Real Work

While building mail servers and computer consulting pays well, it’s not very physically demanding. This allows certain muscle groups to atrophy. This is never more evident than when a bout of charity strikes. Some friends are opening up a store and phase one is getting the building set up.

I stopped by and, signed myself up for some rather serious manual labor. “Why sure, I love crow bars! I’ll help tear up your floor”. In a flash of red-hot wisdom I also called my cousin Solomon and invited him to help out as well. I didn’t tell him what we were doing, and bless his heart, he just came. We spent all morning and part of the afternoon tearing up plywood and carpet.

The plywood was very thin (3/8″) and extremely well nailed. Excessively so. That made getting the plywood off the floor in sheets very difficult as the nails ended up pulling through the plywood instead of coming out of the floor. Once we had the carpet & plywood layers peeled up we spent several hours with crow bars pulling nails.

All that is little more than a good days work. However, combine that with the aforementioned atrophy of working muscles and that I’ve had a sore throat for the last two days (I think I’m fighting off a virus) and I’ve got some really sore muscles. I should sleep well tonight. 🙂

MT is the way to blog

In case you weren’t away, a blog is a Web Log. All the good acronyms were already taken so the term “blog” is what was left. I’ve been maintaining my web log for quite a few years and in the last year or so, it’s become a very popular thing to do.

A few of my buddies from INLD now have blogs. Jason has one, Deven has one, and even not so geeky people like my buddy Mike Barker has one. Who is next, my dad(s)?

The spring thaw

There is no longer any denying it, the spring thaw is upon us. Our ski trip today is cancelled due to rain. It’s rained for the last few days and last night we were supposed to get snow. We did, but then it rained the rest of the night and this morning. I think it’s safe to take the ski rack off the Jetta now.

It has begun

My oh my. Today we received our first baby present (newborn booties) from Yorbi, a friend that Jennifer works with.

There has been no morning sickness but last night the rumble down under turned to nauseous feelings. Today Jen doesn’t have much of an appetite for anything, and nothing “sounds” good to her. Considering that she typically bases what she eats off what sounds good, I’m not sure how this is going to work.

We’re pregnant!

I’m excited. Wow. Cool. We’ve suspected it for a week, today we had a doctor visit to confirm the suspicions. Now that we have confirmation, Jen will let me tell people. Based on our record keeping, the following dates are my best guesses:

Conception: Feb 9, 2004
First Trimester Ends (12 weeks): April 19, 2004
Second Trimster Ends (27 weeks): August 2, 2004
Due Date: November 1, 2004

Next week we have another appointment during which the doctor will give scientific grade guesses. Our record keeping was a little bit lax but I expect docs predictions will closely coincide with mine.

Taxes.

The due date for tax returns for a Michigan S Corporation is March 15.

The due date for tax returns for a Michigan S Corporation is March 15. Thus the pressure has been on to get the corporate taxes completed. There’s also the matter of getting them to the shareholders as early as possible for use on their personal tax returns.

In the past I’ve contracted with an accounting firm to do the returns. In retrospect, this has always been a good idea. It only costs a couple hundred bucks and it’s a legitimate business expense. However, this year the business operations were fairly simple, some tax laws have become more favorable, and I just felt confident that it wouldn’t be that bad. I decided to do the corporate taxes myself.

The 2003 “S Corporation Income Tax Package” arrived back in December and consists of 55 pages of instructions (not including all the forms). Having read these before, I immediately turned to the “Paperwork Reduction Act Notice” page to see the “estimated average times” to complete the tax forms. These are, if you haven’t ever seen them, a bit humorous themselves. An example just for the basic form 1120S consists of the following time estimates:

Recordkeeping: 65 hr, 45 min
Learning about the law/form: 25 hr, 11 min
Preparing the form: 47 hr, 44 min
Copying, assembling, and sending to IRS: 5 hr, 54min

That’s just for the 1120S, it doesn’t include the accessory forms like the Sch K-1(s), Sch D, etc. Record keeping is something that needs to be done for business purposes and I’d say that 65 hours is a reasonable average. I scoffed at the other time estimates. Twenty five hours to learn about the form? Over 47 hours to prepare the form? Another 5 hours to assemble it and send it to the IRS? If it’s that bad, it’s well worth paying a CPA to do it. But then how will I know if I really am an above average idiot?

