Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I guess I'm in a gang

The 7th Circuit, in an appalling (yet increasingly unsurprising) ruling, holds that it is entirely rational to equate the playing of Dungeons and Dragons with being in a gang. This, in the face of ZERO evidence presented that there was ever any such issues. This opinion is so stupid it defies words.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shadowrun Becomes Real

No, I'm not referrring to a sighting of a dragon near Mt. Fuji in Japan, though certainly the date for that approaches. I'm instead referring to a question raised by the recent Supreme Court ruling finding corporations have rights like people - Can corporations now also bear arms? Why not? It is the same logic. The corporations need to protect their assets and personnel. So why not have private corprate armies? Welcome to the world of Shadowrun, chummers!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm Glad Brown Won in Mass

I'm glad Brown won. Becuase Democrats are WORTHLESS. Jon Stewart summed it up best this week when he pointed out that even after this loss, Dems have an 18 seat majority, far more than the GOP ever had, back when they had control, when the GOP did whatever the fuck they wanted, got passed whatever they wanted. The Dems had 60 seats and didn't do diddly. You can be damn sure if the GOP ever had 60 seats and the White House that the tax rate would drop as your income increased, so only middle class and lower class people paid taxes, Christianity would be made the offiicial religion of the nation, and all non-GOPers would all be vassals or in Gitmo right now. The Dems screwed around for a year, did nothing, and now will lose health care - not that the bill they would have passed even with 60 seats would have been worth anything, it not having a public option. Might as well kill it now. In any case, I'm done.

The country is doomed. Most we can do now is buy popcorn and watch it all slowly burn.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Democrats have No backbone - In other news, water is wet

So surprise, surprise. The Democratic Party has 60 seats in the Senate and still can't get anything worthwhile done. Or they don't want to. Because there is no party representing the people - there is a party representing the monied elites and another party representing the psychos and the monied elites. The media represents - the monied elites.

The Dems might lose the Mass. Senate seat, but even if they keep it, they'll keep it with a right-wing friendly candidate. Where the FUCK are the progressives? Why can almost none of them exercise any power?

I can see how some might wish for a revolution at this point. Of course, no such thing will ever happen. Sigh.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It sucks when your pre-verbal child gets sick

My son is sick, as I mentioned earlier this week. Fortunately, it has turned out to be a (relatively) mild cold. He's had some coughing, but not much. His nose has run, but not much. He had a fever at one point, but not since. In other words, he's doing fairly well, all things considered. I have worried that I might be getting sick, but I might just be tired - that is probably it. My wife may be getting sick, but she had the misfortune of lots of tiny, drool-soaked fingers shoved into her mouth several times. I've been deft enough to keep my mouth out of reach, though my son sure has tried! He laughs when he does it, too. He loves to grab for my face, particularly after he's climbed on top of me while I'm laying down.

Oh, and my daughter is cold-free thus far, which is great, though she also has been getting into things, and may have drunk from my son's cup.

My wife is still pursuing a nanny, but with less vigor now. She's had several candidates cancel meeting because they found something else, and several who she talked to a few times who have now vanished. It is exceedingly difficult to find someone decent. And even when you think you have, you can turn out to be terribly wrong about that. She's really about ready to give up on the notion, I think. Maybe it is because our son's sickness has turned out to be not all that bad this time, maybe it is because of the difficulty even in arranging a meeting with a nanny candidate, maybe it is the money we will save - probably it is a combination of the above.

All of that said, it still sucks when our son is sick now, because he's not quite talking. We can't ask him where it hurts or how he's feeling. He can just cry, for the most part. Yesterday, I stayed home with him, and at one point he was crying miserably. He likes to throw himself on the ground in passive protest when he's upset. It is kind of funny, actually. I wasn't sure if he just wasn't feeling well or what it was. It turned out that what he was really upset about was he was bored - once I took him downstairs and gave him some entertaining things to do, he was happy as a clam. You'd have thought he was being tortured with the wailing he was giving, but no, he was just bored. I can't wait til he starts talking in sentences. I am betting it will be maybe three months from now - that's when my daughter started - when she was about 26 months. She hasn't stopped talking since. Of course, when she doesn't feel well, sometimes she refuses to tell us what is wrong, but at least we know she can if it gets right down to it.

