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12:31 PM, Feb 1, 2008 toot this
Mayor Funkhouser
The Downtown Neighborhood Association hosted a townhall forum on Wednesday night at the Clubhouse on Baltimore. As a member of the 2008 executive board of said organization, I was kinda sorta obliged to attend, but I would have gone anyway. First, I have to call attention to what a fantastic space the Clubhouse is. I'll be attending a wedding reception there at the end of the summer, and now I can't wait.

The mayor spoke for perhaps twenty five minutes, covering light rail, the upcoming transit tax renewal ballot question, and the city's monumentally terrible budget situation. After that, people were free to approach the microphone in the center aisle and ask the mayor questions directly. I was relieved beyond words that none of the questions were personal attacks, as I was expecting. Instead, there was time for about ten people to ask real questions about policy, directly. My only real complaint was how lightly the event was attended. We only had about 35 people, plus about 20 security, staff, hosts, and media personnel.

After the meeting a great part of the assembled group lingered for food and drinks on the first floor. It was all extremely agreeable. A small group went all the way upstairs to Kristin's roof-level apartment for an eye-popping view of downtown and the surrounding area. After things wound down, about eight or nine of us went up the street to 12Baltimore for drinks in earnest. I was home by eleven, and in bed by midnight. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

2:35 PM, Feb 3, 2008 toot this
Kansas City Weekend
I had a fun weekend. My association, that means next weekend will be terrible. That stands to reason, because I will be the secondary oncall, and I will be working the biggest maintenance window I've ever worked. There will be an absence of fun. A void of enjoyment.

Anyway I got off work at the customary time on Friday, and hastened over to the leasing office to pick up my new computer, about which I had received notification of early delivery. I didn't really have time to mess with it, so I unpacked it as fully as would be satisfying to me, and gingerly placed it into a corner of my room. I had to get going to catch the 5:50pm over at the transit plaza, and it was only one minute late.

I arrived at Harry's Bar and Tables in Westport some irrelevant time after that, and met up with Nick, Anna, Jim, Angie, Jeanne, and Chris. We had a drink or two before we headed down to a second-floor gallery down in the West Bottoms to see some renderings by a Chicago-based architect whose name now eludes me. The renderings were lovely, but the real highlight was that it was the same space where Nick and Anna will have their wedding reception in September. Now after seeing it, I can't wait!

On a suggestion from one of the peoples, though i don't remember which, we went over to Le Fou Frog, straddling the line of the River Market and Columbus Park. I had never been there before, and it was excellent. I got to brush off some of my waning skills at speaking French, and the wine procured thence was delicious. Justin and Ryan joined us there, and after a bottle or two of Cotes du Rhone we all agreed it was time to move on. So we went to another place called Harry's, Harry's Country Club, with which I am very familiar.

Our eager waitress pronounced my sandwich, "croak mon-soor," and smiled at every turn. The beers came quickly and I could find no faults with the evening at all. I slept happily until 10:30am, and got to work on setting up the new computer.

It came preinstalled with Windows Vista, Home Premium edition, and having never used it before, I was interested in at least seeing how it might work. The short answer is, "badly." The computer is top of the line, with excellent hardware and specs, and it still took an inordinately long time for it to boot up, log me in, or to do almost anything. Top that off with the fact that when I tried to go into any kind of system setting, it would hit me with popup windows with confirmation messages like, "OMG someone is trying to haxx ur box! Press 'Its me LOL' if its u LOL." That's paraphrased, but it's close enough. One might argue that I never really gave Vista a chance due to the fact that it was understood that I was going to wipe the machine and install GNU/Linux, but it really was terrible, and at the present, I stand by my previous conviction never to use it.

Amanda moved to KC from PV last weekend, and hosted a housewarming party last night. Besides normal peasants like you and me, there were in attendance some on-air personalities from local television news programs who, of course, I not only didn't recognize, but of whom I had never even heard. You see, Amanda works in television, and is on familiar terms with a great number of these people. After a while the party started to die down, and people started to turn into their groups. I decided that it was time to get going at this point. Jeff and Jackie came with, and we wound up closing Mike Kelly's Westsider and the Newsroom.

