As horrible and devastating as SuperSandy was/is, it is good to remember how much worse it could have been.
No major buildings collapsed. Nurses had to carry sick babies down nine flights of stairs while pumping air into their tiny lungs, but the building -- and 99.999% of the others -- stayed up. Thank you, building codes and inspectors.
The majority of people heeded the days of warnings and stocked up or evaculated as they were instructed. Thank you, television and radio and internet and organized government, also thank you, common sense. (A certain NJ mayor is excluded from this thanks.)
Millions of people are without power, but millions more are not. Thank you, ConEd and other utilites for shutting down pre-emptively and for building some redundency into your systems.
Those in harm's way were being rescued, even at the height of the storm, by dedicated police and firefighters and EMTs and other emergency personnel. Thank you, all you heroes. And thank you to those folks 150 years ago who decided that such services were needed and organized and funded them.
Think of it: a 100-year storm hits the most densely populated area of the country, affecting 50 million people, and the death toll is (as of an hour ago) under 50. That is kind of miraculous right there.
And now, some humor found at blackbird's blog. She lives somewhere near NYC, close enough that she commutes to Manhattan by train every day.
One more thing. Did anyone else see this photo of the sandbags in from of Goldman Sachs Wall Street headquarters and think, Huh, they are protecting their building with bags of money.
I knit A LOT but had darned little to show for it. Double knitting is awesome but extremely slow when one is first starting. Let's just say that I am now very proficient at tinking DKing.
My DK swatch (in fingering weight yarn), front and back:
After I got home I cast on another DK project, this time in worsted weight, to reinforce what I learned. I'm getting a lot faster.
I plan to felt it and use it as a trivel when it's done. In other words, if I screw it up the errors may not show (much).
The site of the retreat, as I mentioned before, is gorgeous. This was the view from the window of our classroom looking out over the Mississippi. The foreground is MN, the hills in the distance are WI.
The weather was beautiful -- chilly nights, warmish days, lots of sunshine. We had the opportunity to visit a nearby alpaca farm. (Technically it was a working dairy farm, but the wife had 17 alpaca.)
This is Eleanor The Diva Alpaca. She posed beautifully for us. Really, she did!
Kris, whom I know from the Knit Night Orphans, was taking photos with her iPad. The alpaca followed her around, very curious about what she was doing.
Kris found that when she held up the iPad to actually take the photo, however, the alpaca were rather less interested in her, probably because they couldn't see her face. Kind of like that peek-a-boo stage of infant development, where, when the baby cannot see a thing any more, it no longer exists. So, if you are wondering, the mind of an alpaca is equivalent to that of a 3- or 6-month old infant. (Sorry, don't remember my child development specifics.)
The cows were interested in what was going on, too.
This lady Holstein licked my fist. I didn't give her a chance at my fingers.
The alpaca lady sends the fleeces to a mill to be spun into yarn, which she then dyes. She had a display of her wares in her house for us to admire.
A little bit of it came home with me, two skeins of laceweight in a gorgeous teal.
Thanks to Kris for this photo, showing Lucy in all her colorful glory.
And thanks to soxanne for letting me in on this retreat and being my roomie. Go check out her blog post -- gorgeous photos, less blather.
The no-spill kangaroo cup invented by a 10-yo girl to help her grandfather, who has Parkinson's. I got one for work; I live in fear of knocking over my tall coffee mug onto my laptop. (The tall mug leaks if I use the cover, resulting in coffee stains on my blouses -- grrr.)
My Ten Many, Many Favorite Mysteries. What can I say? Mysteries have been my preferred reading since discovered #1, below.
Agatha Christie. We had many of these in paperback when I was growing up.
I started reading them when I was about 12. Have read them all, many more than once.
Dorothy Sayers. Lord Peter Wimsey was awesome, but Harriet Vane ROCKED! Have read them all multiple times.
P.D. James. Another classic. Have read them all. Twice.
Arthur Conan Doyle. Ditto, but more than twice.
Other authors whose books I used to seek out: Dick Francis (horse racing & murder), Lilian Jackson Braun (cozies; "The Cat Who..." series; Koko and Yum Yum and Qulleran), Donald Westlake (murder/crime mixed with humor; not a series, just a book a year... forever), Elmore Leonard (best writer of dialogue EVAH), Emma Lathen (murder mysteries about banking and finance -- how could I not read them all?), Sue Grafton (A is for [etc.]; the R book was so boring I gave up on her), J.A. Jance, but not any more. I have Moved On.
Patricia Cornwell. She deserves an entry all to herself. Her first five or ten books were excellent, but eventually those morose and self-destructive characters got boring. And depressing.
What I read now:
John Sandford. Lucas Davenport Prey series is my hands-down favorite of all time. Also the Virgil Flowers ("That damn Flowers.") series and the Kidd series; excellent. Then Sandford wrote an espionage novel (don't remember the name). It was so awful I couldn't believe it was the same guy writing. He needs to stick to crime. But a new Prey or Flowers or Kidd book is always cause for rejoicing.
Jeffrey Deaver. The author who can pack the most plot twists into the last fifty pages of a book.
Tana French. Go read one of her books and you will be hooked.
Kate Atkinson. Ditto.
Steig Larsson. Of course.
Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell. Books written under the first pseudonym = excellent. Books written under the second = excellent but so unnerving I can only read one every five years or so.