What I worry about most is ear infections - those won't go away on their own. It is a pain to go to the doctor to screen for them - much better to only go when there is a specific complaint about ear pain. Three months to go!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day Care and Long Night

As I indicated in my previous Nanny Saga post, my kids are back in day care. I don't want another nanny. I'm rather fed up with the whole process/concept. My wife, however, is still looking for another one - she doesn't like our son in day care. She's worried he'll get sick. I've told her he WILL get sick, but it won't be the end of the world. He's older now than he was when he was there last - he should not have as much trouble.

Well, now it looks like he's sick. He was screaming last night and needed to be held - he's been in bed with us (and with our daughter) most of the night. I'm not sure what the trouble is. It is frustrating when they are this age because they can't tell you what is wrong. He can almost talk, but not quite. My wife thinks it is an ear infection. I don't know what it is - it could be a sore throat as a precursor to a cold - his nose is not running, he hasn't been coughing. We may be able to tell more this morning. If it is an ear infection, that means a trip to the doctor for antibiotics. That is a pain generally, made more so by the fact that our regular doctor's office closed as the insurance company totally pulled out of having doctor's offices. Yes, I hate health insurance companies - this sort of crap just infuriates me. The old office was close to our house and we liked the doctors. Now we have to go all the way across town.

Maybe we'll be able to tell more this morning. In any case, I'm sure my wife wants him out of day care again more than ever - but I still don't. I don't want to deal with nanny crap again. I frankly don't trust anyone to be our nanny. With what we can afford to pay, I don't think we can get anyone of sufficient quality - and frankly, I don't want to mess with all of that again.

Kids get sick. We had a nice run of nearly 8 months when we had no sick kids at all. It also cost us an arm and a leg and led to two different big nanny dramas. I've had enough.

Unless my son gets so sick that a doctor orders us to take him out of day care, that's where I think he should stay. My daughter loves it there - she sees her friends and has lots to do. I think my son is warming up to it to - he's not outgoing like my daughter, but once he warms up to people and a situation, he's fine (not unlike myself). It remains to be seen if my wife can accept this - she's already extremely upset about this. It didn't help that day care people did something stupid yesterday - when we went to pick them up, our son was being wheeled around in the main hallway (which goes past the outside door) wearing only a thin white short-sleeved tshirt on top. They thought he was too warm in the room and took off his over shirt and then never put it back on. My wife has a big thing about cold - irrational really - but beyond that, taking him around without a shirt like that was just stupid.

My thought is that at least at day care when someone does something stupid, you can complain to a supervisor who can then check in on our son and make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again. With a nanny, we won't know if something stupid happens, and even if we find out, its not like we can verify it hasn't happened again. I told my wife to complain (well, complain again, she certainly did plenty of it already) today and that they will keep an eye on things.

It is going to be a long winter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Child Care Deduction is a Joke

It is tax time, or soon will be. One of the major deductions we have is the cost of child care. Specifically, we have a dependent care reimbursement account, which is a pre-tax deduction from pay that then can be used to pay for child care. This is certainly helpful. The thing is, the total limit for the year is a joke. It hasn't been raised in ages. It hasn't kept up with inflation. It hasn't kept up with anything.

Right now, with two kids, in a cheap day care, our day care costs are about $341 per week. With a nanny we paid over $500 per week. That comes to either $17,700 per year or $26,000 per year. And the limit on a child care dependent reimbursement account for the year? $5,000. As I said, it is a joke. Especially since the costs of child care in my area are probably rock-bottom compared to many other areas of the country. And this is with only two kids. You have many families with more kids. That $5,000 amount is a flat rate, regardless of the number of kids you have.

