Sacred Music Friday: The Lord’s Prayer

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Andrea Bocelli. Thanks to my cousin Jeanne for this.

movie music and moving on

In the run-up to the academy awards last Sunday, our Bay Area classical station, KDFC, played a lot of movie music. Not only did they play classical music used in movies, but they played original scores from movies. I heard the themes from both ET and the original Star Trek movie. They do this every year, and every year that triggers the same memory. I remember the old KFAC in Los Angeles, the classical station I listened to in the first half of the 1970s during my college days in Claremont. I remember the outrage as they started tweaking their format. They had a movie music program for one hour each Saturday afternoon, and some of the purists thought that was too much. Imagine the furor over what KDFC is doing. But it is a different day and time.

Terry and I explore the option of moving to Southern California but KFAC is long gone. The world is a different place. I have my Internet radio so I can listen to Southern California stations in Northern California or Boston stations in Southern California.

We move on. And so it goes.

By the Book

BytheBookBy the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review
Pamela Paul
Henry Holt and Co. (October 28, 2014), 337 pages
Kindle Edition  $14.99, Hardcover  $19.54
eBook borrowed from the Santa Clara County Library System

By the Book is a weekly column in the Sunday The New York Times Book Review in which authors (and a few non-authors) answer questions posed by the editor. This book contains the initial set of questions and answers.

The questions vary somewhat, but there is a formula:

  • What is on your nightstand right now? or What memorable books have you read in the last year?
  • Which of your own books is your favorite?
  • What book do you wish someone else would write?
  • What book would you recommend the president read?

The column began during President Obama’s first term. Interestingly, in response to the last question, a number of authors said something to the effect of, “I think the President is well read. He doesn’t need my advice.”

By the Book is pleasant reading. It’s like having a jar of candy on your desk. Which means you’d enjoy a piece or two each day. But since I had borrowed the book from the library I had to consume all of the candy in a limited amount of time before returning the jar.

By the Book is best enjoyed as a weekly column and not as a wholesale binge. Or you might want to buy the book and dip in at your leisure.

Safeway as a private company

Last March I wrote about the announced sale of Safeway to Cerberus Capital Management, taking the public company private. I wrote that I was not optimistic about what that would do to the stores in which we shop, and shortly thereafter I commented on Facebook that I was not happy with the look of my local store in the transition period.

I spent some time in Safeway recently, shortly after the sale of the company had closed. As my Facebook comment suggested, the condition of my local store in the time between the announcement of the sale and the deal closing after final FTC approval was indeed not encouraging. Endcaps looked junky and there were times when whole sections of the freezer aisle were empty because the local store couldn’t spend the money to get it fixed.

After the transaction was complete, however, the shopping experience became been much better. The store was clean, pleasant, and well-stocked. Yes, there were empty spots here and there, but for the most part the store looked good and there was plenty of merchandise. All the freezer sections were fully functional. The produce looked good.

And while on one hand, I dislike the idea of the chain being owned by a capital management firm, on the other hand, they don’t have to keep shareholders happy quarter to quarter to quarter. That can in fact be a positive.

We’ll see how it goes.

doing taxes

Terry and I have had our taxes done by a CPA since 1995. I don’t recall exactly what triggered that, but I think at least part of it was being a bit gun-shy as both of us were guilty of under-withholding before we got married. As we started having company stock options and mortgage interest deductions, going that route became even more justified.

The CPA we used I knew personally since we had both previously attended the same church. That was nice. When he sold his practice as we were entering the new millennium we stayed with the fellow who bought it. It was a bit expensive, but it provided a level of emotional security.

Of course when one is laid off, one scrutinizes every expense. Given that last year’s return cost us $595, even though it was very straightforward with nothing out of the ordinary, I couldn’t justify the expense this year.

I looked at the tax software options that were available. Obviously, one first thinks of TurboTax. But they gave themselves a black eye. I’m not talking about the fraudulent state tax returns filed using the TurboTax online service. Rather I’m talking about the fact that from the 2013 to the 2014 tax year they removed a number of forms that were available in the Deluxe CD and download version and made them available only in the more expensive Premium version. In the end the outrage was so great that they had to make a full retreat. But that did not leave me with a good feeling. And in any case, I was never a big fan of Intuit, the publisher of TurboTax. I always thought that their Quicken personal financial management software was too annoying and cumbersome to use, with too many unnecessary bells and whistles. I thought they should have been provided a simplified and streamlined version.

