The grass is growing. The irises are a foot high. Blog hibernation over.
With spring arriving I'm itching to spend as much time as I can out on our land in West Virginia. Cabin-building isn't scheduled until 2013 but we have big plans for this year: garden, greenhouse, garage, more trails, a septic system. Before I get started on that--and believe me I'll be posting about our progress often--I thought I'd warm up my blogfingers with some observations about sports, pop culture and life-in-general.
I cook with radishes now. I roast them. I chop them small and put them in mashed potatoes. I also grow sprouts: broccoli, bean, alfalfa and other. I've always been mesmerized by the magic of vegetable growing, that you stick a seed in dirt and a month later that dirt is delicious food. As impressed as I've been with dirt-to-carrots or dirt-to-peppers, the real magic happens with the sprout. Sprouts don't need dirt. Hell, they hardly need water. You just keep them damp and a week later they are big and fat and exploding with flavor. Where does the flavor come from? It's not the seed. Eat the seed. It's bland. The flavor comes from the water and air. How friggin' cool is that? Water and air. Yum.
Peyton Manning, 35 years old, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time got dropped by his team, the Indianapolis Colts, a few weeks ago. So Manning flew coast-to-coast as a half-dozen teams wined and dined him. Manning ran drills with these teams. He threw passes with coaches. He talked offensive strategy, playbooks and salary cap. He eventually signed with the Denver Broncos. I wonder how Tim Tebow feels. I wonder how all the existing quarterbacks felt as they watched their football family woo the great Manning. Do they feel angry, confused or betrayed? It must be strange watching your team court a quarterback. It would be like the Diplomat interviewing a new homemaker, like the Aussie chef Curtis Stone, or maybe the handyman Ty Pennington. Just the thought makes me want to better my homemaking. Maybe that's the point.
I don't mind paying taxes. I believe I get a lot for my money. Yes, there is disgusting government waste, and I'd like to see smaller government, but as I step into the world and I see roads and police and no swimming signs I think, hey, I'm getting something for my money. So I'll say it again. I don't mind paying my taxes. But I do hate doing my taxes.
It has everything to do with the tax code. Taxes are so complicated that you either need to pay an expert to do them or trust your tax fate to a computer program. I've done both. I've used CPAs and they failed me. They missed deductions. The problem with the CPA is he's only as good as the info you give him and to give him the right info you need to know something about taxes, and if you know something about taxes you can do it yourself. I'm sure there are some great CPAs that ask all the right questions but in my experience they didn't. So, I do my own taxes and save on fees. Doing taxes yourself is by no means a fix-all. Don't throw your numbers at the program and hope for good results. You need to think when you do your taxes and you need to check the numbers. I say this because this year I found a heretofore unknown error in TurboTax that increased the tax bill by 200%. TWO HUNDRED PERCENT. TurboTax is "working on it". How did I find this error? Well, a two-hundred percent increase is not something you miss. But it makes me wonder about the thousands of other calculations that might be off by 5% or 10%. Would I notice? I don't know and it makes me worry. The lesson here is not about choosing between a CPA or a tax program, the lesson is about revising our tax system so regular people can calculate their taxes with a pen and paper. It will be an uphill battle: the tax industry is entrenched and the IRS is massive.
While living in Austria the Diplomat and I did half-marathons in ten different countries. It was a fun challenge. We got exercise. We saw places we would not have otherwise. Out of nowhere the Diplomat said she wanted to continue the tradition here in the States. I said, "half-marathon in ten states, no problem." She said all fifty states.
It will be a lifelong journey but we are already getting started. We did Florida's Disney half in 2006 so we already have one completed. On a whim last weekend we dashed up to Pennsylvania for the Chambersburg-half. Neither of us are adequately trained for a half-marathon. We've been upping our miles but ten miles is the absolute max I've done in two years. The Diplomat reported no problem at the finish line but during Chambersburg I suffered. Major ankle pain. The last three miles were torture. I stopped five or six times as I tried to alleviate the pain by groaning. Then I jogged until it hurt too bad. Each time I stopped I found myself farther back in the pack in a group of runners that were much slower than me. Each time I ran I passed them by. When I stopped, I cheered these people on. It's what you do at races, you offer encouragement. I did this over and over. Cheer. Run by. Stop. Cheer. Run by. It was strange way to run a race, but the memorable part wasn't the pain or my cheering, it was that no one offered a word of encouragement to me. I was the one who was hurt. I was in obvious pain. And not one person asked if I'm alright. All I can figure is they kept seeing me run by and cheer and maybe the thought I was mocking them. It's not an impossible notion.