I started the taxes one boring day in January. I read the first half of the instructions, fillng out the forms as I went. In quite a few instances, I had to pay a visit to the IRS web site to download publications. Ah yes, the paperwork reduction act. I feel for people without high speed internet. After spending the better part of the day, I had enough and dropped the forms into my inbox. Taxes are like visiting inlaws, they are best done in small doses.

This afternoon I (finally) aroused the courage to spent another 6 hours making Uncle Sam happy with me. I completed the corporate taxes and in total, I have about 16 hours spent in the “learning, preparing, and sending” stages of tax preparation. That compares quite favorably with the “average” of over 78 hours. I can sleep better now.

I imagine some of the reason for the difference is my accounting system which makes it easy to arrange the books so that I can spit out a few reports that have all the information I need to fill out my tax forms. Folks with filing cabinets full of ledgers must be looney or suicidal after 77 hours. I can’t imagine wasting two full work weeks on taxes.

The Squirrel Nemesis

Based on a true story.

During the preceding months, innumerable small skirmishes have flared up. Typically they began as Mr. Squirrel was spied entering or exiting the building through one of the several unfinished eaves. This alone would not have riled the Squirrel Nemesis (SN) but accompanied by evidence that Mr. Squirrel was shredding the insulation in the roof and discarding it onto the lawn seemed to greatly annoy the SN.

The stakes were continually raised as the many doorways of Mr. Squirrel were removed, making it significantly more difficult for Mr. Squirrel to enter the residence. Despite the many attempts at exclusion, and to nobody’s surprise, the devious Mr. Squirrel continually found new means of entry. Wood could be chewed through, vinyl flexed, and the tiniest of cracks presented ample opportunity. Today, due to unforeseen (on Mr. Squirrel’s part) circumstances (the addition of F channel to the eaves) the furry little Mr. Squirrel was now unable to find his way back out.

This caused Mr. Squirrel much duress as he tried in vain to chew his way through the vinyl. Even more distressing was hearing his nemesis standing on the patio, laughing at him with a mildly gleeful smile. The war may not yet be over, but Mr. Squirrel was definitely feeling a little battle worn. The hostilities had been waged for quite some time but lately, the ability of Mr. Squirrel to freely enter and exit had been steadily declining. The two legged one seemed to have an entire arsenal of anti-squirrel devices at his disposal and he was holding nothing back. Through determination and cunning squirrel intellect, he had always managed to find a way back into the cozy nest he had grown accustomed to. Never before had getting out been such a problem.

After battling the impenetrable vinyl for some time, Mr. Squirrel picked another plan of attack. Since egress through the tiny crack through which he entered was nigh impossible, he began scouting about the house for another means of exit. As he entered an unfinished upstairs room, the sounds of his nemesis footsteps lighting up the stairs quickened his pace as he dashed about the room. For a brief moment, he paused at eye level, a mere two feet away, and stared down his adversary. The SN’s eyes glanced at a nearby crowbar. Sensing the impending doom, Mr. Squirrel chattered something, almost certainly some form of squirrel cursing, and then darted away, retreating back into the rafters.

This day was becoming a bit more stressful for dear Mr. Squirrel. He took a brief rest as he calculated his next move. After all the eating noises of the two leggers ceased, he once again began his attempts to exit the rafters through the vinyl. Almost certainly the grins of his nemesis chilled his fur-clad body. After some time, Mr. Squirrel once again gave up on the vinyl and fell back to Plan B: scouting out the attic, searching for another way out. This was not a problem Mr. Squirrel had anticipated.