Today I am slightly hung over, and pathetically hoping to find something to do besides watch the god-damned Super Bowl. If anything presents itself, I'll report my findings here.

11:29 PM, Feb 10, 2008 toot this
Maintenance and Computers
I'm sorry. I haven't really written anything on here lately, because I haven't really had anything interesting to say. I've been kind of consumed lately with Lord of the Rings Online, just like I knew I would be if I ever got into it. I've reached kind of a slow point in the game lately, and I barely even played today. It might only be temporary, but I've kind of lost my passion for the game. For now anyway. I'm sure the itch to walk the forests and fields of Middle-Earth will strike me again.

As I've previously said, I got a new computer recently, and had previously planned on using it as a video recorder for television. I have since come to realize that this just too much computer for such a menial purpose. Pursuant to this, I decided that I will make the new computer my Windows PC, and that my current Windows PC will get stripped down in shininess to be the new video recorder, and run Ubuntu. So, today I went through the tedious motions of figuring out what kind of settings I want to keep, and set about taking the video card out of my PC and putting it in the new box. Unfortunately, HP didn't ship the new computer with a power cable that will fit my comically gigantic video card, so I also had to swap the power supplies.

I hate hate hate hate hate opening up computers and messing around with their insides. Some people like it, and I used to like it. Now it just infuriates me and makes me sweaty with rage and frustration. Along with this feeling today was a feeling akin to hopelessness, in that while I had both of my normally capable computers splayed out in several pieces all over the kitchen, I had zero working computers, and a feeling that I probably should have just left well enough alone. Eventually it worked out, and things have almost worked the way I want. I still have to hook the DVR machine to the cable TV and verify everything works, but right now I have two fully functional machines.

Anyway, I worked a big maintenance window this weekend, so my social life was limited to a relatively quiet Friday night with Nick, Anna, Colin, Ryan, Justin, and Courtney, and a brief run to Cafe Al Dente in the River Market for a late lunch on Saturday with Jeff. Now I'm sitting awake with my sleep schedule thrown-off and screwed up by the late night I had at work last night.

I'm heading out of town next weekend to visit Peoria for the first time in well over a year. I've never been away for this long, and I actually miss it.

3:00 PM, Feb 11, 2008 toot this
Open Vacation
It's with a heavy heart that I have canceled my trip to the American Southeast. The planned departure is only a month away, and still nobody has been able to commit to joining me for any portion of it. So, as much as I'd like to do the whole trip by myself, I just don't think it'd be wise. Also, vacations are not meant to be spent alone.

So, this frees up a considerable block of vacation days for me. Now, I need to try to find a companion or two(or three, or four) for another trip, destination currently unknown. It's exciting to think of the fact that where I might be able to go is wide open, though I'm leaning toward Europe. I would really like to travel in Belgium and England, though almost as much, I'd like to travel in places near waters with exotic names. Adriatic. Aegean. Tyrrhenian. Marmara. Dardanelles. Bosporous...

What do you think?

4:08 PM, Feb 11, 2008 toot this
Album Cover
Curtis told me about making your own album covers, so I decided to try my hand. I'm very pleased, except with my own ineptitude with image manipulation software. Here is my freshman attempt.


3:39 PM, Feb 14, 2008 toot this
Son of a Bitch
Okay, so I had a nice little post about my upcoming trips and how lovely life is right now, and then I logged into my online banking website to see if my 2007 tax refund had been deposited yet by the IRS, and it had not yet.

So, I logged into the H&R Block tax website to see if my return had been accepted, and it said it had. They gave a URL for checking the status of my refund on the IRS' website.

So, I went to the IRS' website and entered my information, and it told me there's a delay in the processing of my refund, and gave me a number to call, along with an extension to enter once I call that number, in a feigned attempt to make it look like I was calling about some very specific issue, and so I wouldn't feel like there were also thousands of other people that have to do the same thing.

