Monday, March 28, 2011

This is why I'll never be an Adult

For the last 9 months or so, any piece of paper I couldn't deal with right away, for whatever reason, got stuffed into a cabinet, or a bin under the cabinet. The intention was to go through it every 3-4 weeks, get everything settled and move on. It has recently spilled elsewhere. One reason I needed a weekend to deal with taxes is digging the relevant stuff out of this stash. I think I've got most of it, and the rest I can print off the computer at work tomorrow.

Of course, now my living room looks like this:
stacks of paper on everything, labeled by stack
(TBI= to be installed, aka in a box on the porch because I have enough projects to last a month of sundays.)

Fortunately, I only had a couple of late payments and they didn't lead to significant charges. One reason I could deal with the pile fairly quickly is thanks to the wisdom in "Taming the Paper Tiger" about not bringing crap into the house in the first place. I drive to my mailboxes, and strip out all the filler paper (unwanted ads, extra pages, unwanted checks, useless envelopes) and just keep the truly necessary stuff. Since most of my important stuff is set up on autopay or goes to my UPS mailbox, I open it at lunch and pay it right away if I can. Probably 90% of the delivered bulk goes straight in the trash. And 70% of it is unsolicited so "going paperless" wouldn't help much and only let me miss more deadlines at this point.

So. I pretty much have what I need to get my taxes done, submit my last $400 from my health care account to be reimbursed, and make the recipe I made up for the Trader Joe's lemon pepper pasta that I've looked for twice so far. (Boil LP pasta, toss over medium heat with 1T TJ's olive tepanade, glug of favorite cooking oil, diced 1/3 avocado, 1 Dorot frozen garlic cube, & salt until heated through.)

But it's not pretty. And this is why I'm not living up to my potential. Hopefully once I get my cabinets in place and have file drawers that aren't hidden behind a sofa, things will improve. Stay tuned but don't be holding your breath.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Last Minute Tax Advice

It turns out that in 2010, one can get around income limits on ROTH donations by converting a regular IRA to a ROTH. If it's pre-tax money, you get 2 years to pay the taxes on it. A good friend clued me into this, I just have to remember to do it tomorrow... She also told me about the trick of creating an IRA with after tax money then converting it to the ROTH. So if you had a good year this year and didn't fund a ROTH yet, or think you're going to hit income limits, try this trick before March 31st.

What I don't know is if there's a $5000 limit on the Roth conversion. I assume there is, but my brother is hoping that he can convert a whole IRA account. Anyone know?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Regularly Scheduled

The last two months have been a blur of visitors, visiting, Angry Birds, and reading. Most of the reading has been in the last two weeks because all the book from authors from my recent post became available. I interrupted the quite enthralling Pale Demon to read my Suz Brockmann when it showed up, then read that furiously, stopping only to go to work, nap, and have one session with my new trainer. I enjoyed the book and after a brief stint last night to finally get three stars on the pesky levels 10-8 and 10-10, meaning I've hit 3 stars on the first 13 angry birds levels, I was able to get back to the demon book.

I've said it before but it bears repeating, I really like characters who march to the tune of their own drummer, then pull other people/beings in with their drumbeat, crafting a community for themselves. The stories that are most satisfying to me have this happen, and I also think that's one of the draws of a series. Not just seeing the main character, but see who they charm, protect, draw in, or otherwise gather into the fold and how this ragtag band of misfits manages to defeat the reigning power who has grown out of control, growing up and growing together while they're at it.

I'm still cobbling my own community together here in SoCal and having some of my older friends come visit was good for the soul. Even back in MN, I managed to hook up with a college pal, braving the wrath of the almighty to hang out at their catholic church for a trivia event. (We won.) We calculated it had been 11 years since we'd seen each other, and she's up to 4 kids from the 1 I'd met. (They're whip smart too and have good manners.) My mom actually left MN before I did, having a birthday invitation to join friends at a time share in Cancun. Seeing as she left behind a couple feet of snow for Chichen Itza and the beach, I can't say I blame her!