Unbeknownst to him, his scouting mission wasn’t quite as stealthy as he had hoped. The Squirrel Nemesis had heard the delicate sound of squirrel toenails scampering across the wooden floor. The SN stealthily crept up the stairs, thankful that he had rebuilt the aged stair well and used glue on the steps to prevent them from squeaking. Outside the door to the room the SN donned a carefully located pair of leather gloves, placed there for just such an occasion. The door burst open, and there, Mr. Squirrel stood, face to ankles of the gigantic SN.

Mr. Squirrel saw light behind the SN and in a bold and daring move, rushed the SN in an attempt to dart out of the confines of the small room. The SN had anticipated such a move as the door finished slamming shut just as Mr. Squirrel’s head reached the doorway. Crash! Somewhat dizzied by the door encounter, Mr. Squirrel changed direction and launched back across the room towards the window. Freedom was but a leap away but an invisible force, no doubt engineered by the Squirrel Nemesis was preventing his escape. Double toothed three toed squirrel curses were screamed out as the Squirrel Nemesis closed in.

Mr. Squirrel, being somewhat clever now realized he had been fooled by the light and crossed that off his list of escape routes. With the SN closing in, a new plan of escape was needed. A small crack behind a sheet of drywall was spied and in a flash, Mr. Squirrel darted into the protected alcove. As he rested, contemplating his next move, the Squirrel Nemesis appeared, inches away! Feeling quite vulnerable, Mr. Squirrel darted down to the other end of the drywall and raced out of the hideout.

Apparently, the Squirrel Nemesis knew exactly where he was headed as he was rapidly closing in. Seeing no other way to escape the SN, the only path to safely was to abandon the search for freedom and retreat back to the attic. A quick dart across the room to the wall, up the wall, and into the rafters would put him back into the safety of his nest from were his next move could be plotted. Mr. Squirrel began his retreat in a mad dash across the room. The plan was a good one, but Mr. Squirrel made a minor calculation error.

Unlike the cats and other enemies he routinely escaped from, the Squirrel Nemesis had arms already at the height that would put him safely out of the reach of dogs, and several paces ahead of even the fastest cats. He darted across the room, and as he ran up the wall, a gigantic leather clad hand struck out and barely missed his body, pinning his tail to the wall! The upward progress of Mr. Squirrel came to an abrupt halt. Before he could turn and bite at the hand that was impeding him, the strategic consequences of Mr. Squirrels miscalculation came into full play. The Squirrel Nemesis had two hands!

The second hand came down immediately behind Mr. Squirrel’s head, grasping him firmly about the back of the neck. To Mr. Squirrel, this was a rather odd feeling. It was vaguely similar to how mommy squirrel used to grab him as she hauled him from the nest to teach him important squirrel lessons. It was every bit as debilitating but this time it seemed a little more like complete and utter surrender was more in order than simple submission. Having battled so valiantly up to this moment, Mr. Squirrel gave one last attempt to claw his way to freedom. In discovering just how firmly his body was trapped, Mr. Squirrel recognized defeat and ceased to struggle.

It was a strange feeling. The SN wasn’t hurting him in any way, but he certainly wasn’t providing him with any opportunity to find the much sought after freedom or escape that Mr. Squirrel was longing for. Mr. Squirrel found himself once again staring into the eyes of his nemesis. The adrenalin rush of the battle subsided and fear settled in.
Continue reading “The Squirrel Nemesis”

Skiing Weather!

The skiing weather in Northern Michigan is currently at its finest. We’ve been having lots of snowfall lately and the temperatures are very skiier friendly. Martha and I went out yesterday and had a great day on the slopes. I still haven’t learned how to ski deep powder well, but that’s another story in itself.

Snow! Lots of it!

Snow piles taller than buildings! In the last two days we’ve got just over 8 inches. We’re supposed to get another 8 inches in the next two days. The ski slopes have lots of fresh powder (thanks to the cold temperatures). It’s ideal snow sports weather in Northern Michigan.

House Progress

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working on the house. Last year I got nearly all of the outside done (siding, soffits, etc) and this year will be getting the inside done. My first priority is getting the new master bedroom finished. Jen’s first priority is getting the first floor painted. Guess what I’ve been helping with on the first floor?