So, I called the number and entered the extension. After I waited for about five minutes on hold, Mrs. Townsend picked up and told me that my refund was being held, but she couldn't say why. She gave me another number to call.

So, I called the second number, and after about twenty minutes on hold, and hearing the hold music loop twice, Mrs Sampos picked up and told me that the IRS had lost my 2003 return, and that according to legislation that was passed in 2007, my refund was required to be withheld until this issue was resolved.

So, because the IRS doesn't actually do any work to help anyone, it logically falls on me to take care of this. I need to dig up my 2003 return, date it, sign it in blue ink, and mail it to Andover, Massachusetts. After it gets to Andover Massachusetts, they will take their sweet-ass time processing it- six to twelve weeks Mrs Sampos informed me -after which they will release my refund. This is if everything goes well.

So, if I can't find my 2003 return when I get home tonight, the IRS will make me file for 2003 again and pay taxes again, only this time, because I'm such a negligent lowlife for trusting them to do their God-damned jobs, at the maximum rate, plus a penalty and interest.

So, as you might imagine, my good mood is slightly diminished.

11:03 AM, Feb 18, 2008 toot this
IRS Update
I got home on Thursday and started digging around. I logged into my account on H&R Block's website and saw that the returns they had for me only go back as far as 2005, and the paper ones I have are only for 2001 and 2002. I began to get worried, even though it doesn't make a lick of sense, I began to think that maybe I did just skip doing and paying my taxes in early 2004. These kinds of hopeless thoughts creep into my mind when uncertainty accompanies impending doom.

I did recall though that when I first used H&R Block's online tax software, I used a different username than what I use now. In the blissful year that fell between the times that I did my 2004 taxes and my 2005 taxes, I completely forgot/lost my login information for the original account. Instead of putting any real effort into sorting out my login, I simply opened a new account. When this whole mess materialized last week, I managed to reset the password for my original H&R Block account, and found that there were no past returns available to view or save.

I was worried even more when I saw this. But I had to hit the road, as I had a six hour drive to do that day. I spent the weekend in Peoria- my first since 2006 -and while I was there I talked about the situation at length with my brother, Brian. He reminded me that I started using the H&R Block website on his advice, before he moved away from Kansas City. I put one and one together, and found that since I have paper versions of my 2001 and 2002 taxes, and that he left in June of 2004, the only return that I would have done while he still lived in KC was 2003.

After some ridiculous searching around for a phone number on Block's website, I finally settled for an email form which, when I sent it, immediately generated an email to me telling me to call customer service at a provided number. I got on the phone, waited on hold for a couple minutes, and talked with a very friendly and helpful androgenously high-voiced person, who informed that yes, they did have my 2003 return, and that yes, they would do what they can to send it to me. Apparently they can't just make it available online anymore, so they had to escalate to management, who would then approve the printing and faxing of the return to a local brick-and-mortar office where I could pick it up myself.

I'll be leaving for Colorado on Wednesday, so I doubt I'll be able to get this issue resolved this week. My father is not a swearing man, but when I told him the full story while I was on my way up to Peoria, he choked on his words and simply said, "those bastards!" I did not rebuke him. Here's to hoping this all works out in the end.

2:09 PM, Feb 20, 2008 toot this
1 comment »»
I'm Sorry
I'm leaving work at 4pm. That's an hour from now. I will drive home via the grocery store, the hardware store, and the ATM. When I get home I'll pack up a duffel with underpants, socks, t-shirts, overshirts, long underwear, swimming trunks, a power strip, various electronic communication and entertainment devices along with their chargers, and a quantity of nylon-coated rubberized elastic outerwear for use on the slopes.

Because at 5:45pm, Brad's picking me up, and we're heading to the airport to meet nine of our compadres to catch a flight to Denver. When we get off the plane in Denver, those among us foolish enough to check bags will wait antsily at the luggage carousel for our heavy, large effects. We will pile into a large passenger van and lose our enthusiasm for the weekend on a cramped four-hour drive to Steamboat Springs.

