ShopSafe is cool!

I’ve had a MBNA credit card for almost 10 years and have been very pleased with their service. Over time they have slowly inched my credit limit skyward and yesterday I noticed it was up to $42,000. So, I logged onto their web site to find the “lower my limit” button and couldn’t find it. What I found instead was the coolest new feature called ShopSafe.

ShopSafe is a free service that allows you to generate a temporary credit card number, with specified time and spending limits. The number is only valid for one merchant, with a capped limit and for a pre-defined number of months. How cool is that? Anyhow, I ended up calling them to get my credit limit drastically reduced. Since I never carry balances, I can’t imagine needing such an absurdly high limit.

Today I’m putting together a computer system for a client and needed to purchase $1,200 worth of computer equipment from a vendor I have never dealt with. Rather than giving them one of my credit card numbers, I logged onto my MBNA account, created a one time ShopSafe number with a $1300 limit, and gave that to them. Once they authorize the transaction, the number will not work for any other merchant, and they can’t charge me for any more than the limit I set. That’s very, very cool.

You could also use it for recurring transcactions, such as a magazine subscription. You could set the max amount to the annual subscription limit and a 12 month time limit. After your subscription expires, your vendor cannot overbill you or automatically re-subscribe you without you giving them a new number. Cool. 🙂

We’re no longer pregnant

Yes, that is far from pleasant tidings. Our pregnancy just miscarried. We are going through the process of grieving and restoration. If you want to help us during this process, we welcome your prayers.

Did you know that more than 1 in four pregnancies end in miscarriage? Did you know that 1 in four zygotes (eggs) have a chromosomal abnormality? And did you know that 10% of sperm have chromosomal abnormalities? The latter statistics are best case, for healthy couples who aren’t exposed to known environmental factors (drugs, tobacco use, etc) that increase risk. I had no idea.

Go Surls

My buddy Mike has had a vanity domain ( for eons. I’ve hosted it for him and thus far it’s sole purpose is to have cool email addresses. Over time I’ve taken some photos and posted them but HTML, while not being difficult, is just something else to spend time on. So, Nathan (Surls) asked me to set up a blog for him and his parents. Why didn’t I think of that. 🙂

So, now the Surls family has their own blog, and whatddya know, Mike has even posted already. 🙂 Nathan also has his own blog as well.

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.


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.