often have to assist in generating reports and cajoling recalcitrant software.

Saturday was a really nice day here, relatively, and I launched into Puget Sound with a couple of paddling pals to practice capsize&rescue drills.  I had never actually immersed myself in salt water before - all my previous rescue practice had been in fresh water.  Puget Sound is about 46 degrees on average at this time of year, and even with my GoreTex drysuit and several poly layers underneath, the experience was bracing.

As I said, though, it was a pretty day, and we played and splashed until hauling out and viewing this sunset: