March, 2002

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Kicking back

Saturday, March 30th, 2002

Been a very hectic week… Work busy as usual; up until the early hours of the morning every day, doing my taxes. Given how the amount of paperwork involved has been more than doubling each year, come next year I won’t hesitate to hire an accountant to do them.

Anyway I’ve been kicking back today, importing some new CDs I got into my MP3 library, listening to music, playing a bit of the way-cool, way-fun Xbox game Jet Set Radio Future, watching some TV and DVDs…

Made something of a personal musical “discovery” this week in The Corrs. It started when I heard their hit “Breathless” on the radio (which I’d previously heard a few times, and also as the music in a TV commercial). Did a Google search on some of the lyrics to find the group’s name, and got a few of their CDs from Amazon. Naturally, “Breathless” is one of my favourites, but overall, I think I prefer much of their earlier work; they have a Celtic-Irish-rock fusion style that combines and features both traditional and contemporary sounds, reminds me very much of Clannad and The Rankins, but with a more youthful, vital edge.

And yes, the three Corr sisters are undeniably hot.

Six-digit tax bill…

Wednesday, March 27th, 2002

… My only consolation is that it’s due to a similarly sizeable gross income.

Personal tax factoids:

  • The amount of taxes I paid for year 2000 was more than all of my life’s earnings before that year.
  • The amount of taxes I’m paying for year 2001 is more than all the taxes I’d ever paid before that year.

Mmm, Fresh Gear…

Wednesday, March 27th, 2002

I got cable TV hooked up in my cubicle last week, so I could do some testing with our Personal Cinema TV decoder hardware. I was most thrilled when I found that the cable line-up that we get here includes the TechTV channel—perfect for a consummate computer geek like myself…

[photo of Sumi Das]

But what I like most about TechTV is Fresh Gear, a show featuring new emerging technologies, gatget reviews, and other nifty tech-related stories. (I used to be able to catch the show on MSNBC, but then it got replaced by (apparently) some infomercials (frickin’ dumbasses!), and I don’t get TechTV at home.) And what I like most about Fresh Gear is its host, the beautiful and eloquent Sumi Das. So cute… so well-spoken… I think I’m in love. :-) Someone has even put up a fan site devoted to her, and why not, she certainly merits one.

Paperwork makes my life a miserable hell

Tuesday, March 26th, 2002

Painful things on my to-do list, tasks I dread and loathe but that I know I’ll feel much better having completed:

  1. Renew my passport.
  2. File and pay my taxes.
  3. Buy a home of some sort.

All of these have one thing in common: paperwork. I absolutely hate paperwork. That’s why I hate filing taxes above all else: paying the taxes I owe (and I owe a lot) is a sting, but filling out the reams of paperwork is a real (prolonged!) kick between the legs. Naturally I use TurboTax to make the process somewhat less painful, but there’s still a ton of data entry involved. Last year, I actually exhausted an entire inkjet cartridge printing out my tax return! This year, I cleverly installed TurboTax on my laptop so I can just print it using the gargantuan laser printer at work.

Exercising, buying, and selling stock options generated a fair number of transactions, but I’m already done with those.
What’s really bugging me now is trying to find all transaction information for my Morgan Stanley ActiveAssets account. Because I have a substantial amount of money invested in a couple of managed asset accounts, each of which maintains a portfolio of around a hundred stocks each, I get a mountain of paper records from Morgan Stanley. In fact, some weeks I receive mail from them faster than I can open it; the envelopes pile up on my desk, two or three more each day. Eventually I get sick of staring it, so I open the envelopes, throw out any generic brochures not specifically tied to my account, and dump the rest into my filing cabinet.

Now I learn that some of the information I need for my tax return can only be found somewhere inside that filing cabinet… because apparently Morgan Stanley can’t just mail me a consolidated statement with all the information on one or two pieces of paper. Aargh!

The US tax system really sucks. Sure, taxes are lower than in Canada. (Slightly; CA has the highest taxes in the US, whereas Ontario has the lowest taxes in Canada, so the two almost meet.) But the system itself is poorly-designed, with obscure and arcane rules, non-standardized forms and schedules. In Canada all I had to do was basically copy the contents of each tax slip I received into correspondingly-labeled boxes on my tax return; no digging through heaps of paper, no using Excel to extrapolate information that doesn’t show up on any paper…

And don’t get me started about AMT. And estimated tax payments. Grrr…

Enya at the Oscars

Sunday, March 24th, 2002

[Enya at the Academy Awards]

Just saw Enya perform “May It Be” at the Academy Awards. I’m curious as to whether it was her voice that was uncharacteristically wavering, or if the waver was a side effect of running her voice through some kind of real-time digital processing… (Enya’s music typically features her voice overlaid many time over, which is one of the reasons she cites for not being able to give live concerts.)

Gary Danko

Sunday, March 24th, 2002

Had an excellent dinner tonight at Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco. The courses served were excellent overall, though I think I most enjoyed the quail salad, the seared scallops, and most of all, the banana flambée prepared tableside.

If I knew what I could do with it…

Thursday, March 21st, 2002

… I’d buy one right away. I’m talking about SitePlayer, the webserver-on-a-chip. Way cool, and cheap, too. However, as I already have a small heap of embedded devices I’ve barely done anything with, I’ve sworn off buying more toys until I’ve played more with the ones I already have.

Making up for lost time

Wednesday, March 20th, 2002

My friend Sandy and I are on a bit of a pre-Oscar marathon this week. Since both of us hadn’t been to the theaters in almost three months we’d missed most of the more notable nominated flicks, so we’re trying to make up by seeing one every night this week. (Not that I particularly care about the Oscars, but I’m making up three months of missed movies nonetheless.)

Saw In the Bedroom last night. As much as I could appreciate the great character acting by the leading actors, I couldn’t bring myself to actually like the movie, which I found at times very tedious.

Enjoyed Black Hawk Down more. That movie possibly sets the record for the most number of gunshots heard in a movie… kinda like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan—explosions all around and bullets flying everywhere—drawn out over two hours… except it seems in this case the baddies had (fortunately) much poorer shooting skills.

Anyway what I found really disturbing was nothing about the film itself, but that the couple sitting in front of me had seen fit to bring along their child of roughly four years of age. Is there a shortage of babysitters? People are such idiots.

Happy Saint Paddy’s!

Sunday, March 17th, 2002

As a fan of many things Irish I’d like to wish everyone a happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Sláinte!

Yeah, and Al Gore invented the Internet

Friday, March 15th, 2002

Was glad to hear today that British Telecom has suffered a setback in its patent claims lawsuit in which it claims to have invented hypertext links. Their lawyers must be smoking crack big time, or they must be seriously desperate for money, or both. I think in the end they’ll just end up creating a mountain of bad PR and ill-will. Dumbasses.