Sometime sooon - maybe next weekend, it looks like I should go see my grandmother. Her husband is having some trouble, and we're all worried for them both. My brother found a flight for this weekend but I couldn't swing it. Plus I *really* need a weekend to get my house in order - turn in my tax paperwork, and everything else I can get done after weeks off duty. Part of me worries that Pop won't hold out and that I'll think it was crazy to prioritize tax paperwork and a very expensive, awkwardly timed flight over a visit, but I'm holding out some hope that something can be done to make him feel better. At 91 they're reluctant to do more surgery, but he was pretty vital until this latest issue, so it's not like throwing good money after bad if his quality of life will recover.

In the interim, I also have my short story from Suz, which will likely suck all of my attention until I finish. So if I can keep away from the Angry Birds, put the book down once in a while and get my taxes and projects done, it will be a good weekend.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Plugging away

Apparently 'tis the season for authors I like to publish books. If you have any interest in reading stuff I recommend,

Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann is Izzy's book. I love Izzy. He sings a lot and he's irreverent and competent at his job but still kind of not fully grown up in his personal life. I've been waiting for this one. You can order a signed copy from the author if you do it by Friday. It comes with a bonus "short" story of 20,000 words. If you have the borg connection, the facebook page apparently works better for the pre-book countdown updates, but I'm still in denial about posting fb links here.

I bought and read River Marked by Patricia Briggs. I enjoyed it, it was well done (maybe too short) but the biggest news that one of the characters was wearing a Dresden Dolls T-shirt. A local dancer taught a funky dance at the evening hip hop class maybe two months ago. It went to a song that sounded like Cibo Matto meets Laurie Anderson, but until I heard the song and even sometime after that, I thought we were going to be dancing to . . . and I couldn't for the life of me remember the song. All I had was "I think it was about a marionette and it was popular in Boston when I lived there and it's sung by a woman." After paging through my visiting friend's ipod, it jogged my memory and I asked her about it and she got as far as "I think it's "something something boy" and the singer has tattooed eyebrows". "yes! That's it!' (aka I'm not crazy! but I still don't know the song). I spent a while surfing Teegan and Sarah songs not finding it. Then the day after that conversation I started reading "River Marked" and the instant I read "Dresden Dolls", put down the book and found my current grail: Coin-Operated Boy. And I'm right, the weird dance would totally go to this song.

Thank you Patricia Briggs and Dresden Dolls.

I also picked up the latest Kim Harrison Pale Demon. I read the first half dozen in the series from the library but picked this one up on the kindle and the "Hotter than Hell" anthology from the Borders closing sale. You can read excerpts from this site.

For completeness, both Catherine Mann and Virginia Kantra have new books out now or soon, respectively.

Aside from now trying to get 3 stars on my Angry Birds - NOT as obsessively as before since there's no star at stake, just, well let's call it practicing finishing things. I've been playing scrabble and surfing from the iPhone. Really, I should be sorting out my tax papers to turn in before the last minute, since I will be traveling this weekend. Maybe tomorrow. But it's early bedtime now.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Put a Bird on it

My visiting friend clued me into a bit from the new show Portlandia called "Put a Bird on it" where the characters rampage through a store putting birds or bird motifs on everything to make them trendy. Like so

It was great because we went up to Santa Barbara to hang out and look at art and shops and found a lot of birds on things. We almost laughed ourselves completely out of Anthropologie which was bird-tastic. We hit total BINGO win squared when the store "Rooms & Gardens" had ACTUAL BIRDS: three chickens live in the garden behind the store! Here's one of them. They were all rather good looking chickens.

chicken with reddish-tan feathers

We were able to retire from browsing after that major success. We'd had the bird scavenger hunt while we killed a couple hours waiting for my current favorite place, elements on Anapamu, to open for happy hour at 4pm. I started to panic that it wouldn't be worth the wait, but they came through. We started with cocktails like "satsuma lime mojito" and "farmer's market bellini" and noshed on a triple cheese plate that came with nuts, honey in a honeycomb and crostini along with excellent olives and pistachios. We stayed long enough to get the dinner menu and thoroughly enjoyed that and the fried apple pie dessert before heading back.