P.J. Tracy. Techie mysteries set in Minneapolis.
Carl Hiaasen. Humor, satire, and murder in south Florida. There is a lot to satirize in that locale, and he does it masterfully.
Jonathan Kellerman and Fay Kellerman. I have read all the Alex Delaware books, but I like her Peter Decker/Rina Lazurus series better.
Susan Wittig Albert. Herb-themed cozies set in the Texas Hill County.
Others where I read one book and liked it enough to seek out others by the same author: Markus Sakey, Chelsea Cain, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Dennis Lehane, Tess Gerritsen, Harlen Coben, Alex Kava, Nelson DeMille, Greg Iles, Terri Persons (set in MN).
Others I read, but this is the B-list: good enough to invest the time to read but not stunning. William Kent Kruger (all set in northern MN), Janet Evanovich (Ranger or Morelli -- you choose), Lee Child (Jack Reacher is every man's fantasy alter ego, imnsho).
Others I prefer to consume in audiobook format: Michael Connelly, Stephen Cannell, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files.
I could go on (and on and on) but I won't. ::collective sigh of relief::
Note: This is a post I wrote in April, 2011. I had been away from tax work for two years and found that things had changed in the interim.
Tax policy may not be everyone's favorite topic. I'd rather talk merino and Magic Loop and the best way to pill a cat, but right now I am thinking about tax policy, and that is what you get.
I work on tax returns for what are euphemistically called "high net worth individuals", which is another way of saying "rich people". This means I am highly conversant with 1040s and the accompanying forms and schedules that are common among the rich. I can read a broker's year-end summary with aplomb, I know what goes where on a K-1, I have a passing knowledge of at-risk calculations, I rock the foreign tax credit and the haircut on dividend income from foreign mutual funds, and I used to be the recognized expert in our office on making the tax software do kiddie tax right. (We use different software now.) Rich people also tend to invest in a lot of partnerships of one kind or another and to set up trusts or some such for their kids and grandkids.
It is that last item that I want to talk about here.
Tax law has created an ever-growing and astonishisng number of vehicles for avoiding or minimizing taxes. Forget about tex benefits for the middle class. Tax law in the past 10 or 20 years has been all about the rich. A couple of well-established deduction-reducers that applied only to those whose income was north of $150,000 or so went away since 2009, the last year I did taxes. Every time I see a high-income person's itemized deductions and exemptions being subtracted 100% from their income I grit my teeth; they used to be scaled back the higher one's income was. No more.
What I see this year are trusts -- GRATs, GRITS, GSTs, CLUTs. CRTs. The "T" in each one stands for "'trust". There are grantor trusts and grantor retained annuity trusts and on and on ad nauseum.
Of the 37 tax returns I have worked on this year, 25 -- over 70% -- have been trusts.
And every single solitary one of them was created for the sole purpose of avoiding or reducing inheritance taxes.
If the rest of this post makes your eyes glaze over -- and I cannot think of a single reason why it wouldn't if you are not a tax accountant or attorney -- remember that one statistic. Over 70% of the tax returns I did this year were for entities that were created solely for tax avoidance or elimination.
The rich pay their attorneys and accountants thousands -- and tens of thousands -- of dollars rather than pay taxes.
Do the attorneys and accountants create anything? Do they improve the quality of life in America? How is their labor adding to our national (or world-wide) well-being?
They do not. Their work is depleting it, in fact, because the dollars these people do not pay in taxes are therefore not available to fund schools, roads, national parks, the national debt, WIC, Head Start, public broadcasting, or anything else.
Grrrr. Maybe it is just because I am tired, or because Wisconsin is in the midst of an aggressibvel attack on unions and the middle class (Ed. note: remember, this was April, 2011), or because I am a born whiner, but right now I am fully disgusted with America.
Which is not to say I'll give up this job. It pays handsomely (some of those thousands that the rich pay their accountants trickles down to me) and, ethics aside, it is fun. I like to work with numbers and computers.
I haven't posted much about our newest dog, Misha. She was a rescue dog that we adopted last December. She and 19 other dogs had been saved from being put down at a shelter in Ohio by some folks in Wisconsin who found foster homes for them. Smokey found her on Petfinders a year ago when she was placed in a foster home about 100 miles from here.
This is the photo that Smokey fell in love with. Misha, then known as Keesha, is the one in front.
She had spent the first six months of her life in a cage and never properly socialized. We couldn't touch her for the first 4 or 5 month we had her, but eventually she came around and is now a playful, happy, affectionate dog.
She is a chewer, however, when she gets bored. You may remember some of these:
Clockwise from upper left: tv remote; yarn that should have been out of reach... but wasn't; carved wooden box that my grandparents brought me from Norway when I was about 9 (sob); random power adaptor; row counter; lint roller.
Apparently I didn't take a photo of the chewed up cell phone . Or all the gnawed-upon shoes. Or the corner of the comforter. Or... well, you get the idea.
We have learned not to leave shoes on the floor. And she has gotten somewhat less inclined to chew, although there are always a few bits of ripped envelopes or food wrappers stolen from the trash scattered across the carpet.
This morning, however, took the cake. We have no idea where she found this. But she chewed at least a tablespoon of the pest control substance off the end of the bar.
She spent the rest of the day napping, dashing about, wagging her tail, asking for tummy rubs, and generally acting like the happy, healthy dog she is.