Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Big Break III: Congrats Danielle

Danielle won the Big Break III. I was rooting for her, and she managed to win! Congrats and good luck!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Big Break III

Tomorrow night is the Big Break III's final episode. This reality television show on The Golf Channel started with ten women, each hoping to win the ultimate prize: chances to play on the LPGA tour. The ten contestants have been whittled down to two finalists: Pamela Crikelair and Danielle Aimee. Their final will be match play golf.

No one on The Golf Channel's Discussion Board can quite believe how caught up we all have become in the fates of these ladies. The two ladies are very different from one another, on and off the golf course. Pam is a relative beginner with some excellent raw golf talent. Dani has played professionally in the lower tours. Heated discussions have broken out as the Pam and Dani camps have tried to defend their choices. I'm rooting for Dani, but more importantly, I'm rooting for a good match. It should be fun!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Slow Reader

My reading life has taken a detour since a job change (same company, new location) put me into a forty minute car commute. Now, instead of a forty-five minute bus and train commute, during which I plowed through the books, I now have a bunch of books languishing on my mantle. I read them, but in small bites only (a few pages a day). So what's on the mantle?

The Know-It-All is my bathroom book. In the morning, I'll take a seat (ahem) and I will read an entry or two from A.J. Jacobs' lively book. He's read the entire Britannica, and each 'entry' in his book is a summation of an entry in that famed encyclopedia. The book also serves as a memoir of sorts, and I am enjoying his witty takes on life.

The Brothers Karamazov is a book I had started just as I was getting the job transfer. However, the impetus for reading this book was planted way back in high school when I finally finished Crime and Punishment. The mood of Dostoevsky's masterpiece put me in such a reading trance that I didn't want to rush it. Even though my English class 'finished' the book (I must have skimmed it), I kept reading it right into summer vacation. I knew I wanted another experience like that. Fast forward almost twenty years later, and I'm reading this fascinating novel about "the brothers." And it's just as mesmerizing.

All Souls is a book that my wife finished earlier in the year, and she said "You've got to read this!" I read a few pages, got hooked, and am now scrambling to find time for it. It's Michael MacDonald's memoir of his Irish family living in "Southie" (a neighborhood in Boston) during the tumultuous 1970s. The forced busing conflict brought segregation to the forefront of his consciousness. He also tackles the rise of crime and drug use in his neighborhood. It's so far a great book about the inner city.

All of these books are taking a back-seat to The Boys of Winter, a stirring recollection of the 1980 United States men's hockey team and their "miracle on ice" at the Lake Placid Olympics. I received this as a birthday gift (thanks Mom) and it's a super work. I can still recall the rousing patriotism I felt when our team beat the Russians. But to this day, I had never read more than a few articles about that victory. This book dissects the Russian-United States game, much like my other favorite "single game" books, Nine Innings and Forty-Eight Minutes. This is a splendid book so far.

I don't mind reading slowly. But I hope by the end of the month I can report on finishing at least one of these books.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Taxes Made Easy

For almost ten years, we have paid a local accountant, Marie Kirchberger, to prepare our taxes. We pay in the hundreds of the dollars, but it's easily the best money we've ever spent. Every year around February, all we do is send her an envelope full of W-2s, 1099s, and other tax papers. By the end of March, she sends us an envelope containing completed federal and state tax forms. We don't even meet with her anymore, although we did those first few years. We correspond by phone and e-mail.

I used to feel that I had to do my own taxes. The first few tax seasons after college, I spent hours reading those big tax preparation guides. My eyes would always glaze over: standard deductions, alternative minimum tax, interest from savings versus investments. Figuring out these terms, and then figuring out the appropriate numbers for these terms always put me in an agitated state.

Jenn and I decided to get an accountant the first year after we moved into our house (1997). We didn't want to mess up our mortgage deductions. We went to Marie on a referral, and we've been with her ever since. And even though we've become more comfortable figuring out our own deductions, we're even more comfortable having her prepare the papers.

The crux of the matter is the the time value of money (or in this case, the money value of time). I guess I could buy tax preparation software, fire it up, enter the numbers, double check the figures, and then print out the forms (or file it electronically), but how many hours is that? How many moments will I have second-guessing myself? And isn't Project Greenlight on television tonight?

The amount of time I spent thinking about my taxes this year is about an hour. Certainly not more than an hour. Most of it was spent collecting stray tax papers (we get more organized about it every year) and tallying up checks we've made to charities.

On the eve of the nation's filing date, taxes are the furthest thing from my mind (except, of course, for this BLOG entry). Our forms were sent almost a month ago. I'm grateful for Marie, and that I can afford her fees. It's totally worth it. Thanks, Marie!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

One Week Into My New Year

This day last week was my birthday. Thirty-seven. Thirty-seven!

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Requiescat in Pace

Pope John Paul II has been referred to as a 'politician' in some of the broadcasts that I watched over the weekend. I disagree completely. The Pope is unlike any politician the world has ever known. Pope John Paul II has never wavered from the principles of his platform, a life-based platform that causes many American Catholics to treat Catholicism as a buffet: only take the parts you like.

I recognize in myself the way that I have casually treated my faith. When I started college, I drifted away from accepted church teachings. After a childhood of regular mass attendance, I attended church irregularly in college. I didn't see anything fundamentally wrong with birth control, premarital sex, a woman's right to choose, married priests, swearing, or same-sex marriage. I returned to regular mass attendance after getting married (1995) but since my church closed last Fall, my attendance has gone way down. I don't know whether my absence is more political protest or whether I was just "tired of the message."

The Pope of the Catholic Church since I was ten years old has never wavered from this message, the "Good News" of Jesus Christ, the message of life. His steadfastness comforted me. I reach for my faith because it is the only thing that I have ever known to "believe." I was raised a Catholic and I continue to declare myself a Catholic. I may be skeptical about my faith. I may be critical about my faith. I may be sullen about my faith. But I don't deny my faith.

This weekend begins a mourning period the world over. There are complex and well described rituals that must be followed in the coming days to handle the pope's funeral, the mourning, and, inevitably, the selection of a new pope. As a critical and curious Catholic, the rituals remind me of the man-made 'construction' of my faith. But the rituals will also allow me and the rest of the world to celebrate the life of a man who believed in Jesus Christ's message completely and utterly.