Another fine weekend day in Santa Barbara.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Airplanes as Shooting Stars

My last post on wishes reminded me of the song lyric "Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars? I could really use a wish right now." If you haven't heard the song, the chorus is sung by a female vocalist and the verses are performed by a male rapper. It plays on hip-hop stations (and possibly on pop stations but since I don't have one of those I don't know for sure) and I like it a lot. Or at least I think the chorus is hauntingly beautiful.

I listen to hip hop for 2 main reasons: of the 3 radio stations with good reception in my town, 1 is NPR 2 of them are hip hop; I like hip-hop dance. The genre has grown on me - I listened to very little of it in Boston where I had good access to alt rock stations so I only got the crossover songs.

(But don't you live in LA? Well, no. I live *near* LA in an electrical signal Bermuda Triangle. I get some sort of broadcast to nearly every frequency but almost none strong enough to overcome the static. I couldn't get TV without cable even before the digital crossover. To be fair, there's also a spanish language station that comes in fairly well. But I have to drive a couple valleys over to get the main LA area programming, or listen through my computer which was not a good option until I got wifi, and I have yet to set it up to make it workable and I'm insufficiently motivated to search it out most of the time. Plus, the station that convinced me I could find "my" music in LA folded in the recession.)

But Cranky Otter, you're a super-feminist. Why would you listen to hip hop? Isn't it all misogynistic hate crap? Well, no. There still is a lot of that kind of thing, but the times, they are achanging. Well, that and if I can't make out the lyrics, they can't bother me, can they? And sometimes, they're so overthetop I can't take offense. I like "Golddigger" as much as the next fan.

This year in particular, however, there have been multitudes of hip hop and pop stars who have hooked up in male-female pairings to create some songs that have broader appeal. Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg, Emininem and Rihanna, "B.o.B" and Haley someone (who sound to me like E & R...), and I think there are others. Have you noticed other stars joining forces this year?

(side rant - I'm now forced to use my google login for youtube. I don't want to use my google login for youtube. And google? I don't want to watch a 15-30 second commercial before I go to a video that I only want to watch maybe 15 seconds of to screen to see if it's what I'm looking for. Overlay ads are tolerable, delay ads will make me stop using your product whenever I can get away with not using it. When your product is snippets of 10 second to 4 minute things that people may or may not watch all the way through, 30 second commercials can absorb more than 50% of the time alotted to that websurfing and completely derail me from my path. Plus, it will make me hate that ad. Ads several minutes into a show, meaning after I've committed to something like a full 22-44 minute episode on Hulu, are perfectly acceptable. When I'm just trying to find something in the first place? They will stop me cold and not achieve any of the goals of watching either the clip or the commercial. And that's why I haven't linked any youtube clips to this post- it was too annoying to vet them. /rant)

Friday, March 4, 2011


I just took a long nap, now need to go to sleep for realzers as I have a guest coming tomorrow and should make some attempt to be civilized. But what did I do? Downloaded some books from Autobuy authors that recently came out. Will probably be reading for the next two hours. Although after all the anagrams and angry birds recently, it'll be nice to get back to my usual timesink.

One thing that is helping me be civilized is that I can afford to have someone clean my place every month or so. They came tuesday so all I *have* to do is wash the guest sheets and tidy up. But I have so many projects, and there's only so much tidy to go around. At least I don't have to worry about the shower being icky.

It's got me thinking of what else I'd like to hire done, though.
1) bookkeeper - I tell you what needs paying, you execute the payments. I *know* I should pay off the balance, I just plan to do it tomorrow but I'll forget about it tomorrow and then I'll have to pay a late fee. I had one for a while but she stopped doing that sort of thing and I haven't searched hard for another affordable one. They would make sure I turn in my reimbursements on time and remind me to donate before the end of the tax year and the like.