This really needs to be increased. In fact, an increase is ridiculously overdue. Unfortunately, I don't see an increase on the horizon. I'd say write your congress person, but I don't think three letters will do it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Politics are Depressing

Politics are depressing. And annoying. The discourse is base, stupid, emotional, and totally detatched from reality. The media (at least on TV) is basically worthless. Papers aren't much better. Only a select set of sources does any actual reporting or investigation - you know - what used to be journalism.

Lies get repeated, all of the major media players are basically stenographers, they get their marching orders from the Druge Report and whatever the latest right-wing meme is and the electorate has a huge block of people who are ignorant and proud of it--people who take joy out of pointing out how uneducated they are; people who think the world is a few thousand years old; that think an imaginary friend talks to them; that think science is just a scam; that think neutral, objective analysis is biased because it doesn't reach their pre-determined right-wing conclusions.

We are screwed. Nothing will change that.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Close of Nanny Saga


This morning after I stepped out of the shower and got dressed, I picked up my cell phone and discovered a message, a variant I've seen many times. It was from our nanny. She said she woke up and her eye was messed up, like pink eye, as it she said it had been earlier in the week. She said she would try putting in eye drops she had gotten to see if it would get better and that she would be here in half an hour.

Half an hour later, she was not here. I sent her a text message asking if she was on the way. No response. I called her. No answer. My wife did the same. No answer. My wife had to do a call for work and so was busy with that while I watched our son. Finally, she was done, and I left for work while she stayed home with the children. Because of the weather she was half planning on trying to work from home today anyway (she has a long commute), but with the kids and no nanny, she knew she would get no work done so she took a personal day.

I went to work and got going on things. Around noon, I called home to see if my wife had heard anything from the nanny. Nothing. I texted her again. Nothing. Finally, fed up with this, and having seen this happen on several occasions before, I called and left her a voice mail to call me. Now. Then a few minutes later, I texted the same thing. On too many occasions we find out she can't come with a shor text message in the morning followed by a full day (or more, sometimes a whole weekend) where we call or text her and get no response. She usually gave some excuse about why she couldn't answer. To tell the truth we put up with it because she did show up for work the next work day and she seemed to be doing a fine job with the kids and things like putting away dishes and clothes for us (which helps a lot).

But enough was enough. Not showing up for work and then ignoring calls about where you are after you say you will be in is unacceptable. So I left my message for her to call me. She didn't call. She did, however, immediately text back that she did not have to call me, that she did not have to put up with our "bullshit" and she didn't have to "raise our kids" and that she would come tomorrow (Saturday) morning to give us her key and get her last check. Needless to say, I was stunned. She had not said anything about this before. She seemed just fine the previous day, though it was a long day, since she came early and stayed a bit late as my wife was late getting home because of the weather (and I was VERY late). I make no claims of perfection, but I do know that working as our nanny was not exactly the worst job in the world. For the most part, she was on her own all day.

But maybe we should not be so surprised. Her childhood friend who had introduced us did tell us that she had gotten our nanny a few other jobs in the past that she had abruptly quit. Still, at the time, we had few options, and she did do fine with the kids. She also promised she would never do such a thing to us - she said she understood that we depended on her for both of us to go to work for our own jobs.

After her rather nasty text message, I told my wife, and she then called our nanny's friend, our former (and sometimes current) babysitter. She told my wife that she and our nanny had a stupid argument two weeks ago and then drove off, leaving our nanny's friend and her sister stranded - in Detroit, no less, 95 miles from home. They had gone down there for some sort of party or some bar thing. Since that time, they haven't spoken, and it sounded like the friendship was over. Our nanny's friend (damn, it would be easier to use names...) apologized and did not sound terribly surprised that our nanny had done this since she has done it before. She also said that she thought our nanny might have recently broken up with her boyfriend, and so was acting out of sorts.

I do wonder now if something else may have contributed. Several weeks ago, our son, who is now 23 months old, burned his finger. Our nanny said she did not know how it happened. Our daughter wasn't much help with that either, being four, but from the pattern of the burn - a straight line down across the diagnol of the finger, I guessed it was probably from a hot tap water stream. The water in the bathroom can get quite hot and that is something that would leave that sort of pattern. My wife worried it was the gas fireplace, but that has a flat glass front and so a burn there would not be able to be in a thin line on a finger like that. It would have been wider.