We will spend the next three days skiing among powder in such quantities to be considered cliche, whiling away our evenings eating unhealthy fattening food followed by destructive amounts of alcohol, while we help ourselves to the warm glow of fellowship and consumerism. I can't wait.

Simply put, it's so imminent that it's all I can think about. That's why I can't check the webserver filesystems, boss.

4:48 PM, Feb 21, 2008 toot this
Steamboat Sprungs
I just spent my first day on the slopes at Steamboat, and it's quite clear to me that I am shamefully out of condition. I celebrated my ridiculous deficiency by going to a bar.

10:40 AM, Feb 24, 2008 toot this
Sprungs Wrapup
The trip is basically over. We had an excellent time, though it's a shame that I wasn't able to ski more. The group wasn't as interested as I'd hoped in going out, so we spent a good deal more time holed up in the condo than I'd have liked. That said, it's amazing how well everyone got along. That I could see, there weren't any loose cannons among us.

I took a happy mess of pictures, and I'll see if there are enough to post on here when I get home. We still have to drive back to Denver and fly home, so there's still a full day left of adventures to be had. I hope to travel with this group again soon.

5:58 PM, Feb 25, 2008 toot this
Last Day in Colorado
Everybody woke up within four hours of each other yesterday, and kind of fired off in random directions. Some stayed in bed for a comfortable hung-over lie-in, while one sizable group headed into town to wander around and browse shops filled with useless crap. I was in the latter group. After shopping for crap ceased, we headed back to the condo to find everyone as awake as they were going to be, packed up the van, and left town. The ride from Steamboat Springs to Silverthorne, where we picked up the interstate, went without incident. However, we literally stopped moving when we got on the interstate.

Literally, we could have walked from Silverthorne to the Eisenhower Tunnel more quickly than it took us to drive it. The traffic was just a parking lot. It really was horrible. We helped ourselves to conversation and other distractive measures while Jon patiently inched the car forward over the next two hours. In all, it took us over five hours to drive to the airport, and through a frantic rush, only one person in our party made the plane: me. The rest of the group declared solidarity and waited to see if the airline would allow those with luggage to check theirs and get on the 7:40 flight(delayed to 8:06). They would not. I found an agent and explained about my baggageless hurry, and she helped me without hesitation. She printed me a boarding pass, bade me godspeed, and advised me to run, as the gate, like so many things at Denver International, was nowhere close to where I was.

And run I did. I ran until the sweat was beyond uncomfortable, until I couldn't run anymore, until my breaths were just dry, nasty morning-breath gasps. All the while I kept in contact with Chris, who informed me that they had all ten been placed on standby for two available seats on the 9pm flight. Thankfully, they all got in. I reached the gate just as they called my row, and took a moment to enjoy my disgustingly drenched clothes.

The rest of the story is an unremarkable sideline of an uneventful flight, a cab that claimed to take cards but didn't really, and getting gratefully to sleep in my own bed by midnight. In lieu of further information of substance, here are some pictures.

009sprungs.jpg 013sprungs.jpg 024sprungs.jpg 028sprungs.jpg 038sprungs.jpg 042sprungs.jpg 046sprungs.jpg

1:42 PM, Feb 29, 2008 toot this
Can Someone Explain This to Me?
I'm amazed that Americans are as good-natured as they are. Every day when I'm driving to and from work I see thousands of cars on the opposite side of the road, just stopped. People abide sitting in stopped traffic every single day, twice a day. I would buy a gun. I would go crazy. I go crazy enough driving in moving traffic in which I can't use cruise control. To sit in stopped traffic every day is just beyond my tolerance. Why do these people tolerate this horrible situation? So they can get "more house?" So they can send their kids to a fire-and-forget suburban school?

I don't understand it. I try to give these people the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they aren't stupid. I realize that a great number of these people have spouses and children, and prioritize everything for accomodating them, and that's fine. I can understand the influence of familial love, but if my domestic status required living in the uniform-housed hinterlands, I'd work really hard to find a work situation that frees me of idling my car, inch by inch, twenty miles down a parking lot to downtown.

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