Based on the comments on Amazon, as well as a conversation in the online alumni group from my former company, I went with the H&R Block Deluxe version. It had some very good reviews and it was considerably cheaper than TurboTax.

I downloaded the software from Amazon on President’s Day, a Monday, of course, and my traditional day for doing taxes. I spent the afternoon entering data, which was no more work than entering the information in the paper organizer for my CPA. I had Terry check my work on Tuesday morning and Tuesday afternoon I started the e-file process. I began working on that just as Terry was leaving to see the dentist. Before Terry got back from the dentist I had completed the process and received confirmation that my return had been accepted by both the IRS and the state.

I paid $29.99 for the software which included the state software as well and free e-file with the IRS. I paid $19.99 for my state e-file. That’s $49.98. Quite a difference from $595, hu?

Next year will be even easier since I have entered all of our data into the system and the software will import it for next year’s return.

How cool is that?

Sacred Music Friday: The Church’s One Foundation

I think the choir comprises the entire congregation!

selling a house: then and now

When my first wife and I decided to leave Oklahoma for California in 1985, we called a realtor. The realtor put a sign out front and a lock box for the key on a pipe in the front of the house. That was it. Simple.

When Terry and I decided to sell out house and move to Southern California earlier this month, our realtor brought in a staging firm who told us what could stay and what had to go. I guess I missed that memo. This was new to me. But I mentioned it to my dad and he totally got it. So did my brother. He said, “The house you’re living in isn’t the one you’re trying to sell.” My spiritual director used words to the effect of “transparent and neutral”. Even before you sell your house it’s not your house, at least for the duration.

But we do what we need to do.


Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday. In a normal year I would ordinarily slip away from work for the Ash Wednesday noon service and the imposition of ashes.

This is not a normal year. I am not employed. We are getting our house ready to sell. I am not prepared for that liturgy and to hear, “Know that you are dust…” I have too much on my mind.

The point of Ash Wednesday is that it is the entry point into Lent. You work your way through Lent and arrive at Holy Week. And as you progress through Holy Week, and the Triduum in particular, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, you come out on the other end at Easter.

The problem is, I don’t know where I will be or what I will be doing on Easter. In the best possible scenario, the Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, Terry and I will packing up and preparing to move south.

All of the confusion, chaos, and disruption makes it hard for me to think clearly about Easter. Which means that I’m not prepared to participate in Ash Wednesday.

And so it goes.

using old technology

Terry and I were enjoying the rain during our series of storms the weekend before last. Sunday afternoon we were watching the Mel Brooks special on HBO which Terry had recorded. I was adding recipes to the Living Cookbook database on my laptop. Then the power went out. And the cable box made a not very reassuring noise.

When the power came back on the cable box did not follow suit. Multiple phone calls to the cable company did not help in reviving it. Finally, our cable company agreed with me that the cable box/DVR as dead as the parrot in Monty Python.

On Monday I went to the cable company’s office to exchange the unit. Problem is, we have an old TV. It’s analog, not digital. So when the clerk there gave me the new box she said, “Use the same HDMI connection.” Um, our television doesn’t have an HDMI port. We connected via the old-fashioned coaxial cable. She didn’t have such a box in the office. Her attempt to get such a unit from the warehouse came up empty. She started to give me a box that a previous customer decided not to take, but when we looked at the back, we saw that there was no coax-out on that one either.

Fortunately I noticed that it did have an S-video set of ports, which I knew our TV had. Given that, she gave me a newer, smaller, box and DVR combo that had S-video.

So we’re up and running again, though we lost all those episodes of Cosmos that we had been planning to watch.

We’ll manage.

movin’ on

Movin’ On was a television show from the 1970’s about a pair of truckers shot on location at various spots around the country. Terry and I caught a couple of episodes on the cable system in Cambria when we spent some leisure time there.

It’s time for us to move on, and it’s both exciting and scary.

My focus changes.

Since July my primary mission has been of finding a new job. That has not worked out, in spite of sending out over one hundred resumes.

So we’re getting ready to list our house, and my job changes from trying to find employment to getting the house ready to sell. And that is a big job.

It’s a big change. It’s not our first choice. But it’s what we need to do.

So we move on.