Looking at the computer downstairs, I noticed that it had been used during the day and that there were lots of visits to our nanny's facebook page. We also found some document she had made that looked like a forged doctor's excuse note from work - something you'd expect from a delinquent high school student (our nanny is 24, btw). It was for someone we didn't know, but who we later determined was a friend of hers (not her boyfriend, though). Our daughter did say that when our son was burned, the nanny was downstairs. For some reason, I thought she never went down stairs. We have a gate blocking it and our son really isn't allowed down there (too many small objects and things) and with just one person at home, you can't be downstairs while one or both kids are upstairs. But the logs showed she was down there every day. Now, this wasn't necessarily a big deal - our son naps in the middle of the day, and our daughter occasionally does as well (though now that is rare). If both kids are sleeping, I really don't care if the nanny is downstairs on the computer - but if she is going down there even when they are awake and moving around upstairs, that is an issue.

Rather than really get into it with her, I decided to simply lock the computers with a password. That would remove any incentive to go downstairs at all. She could find plenty of entertainment upstairs - between all of the DVDs and cable channels we have, it wasn't like there was nothing for her to occupy herself with if the kids were sleeping, or even if they were playing without her direct involvement. And that is all fine. I set this up just before the holidays. I wonder if she found it then, though, since she did not watch the kids much, or my wife was here, right up until just before New Year's. This week might have been the first week she was here where she noticed. I don't know. Maybe that reduced her interest in doing this job. I can only guess. We never said anything about it. We certainly never told her she could use the computer, though as I said above, it didn't bother me if she only did it when they were sleeping. The burn incident, though, convinced me that she didn't or couldn't limit herself to that. The burn led to a nasty blister, and I simply couldn't allow that to happen again.

So maybe the lack of computer access contributed. We'll never know. I suspect that she really did not have any issue with her eye, but simply did not want to come today for whatever reason. That may have been true most of the other times she has claimed some sort of strange illness as well. That happened probably at least a half-dozen times. And truly, that did not necessarily bother me either. People do get sick. Or have other reasons they can't come to work. I do wish she had been honest about it. We were always very accomodating. What irked me, really, was not that she didn't come, but that she would then be unreachable - so we would not know what was going on or when she might be back.

I wonder if she'll even show up tomorrow for her check, or if she'll send her sister or someone to get it. My wife thinks she'll be too chicken to show up. I think she's probably right. I really don't care now. We had another person who has subbed when the nanny was sick. We asked her if she wanted to be our full time nanny. She thought about it, but declined. She has a bunch of other job prospects right now that she is excited about, so she does not want to commit. Which is fine - with her, I at least am fairly certain if she does commit, she will stick to it. It is good that she is upfront, rather than working for a bit and then quitting, for instance.

With her turn down, we have no other options. There is a web site for finding child care. We have had some luck finding babysitters there. We signed up for it again (our subscription had lapsed). That cost some money. I almost wish I hadn't now. Because we've decided we will just send the kids back to day care. The day care said they would take them. It has been eight months. They will get sick again. They will get the mind poison that is religion. But I can maybe do something about that. Maybe. It is not like we have a choice. The other day cares nearby simply aren't as good or really all that close. It sucks having to deal with this.

Day care will be much cheaper - about 1/3rd cheaper or more. And during the summer, my wife's mother will be here and we can reduce day care down to 1 day a week, saving even more money (need to keep a day to keep the spot). She can come every summer, which will be good for when the kids have summer vacation after they start school.

Day care is a pain. Haivng to bundle them up to take them in will be annoying, as will doing the same to pick them up. It will be a bit easier now that both are older. I'm not looking forward to it. But the cost savings at least makes me feel good. Not having to deal with nanny taxes or nanny issues also makes me feel good. I'll just have to do it this once, and then be done with it.