2) personal assistant - like the bookkeeper but not in charge of finances. Would set up and maintain my calendar, check through all the crap emails I get to find the ones I want to read, would set up my email folders so that less sorting is necessary. Would also copy all the files off my old computer onto a backup harddrive and get rid of ye olde eMac. Would compile all my pictures into one main storage space and one backup storage space and would re-back them up after I renamed them. Would also help me search dating websites for likely candidates, and "around town" periodicals for the concerts, museums, events, and restaurants I'd like to hit up and actually get me some tickets and whatnot.
(To be fair, my instigator friend in Orange County fulfills that last one nicely, but it's all stuff more local to her than me. Plus, I have a great organizer, but she's kind of expensive for doing the more rote things.)

3) handyman - or handywoman. Or a friend who just likes doing stuff. I have heapo plenty projects, lots of ideas. I like doing them. Sometimes I just like doing them better with others, sometimes I need more hands. I would like to have a regular buddy for this sort of thing, but would also be willing to hire some help.

4) Personal chef. This one is iffy because it would only be good if it helped me remove some decision making. "I guess I'll have stew because that's what's here". But my mental health requires me to not eat alone in my condo too often, so I eat out and if I'm just as happy with a Taco Bell chicken burrito, a chef seems like overkill when I can find them at restaurants. The bigger goal here would be to have a better food routine so I'm not always dreading deciding what to eat. maybe I should add that to my PA role - set me down once a week and figure out what the food plans are for the upcoming week. Have experimentation day on a day I can accommodate it.

The goal here would be to have someone help me impose order where it's hard for me to do it on my own (bookkeeper/PA) and make my fun projects less chore like. I'm making good on my goals from last year to finally get my place set up like I want it. I'd like to finish the already in-house projects within the next 3 months. This will allow me and my organizer to get me set up better to deal with incoming papers and scheduling, and I think at that point I'll be able to look into grad schools (and refinancing the mortgage or buying a cheaper place).

After attending the local Engineering Societies' Week dinner last night and being inspired all over again about the future of energy research, I need to make grad school a nearer term goal. (Or at least the regular watching of TED videos.) Particularly, our Keynote Speaker talked about how energy efficiency is progressing faster than engergy generation and storage technology. I've long thought I'd be psyched to do research and development batteries/fuel cells, but it might make more sense to work more on energy efficiency because I could get it to tie in better to my existing background and skillset. If one makes a more energy efficient cell phone, the same old battery doesn't have to improve as readily, for instance. And our CEO says we have something in the works, just like all other companies, so it makes me think it would be an easier career upgrade than trying something completely new. In the meantime, it might be cool to get involved with something like Unite to Light which donates solar rechargeable LEDs to schoolchildren in areas with poor local infrastructure so they can study after sunset when the day's chores are done.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


It has happened. My twin made me a facebook page. I updated it some. I have not worked out any kinks or learned how to navigate, but it's 4am in Texas and my brother just accepted my friend request so we'll see how the pace continues.

I read about an organizational scheme for controlling privacy settings and will be trying that. (Note to brother- if you keep posting pics of you dancing wrestling drunk and they get to my page somehow, I may have to demote you in my friend hierarchy...) If you think I should alter it some, feel free to let me know, just try not to post details here. While one can link to my real name from here, I'd rather try to keep this semi-anonymous, so my deepest public thoughts take some effort google search. Because time was that 7 of the top 10 Google search results for my name actually were about me.

But I could use some advice on how to navigate Facebook to get useful, timely or otherwise ultra-super-important information in a timely manner without doing too many irritating newbie things. I still have the notion that I'll be posting here still, because I like blogging. All my life all I ever wanted was a time-date-stamped diary, and here I have one from Blogger and I want to keep it.