So my nanny saga now comes to a close. Tomorrow morning I won't have to worry about nannies anymore. We did day care before, so we can do it again. With my son older, he should do much better than he did as a baby. Wish him luck.


Now it really is over. This morning, only 12 hours after I sent a message asking when the ex-nanny would come over today, she sent a message that said "half an hour." Over an hour later, her sister shows up (showing the nanny is truly gutless) to "get the check." I asked her for the house key. She said she didn't know anything about that. I told her no key, no check. She said she'd go to her car and call her sister about that. She went outside and then left. An hour later she was back, this time with the key. My wife still did not want to give her the check because we wanted the nanny to come so she could at least offer an explanation. Her sister said she would come later today if we give the check now. I told her I did not believe her. She then got very hostile and started complaining about how she was owed money from that check, etc. We told her this was not our problem.

I offered a compromise - I said we'd give it to her if her sister, our former nanny, would talk to my wife on the phone for two minutes. She refused, got very hostile, made complaints about how she was watching someone else's kids right now, and so forth. She still called, but our ex nanny refused to talk to us. Her sister was extremely rude, started making threats about how she was going to call a "higher authority" and call the police. Really, all we wanted was some sort of explanation beyond the very short and rude text message we had gotten yesterday. Finally, when it was clear our ex nanny would never talk to us, and after some nasty things her sister said to us, I decided just to write the check and say good riddance. Her sister took it and slammed the door on the way out, showing she was just as rude and immature as our now ex nanny.

Later, we talked with our ex nanny's now former friend who had introduced us. She explained in more detail what happened two weeks ago - not only was she stranded in Detroit, but our ex nanny had gotten drunk and tried to choke her after getting hostile about when they would leave and how.

This whole experience has soured me on the notion of even having a nanny. We really could barely afford it as it was, and only with scrimping on everything else. And even that did not give a huge rate of pay - probably about 500 dollars a week. Of course, there are far worse jobs than ones where you can stay indoors all day, watch TV, and set your own agenda (as the kids permit). It is not like we were there breathing over her shoulder - we were at work.

It sounds like she is very emotionally unstable, and it is probably good she is no longer watching our children. We will not be replacing her. The kids, as I said, will go back to day care on Monday, at least through June. They will get sick and it will be a pain, but there is nothing we can do about that. At least we'll be able to start adding to savings instead of depleting it. It was about gone as it was.

Some people truly never grow up and just are not responsible adults. I have been quite fortunate for my circumstances.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winter Misery

Yesterday we got our first real big snowstorm of the season. It really wasn't that much snow - maybe 7 inches. But the timing was horrible. I had to drive to Detroit for a hearing at 9am. That meant getting up at 5, leaving the house at 6, and hoping that traffic wasn't too bad. It wasn't, so I got there just before 8.

The hearing then lasted all day, with no lunch break, and we finished around 4:30 or so. It took until 5 to get out of there, which meant hitting rush hour traffic. But that was almost irrelevant, since in the meanwhile, it had started snowing and none of the roads had yet been plowed. It is a 93 mile trip in total. Between traffic and unplowed or semi-plowed roads, it took over four hours to drive back home. Four grueling hours, where I often could not see the road or what lane I was in, I couldn't see out of my window very well as it kept having frozen patches that my wipers would miss right in my line of vision, and where my neck and shoulders were killing me. I got home at 9:30pm.

For whatever reason last night I did not sleep well. I will probably have a headache all day today. I don't know why I couldn't sleep. I didn't have anything in particular on my mind, though I probably could have - I got some interesting news at work Wednesday and I have a TON of work to do this month, work I have no idea how I'm going to fit it all in. But I wasn't thinking about any of that last night - I was just exhausted and wanted to sleep. Even now, I really don't feel anxious about anything - I 'm tired and want to rest and not think about anything and I'm really not thinking about or worrying about anything.

Tonight is gaming night in Chelsea. That is 57 miles away. After last night, I am about as enthused about driving as I am about putting my hand down the garbage disposal with it on. On top of that, there is supposed to be more snow today. I really don't want to drive in that, and I may not be able to stay awake all that late anyway. So I will probably not go. Which is sad, since it has been several weeks.

Winter sucks.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Crazy for Zhu Zhu Pets

My wife has gone insane. She's totally lost it. She just has to have these silly little hamster zhu zhu pets - and the little house things they run in. She says she is getting them for the kids - and it isn't like she is playing with them. But really, neither of our kids was asking for these things. Neither of them knew about them. My son is too little to be aware of such things - he'll be two next month, and my daughter actually sees very few commercials. We tend to watch DVDs or DVR'd stuff, so commercials are, thankfully, a rare occurance in our house.

My wife heard of them from who knows where, and decided that since these are the "hot" toy this year, she had to get them for the kids. I think it is silly, and a waste of time and money. She's been calling all over the state to Walmarts to find one that has stuff in stock. She drove all the way to Ionia one day just to get some item, and now today, she's driving to St. Johns to get something else. Thankfully the little house things aren't that expensive, but still, the cost in time and gas is non-trivial. I suggested she just wait til they are no longer "hot" and then order them online, but she can't wait. It is even more silly when you consider that the kids have already gotten all of their presents for the holidays and now, just a week later, she's buying more for them. She was deprived in childhood, I think, and is making up for it now.

In any case, I just don't see these toys lasting. Sure, right now, the kids are playing with them - and fighting over them - but it is the sort of toy I see sitting unused in a box within a month or two. I remember the fad toys of the past, and I don't recall seeing a single one of them still being sold much or in use. Fads generally are fads because they have no staying power.

I look at the toys I liked and that are played with over and over even now by my kids, and I know these Zhu Zhu things won't be amongst them. The most popular and versatile toys I have are my old legos. Now those are good fun forever. You can make new toys out of them. You can combine sets. The lego blocks I got decades ago my daughter plays with now and has had fun playing with them for several years now. She never gets tired of them. That's the kind of toy I like to get.

Oh well. I hope this last set my wife is getting will get it out of her system. It is supposed to be a central hub you can use to connect several other Zhu Zhu house things together. Now once everything is connected, she shouldn't have any more good excuses to go looking for more. One can only hope.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Plagerism and the Law

In school you get constantly reminded of the dire, nay evil, violation that is plagerism. And there is good reason for that - you need to be evaluated for your own work, not for how well you select the work of others.

That this continues into law school is particularly funny to me now that I am a lawyer. The reason for this is that once you are actually practicing law (and really doing any sort of legal research), plagerism is not only allowed, it is heavily encouraged, and in fact, the practice of law would grind to a halt without it.

Whenever you have a brief to write or a research memo to write, or whatever else you need to write, the normal practice is to first find out if someone has written on the same or similar topic in the office and, if so, copy as much of that as you can. No attribution is made to the original author of the material. You appropriate it, often alter it as little as possible (to save time), verify the law is still good, then you sign your name to it and send it out. To the world, it is your document, with only you as the author, but of course the reality is that you might have only written a small portion of it.

This makes a great deal of sense - why reinvent the wheel if you don't need to. Not every issue will have something you can cut and paste from - you do still have to do your own original research, and unless you are working on something from the same case, you will have to make a lot of changes after you cut and paste. So original writing ability is still important - but what is probably equally important from a practical point of view is the ability to quickly find old material that you can use to cut and paste from. Even if you have to alter it greatly, it gives you a starting point and saves a ton of time.

Thus, you need to learn to write on your own, and that's why plagerism is so heavily frowned upon in academia, but in the real world, plagerism is a way of life, and in a good way. I just find that highly amusing. Maybe there should be room in school for you be be evaluated for not only your original work, but how well you steal the work of others - after all, that will be a needed skill when you graduate!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Not Paying Attention to Politics

I must admit, I have not paid much attention to politics lately. Aside from pointless arguments with die-hard wingnuts on an old bulletin board, I've really not done much with the latest political squabbles, and even on the board, it is sporadic responses on healthcare.

Partly it is because I'm too busy to spend much time with it, but partly it is because it is just depressing. The Republicans are worthless - they are blocking everything in a cynical ploy to get back power. That's all they care about. The Democratic party is worthless because they let the Republicans set the terms of the debate and then often fail even to respond to the bullshit put out by the GOP. Andrew Sullivan thinks Obama does this as part of some rope-a-dope strategy to let the GOP hang itself on its bullshit, but I don't know - it looks more to me like that usual Democratic do-nothingness.

It is thus hard to get all that enthusiastic about politics. I can't let the GOP win, because that is destruction for us all, but when the Democrats win, it is mostly blah and you get what the GOP wanted anyway, only slightly less crazy and more competent. That isn't much of a motivator.

I do care about things - like healthcare. And torture. But nothing will get done. No one will be prosecuted for torture, that is clear. And for healthcare, we'll get some watered down bill that lines the pockets of insurance companies but doesn't really improve things all that much. It sickens me that it will make insurance mandatory but provide no public option. That is the worse of two worlds. Ugh.

With news like this, no wonder I don't feel much like paying attention. No one cares what I think - I have no representation. I want a public option. So do most other people. Too bad that will never happen.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Darth Vader Opens the New York Stock Exchange

Ok, this is awesome: Darth Vader Opens the New York Stock Exchange. (The post also mentions that he is stepping down from his post as CEO of Microsoft...)

Nanny Tax Time

Tax time is upon us - well, at least me - I like to start working on income tax stuff as soon as the year starts, because I want to know as early as possible how much I'll be getting back (or perish the thought, owe). This year will be especially "fun" as I have to file all sorts of crap for the taxes involved with having a nanny, who is an "employee" of a "business."

I could do it all on paper, but I'd rather not figure it out to that level of detail, and payroll taxes are such a pain that it simply isn't practical anyway. So I got software to handle that - Quickbooks. And then now I find out that this won't handle the year-end tax stuff - W-2s - so I had to order a pack of those. The payroll stuff requires a subscription that costs 300 or more per year (but comes free with the software for the first year - maybe I'll have to upgrade it every year anyway). So on top of the taxes themselves, I have had to pay 150 for software plus another 80 for W-2 stuff. Hopefully that will be all I need to file.

It is too bad I don't have the W-2 stuff yet or I could take care of it all this holiday weekend.

Still, the software makes it relatively painless, if time consuming - you have to fill out and send in like 4 separate forms every quarter and then those four forms plus a few more for the year. Some go to State, some go to Federal. At least I don't have to do local government - I don't live in an area that has city income taxes or anything like that.

To pay the nanny taxes, I have a separate checking account set up - every two weeks (when I pay the nanny) I transfer into there the full amount (including taxes owed) and then write the check for after tax from that account to the nanny. (I do the transfer electronically/online - very convenient). That way, the account has all of the taxes needed come tax time and since the amounts were all deduced from the main checking everty two weeks, I have a nice, even accounting of the true costs of the nanny each pay period.

This year-end taxes thing will now be the last thing I have to figure out - hopefully once I've been through this process once, it will be easier (and more understandable) for subsequent years. Still, I can't wait til we don't have a nanny anymore - the paperwork and expense is a pain. Only three and a half more years or so until my son starts Kindergarten. Then we'll have to figure out before and after school, but that should be much cheaper.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions are Silly

Happy New Year! Today is the first day of a new year, of a new decade (the 10's or teens or whatever they end up calling it). It is also the day where millions of people make New Year's Resolutions - things they will change about themselves for the new year. Probably most won't stick to them. So what's the point?

I've never really done any New Year's Resolutions. I figure that if there really is something about yourself you want to change or do differently, why wait until January 1st to do it - start now. There's nothing really magical about that date. And just think of the huge head start you'll have on anyone who does wait for that day. Truly, if you want to do something different, and you have the will to stick with it, you'd do it regardless of the date.

I guess there is some romantic notion of starting fresh, with a clean slate when the new year begins. I know I feel that a little. Truth be told, I don't feel much excitement about New Year's anymore. It is just another day on the calendar. It is nice that it is a holiday, so I look forward to that, but I don't celebrate and barely noticed it was past midnight last night.

Still, it is cool that the date is now officially 2010. It feels like... The Future. (And I looked for the perfect video for this - the scene from Airplane II, where Ted Stryker says: "We're no longer living in the past or the present anymore. This is The Future." Oh well - you'll just have to find it yourself).

Gaming Is Expensive

Gaming is expensive. I'm not talking about the cost of the books, dice, and so forth - though that can certainly add up. I'm talking about the total costs for me in particular.

I freely admit to being a book whore - in that I would happily support Wizards of the Coast by ordering the books they put out each month. In the grand scheme of things it wasn't a tremendous amount of money, though over the years it does add up. But it wasn't like I couldn't afford it, particularly before having any rug rats around. Which brings me to the real costs of gaming.

Right now, I try and game at home Monday nights (for three hours) and then Friday nights in Chelsea (about an hour away) from about 7pm to 11pm. More often than not these days, the Friday game is cancelled because someone can't make it, so it is really more like every other week, or sometimes more like once a month. The thing is, often my wife gets home quite late from work (though not as much recently) or she'll be out of town for the week for work. Having a one year old and a four year old that require an awful lot of supervision, this means that to play I need a babysitter on Monday to watch the kids, feed them, and get them baths and given the need to leave and drive on Friday, we at least need someone here to watch the kids until my wife gets home. Even if it isn't that late, since I have to leave before 6 if I can, that means having a sitter (or the nanny stay a little late - she normally works 8 to 6 and costs an arm and a leg...)

Paying the sitters at 10 dollars an hour (or 12 for the nanny when you factor in overtime), that means at least 30 dollars on Monday nights and maybe just as much on Fridays. Now THAT is expensive. Now, if my wife gets home at a reasonable time (i.e. if she leaves work at 5) then there is no need for a sitter on Monday and there is at most a need for an extra hour on Friday, maybe less (and given that Fridays often don't happen, we often need not cover that regardless).

But this cost adds up. I swear I feel like all of my pay goes straight to the nanny and to babysitters. And really, it basically does.

There is also the cost of time, but that really isn't too bad most of the time. The advantage of Monday is that I game at home, so I don't go anywhere, and I'm really not away from my family. My daughter often likes to come downstairs where we play and talk to us, or take the figures and play with them, or just in general hang out with us. Probably my son will start to do that too when he's older. In fact, that is part of why I want at least one game run out of my house, so my kids can see me play and eventually, if they want, play themselves. Yes, I'm creating new gamers. (I can't do that with Friday's game because one of the players lives so far away that the only place we can all reasonably meet is in the middle, which is in Chelsea. Occasionally when he can't play and everyone else still decides to anyway, we'll play in Lansing, but more often than not we just cancel if someone can't make it).

Given how expensive having kids is in general, and how much we are paying for a nanny, it is making me rethink just how much gaming I can afford. My wife would certainly be happy to see less money spent that way. She does try to get home earlier, which is also nice in other ways - she can spend more time with the kids. She'd probably be happy if I stopped gaming altogether, but then she's not a gamer. Beyond that, it is my only social activity right now - we almost never get out of the house at all for any reason (again, the kids), so to give it up would be to give up my only social activity, not exactly healthy.

So the gaming will continue, though perhaps with less frequency. (That seems to happen naturally on its own, as I said above - busy professionals with families have a lot harder time finding the time to game). I still buy books, but now only from Paizo, and they don't have nearly the volume that Wizards had (and has for 4E I'm sure). I have plenty of miniatures, so I really don't buy anymore. (I do look at the new sets to see if there are any singles I might want, and the player character minis are cheap and non-random, so I'll probably keep getting them).

At least I don't have any other hobbies of significant expense. Well, ok, I also like Advanced Squad Leader, but they rarely put out much for that - the system is complete.